Saturday, November 19, 2016

Getting Skooled

It's time to get tutored again by Garmin to keep my certification valid. The last time was in Ft Lauderdale a couple of years ago. This required getting up at 3 am to get my sorry ass to Lauderdale by 8 am. The 4 hour drive return trip wasn't any more fun either. This time fortunately training was in Tampa so I only had to get up at the crack of dark and drive an hour. The format this time was very different, and much improved.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Screen scenes day

What do you mean your chart plotter is growing ferns and has bugs in it? Are you serious? You really are? Okay I'll come over and take a look. One of the interesting things about this job is trying to translate what people tell you about a problem into something useful you can use. More often than not it's collection of vague recollections. It's acting up, it doesn't seem right, there was a message on the screen but I don't remember it, my sonar isn't working. 

The end result is my verbal interrogation skills have to kick in. I sit them down in a metaphorical chair, shine a bright spotlight in their face and sweat some additional meager tidbits out of them. "So Bob what do you mean your sonar is broken? What did you do to it? You'll feel better if you get it off your chest, tell me the truth Bob. Did you push the wrong button? You say you did nothing? Do you have any witnesses? No? This isn't looking too good for you Bob. I think you better call your tech. You're going to need representation, and repair money.

I get it. It can be difficult. It's like telling your mechanic you car won't start. He then thinks to himself there are a zillion reasons why this could be happening. It can be even worse. A owner tells the dealer something is wrong. It's already fuzzy enough now, and then the dealer calls me and makes it even fuzzier. Hi Bill, something is broke on Bob's boat, can you go over and fix it? Hell I don't know Bill, it's something to do with the electronics, just go fix it. 

In this case when I was told there were ferns and bugs in his chart plotter I'm not sure I could have done a better job of describing it. I just gawked at it for a moment trying desperately to think of something to say that sounded real smart. Failing miserably at this I just blurted "It's broke and it won't grow back."


Monday, November 7, 2016

Presidential boating, a reprised post with a note

I assiduously avoid politics on the The Rant, and I'm not changing this stance now. Even being careful a story that is patently fictional to the point it even includes characters such as zombies or aliens, can on occasion incur the wrath of those that somehow can't tell the difference. I made the little cartoon just before the election in 2012 and it was crafted so no one was a winner or loser. This year is different and all of us will have been the losers in this process no matter who wins, but the biggest loser of all is public civility and rational discussion. Go vote tomorrow for anyone you want and on Wednesday we will all collectively be grateful the political ads will have disappeared from our TV. The story below is exactly as it originally appeared in 2012. Bill

After doing some research, most modern presidents have generally eschewed recreational boating. When you see them on a boat, it's generally for a photo op, or a day trip on a friends yacht. The notable exceptions are Jack Kennedy who was by all measures an enthusiastic boater, George Bush Sr. who has, and uses a center console fishing boat, and Herbert Hover who was avid fisherman. Although Jimmy Carter was a graduate of the Naval  Academy, and a submariner, his boating presidency is marked by the selling of the Sequoia, and the infamous rabbit incident.

Let's put President Obama, and Governor Romney in a debate setting, and have them talk about boats. In this case Governor Romney owns at least a 29' Searay bowrider, a small Boston Whaler, ski boat, and a couple PWC's that are kept at his vacation home in New Hampshire. It is not believed that President Obama has a boat. They both do support boating, in their own ways.



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Quit whining damn you!

It's a problem that I'm seeing more often. In this case it's problem I could improve, but not fix completely. I should rephrase this. It can be completely fixed but the costs are exorbitant and no one is willing to pay for it. Fingers point in all directions. The builder will say I didn't install it so it's not my fault. The dealer will say I installed it, but the builders design is the problem. The owner says "Why me? It's not my monkey, not my circus. Just fix the damn thing."


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Installing the Simrad SGO5 steer by wire autopilot and playing with the Sea Station.

Most of my autopilot installs I just grind out. Do the plumbing and contain the oily mess. Punch holes in the dash for control displays. Add NMEA network pieces, hang black boxes, and connect a bunch of wires. At the end of the job I smell like I've showered in hydraulic fluid, and dried off with a sweat soaked rag. It's very close to the truth. This autopilot system install is different, and different is good. No plumbing, no greasy fluids, few parts and it was easy-ish. This boat also has some very new Sea Star tech I had the opportunity to play with and really liked.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Boating morals

I really don't enjoy the big three long weekends. Memorial day, the 4th of July and Labor day are in my view the three worst times of the year to go boating. Marinas are packed, boat ramps overwhelmed, and anyplace on the water that has food, liquor and a dock is knee deep in vessels and their alcohol fueled exuberant crews.

