Date: 06 Jun 97 17:03:25 EDT
From: Nellie Gruender <>
Subject: The last leg

(Yeah Nellie, you know all about "Last Legs" - your Publisher)


Rainbow Chaser is within a few miles of completing the over 700-mile trip from Isla Mujeres to Texas. As you can tell from Gene's account it was almost a lonely trip in that other than a couple of ships, and couple of birds we had the place to ourselves. After 6 days of nothing but ocean, and reading some of our books for the third time I think we'll be glad to say land ho!

On this last night, I laid down at about 2000 to take a nap before my watch at 0100. It will take weeks to re-program my circadian rhythms to be in sync for normal sleep.

As I rested I was aware that the wind had picked up a fair amount and Gene had turned off the motor (we needed to save those last few drops of diesel to get us to the fuel dock). When I finally got up I found out that the Autopilot was not in harmony with the waves, and was doing crazy things. Gene had turned it off and resorted to steering by hand. The real shock was that after absolute solitude at night for the last 6 nights I woke up and was surrounded by lights. It was like being back in a city. We had returned to oilrig country!

Now, back to the Auto pilot failure. I will take this opportunity to say that there are 3 utilitarian things on the boat that rank for #1 in importance. The water maker, the GPS, and the Autopilot. The Autopilot makes sailing for any distance at all bearable, because you don't have to exert energy to remain on course. You set the heading, and the Autopilot reads the compass and does the rest. Put simply the boat almost sails itself. Practically speaking it also means that at night when I'm on watch by myself I can leave the helm, go below and go to the bathroom, and the boat will continue to sail on course. The down side is that it will remain on course even if there is something in the way. The human touch is still needed to guide it around large objects.

I must admit that as I took over the wheel from Gene I wasn't excited about having to maintain our course by hand. Once I took over I realized how good it felt to have control of the wheel. There's something almost poetic about having the boat respond to the touch and turn of the wheel. The fluid motions of the wind and the waves all just blend together. As much physical energy as it took to steer the boat, and even as tired as I was I fell in love with sailing all over again. It seemed almost appropriate that there should be this connection on what will be our last night out for awhile.

We're all a little wired tonight. I think the reality of seeing land again has us all a little excited. It's almost 0400 on Friday, and Zach has been up and down all night. Right now he's in the V berth reading a book, Gene's back at the wheel, and I'm typing e-mail. Hmmmmm I wonder what our friends are doing?

Aboard Rainbow Chaser
US waters off Texas Coast