Steering by hairdryer
By Michael Salano The cruise had started well enough, sailing along the Turkish Aegean coast. We set sail for Çiftlik, some 30 miles distant. A reaching wind took us jauntily to the waypoint at Buzuk Buku where the sea was busy with other vessels that were also cutting the corner. We bucked in the crossing swells and I trimmed the autopilot to begin our turn. Slowly the boat began a gentle turn to starboard; I checked the controls – I was sure I had selected for a port turn. Another swell lifted the boat and as we came down into the trough with a thump, the autopilot went berserk. The boat slewed sideways and we were struggling for control in the busy seaway. I hit ‘Standby’, grabbed the wheel and wrestled us back onto course. I looked at my wife Julia. ‘Have you just been below and moved anything?’ ‘No, absolutely not,’ came the firm reply.’ Settled on our new course, I tried the autopilot again. The boat immediately veered somewhere towards Libya. Hand steering it was then. It was only when we reached harbour that I could investigate. Eventually, I went in search of the fluxgate compass. Despite knowing every inch of my boat, it took a while to locate the tiny unit tucked up hard underneath the locker worktop in our cabin. I could see nothing out of place, but as I removed my head from the locker, I caught sight of the culprit. On the shelf above, within half an inch of the compass, was Julia's hairdryer, which had slid out of place when we heeled over. At least I know where the fluxgate compass is now!