Saturday, January 24, 2015

Trackology explained

There is a reason the brothers were called Grimm. While researching tracks in general I found an early precursor to our modern chartplotter versions, the story of Hansel and Gretel. This is a grisly story with its only redeeming value being a happily ever after ending. A spineless wood cutter father, a cruel stepmother who wants to lose the kids in the dark black woods, a cannibal witch that wants roast child served with a fava bean side. It's a wonder how urchins could sleep after being read this horrific story. Come on kids, we're going camping in the woods. Want to come? The concept of leaving now pixelated bread crumbs behind to show the way back however has stayed with us.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Car v Boat, a brief analysis

There are interesting contrasts between a car and a boat. I'll start with the car. An average car has on the order of about 30,000 parts. These range from cam shafts down to the cheesy squeeze on hose clamps. How many parts are there in a boat? Who the heck truly knows. This question could be answered by manufacturers who have some sort of good configuration control management, but few really have any idea.

So I thought I'd look at a car repair I recently did and contrast it with similar jobs on a boat. It's admittedly a rare case for me. I try hard to obey my cardinal rule. Find out what things you don't do well and then don't do those things.

A combination of avarice, curiosity, and reading the horror stories owners have told online about the costs charged by dealers drove me to attempt the task. Just so you know in advance I'm going to remove the car's fuel tank, pull the fuel sender assembly, replace the fuel pump and reassemble. Don't worry this isn't going to be pedantic passive voiced filled DIY droner.

Autopilot Guidance

To say the boat owner was upset was an understatement. The boat had nearly thrown himself and it's occupants into the drink. Without seeing the event I already had a good idea about what had happened, and I've been on a boat in the recent past that had done the same thing with me on board. It was scary to say the least to have the boat tipped 45 degrees on its side in a high speed turn.

I patiently listened to the story. The boat was under autopilot control and traveling around 40mph. A crab trap buoy was spotted ahead and the autopilot was disengaged. The owner steered around the  buoy and re-engaged the pilot and this is where things went awry. The boat was about 40 degrees off course, way off the course line and still traveling at about 40 kts. There are ways to mitigate this event, but not alway completely and sometimes with a small price to pay.

Here is part two of the discussion. In the news this week was the story of a former NFL player who fell overboard landing a fish in the dark while his boat was under autopilot control. The boat wasn't moving quickly but was too fast to catch. The individual was able to swim the 9 miles back to shore. He is very lucky boy. The boat was found later off Grand Bahama Island. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Specifications translated

Design Requirement Specifications for
Marine Electronics Installations

1.0 Scope: This specification applies to all recreational and commercial vessels 20' or longer capable of navigating offshore. If the vessel does not meet these requirements it shall be clearly labeled on a visible plate that it is "not capable of being fully equipped for safe use offshore." Offshore means any body of water where a vessel can be out of view of land.

This means that if you can't easily put a full suite of gear needed to safely navigate offshore on a boat quit deluding buyers that your product is suitable for big water, even if it looks like it can float on it,  for a while at any rate.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Xmas Day 2014

“CALVIN: This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn't make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn't exist what's the meaning of all this?
HOBBES: I dunno. Isn't this a religious holiday? 
CALVIN: Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God.” 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rudolf's dead

The air was thick with the smell of burnt venison as I pushed my way through the crowd of elves and reindeer. I broke into the clearing and shuddered at the scene. It was Rudolf alright. His nose was a charred mess, wiring was melted, and the battery pack had slagged down. "All right, did anyone see what happened? Let's back away from the scene a bit" I bellowed, "I don't want those pointy shoes and hoof prints to muck up the scene." A swarthy elf in green camo elbowed himself forward.

"I'm Marley, head of security, and no it's not Rudolf, he died years ago and was buried next to Burl Ives. This is Gustaf. Everybody was inside the workshop when we heard the screaming. Ever hear a reindeer scream? It's bad enough they have a foul disposition and smell like wet mildewed burlap. But their scream sounds like a banshee being slowly dropped into a pot of boiling oil. When we ran out we found him just laying here still smoking."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One tooth, Bluetooth, Aux tech!

I'd like to say it was the perfect storm, but it was all too ordinary in my world. Older tech meets new tech but it needs to engage in a ménage à trois to work. The partners in this salacious tryst are an older Kenwood stereo, a new Wet Sounds Bluetooth receiver and volume control, and a Scosche FM modulator. The Wet Sounds Bluetooth volume control is an interesting little device. Not only is it a Bluetooth receiver, but it controls the volume, you can stop it (in effect a mute control) and change tracks all in a very compact package.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Anchoring? No aweigh

Truth be told most Floridians don't like boats. They are viewed at the very minimum as an inconvenience and at the worst boaters are a menace to society. Bridges go up and delay the critical trip to Walmart. Home owners associations don't want them in yards whether visible or not. Waterfront property owners cry about their multi-million dollar views being despoiled. 

Municipalities chaff at the bit because they are powerless to regulate something that floats in plain sight just mocking them. Imagine that if you can.

Environmentalists accuse boaters of slaying manatees and turtles, mowing down sea grass and coral, and polluting the waterways. Oh yeah, they also drink excessively, have noisy exhaust systems, even louder stereos, make big wakes, scare fish, go too fast. Have I missed anything?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Suri to the rescue

Hi Suri, I seem to have a problem.
Is it something about your boat again Dave?
Ah, possibly Suri, I may have hit another rock or something and the boat seems to be slowly sinking. What should I do?
Would you like to call a boat towing company Dave? 
Suri, I can't do that. They canceled me the last time I ran aground. The guy said they can't afford to have me as a customer any more, and now it will cost a fortune.
Okay Dave, have you turned on the bilge pumps?

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.

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 be 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, reassemble the exhaust systems 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.