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Sailing To Brazil – Houston, we have a problem!

At sunset on Thursday, our joy of using ‘Harry’ the second autopilot came to an abrupt end. Just as we were making a sail change and taking the parasail down, ‘Harry’ malfunctioned. He decided to follow ‘William’ and right royally shut down, making that a staggering two autopilots going AWOL in one day, 750-nautical miles away from our next port of call.

Ferg stepped in to manually helm while Ian went through all the normal diagnostics to try to resolve the issue. As darkness loomed, we were left with no alternative but to hand steer the boat all night, taking turns on a rota basis.

Yesterday, we went through all manner of possible fixes, trying to understand whether the autopilot fault was electrical, hydraulic, operating system or even just a loose connection. The boat is brand new, so to have an issue like this is extraordinary.

We received a couple of helpful emails from the marine engineers invo lved in installing the systems on board, but sadly these haven’t worked while we’re at sea.

We also had some amazing help and suggestions from another cruiser who was sailing nearby. Mike on ‘Mira’ even offered to watch some technical YouTube videos via his Starlink connection in case that could provide a fix, but to no avail. However, his kindness and support meant a huge amount to us.

We are now faced with our worse-case scenario, which is to hand steer the remainder of the way to the island of Fernando de Noronha. Between us, this is doable, but it’s tiring, especially in the heavy swells. Thankfully the forecast is for the swells to abate and the wind to drop.

We’re also researching other ports on mainland Brazil, such as Cabadelo, which might offer more in the way of technical support.

36-hours in to this issue and we’re really tired and incredibly frustrated, but not beaten. We remain in good spirits and are spoi ling ourselves with lots of delicious comfort food – and as much sleep as we can get when not on watch.

I swear we don’t go seeking drama, but we do manage to find an awful lot of it on the high seas!

Total miles sailed in 24 hours: 273

Total miles to go to Fernando de Noronha: 612

Date: Saturday 11th March 2023

Photo: Ferg hand steering at the helm station

© Two Drifters Travel

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