September 18, 2009

Staggering Response to Autopilot Problem

If the responses to Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic don’t taper off soon, we might have to outsource our email correspondence to India.

© Josh Rogan

We’ve gotten two big surprises since Wednesday. First was the statistic that 40% of the population of India — and there are about a billion of them — don’t have any electricity. Second was the absolutely staggering response we got to the Wednesday ‘Lectronic item in which we asked for help troubleshooting the problems we’re having with erratic behavior of our Autohelm 6000 autopilot.

At last count, we got over 150 responses, the most ever to anything we’ve ever run in ‘Lectronic. We got them from all over the world, and many came from people who have extremely sophisticated theoretical and practical knowledge of marine electronics. Several people even offered to come to our boat and troubleshoot for free!

The sum of all the responses provided us with what we think is a revealing overview of the problems people have with their autopilots, and we intend to share a distilled version of that information with our readers in the November — not October — issue of Latitude. We think there is lots of valuable information for everyone. As for Profligate‘s autopilot, thanks to your responses, we know the most likely places to look for problems, and we can’t wait to get to the boat and get started.

The other thing we learned is that a lot of sailors aren’t very happy with the tech help provided by Raymarine. A common theme was that tech assistance consisted of saying, "We have no idea what’s wrong with your autopilot, buy a new one." If we find the time, we’re going to share these letters with Raymarine with the hope they might — for their own sake — be more responsive to their customers.

So thank you very much to everyone who was so gracious as to offer insight with our problem. But please, please, please, no more, or we’ll soon have more responses than there are people with electricity in India.

First Solo TransPac Seminar

Have you always wanted to race to Hawaii? Do you have trouble finding offshore crew because of your "relaxed" hygiene habits? Does the likelihood of hallucinations due to lack of sleep appeal to your sense of adventure? Then the Singlehanded TransPac may just be the race for you. The race, presented by the Singlehanded Sailing Society, is a 2,100-mile solo jaunt from San Francisco Bay to Kauai that runs in even years. Next summer’s start will be on June 19.

If amazing photos of racers sailing into Hanalei Bay, like this one of Barbara Euser on Islander, have tempted you to join the Singlehanded TransPac, perhaps it’s time to go for it.

latitude/LaDonna
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

It’s never to early to start getting ready, so to help prospective racers prepare themselves and their boats, the Singlehanded Sailing Society will present free monthly seminars for the next nine months at Bay Area yacht clubs. "Getting Started," which will be held at Oakland YC on Monday — September 21 — from 7:30-10 p.m. (doors open at 7). The talk will cover equipment requirements — from drinking water to liferafts — and several race veterans will share their ideas and experiences, so be ready with questions.

Future seminars will cover emergency steering, communications, sails, electrical, rigging, provisioning, tactics and more. Exact dates and locations for upcoming seminars will be posted on the SSS website, so stay tuned.

Hot Weather, Hot Deals at Oakland Show

Boats of all sorts are ‘priced to sell’ at the Northern California Fall Boat Show.

latitude/John A.
©2009 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Local weather gurus are predicting phenomenally warm weather this weekend, making it an ideal time to get out on the water, and also to to check out the Northern California Fall Boat Show at Jack London Square.

Although not as large as the spring Strictly Sail Pacific show, there will be at least a couple dozen boats on display, and many brokers will be on hand offering special deals on both new and used boats — power as well as sail. Although there are now signs that our lousy economy is beginning to turn around, brokers are still highly motivated to move their current inventory at historically low prices. Who knows, this could be your chance to buy that dream boat for a song.

Show hours are noon to 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekend. (Adults $10; kids under 15 free.) See the website, or call (916) 372-4239 for show info.

If you’re a boat electronics whiz, here’s your chance to perhaps outshine the tech folks at Raymarine.
While it’s probably not in the front of most sailors’ minds as they’re banging around the race course, US Sailing has a huge impact on how our sport is run in this country.