Thursday, February 25, 2010

If you're buying marine electronics, see what Ben Ellison at Panbo has to say about it first!

We are pleased, and proud to say that we have traded links with the Panbo weblog. You will find the Panbo link to the right top of our page. Panbo is published, and written by Ben Ellison, and deals with with marine electronics, along with other nautical subjects that may tickle his fancy from time to time. Ben, is also an experienced captain, contributing editor to many prominent boating publications, and has written an impressive body of work that is far to large to list here

At Panbo, marine electronics are carefully checked out, and where possible tested under real world conditions. Below is Ben's Duffy built down east vessel the "Gizmo". It looks like a DARPA project, and is bristling with radar domes, antennas, and sensors. On a foggy Maine morning I guarantee, Ben's electronics will see you first. Panbo also has an excellent forum, with many experienced boaters actively participating. If your looking for help, this is a good place to find answers, and check out the Panbo's link lists. If you're buying marine electronics, see what Ben has to say about it first. 

Thanks Ben, and check out the Panbo site. I do.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rule, rules, great little machine.

Here is my problem, I have water in a compartment in the bow of a boat, and I need to get it out. The water is in a place, that is both difficult to get to, and most certainly should not have been there in the first place, but that is a different story. We will see if the builder rises to the occasion, and corrects this defect.

I tromp off to West Marine store #63, and tell  my good friend Wayne Seel, who is the store manager, what my problem is. He excitedly drags me down an aisle, and gives me a small plastic box. Inside the box is a small bilge pump, attached to a power cord, and a flexible hose. It's the perfect solution for the problem, and like carbon paper, the mimeograph, telexes, FedEx, and E-mail, I don't know how I ever got along without it. About eighty dollars later, and after averring to Wayne twice that I am not buying the protection plan on the pump I go over to the boat.

This is what is in the little plastic case (click the pic for a better view). The pump is the red tube to the left. Coming out of the top of the pump is a 8' flexible hose, and a power cord. The power cord has adapters for battery terminals, a 12VDC accessory outlet, and coolest of all, in the lower right side of the case there is a rechargeable Ni-Cad battery pack, and a AC charger. The green thingy is an adjustable nuzzle that attaches to the hose .

The crux of my problem was that the pump had to drop into a four inch pipe, turn ninety degrees, and slide down the interior keel aft about 2 feet to the bottom of the bilge area. The traditional bicycle pump style bilge pump could have never gotten there. In less than 5 minutes, 20 gallons of water, that should have never been there, had been pumped out.

One of my many, and mostly ugly jobs are transducer replacements. These are often located in a sump location over the keel, and there is always standing water. I get a sponge, and bail it out, or I drag an extension cord into the bilge, and horse the shop vac into the already less than commodious bilge area, and suck the water out. This little Rule pump would do this in less that a minute.

So what else can you do with this little pump? If your salt water wash down pump corroded into oblivion years ago, you can lower the pump over the side, and using the adjustable nozzle, you can wash the fish guts, or uncle Harry's spilled Cabernet overboard. You can pump out that annoying place in the bilge, or transom where water always stands, and drives you nuts. And  how about draining a broken shower sump, or the fish box that does not completely empty. This little Rule wonder will pump 100 gallons on a charge, pumps 280 gallons an hour on DC power, and handles diesel, salt water, fresh water, and antifreeze. Just say no to gasoline, if you don't want to join those who are dearly departed. I don't know how I ever got along with out it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good idea, epiphany of the week

This is Steven Rhodes' clever idea.It lifts the connectors above the dock keeping them dry, is easy to see, and thus harder to trip over, keeps the rain water off, makes it more difficult for the cables to end up in the drink, costs very little, and in sum smart.

I think someone should make these. Anyone have a plastic injection molding machine?

Electronics face lifts, a little snip snip, saw saw, cut, cut, and some liquid bandages

These are a few recent upgrade surgeries we have performed, and as always, you can "click on the pic" to get a better view.

Below is a two year old Boston Whaler 22 Dauntless, that the owner just purchased. The transducer had been broken off by a marina storage bunk, and the owner didn't want the existing electronics consisting of a small GPS, and a separate small fish finder. We were asked to install a Garmin 5208 touch screen, GSD22 sounder module, new transducer, along with a reverse image camera so the driver could watch skiers behind the boat on the Garmin display. So we ask the boat to turn its head and cough, and out goes the old gear.

I do not know what the black goo was that was sealing the underside of the GPS engine, but it was very tenacious. When reason fails, force prevails. 

The end result turned out well, and looked very close to "new from the factory" in appearance. The camera gives a good view of the stern, and the new GPS engine covered  the black goo that did not want to come off. The boat is on its way to a new home in the Turks and Cacaos.

