First World Problems

A major part of our sailing “style “ is the ability to get the boat to self
steer. It enables us to do long passages without getting tired (we can take
it in turns to sleep) and it means that in inclement weather we don’t have
to be out in the open all the time. On the passage from Ireland, the “clutch
pin” for the wind vane steering system got snagged and tore off. Luckily we
have an electronic autopilot which is even more efficient, albeit it does
drain the battery. Then again, we have a towed generator to solve that
problem, so these two bits of kit happily steered us to Scotland.

Since arriving in these waters the autopilot started to play up, and finally
began to do unexpected 90 degree turns, all of which is distinctly
disconcerting in these rock infested waters, and so ( shock horror !) we
actually had to steer! We carry a spare course computer for just this
eventuality, so the electronic system was soon up and running again, and a
small welding job got the wind vane back in operation. All this is a
reminder that when wandering around by boat , the sailing is the easy bit .
It’s the constant repair work that is the most challenging aspect We have
gradually come to realise it is a good idea to have backups for all systems
; in this case the vane gear backs up the autopilot , and if both fail ,we
become the final back up , ie we steer! In the northern summer with its long
hours of daylight, the solar panels are doing sterling work at keeping the
batteries charged, and if they, or the alternator fail we can charge them
with the towed generator. It’s all a far cry from the Vikings and the Lords
of the Isles who cruised round here in the middle ages. They just rowed or
sailed, and had far more to worry about than dodgy electronics or keeping
the milk from going off in the fridge. I guess ours are what you would call
“first world problems!”

We first came to this area 20 years ago in Polly, and we can’t help but be
reminded of that trip as we pass the familiar landmarks. Yesterday we
thrashed out to the outer Hebrides in a fresh breeze thinking of a similar
day in Polly, beating out to Coll with Ben and Bryony, then aged 9 and 6.
Festina bullies her way through the waves in these conditions, whilst Polly
takes a bit of a battering and I distinctly remember Lynda pointing out some
Gannets diving spectacularly into the water near us. “They look like they
are having fun “said she. “I wish we were having fun!” replied Bryony. It’s
just as well the social workers never found out!

We are anchored in a perfect little natural harbour on Eriskay. It was here
that the SS Politician ran aground and broke up whilst trying to dodge U
boats in the Minch. To the islanders delight she was carrying a cargo of
whisky to America, and within a day or two the whole lot had mysteriously
disappeared, whilst the population, including the ponies, were paralytic for
weeks. The episode was immortalised by Compton Mackenzie in his book
“Whiskey Galore” and the local hotel has a contemporary photo of an elderly
islander displaying a half empty bottle and a very silly grin.

Our grins are of a strictly non alcoholic nature. Here we are in the stormy
Hebrides in warm sunshine. We can’t believe our luck.

One Comments

  1. Hi again Meakins
    With regard to first world problems, for some time I had issues with my electronic autopilot occasionally and suddenly throwing a 90 degree turn. I took it back to the supplier who could find nothing wrong with the unit but replaced it anyway. Imagine my horror when it started doing it again! It turned out to be a loose battery connection which was momentarily turning the unit off and then on again. No probs now but I didn’t dare go back to the supplier and own up. Moral coward really!

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