Saturday, June 01, 2013

Taking on crew?

Many boats take on crew for passages to help with watches and chores like steering, etc. Up till now, we have not had crew. That is to say, not in the flesh. But we do have what some sailors call an extra crew that works without sleep and doesn't complain and is very reliable (well, most of the time). That is, we have an autopilot. It runs efficiently on little electric power and is tied into our hydraulic steering. It has been with us since Mexico.

Another common self-steering device is a wind vane and there are various makes. They are mounted at the stern, are mechanical, and by sensing and using the wind, move a trim rudder that in turn steers the boat. The upside to these is that they use no electric power. The main downside is they don't work well when motoring or sailing in light winds.

We have had some failures with our electric/hydraulic crew man and it's always a worry that if it fails on a long passage, it would be hell to have to hand-steer great distances. So a backup wind vane would be wise. Jordan has always wanted to get a particular type that is best suited to Sea Turtle's configuration. It is made in California USA and is a very simple reliable unit, called the Saye's Rig wind vane. He's been looking a long time for a good second-hand one and recently spotted one. He contacted the boat owner to see if it was by chance for sale and sure enough was able to buy it for a fraction of its new price. This Saye's Rig will be a backup unit to use if our automatic pilot ever breaks down again.

The Saye's Rig is connected externally to a boat's rudder that is manipulated by a trim rudder. The connection to the rudder is a long looped bar that is trailing off the main rudder. So it required us to expose the bottom of Sea Turtle to do that attachment. We decided to careen her. That is a procedure of tying her up to a dock at high tide with her keel almost on the bottom. Then as the tide goes out, she would no longer have water under her and would lean against the dock - a common and inexpensive practice among boaters.

Well, we found out that Sea Turtle doesn't like this exercise. When the tide went out, poor Sea Turtle had her bow (nose) almost in the mud as she slowly fell forward from the weight in the bow. She settled to within an inch of snagging the main port shroud on a piling which could have been catastrophic if she had gone any further. Also, she settled just as one of the newly refurbished stanchions came in contact with the same piling. We were very lucky.

Sinking in the mud with bow almost touching

But there was nothing we could do until the tide came back up several hours later when we quickly motored away. The next day, we had Doug's Boat Yard once again put Sea Turtle on his slipway and pull us up and out of the water.

Jordan got busy and installed the Saye's Rig rudder bar to Sea Turtle's rudder and was finished by the following day.

Saye's Rig ready to go

We both feel more comfortable now knowing that we have a backup system if our automatic pilot fails as it has in the past. Jordan can't wait to head offshore and put the new crew man through the manoeuvres!

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