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.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Active Captains

This could be a postcard photo of happy cruisers on any boat anywhere. Appearances can be deceptive. The boat is named aCappella, and the couple are Jeff and Karen Siegel. They are the entire cast and crew of ActiveCaptain accompanied by Dylan (left), and the young and infinitely curious Dee Dee. "Say that camera strap tastes good, can I have it? Do you want to see my ball?  Your glasses taste great. I wish I had thumbs like you."

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Muskie effect

Once upon a time I spent about about nine months in Barnes Wisconsin. I'll just call it a sabbatical. My time was spent wondering what I wanted to be when I grew up. To date this question has never clearly been answered.

Barnes is the home of the Eau Claire lakes, and the head waters of the river of the same name. A pretty place to live, but also a very small town. There were about 600 residents give or take that lived there full time spread across 117 square miles. In the summer the little town would swell to many thousands as cabins around the lakes were thawed and opened for the season by multitudes from urban environs. Now for the Muskie Effect.

For inexplicable reasons the Muskie just appeared out of nowhere. It was a large Muskie, very large. If it had been caught by a regular lake fisherman it would have been stuffed and proudly displayed in his man cave. He would have extolled in a heartbeat his heroic exploits involved in landing the huge leviathan. For decades to come in hushed almost mythical tones the tale would be told. You haven't heard the saga of Herb, and the giant Muskie? Sit on down, crack a beer and I'll tell you the story.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rules 5 and 7

The photo was taken quickly before the vessel was going to disappear behind some mangroves, and is not as crisp as I would like it to have been. The reason I took it was the Sarasota County Sheriff department boat's Garmin radar was not turned on, and I expect local law enforcement operated vessels to maintain a higher standard for the boating public's edification. Granted it was a nice day, and the boat was idling down the intercoastal, but it was also a busy day on the water. Lets review quickly the two rules. The first is.......

Rule 5 - Lookout
Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

In this case I'm pretty sure the officer was paying attention. But the next rule is.......

Rule 7 - Risk of Collision
Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.

Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational, including long-range scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision and radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

NTSB Report - Sinking of the Tall Ship Bounty

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has just released their Marine Accident Brief on the sinking of the Bounty. It's a sobering and very black and white read of the events and causes leading up to the sinking. Here is the link to the report.

I'm not the judge or the jury, that was Mother Nature's role. Had I been the captain I would have found safe harbor early, and put the crew on shore to keep them from harm. Taking any vessel to sea with a largely inexperienced crew in the neighborhood of a major hurricane like Sandy was folly to the greatest degree.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Technology adoption, sinking or swimming?

Mr. Meriweather, did you wind the clock? I'm going to use the sextant to take a fix. Aye captain, that I did, but why don't you just take a glance at the GPS. Aargh Mr. Meriweather, I don't trust that new fangled thing. If the sextant was good enough for me father, and grandsire, it be good enough for me. Besides I don't read so good, and them instruction tomes are weighty.

When I talk about technology it's never from the viewpoint that technology is bad thing, because it isn't. What often happens is it gets misapplied. It can be badly designed, poorly implemented, too difficult or complex to support or have too many critical failure points. Poor contemplation of the inevitable failures can leave you crippled in the water, or on a rock. 

I read Charles Doane's blog yesterday about what had to have been a fun Navico press junket. It was held at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys and was attended by a large number of boating writer luminaries including Panbo's Ben Ellison. You can read Ben's take on the event here. In Charles's story though there was a paragraph that stuck with me.

"Navico's CEO, Leif Ottosson, has set a blistering pace re product development, and the company as a whole is now geared up to introduce at least one new product to the market every 20 days. In the not-so-distant future they are confident they can ramp this up to one new product every 15 days. In any other industry this would seem like gratuitous flack-speak, and you'd expect the "new" products to be only slight variations of older ones, but in electronics generally the market really does evolve that quickly. It seems that Navico's real goal is to haul the once somnolent realm of recreational marine electronics that much closer to the larger industry's bleeding edge."

