There’s something we have to tell you. All this time you’ve thought there were just the three of us aboard Saltbreaker, but the truth is: there’s a fourth.
I think its about time you meet Helmer our auto-helm (or auto-pilot).
Before this trip we hardly knew Helmer, and weren’t even sure we’d need him along with us. “Pirates didn’t have autopilots”. But it wasn’t long into the trip before Helmer became our new best friend. Right from the beginning Helmer set out to make it known then he is clearly the hardest working of the four of us. Like any true friend hes always there when you need a hand and his generosity is truly amazing. “Hey, you think you could hold this course for a couple weeks while we read some books and take some naps?”. “Beep!” he replies (his manual loosely translates this as: “it would be my pleasure”).
Of course nobody is perfect and Helmer is no exception. Sometimes when the waves start pushing us around or the wind gets gusty we’ll hear him grunt “Uuuugh” and we’ll know Helmer is getting frustrated. This is a problem, because if Helmer’s frustrated, everyone is frustrated. Remedial action is immediately necessary which typically starts by offering words of encouragement. “Come on Helmer, cheer up” we’ll tell him. If this doesn’t work we have to move on to consolation. “I know, I know its near impossible to hold a course with these waves but give it your best shot”. But when that fails we have to start talking some sense into him, “Dude relax or you’ll grind your gears!”
Last night Helmer ground his gears.
It started with his usual grunting (belt losing tension). We offered encouragement. Helmer started screaming (belt slipping). We tried talked some sense into him, even helped him relax (loosened the tension). When this still didn’t work we started getting frustrated (“what WE have to steer??”) at which point the profanities came out.
“Hey $@# #@! Helmer” I said.
Helmer paused, carefully choosing his next words, “khkhkhkhkhkh”. You could hear the gear teeth crunching.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean it!” But it was too late, the gear box bit the dust. Up-side: we’d had the forethought to purchase a spare gear box before leaving. Down-side: we’d already used it in Mexico. Thankfully all 9 gears in the box are the same size, so mixing and matching between the two provided just enough to reconstruct a full working gear box.
From now on we’ll be more careful about what we say to Helmer.