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.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Step hulls and sonar systems

I will be the first to say that step hull designs have shown marked improvement over the years, and also that I'm still not quite a fan yet, but I'm getting closer. I'm however adamant that 2nd stations should not be added to these boats without consulting with the designer first.

I get the fuel efficiency argument, but then again if the boat's cost is north of $300,000 with quads on the back burning 100+ gallons per hour, do you really care about fuel savings? It's like asking the buyer of a new 70' sportfish if he's interested in the new green super fuel efficient 450hp hybrid diesel power package. I can hear the buyer's snorted guffaws now.

So what's my latest beef about these boats now? Too often the efforts that go into designing these high speed fishing machines and recreational boats don't seriously consider installation of all the amazing sonar technology that's available to help you actually find fish and the bottom. This conversation to some degree also includes the more traditional hull designs many of which don't do any better.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Installing the Garmin Side and DownVü through hull transducers

The Garmin Down/SideVu through hull transducers come in two versions. One looks left, right, and down in a single transducer (deadrise of 5 degrees or less and does not require a fairing block). The ones I'm installing are a pair. The port side transducer just looks to port, and the right side transducer looks both down and to the right (deadrise angle from 5-25 degrees. The kit I used consisted of the transducer pair, two fairing blocks, 2 anti-rotation bolts, bushings, washers, nuts, pigtail to connect the transducers together, twelve pin transducer cable, and GCV 10 with a power and network cable. In sum all of the hardware you need is supplied. Let's get messy!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sarasota's waterways, a chamber of horrors

I only go into the water under duress, and never very from the shore or boat when I have to. The reason for this is I'm aware of the large numbers of monstrosities that lurk just below the surface of our waters. Locally we have the first sighting of a Pacu, a cousin of the Piranha with a mouthful of very human looking teeth. This fish is known worldwide by names such as the Testical and or Penis eating fish, Nut Cracker and Ball Cutter. Schools of these denizens have been seen in Phillippi creek a stones throw from the intercoastal waterway. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Parsing the NMEA press release

"NMEA TAKES AIM AT UNAUTHORIZED USE OF ITS STANDARDS

Action designed to protect ownership rights

SEVERNA PARK, MD—Every year the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) and its volunteer members spend significant amounts of time, effort and money to create data exchange Standards that benefit the entire marine industry. Many users comply with the NMEA licensing agreement, which requires purchasing use of the Standards, but some do not. NMEA has announced that it will take whatever action is necessary to protect its ownership rights to these Standards and collect payments for their use.

“The NMEA is a member-supported industry organization that supports the marine electronics industry by providing technical training and the development of various Standards,” said Johnny Lindstrom, Chairman and Acting Executive Director of NMEA. “The Standards developed and released are the sole property of our members. 

“Over the years we have been too lax in enforcing our rights under various copyright and intellectual property rights laws. By doing so, our members have missed benefiting from the revenue that should be realized from the use of these technologies. We are embarking on an effort to aggressively enforce these rights and collect for the use of our technologies by numerous individuals and businesses around the world.  

“Did you know that the cell phone network infrastructure timing is, in some cases, using the ‘UTC Time’ sentences from our NMEA 0183 Standard for synchronization? I have a major cell carrier ‘air card’ that has NMEA 0183 functions in it; I find no record of this carrier ever purchasing the rights to use this Standard.  

“This is just one instance; there are numerous cases where ‘NMEA 2000 compatible’ or some variation of this description is used. There is no such thing as ‘NMEA 2000 compatible’—the product is either certified or it is not, as stated in the NMEA licensing agreement. 

“By allowing this abuse of our Standards we are cheating those that play by the rules and by doing so support the maintenance of existing Standards and the development of future ones. In the past, the only way NMEA has known about any of these violations is by members contacting us. I ask all of our members to be more diligent and to alert the NMEA National Office of any abuses of our rights, so that we may pursue enforcement of these rights by whatever means available.”

About the NMEA
Founded in 1957, the NMEA has led the way in establishing technical Standards for data exchange in marine electronics, with the widely accepted NMEA 0183 data protocol, NMEA 2000® and certification Standards for marine electronics technicians. NMEA Standards and programs focus on insuring that the boating consumer is provided with reliable products and professional service. For more information, visit the NMEA website at www.NMEA.org or call (410) 975-9425."

SiRF Star III GPS and antenna
When I first read the press release I was a startled. There certainly was more than some righteous indignation present mixed in with a dose of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going going to take it anymore." I also maybe sensed a bit of fiscal concerns peeking out from under the covers. Why else the threat of aggressive enforcement after all these years?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse

November 22, 2014
I'm getting more and more concerned about this Zombie virus stuff despite the fact that Washington and the CDC keeping saying everything will be fine, and a cure is near. This morning the news reports said that it has now spread from Africa into China and the Middle East and there is an unconfirmed report of an outbreak in Venezuela. 


