Our second night at sea and I was in charge again. The moon was dancing on the water, we had light winds and a big swell so I was enjoying the exhilaration of what felt like riding on a 44 foot surf board.
Jonathan was fast asleep. I felt really good, confident that I could handle any change of wind, change of course to avoid a fishing boat or cargo ship or whatever else was thrown at me.
It would have been an hour and a half into the watch when suddenly an alarm started to sound – an insistent, incessant din!
My first thought was that the autopilot (now named Lola – L O L A, Lola) had been unable to hold our set course so I quickly switched to manual and took over the steering.
The alarm didn’t stop, I didn’t know what course to steer (note to self, remember to check our heading before taking charge!) and poking every button in sight didn’t help at all (can’t think why, it usually works, eventually).
Poor Jonathan was in the deepest sleep imaginable and woke to the alarm (now sounding quite hysterical), me yelling his name at the top of my lungs and the sound of the sails luffing confusedly.
He leapt out of bed and came rushing up into the cockpit and pushed every button in sight. Still the alarm continued it’s merry refrain.
We feared it was Lola playing up but no, she seemed perfectly in order. Maybe it was the new chart plotter – no, it was fine too.
After what seemed like an eternity we realised it must be the depth sounder! The depth sounder? But we had literally hundreds of metres under our keel! In fact we had just moved into an ocean trough that was deeper than anything we had sailed through previously.
The cogs in Jonathan’s brain started to whirr. He saw an icon depicting an anchor with an exclamation mark flashing next to it. It was an anchor alarm!
It dawned on us that the depth sounder could be set to start an alarm when the water was too deep to drop an anchor. Someone had set it to go off at 80.7 metres which meant that as soon as we dropped off the shelf into deep water it went off.
To test the theory we made for shallower water and yes, the alarm stopped.
Peace restored we spent some little while trying to decipher the instruction manual which was written in French.
Unfortunately my school girl French did not extend to marine vocabulary (beyond la Mer, Lê plage, les bateaux etc).
Thankfully Jonathan eventually found an English version and we cancelled the anchor alarm altogether, for ever!