Good right up. I like your honesty and recognition of strengths and weaknesses. Good luck and keep pushing the boundaries.
That's definitely a topic for a future post. I have a Raymarine X5 course computer and above-deck ram that plugs in on deck. I inherited this setup from the former owner. It's not what I would have gone with. You're right. Mini sailors in Classe Mini--at least those with sponsorship money--try to go high end on the AP. What I've learned is that you can't go bottom basement on an AP if you want to sail single-handed offshore. You need one that you can absolutely trust. One of the top course autopilot setups used by Classe Mini sailors is the NKE gyro pilot. But this setup, not including installation, goes for about USD 13,000 from what I've seen. It's more money than I ideally want to spend.Awesome write up! Great pictures and video too. I think this is a pretty successful trip for your first time in the Mini offshore, solo, overnight, in challenging conditions. Next time will be much easier.
I'm surprised you didn't mention autopilot upgrades in your synopsis. I haven't ever sailed a Mini but it's my impression from transat stories that those guys try to let Otto steer absolutely as much as possible. They spend a lot of time and money getting an autopilot setup that they can trust in almost any conditions. Seems like that would have made it much easier for you to change clothes when necessary, stay a little dryer, and get more rest. What kind of autopilot do you have now?
If you decide to go over there, you should get the top of the line autopilot before you leave. In my experience, and having sailed a few races there with only a Navman pilot, you will lose a huge amount of miles in big breeze downwind without the NKE level pilot. I'm estimating 25 miles a day if you have to put up a code zero to sleep downwind. You have to be able to sleep with a code 5 downwind in 30 knots, period. There is not an entry level pilot on the market that will allow you to do that, and I've tried on several boats. If all you want to do is gain experience in solo sailing, the Raymarine is more than enough. Good luck out there.