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.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Local boats I like, the Eco Trekker

I didn't know what to think. At a glance my first thought was it seemed to be an anorexic trimaran sailboat that was demasted. I snapped a pic with my phone took a few more steps, looked again, and went back to the truck to get my real camera. There's more than meets the eye here, and the more I learned the better I liked it.
   

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Using Shakespeare's VHF cable Centerpin connectors successfully

I use a lot of these connectors, but with a caveat the connector is going to live in a dry environment. If your connections are going to be exposed to rain and saltwater even if only rarely use the the traditional solder/crimp connectors. Like all connectors there are some pluses and minuses, starting with varying db losses, the need for special tools, and so on. There is also a valid school of thought that the soldered versions are better, and I won't disagree with this. However my sense is failures are in most, but not in all cases, more driven by the level of corrosion exposure than the type of connector used. Personally I've had good luck with the crimp-on units, but you have to do it right and this is what I'm talking about.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Splendid Galley 2015 Holiday Apps

Okay, maybe last year's Jalapeno Spam, bacon jam, and bacon bowls app was a little over the top. Dr Dave wasn't particularly happy with it and wanted nutrition information about it in the piece which was a real tedious P in the A to do. Belatedly I figured out that using adjectives that described fried Spam sticks as glistening and lubricious was most likely why Gourmet magazine sent my recipe submittal back shredded.

So this year we're going to tone it down just a skosh, while still providing two Rant galley tasty and tested apps that won't immediately cause a heart attack. Sigh. This year it's cheesy bread with a healthy twist, sort of, and bacon strips with chocolate, not quite so organic or healthy, but really good.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's too damn hot!

I'm sure when this boat trailer spare tire exploded it was heard. That's one bodacious rupture and it happened where you see it in a dealer's lot. There is plenty of tread left, although it's clearly not a new tire. So what caused this? I know exactly what happened. It's just too damn hot in Florida.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Dealing with the ORBS and trying to follow the rules

If installing autopilots was an occasional thing for me, this wouldn't be a big deal, just a minor pain in the ass. But I'm still not very happy about Teleflex's change to ORB (O Ring Boss) fittings. I don't really have a problem with the fittings themselves excluding the difficulty of getting them, and their price. It's the overall design approach that I'm struggling with. These fittings are perfect for the boat builder. Screw them in, twist them to where you want them, tighten the nut, and you're done. No pipe thread goo, or Teflon tape and Teleflex avers they will have lower warranty costs. This is very likely true. But what about me? I have needs too!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kickstarting NMEA to Signal K gateways

I would have never thought you would see a NMEA certified gateway product on Kickstarter, but Digital Yacht is funding a Signal K gateway, and very successfully to boot. In the first five days they are past halfway to their goal. I was the third one to pledge, and Ben Ellison was the second. You can read his really good piece about this on Panbo. Got some spare change? Support Signal K and Digital Yacht on Kickstarter.

The connected boat is coming!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

NMEA 2105 conference musings on technology

The 2015 Baltimore NMEA conference was in my mind truly notable for a number of reasons. I was privileged this year to be a NMEA technology award judge along with my esteemed colleagues Ben Ellison (Panbo) and Jim Fullilove (Marine Electronics Journal). Signal K had it's NMEA debut. The two presentations by Tim Mathews were the most attended at the conference. But most of all the advancement of marine electronics took a massive surge forward. Terminology never heard at a NMEA conference before abounded. Pulse compression, gallium nitride amplifiers, mills cross phased arrays, Android OS platforms and much more. You know who is responsible for this happening? Without a doubt, you are!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The ORB's have come, are you prepared?

