Monday, June 27, 2011

Loys gets Toys

You can't take the fascination of the wind away from the sailor. This is truly the case with Loys, an experienced, and avid "Half Ton" sailor. Loys decided he wanted a wind instrument for his hull #1 Intrepid 26' center console boat, and since there was already a small N2K backbone in the boat, the Airmar PB 200 weather station was an ideal choice. It does remarkable things in a very small package with zero moving parts. Okay, I know that it isn't a sail boat, but in the real world, there are some real pluses to having this device on board such as fast real time compass heading data, knowing the barometric pressure, temperature, windchill, the wind direction for docking, and it's also a back up GPS system.

This is a beautiful, and immaculately maintained boat, but given its age, it was never designed to accommodate the plethora of electronics that it has. Loys had a custom teak wing, and mast built to hold all of the antennas you need on a more modern boat, and had it configured to tip back to allow the boat to live in a covered storage facility.

The mast and associated wing is a very clever piece of construction. It's classy looking, and has an ingenious design. Two outboard bolts release the two halves allowing the top to be lifted up about 5". The underside of the top was routed out to allow the wires to get to the mast down pull, and get this, the builder even provided a routed channel for a potential addition of an antenna on the starboard side. This is exactly where our new weather station will go, and it is the only place where it can go. It is often better to be lucky than smart. 

The stainless steel mast tube was welded to a plate, and the two primary VHF antenna mounts were also welded to the plate keeping the loads off the wood top cap. I think the machine screw was used to allow the mount to be twisted into the correct position prior to welding it in place. As I said, very clever design with a lot of forethought, and it was perfect, almost. Like all things on a boat, there has to be a wart someplace, and it this case there were two.

First was there was no way the larger than normal N2K connector was going to pull to the console, but that was solved with a Gemeco supplied field replaceable connector, and wire cutters. The second wart was the PB200's cable is more beefy than usual, and it wouldn't quite fit into the exisitng routed channel. The solution to this is Loys holds the top piece up, while I artfully carved out a larger channel with my rotozip. It was a Zen exercise, but this was the only tool I could think of, or owned that could do this in-situ. To speed some of this up, I did use a very sharp 1/4" chisel to remove a lot of the side meat. Look ma, no liquid bandages.

With only the usual gyrations, the 4" antenna extension mount was installed, the extension was screwed in, and the PB200 was mounted. Oh yes, another small wart. What makes the wing, really look like a wing, is the top piece elegantly tapers down as you travel outboard. You don't notice the angle when things are short, but with the weather station mast now about 30" high, you could clearly see it was tipped a bit sideways, and looked wonky next to the adjacent VHF antenna. Some shimming later, it is straight as an arrow. Do clean up, arrange the wiring into their channels, mumble a few mild expletives, and the mast is put together.

Part two of this is easy. There is a Garmin 5208 chart plotter, and a tiny N2K network. To make weather station data more available, the hour meter was relocated to the left side of the dash, a Garmin GMI10 was installed in its place, and two new nodes are now on the network. Since I'm crawling around in the console, the incorrectly wired electrical panel's back lighting was fixed, the EPIRB is relocated, and some other clean up chores are handled.

The install looks good, everything works very well, and a sea trial sets up the Airmar compass. When doing the sea trial, you do need a watch with a sweep second hand, or the ilk. The reason for this is you have to complete at least 1.5 turns within the window of 3 to 4.5 minutes. So you have a ninety second window for this to occur. Needless to say it took about a half dozen passes for the captain, and his sorry excuse for a mate (me) to get this right. Now I can already hear some howls of technological indignation occurring, so I will go on to talk a bit more about this install.  

The first tech issue is the proximity to the VHF antenna right next door. To say when it is transmitting, the PB200 data goes awry, would be an understatement. But in this case, the antenna next to the unit is a back up VHF unit, and the primary antenna is on the other side of the wing. The Airmar manual says the unit must be one meter away, and I am about a foot short of that, but the unit works well when the far  antenna is transmitting.

What you don't see is a minor faux pas by moi, exacerbated by some not so crystalline documentation from the vendor. There is a fuel flow sensor installed. Because the engine is fuel injected (this means fuel is pumped from the tank, to a smaller tank on the engine, and from there is pumped to the engine), it works poorly as installed. I 'm not the guy to call when you have an engine issue! I have elected to leave it in place for the time being hoping some possibly alluded to software mods could be written to smooth out the flows for longer term averages, and we would be delighted to do beta testing. In the short run, it's staying in place, and I did not charge for the sensor, or its installation. Most engines nowadays are fuel injected, and this would be a much bigger market ladies and gentlemen. 

"Ready about, hard alee  Ishmael"

I'm not in the biz to do competent equipment reviews, so you can read more about the PB200 in a piece by Panbo's Ben Ellison here, and Dan Corcoran's excellent Sailing with a PB200 part one Panbo and part two Sailing with a PB200 part two on Panbo.

1 comment:

  1. For the fuel flow sensor you really need to add a second one on the return line. Supply - Return = Fuel used.