A fixed autopilot brings a smile to the face of Dee Caffari who's spent the last few days battling with erratic winds and lack of sleep


Date19 December at 2350

PositionS 28° 20’/ W 42° 19′

I’ve probably managed about one hours sleep total over the past 48 hours. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t all action but every time you go to do something else such as make dinner the alarms will go off, or the wind will change speed or direction or more often than not both. So you are left having to go and sort everything out and that means food is delayed again. This continues and before you know it, it is the next day and you start all over again. I quite often use reading a book or a quick game of Su Doku as a way of staying awake because it is really frustrating to just close your eyes and then five minutes later you are up and about again.

That happened pretty much all-last night and I missed dinner. I grabbed about 45 minutes sleep this morning and then I started some jobs, but I have just made myself feel better by cooking my favourite meal, Boil in a Bag Chicken Casserole and some pasta. It takes 10 minutes to cook and is yummy.

It has rained everyday for a week now and today is no exception. It isn’t continuous although the cloud cover is, but more showers, some of which are very hard and affect the wind massively. It is making my maintenance jobs very difficult. We were tackling the autopilot issue I have again today. The instructions came through by e-mail and off to work I went and managed to complete the job just before the heavens opened again. But alas my efforts were to be in vain as again it was not the solution we were looking for. I know the UK Technical Team is working really hard at this problem but I was very deflated at this unsuccessful attempt. I think it is a culmination of being tired, wet yet again, and still not finding the problem.

The evening was a wonderful respite from everything. I was beginning to feel that a week’s break just to get away from it all for a few days would be great and then I could come back refreshed. I was thinking this as I sat on deck with only 1 knot of breeze and Aviva just sat rocking in the swell with the sails slatting from side to side. I furled the headsail away as more damage is done in these conditions than is done in windy conditions. Five hours went by with us seeing no more than 3 knots of breeze. I called home and felt better after talking about my frustrations, I read a couple of pages of my book, but I couldn’t settle. The sky had amazing clouds in it again and as the sun was setting it was illuminating them all in different colours, it looked truly remarkable. Finally I was going to get a great evening sky for a sunset and blood red/orange skies, I was actually quite excited despite my recent progress.

I made a cup of tea and grabbed the camera. Fabulous colours and cloud shapes filled the skies. I had another check on the autopilot to do that had been sent from the Technical Team. They had been pouring over various photographs that I had to send back during the afternoon. I made the checks and it was like the evening technicolor sky had changed everything. The pilot when tested leapt into life, we still have an issue but there was life where for the last 30 days there had been none. At the same time the zephyr filled to a light and consistent wind and we started to sail. I also felt better about life again!

I gave Neptune one of my chocolate biscuits to say thank you, and also to ask that the conditions stay settled for at least a few hours so I could get some rest. I am drained from giving so much to Aviva to keep her moving, also exhausted from the emotional effort of trying to fix things so often in vain.

Thankfully I have a technical support team that are confident and dedicated to get to the bottom of all eventualities, where as I would have loved at times, to have thrown several pieces of equipment over the side for a float test in frustration. There is a reason behind everything; the difficulty is finding the reason.

Dee and Aviva