These are indeed the quintessential amateur days on the water. My life is made worse by owner's realizations the boat that hasn't moved since the last long weekend holiday now has a variety of ailments. Dead batteries, bilge pumps that don't, electronics that won't turn on and the 12 volt outlet isn't working and this means the daiquiri blender isn't usable. My phone rings endlessly. Some I can help, some I can't, and some I won't. Crikey Bob that thing has been broken for months, and you're calling me at the crack of dark Saturday morning to get it fixed by 10:00 am? Buy a car battery and jumper cables to run the blender. It ain't happening today, Sheesh.


Friday, August 19, 2016

The secret life of hulls and transducers


It's a great transducer. It was carefully and properly installed. The only problem is it doesn't work if the boat is moving faster than 10kts. You can't put this style transducer anywhere on this hull where it will work at speed. This is a far more common problem than you would believe and the problem is caused by the hull design,  not the transducer.

The owner of this boat is experienced and has expectations about transducer performance. Another owner of the identical boat is new to boating and just assumed transducers don't work if the boat is moving. Hull design, construction, and rigging all contribute positively or negatively to transducer performance. In my world a transducer should be able to hold bottom and mark fish targets at most boat's normal cruising speeds. For reasons we are going to learn about this is often not the case.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sealed up for all time

It ostensibly was an easy install. Stick a weather receiver on the hardtop, a quick and easy pull into the console and plug the little beastie in. The mechanics of the job are simple. Remove four nuts along with the collection of assorted washers used as shims for the cap nuts and some threaded bolts that hold the antenna mount to the plate. Right under the plate is a commodious pull to the console. So far so good and less than fifteen minutes have been expended and then everything went to hell in a hand basket.

This should be a piece of cake job. It's not like I haven't encountered this scenario before but it begs two points. First when you install something on a boat you should anticipate that someday you will have to remove it. Secondly although not intuitive you can do things too damn well and this is a case in point.


Friday, July 22, 2016

If you can imagine it, it's already happening

I've been doing some reading on how fast technology is evolving and its potential impact on boating. How quickly is technology advancing? The answer is exponentially. I used Gorp as an example paddling across a river on a floating log around 10,000BC. The bolt of mental lightening had struck. Gorp no float. Log float. Gorp sit on log and float. It would be another couple thousand years, and many toes lost to piranha before the log was hollowed out to make a canoe. The reality is early man was probably using crude boats made from reeds and bamboo much earlier than this, they just didn't survive through the ages to prove it.

The point of the diagram is to show the relative rate of technological change. In my graph it took Gorp about 5000 years to evolve from paddling to figuring out you could use the wind and save the calories. Looking back from today's perspective it seems it should have been obvious, but it was a long hard slog to get there. Gorp only had stone tools and they weren't exactly precision devices. Weaving of fabrics is still over 5000 years away in Gorp's far future when the first sailboats will finally appear. Crikey, we didn't have the practical tools to make boats out of wood planks until the Bronze age when the rocket scientists of day started producing tools out of metal. This was 7000 years later in Gorp's future to come. Things started to move much faster when we learned to write things down saving the information we have learned. The printing press sped things up too.


Monday, June 27, 2016

A couple of small epiphany's in a day in the life.

It was a bemusing and somewhat vexing problem that at first blush was all caused by a watch. It's 5ish in the afternoon on a Saturday and I'm clutching an adult beverage at a function when the phone rings. I stare at the magic box doing it's best to attract my attention. I sigh and take the call. It's a local Captain who is taking a boat way offshore on Monday and his autopilot is now kaput ostensibly caused by a Garmin Quatix watch. This is a new one to me and he now has my attention.

He launches into the saga. He has a original Quatix watch, and tried to connect it to the autopilot while underway. The autopilot immediately freaks out, and has to be put in standby to get control of the boat. The watch is disconnected from the system and he attempts to reengage to autopilot. The odd thing is now the autopilot seems fine until you engage it. Instead of doing its "Otto Pilot" thing it now pops up the "Shadow Drive" is on message and does nothing else. What this normally means is the helm has been manually turned, the autopilot thinks you want control of the boat, and gives it to you. This isn't supposed to happen when you first engage it, and I have never seen one do this. I agree to visit the boat on Sunday morning to see what can be done and will bring the latest software with me.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Electronics Undertaker

I've been dealing with marine electronics for a long time and now recognize when death is close at hand. More likely it's already emulating Norman Bates's mother who's telling the owner to call me. As a matter of fact I can smell the stench of decomposition through the phone during the call. The quavering desperation of the callers voice. The hesitant answers to questions like "When was the last time you used it?"  "Hmmm, you don't remember?" "What model is it?" "Whoa, that's old, those vacuum tubes are really hard to find nowadays." What it's a sailboat, that means the radar is on the mast." The coup de grĂ¢ce in the conversation is the hopeful inquiry, "It could just be a loose wire." My passing thought is sure buddy, but it's not statistically likely, and you should have called Hospice for this gear a long time ago. I hate these service calls. I will have to call the time of death and everyone is going to be unhappy including me, like it's all my fault.  