This boat really was never designed to have an autopilot installed despite the fact it's a twin engined hybrid pleasure bowrider and fishing boat. I visit the boat, crawl around, snap pics to aid my creaky memory and figure it's possible. Not easy, very cramped but I can do it. It has a new Teleflex helm jammed into a tiny console, no worries there other than the lack of room. What I didn't know was something was different, very different about this helm that I think even an experienced installer like myself could easily miss. I would bet that most couldn't tell from the picture what this is, but I'm going to enlighten all. From my experience the line from the movie Groundhog Day "Anything that's different is good" was not.


Turbulence City

There are a some things right with the picture below and things really wrong, at least from my perspective. I labeled the pic so there weren't any doubts about orientation. I'll speak slowly for the benefit of the more boating challenged. This is an aft bilge compartment. The arrow pointing down is the direction towards the pointy sharp end of the boat. The one pointing upward is towards the square back end of the boat. This is a boat that has a "Liner," meaning there is a layer of foam in between the hull and the top shiny fiberglass surfaces you see can see. The foam layer provides floatation and the laminated nature of the construction makes the boat structurally stiffer.

But our mystery deepens (bring in the Twilight Zone theme music here). What are the two liner cut outs about and why are they there in the first place? Are these the boating equivalent of crop circles? Is Turbulence city a real place? We're going to explore these weighty concepts and see if there are any real answers.


Monday, August 31, 2015

The Elco 48' Flat Top, Local boat's I like #3.

Elco's beginings started with an order for 55 electric launches being awarded to an upstart General Electric Launch and Navigation Company for use at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. This was a comptetive and contentious bid whose spec's just said 55 boats capable of carrying 30 passengers each. Two steam powered launches were in the bid mix along with two electric versions. You have to keep in mind that explosive petroleum fueled engines are still in their infancy. At the time of the bid only two boats in the US were known to have them.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Engine hatch hell

It was a boat engine hatch much like the one seen below. It was open and the boat was being worked on when the hatch lifter suddenly failed sending it crashing to the deck. The problem was a person was in the way. It took two frantic and adrenaline driven men to manually lift the very heavy hatch off him. An ambulance rapidly transported the badly injured tech to the local hospital's emergency room.

The medical expenses are in excess of $100,000 dollars and still accumulating. He will be off work for at least three months or more recovering. As horrific as this accident was, the good news is his prognosis for a full recovery is likely, and had he been in a slightly different place the falling hatch could have killed him. When a hatch lift fails catastrophically while you're under it you either get crushed or the edges of the hatch act like a guillotine. This event has given me more than some cause for concern. On any given day this could easily have been me!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to hoist a Signal K flag

This whole event comes from an internal conversation with the core Signal K group about getting people to send in pictures of Signal K flags flying on their boats. They all have boats. I don't currently have a boat, that's completed at any rate.

As a bit of a lark I suggested I could hoist the SK flag as a tattoo. I figured this would be much better than hoisting my own petard by far. Then Rob outed me on Panbo. It was now real and printed using pixelated ink on my favorite marine electronics website for all to see. Okay, no worries, I can make this happen, and did.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Radar raconteur

The radar has been elevated. Its gone from being nearly blind and has entered the world of the sighted. This was a most nuanced and detail driven job. It wasn't that it was physically hard, just every single damn aspect of this task was fiddly. Nothing was straight forward. Climb up, climb down. Go back to Ace hardware and stare into those little boxes containing a zillion parts looking for an answer. Climb back up, climb back down. 

It was a screw up I briefly touched in a earlier piece. The problem was how to undo the damage, install a elevated radar mount, and make it look as close as possible to a factory installation. This took creativity, imagineering, and some classic MacGyvering to pull off.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Boat builders installing marine electronics. Is this really a good idea?.

Like the title asks, should boat builders be in the marine electronics business? I think the answer for some is maybe yes. For some absolutely not. Then there is everything else in between. So I'm going to opine a bit on this subject and explore the pluses and minus of this approach starting with the costs to the buyer first. For the buyer the big plus of a factory electronics install is it's easier to finance the electronics on a new boat when it's folded into the mortgage.... provided it's well installed.