Do you love steering the boat no matter what the elements throw your way,
like our friend Antonio, (a wonderful flamenco guitarist), from Jaen in
Spain, pictured at the wheel of Leopard Normand III?.
Are you in tune with the ocean and all too conscious that you are there because those elements are willing to tolerate you?
Or are you of the school of sailors who see themselves as fighting against the sea, every passage a battle won?.
Is the idea of steering at all in this age of auto-pilots anathema to you? Do you carry two spare auto-pilots
in case of failure?
What sort of steering design do you favour? Why? What sort of steering gear leaves you cold? Why?
What was your best moment at the helm? What was the worst?
Tell us your story give us your views and feelings on the subject. Don't worry about your writing capabilities, we'll steer the story through to publication if the content catches our imaginations.
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A CHALLENGE FROM OUR EXECUTIVE EDITOR
We have had a great many auto-pilot systems aboard our 71foot schooner.
Some have let us down sooner, others only slightly later. In fact the only one that never let us down was a
Neco, a lovely agricultural old
outfit. A re-fit guru persuaded me, in the days when I had more money than sense,
that my Neco was out-moded and should be replaced with an all singing, all-dancing, interfaced, electronic, bells and whistles, 'proper' system.
He convinced me and the deed was done. The fancy new system, installed at vast
expense, lasted about 700 miles, less than a quarter of a short Atlantic
Now I would like to believe that it is a matter of bad installation, wrong advice,
mis-matching between vessel and model of system but all I know is that, after
the-year-before last's auto-pilot decided to let us down,
ninety miles into a four thousand-odd mile voyage, we gave up all hope of
possessing a worthwhile automatic steering system, now that Neco is no more..
We've been hand-steering ever since. Fortunately, being a schooner, Leopard
Normand III steers herself quite nicely for varying lengths of time
under certain conditions, which helps, but she has to be steered
constantly the rest of the time. With only two of us aboard this can be
somewhat tiring and we have no intention of moving anybody else aboard
to do the auto-pilot's job.
Let me throw down a challenge. If a manufacturer will supply and install an auto-pilot system which he feels will do the job properly under reasonable conditions but on a boat which is a full-time live-aboard ocean cruising yacht, I will undertake to publish a regular report of its performance and, if it is still functioning properly after 12,000 miles, I will be glad to pay for it and take the
manufacturer (who will have become a hero in our eyes) out sailing into the bargain!
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