Reliance On Gear.
When on expeditions, success relies largely on human factors. Good team, clear communication, proactive planning and hard work.
Once these boxes are ticked I have always made it a priority to source and utilise the worlds best in equipment. If I have only one pair of skis to cover over 5000 KM of ice, my very life depending on them, I sure as hell want the very best the planet has to offer.
My attention to detail has always factored in redundancy. If my main comms goes down (Sat-phone) I will have a second Sat-phone or iridium GO, if that fails I have a Garmin In-reach. Similarly 3 sources of heat, tent plus emergency shelter. I spend hours imagining worst case scenarios with kit failure and pre-build escape scenarios using secondary kit options. Ironically, I’d like to say my high expedition completion rate is due to this fascination and attention to detail when it comes to the preparation phase, rather than in-field part.
So imagine my frustration when within a matters of hours of nudging The Nanook’s nose out to sea on Day 1 our primary expensive autopilot failed. Immediately falling back onto our 15 year old coursemaster secondary, I had an uneasy feeling. If we lose the old unit we are resigned to exhausting hand steering over 1000 nautical miles to NZ. Annoyed at myself for not building more redundancy into our systems we bore 30 degrees to the south making for the lagoon at Lord Howe island where on flat water we might resurrect the newer autopilot.
The route change ensured we passed through a wild electrical thunderstorm. Erratic winds, rain squalls and viscous lightening bolts alarmingly close to The Nanook's robust steel hull. There is no redundancy available for a direct strike. An exciting night, saw calmer seas and a majestic dawn followed by a wind shift heralding a tough 100 nautical mile upwind beat to Lord Howe.
A long day - bash, bash, bash for hour after hour. The tacking making it seemed like we would never make this wild island.
As sunset fell a jubilant “Land Ho” came from Jordy on deck. Sure enough the most mysterious twin peaks of Lord Howe were visible on the horizon. Surely a sight many a sailor over the ages, has felt joy upon seeing.
Our “Pivotel Mood Board” yesterday said “Be Thankful”. As we bashed upwind for hour after interminable hour to repair a brand new unit we’d paid good money to a professional install just weeks prior I felt unthankful.
The delay will costs us 36 hours, this morning I checked the route mapping. The delay avoided us getting smashed by a wild oscillating weather front. I was reminded that often what seems like ill fortune is a hand protecting you from a bigger threat outside.