Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Nautical Poem by W.S. Gilbert

This is a little known nautical poem by W. S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. I read it as a kid, and never forgot it, much to my wife's chagrin. Amidst all of my bemoaning about what boat builders do, I thought on Thanksgiving day that it would be nice to wend down another path.  It is about nautical dining you know.  Enjoy

The Yarn of the 'Nancy Bell'
A Nautical Poem by W.S. Gilbert

'Twas on the shores that round our coast
From Deal to Ramsgate span,
That I found alone on a piece of stone
An elderly naval man.

His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
And weedy and long was he,
And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
In a singular minor key:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
Till I really felt afraid,
For I couldn't help thinking the man had been drinking,
And so I simply said:

"O, elderly man, it's little I know
Of the duties of men of the sea,
But I'll eat my hand if I understand
How you can possibly be....

"At once a cook, and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
Is a trick all seamen larn,
And having got rid of a thumping quid,
He spun this painful yarn:

"'Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
That we sailed to the Indian sea,
And there on a reef we come to grief,
Which has often occurred to me.

"And pretty nigh all o' the crew was drowned
(There was seventy-seven o' soul),
And only ten of the Nancy's men
Said 'Here!' to the muster-roll.

"There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig
And the bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig.

"For a month we'd neither wittles nor drink,
Till a-hungry we did feel,
So we drawed a lot, and accordin' shot
The captain for our meal.

"The next lot fell to the Nancy's mate,
And a delicate dish he made;
Then our appetite with the midshipmite
We seven survivors stayed.

"And then we murdered the bo'sun tight,
And he much resembled pig,
Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
On the crew of the captain's gig.

"Then only the cook and me was left,
And the delicate question, 'Which
Of us two goes to the kettle?' arose
And we argued it out as sich.

"For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
And the cook he worshipped me;
But we'd both be blowed if we'd either be stowed
In the other chap's hold, you see.

"'I'll be eat if you dines off me,' says Tom,
'Yes, that,' says I, 'you'll be,' --
'I'm boiled if I die, my friend,' quoth I,
And 'Exactly so,' quoth he.

"Says he, 'Dear James, to murder me
Were a foolish thing to do,
For don't you see that you can't cook me,
While I can -- and will -- cook you!'

"So he boils the water, and takes the salt
And the pepper in portions true
(Which he never forgot) and some chopped shalot,
And some sage and parsley too.

'Come here,' says he, with a proper pride,
Which his smiling features tell,
' 'Twill soothing be if I let you see,
How extremely nice you'll smell.'

"And he stirred it round and round and round,
And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
In the scum of the boiling broth.

"And I eat that cook in a week or less,
And -- as I eating be
The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
For a wessel in sight I see!

"And I never grin, and I never smile,
And I never larf nor play,
But I sit and croak, and a single joke
I have -- which is to say:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Raymarine or Garmin, I can't decide!

There is always a way. In this case the client has best of both worlds. A Garmin 5212, and a Raymarine E=120. How can you lose, or get lost.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The angry wrathful technology gods at work (Click pic for a better view)

This is a case of the angry gods at work. This box is connected to sealed rubber covered switch pads on the dash, and is programmed to turn on chartplotters, stereos, pumps, and all of the other things on the boat. The boat is four years old now, and the box has failed, taking the operation of 16 pieces of equipment with it.

The box was made by Carling, who sold, or transfered it to another company. They promptly redesigned it, and discontinued production of the original box. There are no spare parts, no programmers for it, no wiring diagrams, no nothing period. The only option here is to remove the digital pads from the console, cover the holes with a overlay panel, and install 16 switches. Actually there is another box that controlled another 8 switches, so you might as well do all 24 switches at the same time. The boat builder feels bad about it, but can't do anything about it. It would have been cheaper to build the boat with 24 switches in the first place. Sometimes simple is best in a highly corrosive salt water environment.

Why does my new boat have obsolete equipmnt?

Avarice, poor decisions, and or acts of the angry wrathful technology gods are why I often see obsolete equipment on a new boat. How does this happen? I will pose a scenario that will explain how it happens, but it is still inexcusable that it happens at all in most cases.

Greed, or greed coupled with ignorance creates the biggest source of obsolete equipment, and here is how it can happen. The Chartomatic chartplotter company designs its new version 7 Chartomatic system (It won’t have any of the problems of the earlier Chartomatic version 6), and they start to manufacture them. Some one in Chartomatic’s management team notes the obvious that there are still 2000 Chartomatic version 6 units still in the warehouse, and they direct sales to discount these units, and sell them off quickly. Eager salesmen visit the boat builders, and tell them, "Have I got a deal for you, Chartomatic version 6 units are now half price for a limited time only". Limited time is only for as long as they have the units in stock. The boat builder says, "This is a good deal and we will buy 300 systems". Chartomatic ships the now obsolete systems, the builder installs the now obsolete systems, and sends the boats to the dealers who sell the boats with now obsolete systems.

