Monday, November 10, 2014

FLIBS 2014

There is nothing quite like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Three million square feet, almost 70 acres of boats. The odor of out-gassing styrene is omnipresent, and what's that other sweet smell wafting in the air? Ah yes, I recognize that elusive and ethereal scent, its money. You want a big boat? A really big boat? Then FLIBS is the show for you.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

A bunch of pixelated ink later.....

Many thanks to all who read and helped. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this number could occur when I first started on that fateful rainy day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Boaters Maintenance Academy

Do you need to take out a second mortgage whenever work is done on your boat? Then the Boater's Maintenance Academy is the place for you. Learn the skills needed to do
your own maintenance and save big.
Enroll Today!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wiring with no backbone

The average boat's coax cable TV backbone wiring at the best can be now be describe as venerable, and at the worst outmoded technology, yet it still persists. Your boat's coax cable backbone served its original purpose for decades well. It fed antenna and dockside analog cable system signals throughout the boat to all of those glass tube Panasonic TV's with VCR's built into them. But the world has changed. Analog cable TV systems in marinas are disappearing as cable system providers rapidly switch to digital systems requiring interface boxes.

Some new TV's no longer even have a coax connector. What would you use it for in this modern world? Digital audio, HDMI, USB, component video all yes. Jurassic era coax tech, not so much. Adding to this problem is many satellite TV receivers no longer have a coax cable "To TV" connection either. So what are the options? Let's take a look at the current technology.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some highlights from the IBEX Trade Show


At first glance IBEX looks like any other boat show. The Mercs, Yamas, and Suzys were clustered together in outboard land. Companies like Ritchie, Raymarine and Garmin had nice booths, but where are the boats? The few you see are showing off products like boat covers.

Then you notice booths selling fabrics, composite materials and resins. The people are different also. They're wearing lots of nice poloesque shirts bearing logos that have words like Scout and Grady White embroidered on them.

This is the trade show for boat builders, and I'm a newbie NMMA Innovation award judge. I feel right at home here. Welcome to the International Boatbuilders Exhibition and Conference produced by the National Marine Manufacturing Association and Professional Boatbuilder magazine.

This is a Trade Only show, and it's all about business. This is everything production boat builders worldwide need to build their boats and manage their facilities. With a 47 percent increase in visitors over last year this bodes well for the industry.

Monday, October 13, 2014

10 rules for safer boating

Rules and laws like everything else come in flavors like good, obscure, and unwritten. Some are codified into our laws, some are not, and others appear to be nonsense. Whether we chose to follow them or not is in part based on our experiences, or lack there of. In the end Darwin is the final arbitrator. So I'm going to make up some rules. These won't guarantee you won't get a ticket, or hurt, but statistically I think you may be better off if you pay attention to them. 

Rule 1. The other boaters around you are all addled crazed idiots that are trying to kill you. This isn't always the case, but it should always be your underlying assumption. In fact 80% of boating deaths are caused by operators with zero boating education. This doesn't mean if a boater had some more formal instruction that any of it was retained because the other 20% had some education, albeit perhaps with a more dubious provenance. Only 3% had taken a USCG Auxiliary, Power Squadron, or American Red Cross boating course.

Ten percent had passed some sort of a simple State required open book test. These aren't bad things at all. For the masses something is better than nothing. But in the state of Florida this only applies to someone who was born after 1988. 

The Internet provided 7% of these boater's with their education. I shudder to think to what that could have consisted of. Some of it is very high quality, and others not so much. Cogitating from time to time on your personal level of training and skills is never a bad idea.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's not about the grouper, it wasn't even square. Yates v Feds

This Supreme Court case revolves around local commercial fisherman John  Yates. The facts of his original case in many ways no longer matter. Unfortunately for Mr. Yates he is now at the center of a maelstrom about the application of a Federal  law. It's also a sad story. It made Mr. Yates a felon, destroyed his livelihood, and represents a legal overreach that could potentially happen to anyone. Common sense has apparently left the Federal prosecution system.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Here, hold my beer and watch me do this

Even I would have to say it was an audacious plan. I mean Guinness book of world record stuff. Walking from Miami to Bermuda in a plastic hamster ball. How hard could it be? Grab some granola bars, get some fishing tackle so you can have some sushi along the way. Piece of cake. You can't make this stuff up. Real life is alway weirder than anything you can dream up.

Mr. Hamster did have some precedent this could be done. He reportedly walked his hamster ball from Newport Beach to Catalina Island in 12 hours losing 15 pounds of water weight in the process. It was a thirty three mile trip.