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Views from the Intercoastal Waterway

I spend a lot of time on the water doing boaty things like endlessly turning circles, running for my tool kit to overcome some nautical mechanical or electrical travail, and pointing out to Bob he is now out of the channel and maybe he should turn to port if he doesn't want to buy new props. My camera is always at the ready if unusual sights appear, and they always do.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Garmin GCV Sonar Recording Movie Making

This little demonstration video turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated, but in part it was my fault... sort of. The documentation didn't anticipate I would be dealing with three different Garmin 741xs MFD's, about 6 hours of sonar recordings archived on my computer from two of them, and a chart from a third. But with some excellent and very patient tech support from Garmin it all got sorted out. 

It also required some experimentation to get decent image quality. I started with the original very sharp recordings, played them back in Garmin's Homeport software. The recorded playback was captured using BB Flashback Express screen recording software. The newly created file was exported to a AVI format. From there the AVI clips were edited, and a simple soundtrack was created. The whole thing was then converted into a WMV format for upload to Youtube.

With each conversion you lose a little resolution. Aargh matey, I was in need of Dark and Stormies by the time I was done, but in the end I was happy with the results. It would have been better if the original recording format was a little more video friendly.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Keeping the legacy alive, installing the Raystar 130

It was dead period. No pulse, and its faded chalky pallor were indicators it had joined thems what's dearly departed. Its destiny is a pauper's landfill grave gently swathed in a plastic garbage bag along with the remnants of last nights Chinese food take out dinner.

The Raymarine classic C-80 is still in mourning, and something has to be done. It's currently a really expensive repository of non-moving electronic charts. There are two things that have to be considered. The old Raystar 120 GPS needs to be replaced, and whatever is selected, we have to install.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Signal K is afoot.

I wish to communicate with you!


I know the vast majority of you have never heard of "Signal K" and until recently I hadn't either. Signal K is a collaboration by several open source boating related software developers who have worked together to create a common data management framework to support their efforts.

This includes the open source CANboat and browser oriented Navguage projects. CANboat is largely dedicated to reverse engineering NMEA 2000 PGN's to allow others to access the specific data elements such as boat speed or wind angle.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The press conference

Thanks for attending today. I'll take the first question. Okay Bob, what's your question? Let me be clear Bob, I'm not not going to comment about Cameragate today. As you know the facts are still under investigation. Right now no one seems to know why it was laying in the middle of US 41 including me. The fact the camera's memory chip was missing is concerning to all of us. I'm sure that our blog's security has not been compromised. And especially no comment about the one armed man spotted near the scene.  

Alright Sean you're up. Why do I just use big words all of the time? Well Sean, as you should know I don't just use big words. I use a bunch of little ones too. I guess those are the ones you just seem to know. You're a reporter Sean. Here's a little tip for you. The secret word of the day is dictionary. Whose next?


Monday, May 26, 2014

The 2014 SRQ boat show

I love boat shows. There's nothing like the sweet wafting odor of new fiberglass roasting in the Florida sun out gassing styrene. This was a good boat show, at least from the exhibitors viewpoint. In general, sales were better than last year and many more boats were being displayed. Although it doesn't match the halcyon days when you could get that fourth home mortgage to buy the vessel of your dreams, my sense is that most local dealers are now firmly back on solid fiscal ground. As one dealer told me, "It's good to be back in the boat business again."


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Winch removal made easy

Plan A:
Remove wiring from the winch along with the four corroded bolts from the deck plate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, nothing happens! Use a hammer and other nearby objects to encourage separation activities to commence soonest. Again nothing happens. Cogitate on a possible plan B.

Plan B:
The deck plate is really stuck. Squirt penetrating oil twice daily on every conceivable interface. On day three beat on the parts mercilessly. The deck plate still won't freaking budge.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Installing the Garmin GCV 10 SideVü and DownVü system

Installing the new Garmin GCV 10 (Garmin Clear View) SideVü and Down  system is a snap, and well suited for DIY installers. As with most Garmin gear everything you need is in the box down to the wire clips (lamentably never enough of them), fasteners and other minor bits and pieces. Without further adieu find your floppy hat, grab your tools, count your fingers, and head down to the boat. 


da Vinci, da boat, da interpretation

It was an exhilarating experience to see the drawings from his notebooks come to life, and at the same time a bit of a disappointment at its execution and interpretation. Leonardo da Vinci's machine's exhibitions exist and travel all over the world. I had the recent opportunity to visit one. 

Featured at almost all these exhibitions is the simple paddle boat with the "invented by da Vinci proclamation." I wouldn't take anything away from Leonardo's impressive capabilities but I think that he did three things with extraordinary skill. He combined existing technologies to conceptually solve problems to make a living, was an astute and curious observer of the world around him and he meticulously documented his findings. This left behind a legacy of about 5000 pages of notes, drawings, and a remaining small handful of paintings.

So did he truly invent the paddle boat? I think not, that really happened in the 5th or 6th century. What he did with the paddle boat was to document the technology, understand how it worked, and put effort into figuring ways to power the contrivance more efficiently. 


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.