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pontooning

Hello, my name is Bill and I was once a pontoon boat hater. In days of yore they were ugly. Floating boxes largely devoid of hydrodynamic properties milling around on the waterfront at withering speeds of 6 or 7 knots with a geriatric crew. This has all changed. They're sleek, fast, safe and loaded with amenities. Corian counter tops, BBQ grills, bars, refrigerators, thumping stereos, and plush seating for the multitudes. Look at this curvaceous model with the arch. I don't know what those ports are on the bow are all about. Either they are intakes for the turbine engines or gun ports but they certainly look purposeful. The quality of design and construction is orders of magnitude better than it was a decade ago, almost.... You see I still have a small beef about most of these vessels. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The connected boat part 3 Digital Yacht's on air TV antenna.

Despite rumors of its demise digital on air television is alive and well, while analog cable systems used by marinas are continuing to fade away into the past.  In this series we have looked at installing a WiFi Access point connected to a router, smart televisions, and a Signal K server and there is more to come on this subject.  To round out our cornucopia of wireless tech we are going to install Digital Yacht's impressive TV antenna and play with it for a bit.

It's pretty easy to install and more than suitable for a DYI project. But remember the golden rules about boats. Access to everything typically sucks, and wiring diagrams don't exist. I heard a rumor that the last known boat wiring diagram from a sixties vintage Hatteras is archived at the Library of Congress. Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Waterspout to Tornado to Waterspout to Tornando

Back in January we had a cracker of a front pass through Sarasota. Not that I didn't know it was coming, I did. Cold fronts are a regular event here. Almost weekly at some times of the year. They typically roll in diagonally on a long southwest to northeast sagging line. This one was coming in late at night. The evening cooling tends to calm the associated T-boomers down on most occasions. Yadda yadda yadda, big deal. Severe thunder storm warnings are also a dime a dozen here and off to bed I go with a good book. I never saw the tornado watch that appeared at 12:45am. At 2:03am the cell phones start squawking I grab mine, fumble for reading glasses, and holy crap, what the hell going on? This thing didn't calm down, in fact it got meaner, a whole lot meaner. There were warnings galore lined up.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Quickdraw Macgraw Garmin Software

Just because a chart says nothing is there doesn't mean there is nothing there and this is a case in point.  Sarasota Bay in general is devoid of features. Sonar images shows largely a flat plane punctuated by the occasional rough bottom of fish havens where construction rubble has been spread around. The center of the bay bottoms out at 12' and the charts say this is the deepest location, but its not. There is a large hole in the bay hiding in plain sight and I'm using Garmin's Quickdraw software to map it out along with some other good uses for this clever software


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hosed

The air is blue as I walked up to the boat. Not an attractive cobalt blue mind you but an ugly violet tainted blue. A painfully strained phone conversation with the boat builder is occurring, and it's apparently not the first one. The tech isn't hearing anything that's pleasing him.  I've had many of these Whiskey Tango Foxtrot conversations with builders myself.

So here is the set up. The new boat was being scrubbed for defects prior to delivery. There was the usual litany of mostly minor issues. Latches and switches that don't, sloppy caulking, dash instruments that aren't straight and the ilk. A special hose fitting is attached to the water pickup for the bait well, and the system is fired up. The bait well starts to fill, and a few minutes later water starts to pour into the bilge too. The hose has a leak in it somewhere along its meandering run through the vessel's innards. Okay feces happens, and a new hose is dragged over to the boat, and this is where everything goes to hell in the proverbial hand basket.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

50 Shades of Grey Wiring

Bondage was the first thing I thought of when I saw this. By this I don't mean with soft silk scarves, but more akin to being stuffed into an iron maiden. There is some minor good news here. These fuses would stay in place if this boat was was struck by a tsunami. The bad news should be apparent to you by now. How do you replace or even check these fuses? The answer is with difficulty and tools. There are fourteen tie wraps and 6 wire clamps securing two tiny, but important fuses.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wires Liars Faith and Doubt

This is really about a empirical person dealing with doubt. Mixed in with this is faith. These terms seem contradictory but they are actually very intertwined. My empirical side says I understand Ohm's laws to be correct. I can test this in a variety of ways and prove, at least to my satisfaction Ohms laws are immutable. In this dimension at any rate. The faith part is my belief that tools I use to deal with Ohm's laws are telling me the the truth. Doubt occurs when you have a conflict in the evidence you perceive so off we go.