Now I could say that the Chartomatic salesman did not bother to tell the boat builder that the systems are now obsolete, thus taking the blame off the boat builders, but I believe that the boat builders see an opportunity to get some additional margin out of a business that operates on razor thin margins. I have seen dealer invoices for the installed obsolete equipment that reflect the original full MSRP price, and not the discounted price the builder paid. Even worse, the buyer is usually not told the equipment on his new boat is no longer being made.

This happens with not only the Chartomatic systems, but often with other equipment of the vessel such as TV’s, microwave ovens, stereo equipment, and other related gear. I have recently been on brand new boats that had TV’s that don’t have digital tuners in them. You would have been hard pressed to go to a big box electronics store two years ago, and find a TV that didn’t have a digital tuner, and so the TV’s being installed were bought earlier, and were already obsolete when they were purchased at "Such a deal for you Mr Boatbuilder".

The boat buyer is hurt in several ways here. Not only is the equipment no longer being made, but he or she has been robbed of the time available to have the equipment repaired if it fails. All manufacturers will stop repairing the old gear at some point due non available parts, or to push customers into newer equipment. The replacement of a simple TV in a boat can be an expensive, and tedious task. You have to find a TV with the same exterior dimensions (The original TV is no longer being made), remove the old set, which is often difficult (When reason fails, force prevails). The mounts on the back of the TV’s are never in the same place, power has to be un-harnessed and new power pulled back in, and the story goes on.

Now all of this being said, in a few years of ownership, all of these problem will eventually present themselves anyway, but boat builders should not try to speed this problem up at the owners expense.

The wrathful technology gods do often play a role in this problem. Boat builders can buy the latest gear available, and six months later the manufacturer is out of business due to any number of conditions. This is certainly statistically more likely if the equipment is on the "Bleeding edge of technology". In the posting above, there is a photo of equipment that is on a four year old boat that can’t be repaired, is no longer made, and the work around fix will cost as much as the original equipment. The gods have spoketh.

Things in progress include proprietary equipment and systems, why good people made poor boat buying decisions,  the huge connector divorces the tiny pull hole, and my tech support kudos.

The old marine radio photo was taken by Wikimedia user Korrigan.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

E-mail notification of new postings option added

I have added a e-mail notification option to the blog. if you want to be notified of a new post, you can place your e-mail address in the box, and click subscribe. Please let me know if there are any issues with my software. I tested it and you get a short "No reply", email giving the posting date. If you want to e-mail me directly, you will find the e-mail link under "View my complete profile" near the bottom of the page, and as always feel free to comment at any time. No e-mail addresses will be kept or sold to third parties. A new post will be on the site soon. Thanks Bill

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Searay console face lift completed (click pic for better view)

This was a fun, and satisfying project. The owners are Kevin and Michelle, and they have taken excellent care of their ten year old Searay. The biggest challenge here was to relocate the original nine switch panel to two new locations. Three of the switches were moved to the upper instrument panel along with the cover that protects the engine start/stop switches from accidentally being actuated, The rest of the switches were mounted in the burl panel on the lower right side of the photo. The switch labels were lit from behind with the older flexible lighting strips. The trick was to cut out the the three banks, of three switches from the original panel, keeping the back lit nomenclature intact under the switches. The wiring harness had to be relocated, and stretched in some places. The three now smaller switch panels were epoxied into place in the new locations, and the back lighting strips were taped into place.

Two panels were fabricated from black 1/4" acrylic, and covered the upper and lower locations where the old Furuno, and switch panel were. The new Garmin 5212 was mounted in a black acrylic wedge, which in turn was mounted to the new upper panel. As I have mentioned before, flat panel displays must be viewed nearly head on for the best results. The wedge tipped the new Garmin 5212 about 20 degrees toward the helm station. Had this not been done, the display would have been difficult to be seen from the helm. This problem also existed with the original Furuno display which was mounted flat in the original location. As a note, the original space provided for the Furuno was at a bad angle, and was to far from the helm. Marketing must have designed this helm.

This type of project does not happen quickly. Equipment must be removed, templates made, and panels fabricated, wiring modified, glue has to dry, and new equipment installed. This project took about twelve man hours, spread over a week.