His next attempt to roll somewhere was his recent Miami to Bermuda escapade. It didn't go well, and I'm not too surprised. It was only a 1000 mile jaunt. Tough enough in a boat, but in a hamster ball?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

High maintenance

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Monday 21 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Invoice

Dear John, I gather you're upset about the invoice to replace the oil pressure sender on your boat's generator, although it was hard to understand the voice mail you left. It was almost like you were spitting into the phone. Just send me an email about it. It won't seem as wet.

Regards, Bill

From: John Rhoades
Date: Tuesday 22 August 2014
To: Bill Bishop
Subject: Re: Invoice

That invoice is outrageous. The part was only $18.00, the labor was $3189.00. What kind of scam are you trying to pull. I run a Porsche dealership, and I barely charge that to replace spark plugs which cost a lot more than a oil pressure sender.

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Tuesday 22 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Re: Re: Invoice

Dear John,

I told you it would be expensive before we started. I clearly remember being told by you that you didn't give a S#%!, just just fix the F^##*(@ thing because you didn't want to listen to the kids whining about not having AC on the boat and not being able to charge their iPads. BTW I told you before you bought that Magnifico 48 it was a high maintenance boat. 

Regards, Bill

From: John Rhoades
Date: Wednesday 23 August 2014
To: Bill Bishop
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Okay I remember saying something like that but the Magnifico 48 is a beautiful yacht with all of the best options. I still don't understand why it cost so much to replace one small part. I'm sure you're jerking me around.

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Wednesday 23 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Dear John,

I too once had a boat like the Magnifico 48. It tragically developed a big leak offshore and sunk in 2000' of water. It was a lucky thing I had a life raft, lots of sandwiches and an EPIRB.

Did you actually read the invoice? It was two pages long. The oil pressure sender was on the back side of the generator. The generator was installed up against the transom, on top of the waste tank and sender. The engine exhaust system had to be removed, a frame had to built to skid the generator forward which could only be done after the all the wiring was removed. Then we could replace the oil pressure sender, push it back in place, secure it, and reconnect all of the wiring. I'm waiting for the waste tank sender to fail so we can do this again. Just pay the bill please.

Regards, Bill

From: John Rhoades
Date: Thursday 24 August 2014
To: Bill Bishop
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Bill, I'm just a poor car dealer. How about we settle for $2500, and will you throw in the repair of the thingy that lifts the TV out of the cabinet? It was squealing for months, and now the TV is stuck half way up.

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Friday 25 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

John, that's a good place to open negotiations, and I can tell you're very skilled at it but I'm surprised you didn't throw in free undercoating for my truck. Let me think about it.

Regards, Bill

From: John Rhoades
Date: Monday 28 August 2014
To: Bill Bishop
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Bill, what the hell is that part in the box, it looks expensive?

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Monday 28 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Proof of life.

From: John Rhoades
Date: Tuesday 29 August 2014
To: Bill Bishop
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

I sent the check!

From: Bill Bishop
Date: Wednesday 30 August 2014
To: John Rhoades
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Invoice

Thank you. The TV lift mechanism was made in Italy and is no longer available. I can possibly use another one but the entire starboard main salon cabinet assembly along with all of the entertainment systems will have to be removed to replace it from the back side. Please send a retainer check for $8000.

Regards, Bill

Monday, September 15, 2014

SDR radio, first forays

It was happy SDR day. I had squandered $18.00 of joint marital funds and had waited days for my digital equivalent of Ralphie's Little Orphan Annie's secret decoder ring to arrive. I was hoping the message wasn't going end up being something like "Drink Ovaltine." It was the best investment I have made in a long time, although I don't think Katie is as enthused at the cacophony of dronings, squawks, squeaks, beeps and hissing sounds continuously emanating from my office. The paltry funds have let me peer deeply into the mysterious world of radio frequencies which I haven't done since I built a crystal radio as a kid. What fun, but does it really work?


Monday, September 8, 2014

SDR, a $20 AIS receiver and more?

The answer to the title question is yes, and all with a small USB stick that was originally designed to do something else. It's a Software Defined Radio. Mine costs just $18.99 and had free shipping from eBay. The SDR dongle story all by itself is a testimony to very clever work repurposing an inexpensive mass-produced technology that had laid under everyone's nose for years. A DVB-T USB stick that decodes European digital TV signals has now become a radio with substantial RF bandwidth. Software driven radios earliest manifestations started in the 1970's. The SDR version I'm playing with had its first glimmerings in 2010, and today they are widely available for a very small price.

