STEPHENS PASSAGE AND AUTO PILOT FIX

The anchorage at Auke Bay turned out to be quiet and peaceful once the party goers had left the beach.  No early start needed this morning as I was waiting for the tide to turn at nine.  I did some baking and read the pilot book to pass the time.  The day started calm and then a light breeze sprang up from astern, not strong enough for sailing but I tried using the jib to motor sail without much success.

When I tried to unfurl the jib it was jammed, the halyard was wrapping around the stay.  After some messing around I got the jib unfurled and dropped on deck.  I found the furler top swivel was not turning too well, the bearings felt rough and were sticking.  It’s a Merriman furler and the top swivel is a sealed unit which can’t be opened.  I rinsed the swivel out with plenty of fresh water, then shot in copious amounts of WD40 followed by some light oil.  After that treatment it felt a bit smoother and swivelled freely.  Back up went the jib and all is working well again.  That kept me occupied for a couple of hours as we motored on autopilot down Stephens passage in glorious sunshine.

Tiller Drive Ram Connected to Rudder Trim Tab
Tiller Drive Ram Connected to Rudder Trim Tab

The autopilot is an old Autohelm 2000 tiller pilot unit.  A couple of its buttons don’t work and I suspect the sensitivity control is not sensitive anymore.  It still works but struggles in any sort of sea above flat calm.  I have been thinking for some time about the possibility of connecting the tiller pilot ram to the trim tab from the wind vane self steering.  The trim tab needs very little effort to move it and a small movement of the trim tab produces a big deflection of the rudder.

As the weather was quite calm and the sun shining I decided to experiment with the autopilot connected to the trim tab.  I lashed the tiller pilot ram to the stern rail and tied the business end to the trim tab linkage.  Just a rough lash up to see if it would work.  I switched on the autopilot and it worked first go, steered perfectly with very little effort.  I left it on for three hours and even used it for steering into the harbour.  It worked better than when on the tiller.  I am now wondering if the autopilot connected to the trim tab will be useful for sailing in light winds and lumpy seas when the wind vane doesn’t generate enough directional force and the autopilot connected to the tiller can’t cope.  I feel quite chuffed with myself.  There must be a downside somewhere, things don’t normally work so easily, I will cogitate over a beer or two.

Like yesterday I was in shorts again today.  My thermometer that I thought was stuck on 12 degrees hit 26 today, I was hot.  There is a tremendous amount of boat traffic in this area, I had thirty-seven boats on AIS today, a record.  There is a lot of salmon fishing going on.  I watched one boat hauling in a gill net with a good load of salmon coming up with the net.

This evening I have found a float in Taku Harbour, about twenty miles south of Juneau.  It looks like a sheltered spot.  I have a couple of fishing boats for company on the float.  Tomorrow the tide doesn’t turn in my favour until the afternoon and the wind is forecast to be on the nose fifteen knots with three foot seas.  The next anchorage is thirty miles away so motoring will be a struggle and sailing will be a slow job tacking into the wind and current.  Total voyage distance 74.2 miles.

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