“Twenty four little hours” – isn’t that how the song goes?? Life is fickle out here in the cruising world, and there are no guarantees that things will go according to plan. Yesterday our happy Ha’apai world was turned upside down when George the autopilot failed again, with that bleak message “No Pilot” blinking at us maliciously.
Seathan from Rehua, who’s a savvy chappie in all things electronic and mechanical came over to help us troubleshoot the problem. He cleaned up all the connections again and made some improvements and bingo, we were back up and running. Hallelujah! But we were anxious that this was an intermittent fault, so yesterday we did another test, motoring 3 hours south with Rehua and Phileas to give George another chance. And he didn’t skip a beat, performing flawlessly…..until we got to the anchorage when he went AWOL again. Shit, damn, bugger! We had our hopes up that finally all was well and we’d be able to sail south with our buddies. But that bubble has well and truly burst.
This morning Seathan and Bruce had a last-ditch attempt to re-work the problem, trying a few new strategies, but none worked. It’s just not feasible for the two of us to hand-steer all the way to New Zealand in what may be a very gnarly passage, so we’ve sadly had to accept the inevitable – that we can’t continue on without getting the autopilot fixed. Both Rehua and Phileas need to get going to meet their deadlines in New Zealand, so last night we had a very lovely, if rather sad, farewell barbecue on the beach with them. We feel gutted, and it’s hard not to be doing this last leg with our friends, but we wish them fair winds and safe sail, knowing we’ll catch up with them in the not too distant future.
So our only option now is to sail back to Vava’u, where we hope we can get some assistance from Alan at the boatyard. Other wonderful cruising friends, Marce and Jack from “Escape Velocity” have been relaying our problem to Alan, and he’s willing to look at it early next week. Tonight we’re anchored back in Ha’ano, our initial anchorage in the Ha’apai group, and tomorrow we’ll do the rather lonely sail back to Vava’u. Providing we can get parts sent quickly, we’re still hopeful that we can get back out within the next week to ten days. At least we’ll have internet again so we’ll be back on the grid. Here’s hoping for a quick turnaround.