Sir Robin jinxed by bilge and failed autopilots

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston struggles on with his various problems aboard his Open 60 Saga Insurance in the Velux 5 Oceans.

“Worst nightmare, the autopilots have failed again! I am genuinely puzzled. I have used these units for about 30 years and never had a problem before and cannot believe I should suddenly get two bad units. Its got to be a connecting problem and that is not my strength. My view is to isolate the autopilots from anything extraneous, no clever attachments, just simple control of the steering rams only, and then sort out the problem when I reach Fremantle.

Then, whilst doing a check through Saga Insurance I found the sails floating in the sail locker! Too much water to pump so opened the hatch and started to bucket it clear. Of course a bit of ocean took advantage of the open hatch and I should have stripped, as my clothes got soaked. I need some rain now as when clothes are soaked in salt water they never dry properly….

Bailing is one of those dull monotonous jobs where there seems to be no progress and you begin to wonder if there is a source re-filling the compartment as fast as you try to empty it. And then you notice the sail bags are not quite so mobile, and then they go aground, and then you have to heave them out of the way to get to the lower level.

It was an hour and a half of bucketing; probably a ton and a half of water, but then it was down to the bilges. Not sure where it all came from but suspect the ballast system somehow. Something else to investigate today and I have just bucketed 60 buckets out this morning, more than I would have expected from being absorbed by the sails. The next compartment forward has a little in it, perhaps 6 inches, so if there is a cause its not there. This is now today’s job and if the water does continue to increase I’ll stop the boat by dropping the sails, clear everything out of the sail locker and find whatever is the cause. This is an unnecessary active bit to an active retirement!

I’ve checked the latest weather forecasts, but I am losing faith in them as for two days they have said the wind here will be easterly and it hasn’t been. But the wind is showing signs of backing at last. This is where I made a mistake 38 years ago, and turned for the Cape of Good Hope too early. The result was that I got the wrong side of the South Atlantic High pressure system and had headwinds for a couple of weeks and lost a lot of time. What a difference time has made. Now, subject to accuracy of course, I have regular Met information and a pretty good idea of where the high is centered and can plot a course to its west. It is this availability of weather that has so speeded up round the world races and voyages in recent years.

You cannot run one of these boats as you might a racing car or aeroplane. In addition to being the driver/pilot, you have to be the mechanic. Two simple examples, forgetting the electronic problems for a moment, the stove fell to bits. I had not installed it so it took half an hour to work out what was wrong and put it together again. The bilge pump jammed, but I know this type so only 15 minutes required to fix the problem. You do have to know the boat and its equipment and it’s a hands on thing, not a book learning matter. Its one of the reasons I like to be right in the middle of a re-fit with my sleeves rolled up. I get to know where everything is and how it works and that can save time in emergencies. “