This should have been a simple job. I'm going to add an on air digital TV antenna to a boat. I'm familiar with the boat and what's unusual is everyone of these boats I've seen came with the antenna already installed by the factory but not this one. On my first visit I chat with the owner to see what he wants. The laundry list is short starting with he only has a shore cable connection, cable TV gets bleaker every day in marinas as providers switch to digital cable, and hence he wants a TV antenna.

Like most typical first meetings the owner wants to have at least a clue what this will cost, and how long will it take. This is often followed by mentioning the inevitable trip that can't be taken without the work being done, and this trip is always just around the metaphorical corner.

It's time for a little exploratory demolition and I take my screw gun out of its holster and start pulling screws. It's a good day for both the owner and myself. Although the antenna wasn't installed the wiring for it was. Two coax cables run from the upper bridge on the starboard side, go forward to the console, travel over to the port side, and then aft about 10' where they dive downward through a black hole into the abyss below and end up behind the TV in the lower salon.

Good deal the cables are already for us to use. Piece of cake I tell the owner. I'll be back in a few days with the gear and we'll slap it in. Yeah sure. I didn't listen to my own inside voice yelling at me. It's a boat? How many times have they screwed you? Something will go wrong you idiot, and it did.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Signal K Kool Blog

I'd be the first to say keeping up with what's happening with the Signal K project takes real effort. The forum has nearly 170 members with 115 topics. Over 80 people, mostly IT professionals are involved in the project's Slack.com site. Then there is the Github.com software repository for the thousands of volunteered programming man hours. Now add in the various Wiki's, Read Me's, and Google Doc's along with other materials. It's well organized, and moving very quickly towards the impending version one release timed to coincide with Digital Yacht's first production Signal K gateway run.  It's a small mountain of reading material, but you're going to get some help with a new blog, "Signal Kool".



Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 in pictures

No boats today, just a smattering of photos I have taken last year. I'm just an okay photographer. Most of my now huge library consists of close ups of my work days, and to be honest none of them are going to win a Pulitzer prize. What I lack in artistic skills I make up for in volume. If you take enough photos some small amount of them actually turn out okay. 

Florida is a open carry camera state and I'm always packing two of them with extra cartridges. My phone, and my small Nikon. I buy a new Nikon most years. they get beat up, or lost, and in the case of the last one, run over by a car. Each one is better than its predecessor. I lust after the big digital SLR zillion megapixel cameras with interchangeable lens. Then I look at the price tag, wince, and remind myself I can't stick one of these in my pocket, and just buy a better small point and shoot.

Here are a few snapshots of things that just caught my eye, along with my musings about the subjects at hand.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Boating thuggery

Two fishing skiffs quietly idle up a canal in the dark. One stops at the entrance of the basin to watch while the other one goes in and docks. The occupant climbs out of the skiff and boards the boat next door sitting on a lift. The grainy short on detail CCTV system records from afar the gyrations involved in trying to steal a MFD from the boat, and it's not elegant. 

This heist was not exactly the work of intellectual giants from the criminal underground. If you knew how the two MFDs were installed a small pair of pliers, Phillips screw driver and maybe about ten minutes would have freed both displays. A screw driver or the ilk is wedged under the panel corner and it was pried away, slowly, painfully, and with great exertion. 

Eventually a couple of epoxied on bolts failed. A corner is lifted and grabbed with hands. Then with a mighty heave the panel snaps in half freeing one side and exposing the MFD. The resulting loud noise from snapping a 3/8' thick piece of acrylic dash panel no doubt resulted in a more expeditious effort to now successfully just get one chart plotter instead of two and the newly created desire to flee soonest.

Unfortunately the entire panel is destroyed, and lot of wiring was to delicately say, very rearranged. As discovered later wiring had been, slashed or just ripped apart. These morons weren't into finesse. They just thankfully dropped the cables off of the MFD, snatched it and fled. To answer the inevitable question that's now rattling around in your head. It's a no! The video wasn't good enough to identify the perps.
   

Friday, December 25, 2015

Xmas 2015


“If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble.” 
― E.B. White

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is this the best production power boat ever made?

A google search for "The best boat every made" yields really interesting results, but no consensus. They vary from wild west style verbal shoot outs on the Hulltruth forum, to magazines who love to do pieces built around lists. Headlines aver these are the top ten, twenty or even fifty pontoon, sport fishing, bass boats sailboats, and you get the drift.

I'm going to remove all of this ambiguity and just say that the Classic Boston Whaler 13 is the best production power boat ever built. It's an audacious statement, but I think for a variety of reasons it's very true. Timelessness, safety, durability, functionality, high resale value, maintainability, simplicity, and design are my criteria. This little boat excels in all of these.