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Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/14/2011 - Learning all the time

Every day is a new learning experience when you're doing something as foreign to your former life as cruising the Sea of Cortez in a sailboat is to our former lives. Like today for instance. Who knew that RF (radio frequency) energy emanating from our HF radio antenna (a simple piece of wire) could not only interfere with the function of the autopilot but could actually fry components inside?

We left our anchorage at Ensenada Grande bright and early, about 7:30. Got out into the open water and started motoring (did I mention the minimal wind we had was from the south?) to La Paz. After an hour or so I asked Lulu to come up topside and stand watch while I went below to take care of sending and receiving e-mail via the SSB radio. Now I already knew that the radio would do things like make the bilge pump light come on when transmitting. It also will turn the GPS on. Through trial and error I found out that this happens primarily (if not exclusively) when I'm transmitting in the 10 MHz band and usually only if I transmit at full power. Consequently, unless I'm trying to transmit a voice message, I keep the power setting in the middle. The only band I could get decent propagation on today was the 10 MHz band, but the power was not on High so I figured everything was jake. Just as I started to send my e-mails out, I thought, "Hmmm... wonder if this will effect the autopilot?" A few seconds later, I sensed the sun shifting positions. I went topsides and Lulu had disengaged the autopilot and was hand-steering to get us back on course (so we wouldn't run into Isla Ballena). Got things set, put the autopilot back in control and it did it again. Disengaged the AP and Lulu hand steered until I finished my radio stuff and could suss things out. Well, the upshot is that the AP doesn't work anymore. And, you can smell burnt electrical stuff inside it. Who knew? Tomorrow I'm going to take it apart, see if I can identify the fried component, exchange it with the same component from our parts unit and hope we get a working AP out of the deal. Either way, we'll probably be buying a new autopilot. They're just too important to not have (at least) one.

So, other than having to hand-steer and motor the whole way, it was a pleasant trip. Very hot. We arrived in La Paz and were anchored by 2:30 PM. It's sort of surreal being back here as we got accustomed to the "smaller" island life very quickly. We already miss it and won't be here any longer than necessary. But, that being said, we do have a list of things to do while we're here. And it'll take a little while to get the engine parts anyway. Hopefully there's an autopilot in stock here somewhere as special orders seem to take about 3 weeks.

Tomorrow, being Sunday, we won't be able to get much done. So we'll dinghy in to Marina de La Paz to take real showers, dump our garbage, and fill the water jugs. Other than that, we'll probably loaf after our grueling trip. Yeah, I know, your heart bleeds.

BTW, my banda ancha card ran out so we won't have real internet until Monday.

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