Thursday, October 17, 2013

There is no joy in Isla, the Autopilot has struck out

After weeks and weeks of waiting and struggling, the long awaited, vaunted autopilot finally arrived. With great optimism and enthusiasm we tackled the various functions, hardware installation and connections. Following a manual that seemed vague at times we nonetheless were ready to run the first test; a critical step in directing the autopilot to steer the proper course, and it failed. We double checked the wiring, we tried the wiring diagram for the opposite tack setting. It failed. We tried a replacement piece of hardware, it failed. Lacking additional time we sent the control unit back with our friend to have it returned to the manufacturer promptly in an attempt to get it sent back to us promptly. Promptly in this case means a week of shipping in either direction. Not to mention the time it will be in the factory. 

Had we decided to plant a crop of coconuts on deck - and for as long as this auto pilot replacement has taken - we could already have harvested a nice crop. This bizzare reflection may have been instigated by the longing for better fruits and vegatables. The low quality, poor selection available on this coast is staggering. Our visits to the West coast yielded a totally different experience. The Yucatan coast is a dead zone from an agricultural perspective and the Mexicans are making it so on an aquatic basis as well. Overfishing and polluted runoff, are decimating reefs and fish stocks. Algae in the bay where we are anchored, rivals most fresh water lakes. It is the thick, slimy,gooey green stuff that strangles native species and robs the environment of oxygen. I for one never expected to find this here. Costal development is painfully obvious. It is unbelievable what has been done to this coastline in the past 50 years. Even the areas I think I might enjoy, the National Parks, are off limits to cruisers. No anchoring in the aquatic parks makes it impossible for cruisers to access. Ones only avenue is to go on a charter boat, run by Mexicans, of course, and pay their fees. While not exorbitant, still pricey to go snorkling  ($160.00 if Karen and I wanted to spend a few minutes with whale sharks, for instance) or visit a bird sanctuary (unclear but a fee per person around $60/day plus another cruising permit). Our trip to Tulum was aborted in part to bad weather(no wind) and in part to the loss I would feel - having been in Tulum in 1973 -  in trying to recreate an experience that can no longer exist. Why try? Why face another disappointment? 

I'm not sure there is any force holding us in Isla, but there seems to be. Something doesn't want us getting away. Why? What is it that keeps postponing our departure? Have we not accomplished what we were destined to do here? Big questions, not much for answers. It appears that we will have a couple more weeks to ponder our role. In the mean time, we live, as best we can. Andale', Charlie

As I watched Charlie's face yesterday, and our friend Chip working along side, it was pretty hard to take the disappointment we all shared when the auto pilot failed to function as it should have.
Another setback, and we wait and wait again.

I know some of you think, " Well, what better place to wait for parts?" And then there are some of you good Midwestern Scandinavian types thinking, " Well, it could be worse, ya sure ya betcha."
And it surely could have been worse. We could have lost Leap in the lightening strike as well as being injured ourselves so yes, we do count our blessings. 

What is it that makes us especially contemplative during times of disappointment and stress? Most would say it is the universe telling you to put the brakes on and slow down and evaluate. However, we already put the brakes on when we decided to take this sabbatical. So why are we having hurdles on sabbatical? Is it a test of our dedication to this dream? Or a window into what lies ahead?

If the oceans abundance is sorely diminished here what will it look like elsewhere? Are we to be witnesses, a voice for the ocean, and are we to hike up our bootstraps, or rather sandal straps and voyage on and report back what we find in the hopes that we and anyone else that may be interested can actually take action on what we find?

In that light, it is worth the voyage. We need to learn and will learn more about the western Caribbean as we sail along and we will report back all the highs and lows. 

For now we are thankful to be floating and grateful for all the wonderful people we have met along the way, especially grateful to our friend Chip, who has been an enormous help in getting our parts to us. Thank you Chip! (and to you too Lu, for sharing him)

On that note I say a good night and fair winds friends,


  1. hey you two.........keep on keepin on. and thanks for the notes.......... :)
    michael 3~

  2. Finally, catching up on what's going on down south with you two...'tis some ups and downs I see. Sending hugs and hopes for more up than down! Love the pics, makes me want to be on the ocean more than you can know. Cheers. John Bailey