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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Saltydog Autopilot Operational

This morning we got up and checked out of the hotel as our plan is to spend the night aboard Saltydog as we need to be underway by 6:30am for the canal crossing tomorrow.  For lunch we were able to meet with Dave’s work buddy Ramon.  He lives here in Panama and it was fun to catch up with him.  Zetron is looking at a couple of projects in the region and Dave volunteered to project manage the system installations if need be.

Yesterday the guys were able to reproduce the problem with Saltydog’s autopilot, so this afternoon Mike and Dave took the linear drive apart as they had determined it was the component making the strange thunking sound.  The linear drive is the component that has the motor on it that actuates the rudder.  Saltydog’s linear drive was the same basic model as Wanuskewin has – so having Mike helping was a huge benefit since Mike had taken his apart once before.  Apsaras doesn’t have the same system, so Dave was unfamiliar.  The boys pulled the unit out of the aft compartment and took it apart.

You can see that these boys are super comfortable working together.  The ease with which they go back and forth thinking aloud about the problem and just working it through was evident all through the process.  Steve commented on this several times.

What they found when they finally got the system apart and tore into the motor assembly itself was that two of the four magnets inside the motor had broken loose and were ratting around inside the motor causing it to make the thunking noise and to jam.

So they figured if they could epoxy the magnets back in place, they could maybe fix it.  Dave said that he had to use his high school physics to remember which magnet went where as they pulled it apart before thinking to mark which magnet went where.  Ooops.

Then they reassembled the unit, they “bench tested” it and found that the thunking noise was gone, and the motor was actuating properly.  Then it was Mike’s turn to crawl into the cramped aft compartment to reinstall the assembly.

Once the unit was in, we tested it at anchor by telling the auto pilot to turn right and left and the rudder was turned properly.  Tomorrow when we cross Lake Gatun between the locks we will be able to test it underway and under load.  The biggest question is whether the epoxy will hold.  If not, at least we know what new part number to order!

If you want to watch us, best guess is that we will be in the Miraflores Locks around 11am Eastern Time.  And if the day goes like it did when we went through, we will be in the Gatun Locks around 5pm Eastern Time.  If we have internet, we will try to publish updated times on the website tomorrow. 

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