Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Constance has a new brain!

Our battles with the autopilot have been quite a story over the past week. We'll spare you the details but, briefly, we just couldn't understand why Constance wouldn't let us into her calibration settings to resolve her confusion as to where she was going. We tried a new electronic compass and even managed to track down a second-hand computer 'brain' but had exactly the same issues with that!

Constance's brain, the Type 300 Course Computer from 1997

Constance and her twin - who didn't want to work for us either

This is what it said in the manual but we just couldn't get to this function, no matter what..
So, after much experimentation and emails to Raymarine in the UK and to various NZ experts, we finally admitted defeat on Thursday and had a new autopilot installed. Of course the wiring is all of a different type ( it runs on a communications network called Seatalk ng) so this involved Graham becoming a bilge-rat again to pull new cables through the boat but, after 3 hours, the job was done.

The new brain - no longer a course computer, now a Actuator Control Unit

The new control instrument - in full colour and displaying all sorts of extra information
By some miracle, the new kit talks seamlessly to the old kit on board via a Seatalk-to-Seatalk ng converter so we can still use the old autopilot control panel down in the cabin to change direction without having to go up to the new cockpit controller.

Following the installation we've had a couple of days of sea trials with the new kit and are delighted that the expenditure has actually delivered a much-improved autopilot rather than just replicating the performance of the old Constance. The new solid-state, 9-axis compass and movement sensor delivers a much smoother and more accurate result and the autopilot 'learns' the characteristics of the boat so should get even better over time. We are very glad to have put this episode behind us but are pleased that we managed to fix it all before we were on passage to Vanuatu.

So, now we're looking at the weather in great detail. Lots of boats departed today on the first weather window that has presented itself in about 3 weeks. However, it looks as though they will experience a lot of calm conditions and motoring so we are happy not to be with them, there being no guarantees of friendly tankers en route to Vanuatu.

Lots of white space means no wind
So we'll wait for a couple of gales to roll through next week and see how things look from next weekend. In the meantime we're keeping very busy and have enjoyed some lovely sailing out in the Bay of Islands. Today saw Graham scale the mast to do a rig safety check and Laura, who claims she's very scared of heights, conquered her fears and made it to the top as well. You can read her take on the challenge on her blog:

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