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After several uneventful days at 21:30 ish the skipper spotted our first ship just under 500nm out and it was on a constant bearing ie collision course off to port! Lacking AIS to help identify her (a maintenance task for Cairns) he called them up but had no reply so eventually had to steer a course behind her. The ship then altered course, sped up and steamed off over the horizon ahead. The Aussie navy? It was certainly fast.

An hour or so into the 22:00 – 01:00 watch George started to complain loudly. I woke the skipper who turned in his bunk and clambered through the access hatch to the area under the transom. After half an hour with a torch and me hand steering on deck the prognosis was grave. It appears the bearing in the autopilot motor is going. And half an hour later it gave up entirely with a sickening graunching.

Temptress carries a spare! It was decided to make the switch now whilst we were both awake rather than wait for daylight when we’d both be extremely tired having hand steered for six or seven hours, the work would need a torch whenever it was done. On deck I went forward and rethreaded the port hand jib sheet so we could hove to and lock the wheel off. Kevin commented it was a long time since we’d had to do so. Both of us said nothing but memories of another dark night in the Atlantic came unbidden.

Kevin then dugout the big Raymarine box we’ve been carrying around since the UK. The change over took a bare forty five minutes and worked first time. Poor old George must have been suffering for a long long time as he now works in almost total silence, a complete contrast to the creaks and groans we were accustomed to over the past several years. Now we were bowling along once more on a broad reach, wind just aft of the beam, small Genoa and the third reef in the main. It seems the usual sail plan for Temptress on passage; we could hang up more rag and go faster but six or seven knots in these rolling seas seems quite comfortable to us

The night had not done with us yet though. I’d been in my bunk for less than an hour when the skipper called me up on deck. He needed to go forward to retrieve a wayward halyard. We have a safety rule that you only ever leave the cockpit when the other person is on deck to watch you and especially at night you are clipped on to the lazy jacks too. Presumably when we had been maneuvering sails into or out of heave to position one of the bits of string used to fasten the halyards to the shrouds when not in use had given way. The end of the halyard had swung with the rocking and rolling of the boat and was now wrapped around the lazy jib sheet whilst the rest of it banged in the nearby rigging. It was soon captured and retied though it will need inspection in daylight to ensure that it runs correctly further up the mast.

Ships Log Tuesday 6 Sept: Noon position 16 44.94S 160 52.66E 439NM