Day 4 – Fickle Autopilot

Big news today- we GYBED! Yes, it’s exciting things like this that make the day of the passage sailor.
petrels around the boat
Petrels circling Totem
The autopilot needs to be babied. When he opened up the gear box for another lube, Jamie found brass shavings- a sign the planetary gears are wearing. At least we replaced the plastic gears back in Mexico- they would never have lasted this long! We are taking steps to lighten the load on the autopilot- hand steering more, motorsailing when it makes sense. With just two of us trading watches, hand steering all the time would be exhausting. Niall is able to help, which is huge, and we can still rely on the autopilot in some conditions. A new autopilot is now just another boat buck looming in our future.
We’re making great progress. Besides near ideal conditions for Totem- 20-25 knots, right on the beam- we’re riding the East Australian Current (those who know it can now quote several relevant lines from Finding Nemo…). We’ve gone long stretches of averaging 9-10 knots, rarely seen less than 6, and occasionally surfed over 14. Not bad!
Ocean-dwelling petrels circle Totem. These dove-gray birds spend most of their life far out at sea. It’s beautiful to watch them glide over the water, perfectly anticipating the lift of the waves and and staying just inches above them. Occasionally a wing is very diliberately dipped to skim through the surface: it’s magical to watch.
At 6:45pm (NSW time) this evening, Totem crossed into Australian waters. We watched and counted down the minutes until this first hurdle of arrival: it was an exciting moment! It looks like we’ll arrive in plenty of time on Friday to complete clearance and avoid the nearly $300 additional in fees that come with checking in on the weekend.