This is a Mainship trawler, and has one of the nicest interiors I have seen on one of these boats. Kudos to the decorator, it's warm and comfortable with out turning the interior into a hotel room. The upper helm had a Raymarine C-80, and an old C70 radar system on the starboard side. The problem was a new Raymarine C-90 wide had been installed at the lower helm, and there was no connectivity between the systems. The upper C-80 also had a SR50 weather module attached. The task was to install a new C-90 at the upper helm along with new digital radar, and to replace the SR50 weather module with the compatible SR100 weather module

The new C-90 fit, and just fit. It's always better to be lucky than smart, but I did measure twice. There is a 1/8" reveal on each side of the overlay plate. Where the old RL70 radar was, is now a new white plate to accommodate new toys.  A network cable was pulled to connect the systems together, and we now have the Christmas miracle of full integration and capabilities at both helm stations, and it all looks better.

This is the console of Steven Rhodes' immaculately kept, and well founded Viking. This is a very early Garmin 5212 installation, and consists of 4 5212 displays, weather module, and open array radar. The N2K cables and toys were not yet available so the integration was done with the Garmin marine network, and hardwired NMEA 0183 interfaces, Steven bought the new Garmin 300 VHF with AIS, and there were two problems. First, there was no N2K backbone, and the second problem was because these were very early 5212's, and they required a hardware modification to receive the AIS data. Garmin did do the upgrades at no charge, and did pay for the freight in both directions. With the backbone in place, and new 5212's installed  the AIS is now working properly. A GSD22 sounder module, and in hull transducer were installed, and because the N2K backbone is now there, a GMI10 NMEA display was added at both helm stations. You can see the handset for the Garmin 300 AIS hanging next to the 5212, and the new GMI 10 is on the upper right of the console. Your running out of room Steven, if you keep buying new toys, you're going to need a bigger boat 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Convert those obsolete LORAN TD's into Lat/Longs sort of,,,

As you all know now, all of those top secret fishing spot LORAN numbers you have written down in your special dog eared book, and that are also in-bedded in your now non-functional LORAN reciever are worthless now if you don't convert them into Lat/Longs usable by the GPS you are now shopping for. There is good news, and bad news here. The TD's will convert, but in many, or most cases the conversion will not be perfect. Close, but again not perfect. The LORAN system was not very accurate, but very repeatable. By this I mean that if you went to the chart, and picked a location, and said "goto" this place, it would take you within .1NM to .25nm. If  you made a waypoint at your vessel with the LORAN, it would take you back there almost on the money, or at least within a few yards.

It is possible to convert those TD's, and many GPS units have the capability to input TD's, and convert then to Lat/Longs, to a point. The picture below is a screen shot of a Garmin 5208's TD page. You can see you can input the waypoints in TD's by inputing your Chain and selecting two secondary stations. then you can add the offsest from your conveniently at hand ASF tables (Additional Secondary Factors). Once you have done that, switch the units back to Lat/Longs, and you're done.

Piece of cake, if you can find the the right ASF tables, read them correctly, and understand what your doing. By the way, these ASF tables are not easy to locate, and there are variations in their accuracy. If you do not want to muck around with the ASF offsets, it will still do the conversion, and you will be in the the general neighborhood, but not likely on top of the tiny ledge you caught the big one at.

There is another way, and that is to to acquire software to solve this problem. The first is the cheap solution, and that is to use the the Department of Homeland Security's freebie software (We are from the gummit, and here to help). This can be downloaded from this link.

There are two other solutions that are reasonably priced that I think would work better for most boaters. Both of these packages have gotten good reviews, The first is from Andren software  ($85.00) and provides the conversions, and the ability to upload via your laptop, along with lots of other features. The link to Andren is -

The second option is from Offshore Hunter, and provides the conversions, along with many fishing, diving , and wreck sites, along with tide tables, and other toys, priced at $100.00. This is the link for them.

If your numbers are of value, the two programs above will do a pretty good job of converting them, and now go shopping for your new GPS!

Here is another piece I did about about Andren software.

"I told you I was sick", LORAN circa 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


We are sadden to report that LORAN has passed away quietly after a long lingering illness on February 8th 2010 of Obsoletitis. Despite earlier efforts at surgery, a DNR was put in place by the family. LORAN is survived by his children GPS, and USNO GPS, and thousands of grumpy fishermen who would not give up on their TD's, and buy a GPS. Memorial services will held at Bob's Used Marine Electronics Emporium in Brooklyn NY. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the GPS manufacturer of your choice.  

For those that did not get the TD's changed over, I will do a piece on how to convert TD's to Lat/Long numbers with decent fidelity. All is not lost.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I can't see clearly now, but it's all okay

One of the things I do regularly is to pull out old gear, and install shiny new toys. The problem then becomes, "What do you do with the hole where the 40lb antique radar display was. The simple answer is to to fabricate an overlay panel to cover the hole. I use 1/4" inch acrylic-esque materials to do this. The problem is that there are only three  practical color choices available. White, black, and clear.

The panels you see above are actually made from clear Lexan, that have had the back sides painted with a color of the owners choice. It works well, with a couple of caveats. make sure the spray paint you select won't melt the plastic panel. Look for paints at the hardware store that say they are for plastics and vinyls. Make sure the paint is very dry before attaching the panel. Also do all the cutting, and drilling before you paint, and mask the sides to stop over spray. I always have the owner pick the color, that way the color is always perfect.