Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Oskar - our knight in shining armour!

There is a cause for huge celebration amongst the crew of Shimshal this Spring as we cruise north along Iceland's rugged coast towards snow, ice and cold, cold seas. Hurray for the new autopilot. Only once did we touch the helm between Reykjavik and Grundarfjordur and that was to reef the main in the small hours of the night when a fierce wind off the nearby ice field lashed us with spindrift and mist. For the rest of the 100 miles "Evolution" or "Eve" for short stood her watch faultlessly without once murmuring about the cold, chop or the magnetic anomalies that riddle Iceland's coast.

"Eve's" predecessor was rather less romantically known as  "Raymarine SG3" and spent her 10 year life being a fickle servant. She would, as previously recounted in this blog, periodically forget where north was and veer off in unpredictable and often dangerous directions. Much of last summer was spent with Shimshal's crew shivering behind the wheel instead of navigating from the snug and protected companion way. For years we had forgiven her mischief but frustrations boiled over last summer and we spent the Autumn pondering how to improver her behaviour.

We started at the Raymarine stand at the Southampton Boat Show but nobody would, or could, shed any light on her deficiencies. She had already been back to the factory a couple of times and there seemed little point in spending another few hundred pounds on another futile trip. Internet fora, however, abounded with stories of "SG3's" siblings and their misdeeds but only the OCC Forum hinted at a solution. It seems the gyro function maybe the root of her evil.

Then we met Oskar an Icelandic Raymarine technician who was uncontaminated by sales talk and guess work. Yes there is a well known problem with SG3's whereby the gyro function overrides the heading information from the compass and sends it veering off at random. We could sort it by resetting a jumper and disabling the gyro but that would limit the performance of the pilot in rough seas. He offered to do the necessary surgery for us and we jumped at the chance hoping then that we would have a reliable fair weather pilot for motoring in flat seas.

Unfortunately though the Denmark Strait is not known for calm weather and flat seas and so another more rugged solution needed to be found. So that's when we bought Eve and had Oskar fit her and interface her with the rest of our navigational network. Now "Eve" sits beside "SG3" and a switch and a bunch of relays means that we can switch between them should one or other fall over in the dead of night in a storm tossed sea. Better still we have been able to keep the two control heads which the guys at Raymarine's boat show stand said would not be possible. A triumph for a straight talking technician over the nonsense talked by those on the glitzy trade stand.

And so, with Oskar's help Eve stands her watch with SG3 by her side waiting to step in should her concentration falter. My crew can sit snug in the companionway toasting their feet in the warm saloon and keeping a good watch through the glass windscreen that protects them from the elements. Perfect!  But now we have a new problem. It snowed last night off the Snaesfjell Peninsular and that windscreen quickly covered leaving us blind in the Denmark Strait. So I still have cold crew but that's what you expect if you choose to sail these waters in April!