Add to this any of a variety of inexpensive antennas you can build yourself and what you can listen to is almost endless. The frequency range of this small device is 17MHz at the low-end up to 1750MHz. This allows you to listen to FM, but also aviation, CB, marine VHF and AIS, police and emergency frequencies, and even the audio from baby monitors. Add an upconvertor for about $50 and you can add shortwave frequencies into the mix. Want to amplify the signal from the antenna add another $30. We still haven't broken a $100 yet.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Carbon black blues

Years of experience tells me something is awry. The charred appearance lends me to believe the little box has suffered some malady. My sharply honed instincts tell me this is likely at least one of the reasons the boat's air conditioning system is no longer functioning. It's also possible it's not as bad as it looks. Crap, I'm just pretending to be an optimist. The same observational skills tells me this thing is toasted into oblivion and under the best of circumstances won't suitable for an open casket viewing.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Is boat lightning protection even possible?

Lightning is one badass force of nature. It's seemingly indiscriminate and random, but not quite as much you might think. It favors pointy things, but sometimes ignores them and a less than pointy object nearby it is blown to smithereens. A VHF radio in the dash can be melted from a strike and the chartplotter next to it is fine. Lightning hits the boat next to you in the marina and is barely damaged, while your boat in the next slip has $60,000 dollars worth of destroyed electrical gear and melted wiring. Mother nature can be a bitch and isn't always fair. So what's going on here anyway?


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

P79 transducer install and repair

I've given some thought to what color this slightly lubricious material is and I have two options. The first is petri dish pink. The second is hot porno pink. You know I choose the more salacious name for this not occurring in nature color. This is the back end of a Airmar P79 inhull transducer installation repair. The housing apparently is leaking ergo it's my fault since I installed it. The porno pink colored stuff is nontoxic antifreeze, aka propylene glycol.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Step hulls and sonar systems

I will be the first to say that step hull designs have shown marked improvement over the years, and also that I'm still not quite a fan yet, but I'm getting closer. I'm however adamant that 2nd stations should not be added to these boats without consulting with the designer first.

I get the fuel efficiency argument, but then again if the boat's cost is north of $300,000 with quads on the back burning 100+ gallons per hour, do you really care about fuel savings? It's like asking the buyer of a new 70' sportfish if he's interested in the new green super fuel efficient 450hp hybrid diesel power package. I can hear the buyer's snorted guffaws now.

So what's my latest beef about these boats now? Too often the efforts that go into designing these high speed fishing machines and recreational boats don't seriously consider installation of all the amazing sonar technology that's available to help you actually find fish and the bottom. This conversation to some degree also includes the more traditional hull designs many of which don't do any better.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Installing the Garmin Side and DownV├╝ through hull transducers

The Garmin Down/SideVu through hull transducers come in two versions. One looks left, right, and down in a single transducer (deadrise of 5 degrees or less and does not require a fairing block). The ones I'm installing are a pair. The port side transducer just looks to port, and the right side transducer looks both down and to the right (deadrise angle from 5-25 degrees. The kit I used consisted of the transducer pair, two fairing blocks, 2 anti-rotation bolts, bushings, washers, nuts, pigtail to connect the transducers together, twelve pin transducer cable, and GCV 10 with a power and network cable. In sum all of the hardware you need is supplied. Let's get messy!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sarasota's waterways, a chamber of horrors

I only go into the water under duress, and never very from the shore or boat when I have to. The reason for this is I'm aware of the large numbers of monstrosities that lurk just below the surface of our waters. Locally we have the first sighting of a Pacu, a cousin of the Piranha with a mouthful of very human looking teeth. This fish is known worldwide by names such as the Testical and or Penis eating fish, Nut Cracker and Ball Cutter. Schools of these denizens have been seen in Phillippi creek a stones throw from the intercoastal waterway. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Parsing the NMEA press release

"NMEA TAKES AIM AT UNAUTHORIZED USE OF ITS STANDARDS

Action designed to protect ownership rights

SEVERNA PARK, MD—Every year the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) and its volunteer members spend significant amounts of time, effort and money to create data exchange Standards that benefit the entire marine industry. Many users comply with the NMEA licensing agreement, which requires purchasing use of the Standards, but some do not. NMEA has announced that it will take whatever action is necessary to protect its ownership rights to these Standards and collect payments for their use.

