"I had been looking forward to Captaining my boat on a carefree cruise along a balmy palm-fringed shore. Instead, I seemed to be nothing more than the Crew who was expected to do this and do that all day and all night long.
I resented it!
But after a few days, the Blue Moon and I have come to terms. I give it what it needs, and she is giving me at least as much back. I am happy to be 90% Crew, and 10% Captain. We are reconciled to this relationship. It fits us."
There were many reasons why I felt like an overworked galley slave, including the fact that I was in over my head and had no idea what I was doing, and so I had to work twice as hard as I should have.
But the biggest reason of all was that I was a slave to the tiller. Sure, when I was sailing off-shore on long tacks, my sheet-to-tiller self steering system freed me from the heavy burden of helming the boat. But for various reasons -- that I'll discuss in a later blog post -- sailing free off shore has been impossible or impractical since Ft. Meyers and the beginning of the Okeechobee Waterway.
As a result, I hand-steered every mile from Ft. Meyers to Jacksonville.
|And then there's the problem of too many crew...|
"Get that oar out of my back!"
Turns out, the only problem I could find was some slight corrosion on the power connector. When I cleaned that off with a pen knife and a bit of sand paper, the unit powered up on my bench, with a 12 Volt power supply substituting for battery power.
So I dragged the Tillerpilot down to Jacksonville with the rest of my 175 lbs. of luggage, and tried it out as soon as I could.
In short, it worked beautifully.
|Freedom is an Tillerpilot!|
For one thing, I no longer make breakfast -- or even coffee -- before setting out in the morning. I wake up at dawn and get underway immediately (well, immediately may be an exaggeration... I'm not at my most brilliant at dawn), and once the Tillerpilot is set up and working, I leisurely go below and start the coffee.
Of course, I pop my head out the companionway every minute to make sure some Hullabaloo isn't roaring around the next bend, aiming to run me down, but having to keep a good watch and being tied to the tiller are two very different things.
One thing I find very difficult is to steer and read a chart or -- even worse -- a cruising guide. As soon as I focus on the page, the boat veers wildly off course. Usually straight for a mud bank or day marker. Read a whole sentence, or find a marker on the chart, and I'm liable to be headed in the opposite direction. But with the Tillerpilot, I can almost read without distraction. Almost, because on restricted waterways like the ICW, or even in a large Sound, like St. Catherine's, you must -- must -- keep your wits about you and keep a good watch. It's amazing how those day markers creep up on you.
But, as I say, even with those restrictions, the Tillerpilot has reversed those figues I quoted above. At least while underway, I'm now 90% captain, and 10% crew. That is, I can spend most of my time anticipating problems, planning ahead, navigating, and giving orders to Helmo, my somewhat dim, but tireless, new crew member.
A must-have piece of equipment for the long-distance cruiser.
>>> Next Episode: Good luck/bad luck