The first was the concept that Navico is planning to bring a new product to market every 20 days. This speaks volumes about the both the possibilities, and the industry's requirement to innovate or perish. The second was his surmise that Navico may be hauling the marine electronics industry into the future, whether they like it or not. I think Charles's thoughts about this were remarkably prescient. I would just add that some of the others are now moving in this direction albeit it at varying rates. Things are a changing, and I think the pace will quickly startle all of us. The sleeping marine electronics bear is slowly waking up.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Distributor demolition

When the detonation happened I was stunned. OMG, WTF, it sounded like someone had fired off a 12 gauge shotgun in the front seat of my truck. I could see a cloud of black smoke billowing up on the right side of my truck. The greyhounds had fled with clots of dirt flinging up behind them. Kate comes tearing out of the house, and the neighbors were fretfully peering out at the scene. Who'da thunk this could happen. I just sat there for a few seconds letting the ringing in my ears stop. This was the mother of all engine backfires.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Five years in the life

I'm a left brain type, and maybe too much of one. This is good news, and maybe some less than great news. I have a tendency to analyze almost everything. Not at an OCD level, but maybe on that side of the fence. I couldn't even use the "Left Brain" term without reading about Sperry's work on the subject. By the way, my very usage of the term is promulgating the hemispheric dominance myth, but you get my point.

The rational side of my personality makes me question things, and is one of many reasons I infuriate so many people when politics are being discussed. I know things, because I carefully research them. My brain is full of errata like liberals do drink more than conservatives, and Democrats don't historically tax and spend anymore than Republicans do. They're both guilty. I'm stopping here before someone develops a dire case of apoplexy. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Will disassemble for food

All my life I have disassembled things. There are three scenarios that can happen when you crack things open. The first is you can take something apart knowing well in advance you won't be able to put it back together correctly again ever. This gives you some freedom to really explore, even if you need a hammer. The second is opening something up and you can put it back together again, ahem correctly.

The third is when you believe you should have been able to reassemble the whatever, and then something unexpected happens. This could be a critical spring loaded part that rapidly travels away from you at the speed of light never to be seen again, or some delicate thingamabob you inadvertently broke while trying to remove it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Non Sequitur

Incongruous is the word of the day. I could see it from the road through the light drizzle as I passed the big downtown boat ramp. The proverbial sore thumb sticking out in the the parking lot. This scene is normally an array of mostly white pickup trucks all being closely tailed by long aluminum trailers. It now includes a large sail boat lying on it's side like a beached whale.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The 2013 writing contest essay

My writing contest essay is different this year. I've outgrown childish notions that the important questions that need to be answered can be done by mere garish cartoon personalities. Although they were fun to create, I was always left with the feeling my somewhat irreverent use of humor stopped the quality of my content from truly surfacing. This year we have a simple one act play. It's the emotional keening of a man trapped forever in a mechanical body searching for his soul, truth, and the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It's a "42" thing. The judges voting dice have now been cast for better or worse. I hope my decidedly eclectic voice doesn't end up with snake eyes.

It's also viewable on my YouTube channel, along with the cartoon essay that wasn't used.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Field replaceable NMEA 2000 connectors

It's was the stereo installer dudes who caused the problem. There are now two new speakers installed on each side of the T-top's electronics box. Their enormous size driven by two amps now assures the owner that the USGS's seismographs will register every time they are used. Unfortunately the auto stereo dudes didn't realized the single NMEA 2000 cable they tie wrapped their big wiring bundle to couldn't take the strain and the connector's pins were pulled out.

No big deal for me, work is work. The wire pull is torturous, so I'm going to use a Molex field replaceable NMEA 2000 connector to rectify the issue, and you're going to learn how to do it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Local boats I like #2, the Classy A Class Cat

My first thought was the boat is on the trailer upside down, but the trampoline is on top. What is this boat? Like all shiny things I had to take a closer look. The other thing was the name on the boat, "Armington." I knew that name, but I had never seen it associated with a sailboat.

This is an "A Class" racing catamaran with a wave piercing bow designed by naval architect O. H. Rodgers who also provided the tooling. According to the IACA (International A Cat Assoc.) these are the "fastest single handed racing boats in the world." A Class racing catamarans are a "Box Rules" developmental sailboat. The basic configuration is simple. The boats must weigh at least 165 lbs (75kg) (which this one weighs), have a maximum length of 18' (5.49m), and width of 7.5' (2.3m). The sail area can't exceed 150 sq ft (13.94 sq m).

Like all things in life, the details of the rules impose some additional restrictions. Other than that, have at the design, and materials you make it out of. For the time being there are no hydrofoils allowed yet but some forms of lifting structures appear possible by modifying the rudders.