Breakdowns, accidents, and complications can have particularly serious consequences for those sailing solo or with a small crew. Therefore, it is important to understand the best course of action to avoid them or at least manage the consequences.
IF THE PILOT FAILS
To cope with an autopilot failure at sea, you must first adopt a gait that allows you to lock the tiller to be completely free. Such a gait will be the broad windward or cape. The easiest and quickest thing is to set to the cape, tacking without letting the genoa pass.
TRY TO REPAIR THE FAULT
Generally, the problem is electronic, and unless you are a specialist, you will not be able to do much about it. This is why many solo boaters have a rescue cockpit pilot. The only type of fault that can be worked on is a defect in the pilot’s 12-volt power supply: change a fuse or power the pilot directly (you will have provided the corresponding flying socket).
SAIL WITHOUT A PILOT
If the pilot cannot be repaired at sea, you will either have to lower your sails and reach a port by motor, or continue sailing without a pilot. To continue under sail, you will need to be able to stay on course with the tiller locked or at least not be forced to stay at the helm all the time. The easiest gait to hold with the tiller locked in (on a sailboat with a modern hull) is upwind wide because the boat stays balanced even in wind and sea.
If the boat was at this gait when the pilot failed, continue your course without a pilot by letting go of the mainsail a little and blocking the tiller with two small lines. If the boat had a different gait and you can continue upwind wide, do so. Now, if you need to proceed in crosswinds without a pilot, you will have a hard time maintaining your gait with the tiller locked. Either the boat starts at the lee and ends up gybing, or it heaves and then stops.
But the boat still remains stable for about ten seconds, or even a minute; you will then have time to go down to the dinette and consult a document. Stability can be improved by lowering the mainsail: the boat, propelled only by the genoa, will hold the course better. But to be truly stable in crosswinds would require a long keel. And with the wind behind, it’s even worse: the loner will have to stay at the tiller the whole time. If he needs rest, he has no choice but to put on the hood.
TAKE A HAND OF TERZAROLI WITHOUT PILOT
Generally, one can find, upwind wide, a tiller setting that allows one to maintain the gait while maneuvering, possibly reducing the jib a bit. If you can’t do it, put on the cape, with the mainsail left in the middle. To put you on the cape, reduce the jib a little more and run it through the neck: the boat will drift smoothly on the water.
Practically up to 25 knots of wind it must be possible to find a wide windward balance while taking a reefing hand and keep going. If it is necessary to pass a borosa (often that of the third coat of terzaroli), then getting to the hood is even more necessary because the maneuver will be long. Lower the mainsail completely, lock the boom in the down position. The maneuver is done safely and without flapping the sail.
THE BIBLE OF SMALL CREW SAILING
These tips are taken from our invaluable handbook “Sailing with a Small Crew”-how many times have you given up going out on your boat because you couldn’t find enough crew? From now on, the problem will no longer exist. Chapter by chapter, we will reveal the tricks to carry your boat practically on your own. From entering port to anchoring in the roadstead, from adjusting sails to preparing for the most challenging crossings, each topic is illustrated with photos and drawings. Get ready to cast off your moorings!