Baba 35 - A good story!

A passing ship tracks Kevin’s Baba 35 on AIS, and can’t understand how his sailing course is so straight!

From: Kevin
Sent:  July 26, 2017
To: Sarah Curry
Subject: First Trip


I had the Hydrovane installed on my boat while I was in Florida. I was tired of the Wind Pilot’s wandering.

At the same time, I installed a new AIS transponder.

The plan was to sail from the Florida Keys to the Chesapeake Bay. I would be sailing solo. So, the Hydrovane was a key element in this plan. It should take the Baba 35 about 10 days. The forecast was for fair weather offshore, and late day thunderstorms all over the south east, which is typical during the summer.

While the weather would allow, I would use the Gulf Stream for a little push. I was shocked the first time I raised the mainsail. The Windpilot would not hold the boat into the wind long enough to raise the mainsail. So, I would make 2-3 trips back to the cockpit to make adjustments during the process. With the sail ready, I prepared the halyard. I looked up to check the wind… on the nose. I was liking the Hydrovane already. I raised the mainsail with no trips to the cockpit and was shocked that we were still in irons as I tidied up the halyard.

I sat on the cabin top, looking around… checking for traffic, and enjoying the scenery. I looked up again… the sail was gently luffing… still in irons. It was an amazing experience and I hadn’t started sailing yet!

I spent most of the day babysitting the Hydrovane. It didn’t need my attention, but it was a perfect day to get acquainted.

I spent the night taking cat naps; watching for traffic; enjoying mother nature’s light show (thunderstorms over land… stars above); watching the chartplotter for AIS targets and verifying them with radar. Periodically, I would gaze astern and watch the Hydrovane as it kept me on course… no attention required. I was between the Florida keys and Cuba. I only saw three ships the whole night.

The next morning, I was rounding the bend in the Straits of Florida. I was off Key Largo. I was finally heading north!

There was bound to be much more shipping traffic. I was nearing the channel entry for Miami.

The winds were light, the sky above blue, but there was a heavy haze along the horizon in all directions.

This weather persisted through most of the day. The thunderstorms came early; still over land. Only, Florida was to my left, the Bahamas to my right, and visibility was very low ahead.

My chartplotter showed a ship heading south. I decided to hail them and verify my AIS was truly transmitting. The response came quickly: “Oh, yes! We picked you up at 26 miles out. You didn’t show up on the radar until 8 miles. “The next response shocked me! “Since you are a sailing vessel, we keep a close eye on you. Sailboats tend to wander like a snake and change direction at inappropriate times. You however, you have been different. We have a running bet going… What kind of autopilot do you have; electric or hydraulic? Your course has been as straight as an arrow.”

My response was simple, “I don’t have an autopilot.” The tone of the voice on the other end changed. “You can’t be hand steering!”

I said, “No. I’m using a windvane steering system.” I had their attention now. He immediately wanted to know what kind. His brother-in-law was a sailor and wanted a windvane for his boat.

For the next 20 minutes, we chatted all about the Hydrovane and why I thought is was better than a servo pendulum.