Friday, May 15, 2015

Running on auto-empty

The deadline for heading West has been driving our days, with me really hoping to have the Auto-helm mod done before we set out. Adding to the fun was me making a serious visit to the state of unhealthy, a decline which matched the unfolding demise of the auto-helm mod. As I felt worse and moved slower, bits and parts in the attempt to mount the ST1000 on the port cockpit coaming bent, twisted, broke, and failed. On the first attempt to power up the unit the course read-out showed a heading of 81 degrees. Kintala is facing just about due south as she sits in the stands; something was seriously wonky. (And not just with my bits and parts.) As it turns out the ST1000 only “knows” where it is if it is sitting laterally across the boat. Since it is designed to drive tiller steering rather than being attached to the rudder via a wind vane, it made perfect sense that it would get lost if mounted longitudinally. Perfect sense, that is, after 3 ugly days of struggling to get work done when it was near impossible just to get out of the v-berth. Amazing how smart one gets when finally recognizing what is happening right in front of one's eyes, but that's what happens when running on empty.

So yesterday all previous work was scrapped (leaving several new holes in the cockpit that I need to fill) and a whole other approach had to be dreamed up. The good news was that, for the first time in days, I could actually function for hours at a time. They turned out to be productive hours. Today went even better and, even though there is a bit of touching up and final finish work to do, the circuit breaker on the panel marked “Autopilot” is now really wired to an actual auto pilot. All the access panels are closed, all the interior parts are installed, and the ST1000 can now sit across the stern of the boat on its very own, specially designed (and soon to be pretty) hardwood shelf; rigged to the Cape Horn. As soon as we get back – and it gets prettied up – I'm sure Deb will add some pictures. Getting that thing to fit in the narrow confines of a Tartan 42's stern was a bit of a challenge. And though it is clearly “after market” it doesn't look totally hacked. Even better, we don't need to buy a $465 remote to make it work.

There were still some struggles. The electrical plug provided so the unit can be easily removed is a seriously cheesy unit with tiny screws that barely hold the required size wire. I tried tinning the wire ends so the tiny screw could get a better "bite", but then the wire wouldn't fit at all. Fortunately I learned a long time ago to leave a little extra hanging out of the hole, just for such contingencies.

Then the instructions called for a certain size drill for the unit's mounting holes, all well and good except I was mounting it in fiberglass, not wood. Disassemble, re-drill,reassemble. Not a big deal but it was near the last task of the day. Though it was a much better day than the previous several, it was still a long one where I pushed pretty hard. Dealing with tinny little screws not quite up to the task and miss-sized holes, with feet dangle off Kintala's, narrow stern eight feet or so in the air, used up pretty much all I had to give for the day. But then Friends David and Nancy salvaged things by inviting us on an ice cream run after dinner. Ice cream will fix what ails ya ...

So, all in all, I am really pleased at how the last two days worked out; kind of a "just in time" thing. In twelve hours or so we should be with Daughter Youngest and Grand Kid 5, who are meeting us in Pittsburgh for a short Family visit. Then on to Indy to see Daughter Eldest and family for a short visit. Then to St. Louis to see Daughter Middle and family; get the condo on the market, and catch up with old friends at places like Lake Carlyle. Estimated time back to Kintala is six weeks. It will be a couple of more weeks on the hard after that, and then, finally, I'll get to see if the Auto-pilot works as well in the water as it seems to work on land.


Mike Boyd said...

Glad you got the project sorted out and are ready to head back to see family. Thanks for taking a few moments out of your schedule to say hi in person. I don't know which of us felt more exhausted, but it was good to meet both of you in person none the less. Enjoy your time off from boat projects.


Matt Mc. said...

Sorry we never hooked up before we went to Prague! If there is ANYTHING we can do for the boat - even just a drive-by - let us know!! I'm a land-lubber, but do well with instructions. Seriously do not hesitate. Safest of travels and give everyone a hug for us.