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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The press conference

Thanks for attending today. I'll take the first question. Okay Bob, what's your question? Let me be clear Bob, I'm not not going to comment about Cameragate today. As you know the facts are still under investigation. Right now no one seems to know why it was laying in the middle of US 41 including me. The fact the camera's memory chip was missing is concerning to all of us. I'm sure that our blog's security has not been compromised. And especially no comment about the one armed man spotted near the scene.  

Alright Sean you're up. Why do I just use big words all of the time? Well Sean, as you should know I don't just use big words. I use a bunch of little ones too. I guess those are the ones you just seem to know. You're a reporter Sean. Here's a little tip for you. The secret word of the day is dictionary. Whose next?


Monday, May 26, 2014

The 2014 SRQ boat show

I love boat shows. There's nothing like the sweet wafting odor of new fiberglass roasting in the Florida sun out gassing styrene. This was a good boat show, at least from the exhibitors viewpoint. In general, sales were better than last year and many more boats were being displayed. Although it doesn't match the halcyon days when you could get that fourth home mortgage to buy the vessel of your dreams, my sense is that most local dealers are now firmly back on solid fiscal ground. As one dealer told me, "It's good to be back in the boat business again."


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Winch removal made easy

Plan A:
Remove wiring from the winch along with the four corroded bolts from the deck plate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, nothing happens! Use a hammer and other nearby objects to encourage separation activities to commence soonest. Again nothing happens. Cogitate on a possible plan B.

Plan B:
The deck plate is really stuck. Squirt penetrating oil twice daily on every conceivable interface. On day three beat on the parts mercilessly. The deck plate still won't freaking budge.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Installing the Garmin GCV 10 SideVü and DownVü system

Installing the new Garmin GCV 10 (Garmin Clear View) SideVü and Down  system is a snap, and well suited for DIY installers. As with most Garmin gear everything you need is in the box down to the wire clips (lamentably never enough of them), fasteners and other minor bits and pieces. Without further adieu find your floppy hat, grab your tools, count your fingers, and head down to the boat. 


da Vinci, da boat, da interpretation

It was an exhilarating experience to see the drawings from his notebooks come to life, and at the same time a bit of a disappointment at its execution and interpretation. Leonardo da Vinci's machine's exhibitions exist and travel all over the world. I had the recent opportunity to visit one. 

Featured at almost all these exhibitions is the simple paddle boat with the "invented by da Vinci proclamation." I wouldn't take anything away from Leonardo's impressive capabilities but I think that he did three things with extraordinary skill. He combined existing technologies to conceptually solve problems to make a living, was an astute and curious observer of the world around him and he meticulously documented his findings. This left behind a legacy of about 5000 pages of notes, drawings, and a remaining small handful of paintings.

So did he truly invent the paddle boat? I think not, that really happened in the 5th or 6th century. What he did with the paddle boat was to document the technology, understand how it worked, and put effort into figuring ways to power the contrivance more efficiently. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sonar technology used in the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 search

The Southern Indian Ocean is a little traveled location known for it's atrocious weather. The probable search area epitomizes the phrase "in the middle of nowhere" and it's hard to imagine a worse place to look for a missing aircraft.

If the Malaysia Airline's Boeing 777 is indeed at the current search location this will be the second deepest effort attempted to recover the flight, and cockpit voice data recorders on record. The deepest recovery to date was South African Airway's flight 295 cockpit voice recorder at a depth of 16,000 feet in 1988.

The second deepest to date is the 2009 Air France's flight 447 crash whose cockpit voice, and flight data recorders were brought to the surface from approximately 13,000 feet two years later. The underwater locating beacons had long failed before these two aircraft were found. The current Malaysia Airlines flight 370 search area is about 14,000 feet deep. 

Dukane Seacom DK-120 locator beacon

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Muskie effect, the putrefaction continues

I know it's not pretty but this is real life. More accurately the end of this boat's life. The stages are simple. Abandonment, denudation of the vessel's usable parts, organic and inorganic decay caused by both biological and chemical breakdown, followed later by maybe a wood chipper or some other form of size reduction technology. Hmmm, a tub grinder would provide some very dramatic film footage. Eventually in either scenario internment in the local landfill cemetery is a likely outcome.

The only remnants of this vessel's existence will be in a box of old yellowed registration and tax documents stored in the basement of some government building, and even these will finally join the boat in Davy Jones locker at some point in the future.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The enigma dash

This dash panel is a marvel of modern manufacturing technology. Computer aided design was used, precision machine tools milled the plastic injection machine's mold to high tolerances, a contractor assembled the panel and had it delivered pre-wired to the plant. A template had even been made to do the fiberglass cut out. Every detail was accounted for.... almost. This looks exactly like no one talked to anyone else while it was being designed and then installed in the boat. My problem is you can't get the freaking thing out of the dash!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Chirp transducer stories, the middle kid

Your fish finder can only show you things it sees in its sonic cone. Think of it as a search light shining into the dark. You could be feet away from the Spanish galleon filled with gold doubloons. But if it's not in the beam, you won't see it. This all begs the question, how much do you really get to see with your sonar system?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The definitive guide to Sarasota Polo

For starters, get that image of Julia Roberts at the polo match out of your head right now. Polo is not as hoity toity as you would think, although there is a definite caste system in play. The other thing about polo is the field is big. I mean really big. Enormous enough to fit 9 NFL football fields into it. Beyond the field you could easily put another twenty football fields or more.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Death of a stereo

Ring Ring. Hi Willy, what I can I help you with? Your stereo is broken? What would you like me to do? Your selling the boat, and you want me to fix it? Okay I guess. What is it doing? Nothing but making a little whirring noise when it has power? You tested the red wire and it has 12 volts? Does the yellow wire have 12 volts also? What do you mean it doesn't have a yellow wire, go and look again.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Checked Valves

The upper helm wheel started turning rapidly to starboard and didn't stop. I stared at it with a sinking feeling in my gut. No it wasn't poltergeists trying to scare me, it's the new autopilot pump that's doing the dastardly deed. I knew what was causing the problem. Crud in the hydraulic system was holding a check valve open, and I didn't know exactly how to fix it. That wasn't quite true, I could fix it if I could get to the check valves. But where were they?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Installing the Raymarine Dragonfly

This was my first opportunity to install the Dragonfly. So many toys, and so little time. I've splayed the box's contents out for you. You get everything you need to install the unit in the carton including the screws. You will just need your tools, 3M 5200 or equal, and maybe a clam shell or two. The mount for the Dragonfly has a very cool feature I'll show you at the end of the story.