Dee Caffari spends another gruelling day battling with the electrics aboard Aviva but things are starting to look up, for the time being anyway

Date28 December at 23H46

PositionS 44° 32′ / W 55° 14′

So far in this week’s autopilot episodes we have squirted oil from both pumps, we have air in one system rendering it off line and the other has sprung into life for no apparent reason. We have re wired half of the electrics in the box and we only have eight bottles of hydraulic oil remaining.

Not bad considering it is only Wednesday. Still its making the week go quick, the only down side is that I am sailing with reduced sail to give myself and Aviva a break and try and find a solution to the issues we face.

Yesterday we spent a couple of hours raiding various parts of the rest of Aviva to help us create an attachment for the autopilot pump. The successful part, much to my stomach’s dismay was the pipe valve from the gas regulator. That means no more bread, and my loaf was so good at Christmas! Still, needs must.

I built, under guidance from the technical team, a breather extension for the header tank, to help let the air escape without losing any more valuable fluid. All being well, this adaptation will be present on both pumps and become a permanent feature that I will have to make holes for and attach whilst also being protected from the elements. So Tuesday night saw me sailing with a pipe taped to the aerial frame with a latex glove finger over the end. The issue was that the pipe doesn’t yet fit through the box lid so to use the pump the lid has to stay off. I was worried with the electrics in there, about it being so exposed, so I covered the box with a bin bag taped down.

In the morning, the aerated oil was still bubbling away at the bottom of the pipe, although the pump had worked all night I had seen several alarm faults during the night. The sky was full of cloud and a large dark band was closing in on us rapidly. So I changed pumps and took my pipe down and stashed it in the box so I could put the lid on. The rain and the wind then descended upon us.

The technical team sent through the tasks for the day and off I went, tools in hand and a printed version of the instructions in my pocket. I was to try and eliminate all the air from the system and then complete the re wiring. I furled the headsails away and then started sailing full lock to full lock with the poorly pump. This took some time and I almost convinced myself that the aerated fuel level was much lower and then, Wham! Back it would come again. Next job was some wiring. I must be better at this, as I was getting some good practise in. It was all going so well and I was finding it all quite easy, as it was pretty much an exact opposite of what I had done on the other side of the box last week. I got to the last three wires and …all I could hear were alarms. I had not only got it wrong but had ruined both pumps in one easy step. I went from two working if not fully functioning pumps to nothing in the pull of a wire.

So I was sat in the rain, in 20 – 25 knots under a black cloud, with no pilots at all, no heading, therefore no true wind direction. Fantastic, life just keeps getting better! I lashed the wheel and rushed down to the phone.

Poor Andrew Roberts, he was expecting me to call and say great things and I told him that something had gone seriously wrong and now nothing was working, and it was raining! In a sulk I sat on deck awaiting the reaction to my news. It probably took about ten minutes but it felt like about three hours. I had laughed, cried, stamped my feet, and had tried hitting Aviva, but she is steel and I just hurt my hand. The answers came by e-mail and I adjusted the wires and it was like the light had suddenly been turned back on and all was well with the world again. Quite bizarre, to go from nothing to everything, is a weird sensation. I hadn’t got it wrong there was just another wire we had to deal with and the solution was simple to do. Yet again the technical team had saved the day.

So we now have two separate autopilot units, all wired in with only one switch to change from one set to the other. We are now able to continue with our aeration issue, but we shall save that excitement for tomorrow’s instalment. I can only take so much in one day and today’s events nearly pushed me over the edge. I am quite delicately balanced right now!

We have left the kind high pressure and are meeting a low-pressure system giving us downwind conditions again and lots of rain. Everything is very grey again and that makes it quite chilly, but again the hatches are shut. The wind will pick up overnight but I haven’t put too much sail back up, so I can have a little rest. I am heading more west than I would like but will be looking at a gybe in the early hours depending on how quickly the wind starts to veer.

The bird life is plentiful and they have all been checking out my work as I have been working in the box at the back of Aviva, but alas the marine life is non-existent. Mind you it was very difficult to always see the whales and marine life. With 18 sets of eyes looking out to sea last year when fully crewed, it was difficult, so the chances of me seeing anything on my own are very remote.

Dee and Aviva