July/August 2010 Sailing Trip — Day 21

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main. Or whatever the words of the song are. Because of the times of low and high tide, we couldn’t get started very early today, so Barbara went up to the house to use our dock-lord’s washer and dryer for a load of laundry. We also got onto the net to download email and the like. (Yes, I should have been posting my blog entries live or at least uploading them every day or two, but time just slips away…)

At a little before noon, we cast off — without the dogs this time — and headed out into the Gulf. This time, the weather cooperated very nicely: 10-12kt winds, 2-3′ seas, as promised on the NOAA weather forecasts. We spent a very enjoyable, if somewhat hot, few hours just sailing wherever the wind wanted to take us. Barbara did some reading and took a nap, while I just enjoyed the (relatively) cool breeze and the sound of the water going by at 5-7kt.

After a while, the wind started to pick up to 15kt with 20kt gusts, and the seas got slightly choppier, so we decided to turn around and sail back towards shore (we were only about seven or eight miles offshore at this point). As we came inside the three mile limit, we fired up the iron genny and dropped the sails so I could (once again) attempt to align the autopilot’s fluxgate compass. We carefully followed the instructions, which included “motor around in a circle at less than 2kts and taking at least three minutes per circle until the autopilot tells you that you’re done”. About 10 minutes later, the autopilot said we’re done and gave us the offset that it had computed. We then did the actual alignment and started pointing in different directions to see if our problem was solved.

It wasn’t :(

So, now we have to start looking for other reasons why the alignment isn’t stable. One possibility is that we’ve somehow managed to get iron or other ferro-magnetic materials positioned too close to the fluxgate compass mounting location. Sigh…

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