A momentous occasion, you might say. I’m waiting for someone to arrive with champagne to celebrate us. I’ve got the champagne glasses and the party hats all ready to go. They must be late…
If Halcyon was a car, she would be an antique (sorry girl, but it’s true). If she was a house, she’d be on (under) her third roof. As a boat, most of her innards either have failed, are failing, or will fail in the foreseeable future.
Take her auto steerage. When Halcyon was a spring chicken and Jimmy Carter was president, Her makers installed
an innovative top-of-the-line and likely quite expensive contraption called an autopilot. It was made by Wood Freeman, the leaders in the industry. It was big and shiny and had a wooden “remote” so you could control it from anywhere in the cockpit (assuming the cord reached that far). Halcyon was proud of her newfangled equipment, and didn’t mind the extra 85 pounds added to her starboard side.
Thirty-five years later, her autopilot was not so shiny and the remote sent her in circles, a perpetual Zoolander dilemma. After some research and tinkering, and discussion over whether sailing in circles for 3 years counted as cruising, we decided to relieve her of the 85 pounds of corroded metal.
And so, for the last five years, Halcyon moved through the water with one of us at the helm … All. The. Time. This was not such a big deal on the inside passage, where logs and rocks and tugboats and ferries threaten your every mile. But it is a big hairy deal when your 150-mile passage includes 143 miles of motoring. When we sail, our windvane steers – so those 7 miles of great wind are glorious! The rest of the time, moving requires at least one of our four hands on the wheel at all times while two others sleep and the fourth is just bored.
Until Today! Break out the champagne! We have a newly installed autopilot. Of course not one of those fancy loyal electronic autopilots that cost three months’ budget. It’s the poor cruiser’s version: a grey box with a few buttons built to work on a totally different type of boat, jury rigged to work instead on ours. It’s a tiller pilot and it’s ours and I love it.
So now, we won’t get the look of shock and alarm when we have to tell fellow cruisers we have no autopilot when we motor. We won’t have to sit next to the wheel, attempting to read and steer simultaneously but instead skimming the same sentence 8 times while weaving down the coast. Now, we can make a sandwich without gnawing paranoia of running aground while smearing the peanut butter. Now, Halcyon has one less failed innard to worry about.