Mark 2.0

We are up early on Thanksgiving morning, pulling anchor, hailing the drawbridge to confirm their 7am opening, and hailing the St. Augustine Marina to secure a spot on their dock for fuel and pump-out. Fully fueled and pumped-out, we make our way down the ICW for Daytona Beach and our new autopilot – Mark 2.0, or Super Mark: he is scheduled to be delivered to the UPS store the following day.

Eight hours and two running-agrounds later, we have a new saying:

“We are the dynamic duo! Sara runs us aground and Stéphane gets us off!” (I now pay much more attention to the channel markers than to our iPad navigation).


A gem on the Matanzas River.

Daytona does not have too many anchorages that work well for us since we have a draft of six feet. Because this, we have to be very careful when leaving the channel and must always consider the tides. For example: say we anchor in eight feet of water at high tide and say the tide range is three feet. Come low tide, Free Range will be sitting on the river bottom with a mean lean in five feet of water. Ce n’est pas bien (this is no good)!

Anyways, we secure what we think is a decent anchorage – deep enough and near to a park where we can dinghy ashore and catch a bus to the UPS store.

Free Range anchored securely, we get to the business of prepping Thanksgiving dinner, Free Range style: steaks, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy.

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Happy Thanksgiving! My portion of the meal preparation has been completed: slicing and plating the cranberry sauce! (I had a rough day- after running aground twice, I felt unable to do anything other than open a can of cranberry sauce).


We spent a ROUGH night at this anchorage – lots of chop and lots of rolling. Next day, it’s time to get Mark 2.0. We dinghy ashore, grab a bus, and pick up Super Mark.


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Super Mark has arrived!

Do you know how an autopilot works? It’s okay, I didn’t either.

Super Mark is two parts: the brain (computer) and the brawn (mechanical arm). You, the human, tell Super Mark’s brain where you want to go. Super Mark’s brawn keeps the boat headed in the direction that you have chosen by taking orders from the brain. Super Mark’s brain is installed in the cockpit and his arm is installed under the cockpit – it is attached to the rudder post (the rudder is what steers the boat).

So say you want to go south. You plug in a heading like 180 degrees into Super Mark’s brain. Super Mark’s brain will now talk to Super Mark’s arm telling the arm if it needs more or less power and how to apply that power to the rudder in order to keep the proper heading. The arm then moves the rudder in such a way to keep the boat on its 180 degree heading.

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Super Mark’s computer.


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Super Mark looks super complicated. Thank goodness for Super Stéphane.

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Installation begins.


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My portion of the autopilot install was to run the wiring.


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Red and gray wires run from the quarter berth area, through the engine room and to the “under cockpit” area.


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Here’s part of Super Mark’s arm (the black part). The arm moves forwards and backwards – this motion moves the rudder port and starboard, in different frequencies to keep the appropriate heading.

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Stéphane calibrating Super Mark’s computer.



And…we believe we have success! Tomorrow we will take Free Range out and about and test Mark 2.0.


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    • Dale on November 30, 2014 at 8:00 am
    • Reply


    Super Mark will be a trusty friend.

    CONGRATULATIONS – Impressive install afloat. We are enjoying following your adventures. Best Wishes

    May want to post a sign; “Cruising is boat work in exotic locations”


    • Dale on November 30, 2014 at 8:04 am
    • Reply

    Along the east coast there are two categories of sailors

    Those that have run aground and those that will.

    As members of the ‘Been There Done That’ (( Stuck )) group:

    Welcome . . . . . .


    Dale & Merna

    • The Other "S's" on November 30, 2014 at 11:34 am
    • Reply

    Re: grounding. There were several instances where we didn’t just ground – we grounded so hard that locals said we went “ashore”. ba dum tssh!
    However, in one of your pictures, we noticed you have spare parts secured to the rear of the engine compartment door. If they’re the same ones we left, be sure you check them carefully before you install (especially the raw water impeller [looks like an asterisk]). Rumor has it that if one of the fins dry rots it could break off and become stuck in the pipes – no bueno. We replaced the original and noticed severe cracking on one of the fins of the one we replaced.
    So, how many amps does Mark require and how many batteries do you have on Free Range. As I said, I was a former electrician and amp usage took up a considerable part of if our sailing “fun.” In addition to the solar panels and wind generator, we used to carry a small gasoline generator . . yeah, yeah, I know.

    1. Hello S’s! Thanks for the warning 🙂 He have replaced the raw water pump before we ever started the engine with a brand new one. I inspected the one that you left and it looks fine as a spare. We’re not sure on the power consumption of super mark yet because of all the variables (auto-pilot brain – linear actuator – weight of boat – sail trim…) All I know is that I had to install a 40amp breaker for it, which isn’t too promising… Anyhow, we have a house battery bank of 500 amps, 2 x 8D AGM batteries (170 ish pounds each) and a 75 amp AGM starting battery. So far we’ve had one day and night sail in rough seas from the beam and it’s done fine! Wouhooo

    • Grandma on December 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm
    • Reply

    Super Stephane is truly “super” and you are a great little help mate. Kudos to you both!

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