The black panels worked out well, and match the black plastics used elsewhere on the console. I was very pleased with the appearance of the console when it was finished. The fabrication of the acrylic panels, and the mounting wedge for the Garmin 5212 was done by Delcraft Acrylics in Sarasota. Bob Blanchette takes my templates, and turns them into highly polished works of art. Delcraft Acrylics phone number is 941-379-4037, or they can be contacted at  In the end the project was tres bon.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Searay console get a face lift. (click pic for bigger view)

This is the before picture of a ten year old Searay console. Many owners are upgrading their boating investment, given the current state of the economy. The Furuno is going to be removed, and the adjacent switch panel is going to be relocated. A Garmin 5212 chartplotter is going to be installed where the Furuno was. This project will be completed in a couple of days, and I will post the after pic, along with  some dialog about how we did it. Posted by Picasa

Bad T-Top, go straight to your room.

This is the classic bad T-Top. This boat is a new 34 foot center console fishing boat, so we know the owner won't want any nav gear on top like radar, VHF, GPS, and weather antennas wiring pulled down to the console, right?  You can see the pull comes out of the electronics box, and takes a ninety degree turn into the pipe. It goes down about 3+ feet and then takes another ninety degree turn into the console by the cup holder. The interior of the pull is very sharp, and is shaving the wire casings as the wires are pulled through. The pull is only on one side, and the holes are a little less than an inch in diameter. Extra care must be taken in restraining the wires to make sure the sharp edges on the interior of the pipes will not cut and short the wires over time. Just wait until your father gets home you bad T-Top! Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marketing designed the helm console, and isn't it pretty !

Lets start with the fact that I think a huge percentage of boat owners need a chartplotter, and a depth finder on their boat, period! (With paper charts as back up) I live on the west coast of Florida, and our water is "thin" to say the least. I also spent a number of years cruising on Georgian Bay where there are only two kinds of rocks, those bigger than taxi cabs, and everything else. The east coast is fraught with hazards, along with the Great Lakes. In short, unless you use your boat on a small uncharted lake, I can't imagine leaving dock without good navigational tools.

So why do so many boat designers think that their customers use their boats on a small uncharted lakes? I can tell you why, because there is no room at the helm station to mount anything, much less a small chartplotter from Garmin, Raymarine et al!

The helm stations on so many boats look like the were designed by car companies. The surfaces are full of compound curves, lots of pleather esque foam structures, drink holders stereo controls, and not a single space to mount even a small chartplotter. Even on bigger vessels, there is often a dearth of space for modern navigational equipment. Today you would think, after you spent a half of a million dollars on your new 40'+ sedan bridge boat, that you could fit two 12 " chartplotters into the helm station, but sadly this is not always the case, and the smaller boats such as bowriders, and day cruisers are the biggest offenders. I suspect that many buyers are taken in by the bright colors, and curvaceous surfaces, but they end up seeing me the first time they run aground,  clutching a nautical chart, that is really a place mat from a local seafood restaurant circa 1964. By the way, this story is true, and the owner was really using the place mat as the chart, and was very aground off one of the local keys.

All is not lost here. There is always a way to fit in some gear. I have built starboard shelves, used Ram mounts, covered over cup holders, and have utilized many other schemes to jam equipment into a space it was not designed for. Life would be so much better if there was even a wee space available to mount a chartplotter on many smaller boats, and by the way, this does not include behind the wheel where you have to stick your hand through the spokes to push a button..

Mounting locations for chartplotters must allow the helm operator to look straight at the display, and the buttons must be easily reachable without leaving the helm. The flat panel displays used by most manufacturers must be viewed straight on. If the viewing angle exceeds more than about 15 degrees, the colors start to shift, and the display becomes more difficult to read. It is also important to place displays just below, or just above eye level, so the head does not have to move to see the display. Think of your speedometer in a car, you just drop your eyes to see it.  Equipment that will be often looked at should not be mounted in an electronics box above the helm if it can be avoided. This forces the user to tip their head up, increasing operator strain, and taking more time away from looking out for hazards. It also stops cricks in my older neck. Getting old isn't for sissies you know.

My last thoughts about this subject is electrical infrastructure to connect additional equipment. On many smaller boats, there has been no effort at all in providing power, and grounds (You need both don't you know). Wire harnesses are pre-fabed, and often just include only the systems that are installed on a boat at the factory. This leaves the installer with the option of seeing if there is a location you can splice into that will carry the needed current loads, or pulling in new wiring from another location such as the battery switch. This can cost the owner more than a small device costs. So if you have to cut corners "Mr. Boat Builder", at the minimum pull in to the console an appropriately sized ground and power wires, and terminate them on blocks, or even better terminate it on a real fuse block, and this includes the ground.

Coming soon, "My boat is new, why is the equipment outdated?"