The events of the last two days have been driven completely by a little, tiny, 8mm set screw.
That screw came loose on the wind steering vane, which allowed it to fall out of alignment, which lead to it twisting in a way it wasn’t designed to, and that caused the main casting to crack. That whole sequence of events left us steering with the electric autopilot.
The electric autopilot was doing fine. Then Karen says, “There is a little pile of new metal filings here.”
“Where?” says Bill.
“Under the autopilot.”
As I bent down to examine the issue, the autopilot seized up with a loud clunk. A mechanical investigation quickly showed an unrepairable problem. This left us with two choices: continue on 15 days to Hawai’i, or beat our way back to the west coast in 6 or 7 days.
Hawai’i might seem the obvious choice except for a characteristics of most sailboats. They can hold a steady course by themselves when going upwind, but need constant attention when going downwind. Hawai’i is downwind and will require someone to sit behind the wheel 24/7 The west coast is upwind, and the boat will (more or less) steer herself.
So now we are headed upwind toward a landfall between Santa Barbara and San Diego, depending on the wind.
Everything else on the boat is doing well, including all crew members. Weather is warm and overcast. Last night we had a gnarly spell of wind up to 27 knots, but things have settled down to the neighborhood of 15 knots. The forecast is for more of the same all the way in.