“The NMEA is a member-supported industry organization that supports the marine electronics industry by providing technical training and the development of various Standards,” said Johnny Lindstrom, Chairman and Acting Executive Director of NMEA. “The Standards developed and released are the sole property of our members. 

“Over the years we have been too lax in enforcing our rights under various copyright and intellectual property rights laws. By doing so, our members have missed benefiting from the revenue that should be realized from the use of these technologies. We are embarking on an effort to aggressively enforce these rights and collect for the use of our technologies by numerous individuals and businesses around the world.  

“Did you know that the cell phone network infrastructure timing is, in some cases, using the ‘UTC Time’ sentences from our NMEA 0183 Standard for synchronization? I have a major cell carrier ‘air card’ that has NMEA 0183 functions in it; I find no record of this carrier ever purchasing the rights to use this Standard.  

“This is just one instance; there are numerous cases where ‘NMEA 2000 compatible’ or some variation of this description is used. There is no such thing as ‘NMEA 2000 compatible’—the product is either certified or it is not, as stated in the NMEA licensing agreement. 

“By allowing this abuse of our Standards we are cheating those that play by the rules and by doing so support the maintenance of existing Standards and the development of future ones. In the past, the only way NMEA has known about any of these violations is by members contacting us. I ask all of our members to be more diligent and to alert the NMEA National Office of any abuses of our rights, so that we may pursue enforcement of these rights by whatever means available.”

About the NMEA
Founded in 1957, the NMEA has led the way in establishing technical Standards for data exchange in marine electronics, with the widely accepted NMEA 0183 data protocol, NMEA 2000® and certification Standards for marine electronics technicians. NMEA Standards and programs focus on insuring that the boating consumer is provided with reliable products and professional service. For more information, visit the NMEA website at www.NMEA.org or call (410) 975-9425."

SiRF Star III GPS and antenna
When I first read the press release I was a startled. There certainly was more than some righteous indignation present mixed in with a dose of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going going to take it anymore." I also maybe sensed a bit of fiscal concerns peeking out from under the covers. Why else the threat of aggressive enforcement after all these years?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse

November 22, 2014
I'm getting more and more concerned about this Zombie virus stuff despite the fact that Washington and the CDC keeping saying everything will be fine, and a cure is near. This morning the news reports said that it has now spread from Africa into China and the Middle East and there is an unconfirmed report of an outbreak in Venezuela. 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Views from the Intercoastal Waterway

I spend a lot of time on the water doing boaty things like endlessly turning circles, running for my tool kit to overcome some nautical mechanical or electrical travail, and pointing out to Bob he is now out of the channel and maybe he should turn to port if he doesn't want to buy new props. My camera is always at the ready if unusual sights appear, and they always do.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Garmin GCV Sonar Recording Movie Making

This little demonstration video turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated, but in part it was my fault... sort of. The documentation didn't anticipate I would be dealing with three different Garmin 741xs MFD's, about 6 hours of sonar recordings archived on my computer from two of them, and a chart from a third. But with some excellent and very patient tech support from Garmin it all got sorted out. 

It also required some experimentation to get decent image quality. I started with the original very sharp recordings, played them back in Garmin's Homeport software. The recorded playback was captured using BB Flashback Express screen recording software. The newly created file was exported to a AVI format. From there the AVI clips were edited, and a simple soundtrack was created. The whole thing was then converted into a WMV format for upload to Youtube.

With each conversion you lose a little resolution. Aargh matey, I was in need of Dark and Stormies by the time I was done, but in the end I was happy with the results. It would have been better if the original recording format was a little more video friendly.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Keeping the legacy alive, installing the Raystar 130

It was dead period. No pulse, and its faded chalky pallor were indicators it had joined thems what's dearly departed. Its destiny is a pauper's landfill grave gently swathed in a plastic garbage bag along with the remnants of last nights Chinese food take out dinner.

The Raymarine classic C-80 is still in mourning, and something has to be done. It's currently a really expensive repository of non-moving electronic charts. There are two things that have to be considered. The old Raystar 120 GPS needs to be replaced, and whatever is selected, we have to install.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Signal K is afoot.

I wish to communicate with you!


I know the vast majority of you have never heard of "Signal K" and until recently I hadn't either. Signal K is a collaboration by several open source boating related software developers who have worked together to create a common data management framework to support their efforts.

This includes the open source CANboat and browser oriented Navguage projects. CANboat is largely dedicated to reverse engineering NMEA 2000 PGN's to allow others to access the specific data elements such as boat speed or wind angle.