Bill & Joe’s Excellent Adventure Day 5

0200 hours What a night! I was sitting on one of the director chairs trying to read but the seas were so active that my chair I was sliding all over the deck.

At some point I slid over by the starboard wheel and wedged my foot into the helmsman seat to hold position and noticed that there was a strange clicking noise coming from the wheel. The auto helm was working hard to keep the boat on course, it was constantly in motion, turning the wheel 90 degrees and more and while I was watching, it failed. I could hear the electric motor trying but the wheel wasn’t moving. I disengaged the clutch and took over to prevent a crash jib.

When Bill came up he knew right away that the problem was the belt drive had failed and the only fix was to tear down the mechanism and replace the belt. He was sure there was a replacement onboard but it took an hour of digging through every locker and lazerette on the port hull to find it. I was hanging upside down with a flashlight in my mouth looking for something I’d never actually seen. Eventually I found it on my second sweep of the lockers. Bill took off the wheel and thirty minutes later we were back in business. Bill stayed on deck and I went below. This time I dreamed one that would have made Federico Fellini proud, featuring George W and the entire cast of the Nutcracker Suite with lots of kids all running around the Governor’s mansion. Got to love those trip dreams!

1000 hours It’s all good …Bill and I are listening to the Beatles White Album and I was marveling at our skill repairing in the auto helm after dark in a rocking boat. Bill pulled two watches letting me sleep so I was feeling rested and ready. He suggested we watch the new Star Trek Move and we were just getting into it when the 4th equipment failure happened. Captain Kirk had just ordered up a full salvo of Photon Torpedoes when, CRACK… the main traveler car exploded.

The large triple sheave block went flying to port and we were lucky not to be sitting at the helm or one was could have been injured. Bill jumped up and grabbed the block and secured the main keeping it from getting caught up in the stays.

We first tried to attach the block to the car using 5000 lb. test spectra but it didn’t take long to see that the steel straps we tied into were perfect for handling a vertical load but not the horizontal load from the main sail. After rummaging through all the hardware we could find and scratching and thinking, Bill came up with a working fix. There were two heavy duty eyepads used to lift the hull during transport located 12 inches on either side of the traveler track. Using the spinnaker sheet, the old main sheet, and several large single blocks we fashioned a way to trim the main that also served as a vang and preventer when going downwind. It added a couple of steps while tacking but it worked perfectly. Another triumph for the dynamic duo!

While we were working on the rigging a U.S. Coast Guard plane did a fly-bye from the south east, 40 minutes later he returned on the way back to Puerto Rico and hailed us on channel 16. He wanted to know… who we were? … where we had come from and where we were going? Did we have any firearms on board and what was the reason for our trip? Now we were in the system … Homeland Security had plugged us into their computer and they had a pretty good idea when we should arrive in Key West.

1900 hours Both of us took long naps during the afternoon. I’m feeling a little beat up with sore muscles but thats a good thing. No Pain No Gain … Right?

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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