Welcome aboard … Ripley!
If you are one of my original crew that came south with Spiritus in 2012 in the Baja-Ha-Ha, please don’t hunt me down and kill me after you read this.
On the way south ,during the 2012 Baja-Ha-Ha, we managed the helm/rudder by-hand for the entire way from Oregon to the tip of Baja, then up into the Sea of Cortez to La Paz. This is about 2100 nautical miles of sailing day and night.
Carolyn and I are now cruising for pleasure; and, as we headed north from Barra de Navidad, we decided to break out the tiller pilot that I have not used since we moved the boat from Winchester Bay to Newport, Oregon, after we bought her.
It is a Navico TP300C and is paired with Navico Corus Programer CP 600 remote.
Carolyn and I talked it over and decided to try it out on the 18-20 hour run past Cabo Corrientes. Cabo Corrientes is Spanish for “Cape of the currents” and is typically a trip involving a 10-14 knot head-wind from the north and a wave-set direction of West or South West. In other words, it is a place of troubled waters at times.
We chose to round it at night since that would bring us into La Cruz anchorage at about daybreak. We turned it at 2 in the morning– a little behind schedule.
But, the highlight of the trip was the ‘new crew member’, named ‘Ripley’ . . . believe it or not.
Ripley is the auto helm/tiller pilot. She has a built-in fluxgate compass that can hold a heading against winds, currents, waves, and tiredness. See the picture bellow for how she attaches. This is a sailing version so it can actually tack the boat in 30 degree turns. For our first use, we were under motor for the entire afternoon and night so we tried her with the engines on to see how dependable she was.
Result, in the first 12 hours we only had to take the helm twice at way points. Once again at 2 a.m. when we turned 90 degrees for the headland at Cabo Corrientes into Banderas Bay. And, taking the helm actually consisted of tapping in a course correction and letting her assume and continue the new heading.
The only time in 20+ hours we had to take control was when I shut the engine off to check the oil and add part of a quart, and bleed the Racor fuel filter of some air.
Here is the short 18 second video of Ripley steering the boat that I promised to post.
For my original crew, if it is any consolation, Carolyn, my wife spent the better part of the day not talking to me either as she had sailed all the way from Muertos on the Baja Peninsula to Chacala on the mainland of Mexico, hand-steering the boat through her shifts focused on maintaining the compass heading.
No amount of “But, honey, you really needed to learn to sail the boat” … bought me a smile.
For my original crew, I don’t know why we did not use it. I think we got so used to sailing by-hand during the first week of bad weather that we just never thought of it again.
It does make the sailing quite enjoyable versus sometimes feeling like you are rowing the Ingrid to the next port with tiller sweeps.
A deck watch is still required but you can go to the bathroom, get a sandwich, read a book, or look at the stars, all secure in the knowledge that the tiller pilot will hold the boat on course.