Lucky to Jinxed – All in a Few Hours!

Splash!  The boat goes back in the water after 8 weeks on the hard!  No leaks from the newly installed depth transducer (i.e. through the hull) or the repacked stuffing box! Life is good.  I love the wide white stripe at the waterline – new Pettit ViVid White bottom paint and this time since the waterline keeps sinking, we took the bottom paint all the way to the bottom of the existing white awlgrip hull stripe.  I was a bit concerned if I’d like it, but that concern evaporates as soon as I see the boat floating in the water.   The diesel purrs to life, all is going well.

We motor the two hours through the canals from Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage to the lock.   The lock is being a bit stubborn, but apparently it’s not just us.  Switching it to manual lets it operate correctly.

Now we’re sitting at the outside dock, trying to gauge the depth. It’s well known that the next 100 yards or so is too shallow for a 5 1/2 draft (ours) without some help from the tides.  We have a .9 high and think it should be sufficient,but since it’s a hard bottom, I call SeaTow to get some local knowledge.  Wouldn’t you know, right in the middle of talking to SeaTow, our VHF goes from this:

To this:

WT????? I’m talking along and all of a sudden nothing.  I look at the radio, nothing.  I shut it off & turn it back on, nothing.  We disconnect the remote cockpit mike, nothing.   Grumble.  I get out the handheld.

Strike One.

We get out the short narrow (and extremely shallow) channel with no difficulty, raise the sails and wouldn’t you know, our destination is 12 miles away directly into the wind…  just figures, huh?   Oh well, we’re so happy to be back in the water, it really doesn’t matter.  And the new depthsounder is working perfectly!

Luckily the wind backs just enough that we can motorsail and we’re flying … a spectacular sunset sail.

Then, all of a sudden, the wheel pilot that’s not even on because we’re both enjoying actually sailing our own boat again, decides to become a little hitler and take over the steering.  Except it’s not because it’s just holding the steering hostage, not steering at all.  We can’t move the wheel at times except with extreme force and we cannot get the old Autohelm ST4000 to release it’s grip.  And it’s not even engaged!  Grumble.  This could be dangerous, but we’re on a straight course and we’ll just hope we can wrestle enough control to get into the slip when we get back to the marina.

Strike Two.

A bit later, we decided to turn on the below decks autopilot while we relax on deck and enjoy another spectacular sunset on the water.   But wait ….

Drive error?  Back to our first idea anytime anything doesn’t work — what were we doing in that area of the boat and could we have accidentally caused this malfunction?   Well, David was working in that lazarette while we were on the hard – checking the steering cables, rudder post etc.  So maybe he knocked something off, except he swears he didn’t.

Strike Three….    🙁

So OK, we’ve been sailing less than an hour and the VHF, the backup wheelpilot autopilot and now the primary belowdecks autopilot have all failed.    We need to get back to Eileen Quinn’s song — “If it ain’t broke, don’t use it”!

So are we LUCKY because the boat went back in the water perfectly with no issues.  Or JINXED because within the first hour of sailing, not one but THREE important systems have failed.

As we watched the sun set, we decided we’re the LUCKIEST people on earth!  How could you watch this and not feel that way?   🙂

P.S.  A day later, David has all three of the challenges under control, or so we think.  Turns out the VHF had a loose power cable – he added more electrical tape and snugged it up, so far so good.  The wheelpilot that was holding the steering hostage has been removed and we have a new part ordered that should correct the problem.  The belowdecks autopilot was a bit more of a challenge.  We assumed maybe the connecting arm had been inadvertantly knocked off or some such simple thing, but everything was intact.  We got out the manual and the troubleshooting info said with that error to check the hydraulic fluid levels.  Sure enough after adding fluid and purging the system, the autopilot appears to be working again.    So all in all, it’s all good.   See, we were right to think we’re LUCKY!    🙂

So how’s everything going on your boat?   Leave a comment and share!   Cheers!  Jan


  1. IAS -it’s always something! Once we were able to accept that, it made cruising easier!

  2. Keith Davie says:

    It’s going to sound simplistic, but I have to say it anyway. If your boat didn’t have so many systems, there wouldn’t be so much to go wrong! 🙂
    Though I’ll grant that the VHF is pretty basic. But the rest is the reason I go with a wind-vane instead of electronic autopilot. After 20 years following them in airplanes, I wouldn’t have one on my boat – too much to go wrong.

    • Keith — we have a Monitor windvane, which is always our autopilot of choice, unless what wind there is is DIRECTLY on the nose, in which case the Monitor won’t sail close enough to the wind to allow us to get anywhere in a realistic time frame — we were already coming in after dark, something we try to avoid at all costs. On the other hand 8 PM versus 11 PM might not have been much darker…. 🙂 Most of our systems are pretty basic and most are backed up by alternatives — hence the wheel pilot that came on the boat (undersized and a problem from the onset), the next thing we added was the windvane and lastly the below decks autopilot — backups for backups for backups. Then there’s that dang depth sounder — also what we consider basic, but the old ST-50 autohelm apparently needs more than just a new transducer…. 🙁

      • Keith Davie says:

        Oh I hear you Jan! Seems like anytime I feel like I can relax because “everything’s working”, I better watch out! Hope it’s smooth from now on!

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