It is 10:52 AM Atlantic Time on May 30. We are sailing back to Sint Maarten.
Don't worry. We plan an immediate "Do-over" -- just as soon as we have the auto-pilot fixed.
Our auto-pilot, AKA Casey, stopped working at 2:00 AM on the 28th. EW was on watch and sailed onward, letting me sleep my full off-watch. At six, when I took the helm, he gathered tools, moved the dinghy engine off the master bed (yeah, photos from the Azores) and began diagnosing the problem. He worked on it for a number of hours, but this is one of the (very) few items he is not confident about fixing. I kept steering the boat while he worked on it, but he finally determined that this one was beyond his skill set.
We had a brief meeting in the cockpit and I checked our position relative to all land masses. Bermuda was 600 miles away. The BVI and Sint Maarten were both about 375. We know Sint Maarten, and know people who can help, so back we go. We fully expect the unit to be operational in a day and we'll head back out immediately. This is not yet too late to cross. In fact, we know two boats with very experienced captains who weren't planning to go until early June.
So it's a Do-Over. Some great sailors have experienced Do-Overs. Dodge Morgan left Maine in American Promise for his solo around the world sail. Equipment problems required a detour to Bermuda where he began again. Miles and Beryl Smeeton were shipwrecked going around the Horn, stayed months in Chili repairing the boat, only to shipwreck once again. (Shipwreck is the wrong term. The first time, they pitchpoled, coming back upright with downed rigging. The second time they rolled over, also coming back upright. Both times they were able to jury-rig the remaining sailing parts and make it in to shore. The books are "Because the Horn is There" and "Once is Enough." In my opinion, once is WAY too much and this is why there is no Horn in EW's future.) Dear friends Ross and Diana aboard One White Tree, left Panama for the Galapagos and turned back due to equipment issues. Repairs made, they set out again on their Pacific crossing that took them from the Galapagos to New Zealand as planned. These intrepid and outstanding sailors all re-grouped, fixed what had to be fixed. and followed their course.
As will we.
In the meantime - hey you in Sint Maarten, we're coming back. Drinks at the yacht club or Lagoonies? EW wanted to try out this new Rockna anchor anyway. Brad and Shana -- you still there? Drop us an email to the Sailmail address, please.
Everyone else. Don't worry. We are fine, though 3 hour watches and hand steering gets old fast. Glad we turned around, as I would hate to do this for 3-4 weeks. We should be in Sint Maarten sometime on Monday night/Tuesday morning.
If you like reading about sailing and haven't read the Smeeton Books -- do so immediately.