Thursday, 29 March 2012

LED Lights

Saving power is of a high importance to most cruisers and with the much cheapness of led lights, it is one of the first steps to reducing power consumption. You can buy fancy overpriced ones or cheap n cheerful, I opted for cheap n cheerful ones, from fleabay and am glad I did.

Most of them cost under one UK pound, I tried to order a few different colour spectrums to see how kind they were to the eyes, the 5000k ones are just too blue and very harsh, the warm whites have a green tinge but are soft to the eye, the daylight ones (around 4000k) are good all rounders though a little harsh.

For the nav lights, do not use white ones in coloured lenses, use green for green and red for red, with the nav lights its a tad more complex. make sure you get good quality waterproof lights.

I had about 30 G4 lights to replace inside and the 1 pounds much cheapness units from fleabay are fine, don't glitch with engine or charger or anything else, some are 6 months old so far and still fine. The only issue with them is the pins are a bit flimsy and i broke one of them trying to get them into the tighter fittings (ie more corroded sockets).

The nav lights I fitted just recently and are good looking units, plenty bright and save heaps of power down from 60w to 5 w, the anchor light I used a cheaper one sold for cars, figuring it is not going to get the same abuse as the nav lights which are low down on my boat and prone to salt water.

On a side note, while out playing with the new dinghy we some some mikie whales, when one surfaced and jumped out of the water less than a 100 foot away discretion took the better part and we put the throttle down to make some distance ;)

10 foot dinghy vs large whale... no contest, stay back!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Gps , chartplotters ais and more gps & charts open cpn, navionics, garmin

I got a bit carried away on the gps and charts things, When I got the boat all it had was an old raymarine gps plotter, which did not work. I sorted it fairly quickly as all that was faulty was a lack of power due to corroded connections.

It is an old unit , black and white and the charts were only for the British Virgin Islands , not much use to me, the base map was a joke and pretty useless, so its only use would really be to get gps info ,coordinates,speed heading etc, not much use for actual charts.

I decided since it would leave a rather large hole to leave it in place, handy as a back up, Now before I got the boat I had obtained copies of the cm93 maps, from online  ;) and rigged them up in the laptop with a gps dongle, hey presto instant worldwide charts on your laptop. Now I can also take a feed from the standard horizon vhf radio for the ais signal and feed it into the laptop to show ais signatures on open cpn and the cm93 charts

The problem with laptops is power usage, they use lots of it, maybe 4-6 amps, whereas a conventional chartplotter with small screen uses less than an amp, can be seen in daylight and is normally waterproof so can be used outside, Laptops are great for passage planning , but not so great for use on passage, don't get me wrong you can do it, but a dedicated chartplotter would have been nice.

The problem I had with a dedicated one is the price of the charts, for going round the world you are looking at several thousand pounds,an unacceptable price to me, rip off!!

I had a little garmin dakota unit, which I used on my old boat, had a decent base map, but no nautical charts though it could display them. Hunting on the net one day, I found out you can download garmin charts and make them work on your own plotter or gps fairly easily with a small bit of modification. Now the legality of this is iffy, if I was selling them then I'd certainly be breaking the law, but for personal or reference use in a non commercial way, I'm not sure how the law stands. Somehow I doubt garmin are going to sue me and if they tried, I wonder under which jurisdiction, say I only used them 12 miles off shore in international waters?...

Anyways I got some bluecharts onto the little garmin dakota working ok, I had got one of those viewpad android tablet style things, very cheap and works a - treat gps built in and hspda 4g dongle inbuilt for internet, great battery life and easy to carry about. I downloaded the navionics charts onto it, I was quite happy to pay their very reasonable prices, 17 pounds for the Mediterranean vs several hundred pounds for a chip for a plotter (same charts....)

If you were doing everything above board then by far the navionics charts on ipad or android are by far the cheapest way to get global electronic charts, you can also get ais and weather and all sorts on these pads when you are close to the coast through gsm phone/internet.

Now I was not going too bother getting a proper plotter, but since I found I could get the charts online , I bought a little garmin 451 unit. It is great to have a proper dayllight viewable screen and waterproof unit outside at the helm, chartplotters are great and well but useless if you have to run up n down stairs every 5 mins to get a reading.

I linked the litte garmin unit up to the standard horizon 2100 vhf unit I purchased which has ais, so now the ais can be displayed on the garmin, which shows it well,  DSC polling can be done via the garmin and the garmin also sends gps info back down to the vhf which can also display ais /dsc and gps info on it screen.

I wish I had known at the start I could have done this and saved myself a few pounds. I keep bidding on sextants on fleabay, I have no idea how to use one, but hey I have books on celestial navigation and some wide area paper charts, so I am sure I could learn pretty damn quick should the need ever arise. Lets face it barring WW3 or some alien invasion or solar flare I think the sextant will stay in the box, but hey lets prepare for every eventuality.
I really struggled to find a place to mount the garmin unit, it does obscure the tridata but only when seated

The little Garmin gpsmap451 up n running.
The little Garmin Dakota handheld , good little unit, especially now with marine charts ;)
The screen on this viewpad is far larger 7 inch and touch screen, great little unit,  Navionics charts!
If you already have a laptop, this is the real cheap option open cpn software and cm93 charts, Cost= ZERO!
Standard Horizon 2100 VHF with AIS built in, saves having an extra antenna going up.

For the non boaties. GPS is similar to as in car sat navs, AIS is an automatic identification system used by larger vessel which transmits on radio their position and direction/ contact info, DSC is a way to make a VHF radio act kinda like a phone

Friday, 16 March 2012

Anchors!! a Touchy subject

Today I finally fitted up the new anchor and chain.

Anchors are another hotly debated subject in the boating world and raise heckles and opinions all around.

I opted for a Plastimo Kobra 2 anchor, the boat came originally with a Bruce claw type anchor, no doubt a clone of some sort, the claws are good in some aspects in that they are easy to set, but do drag easily, they came from oil platforms originally and work well in a massive scale, but scaled down they are not so great.

With anchors there is a huge selection, some better than others for different types of bottoms, but unless you have deep pockets and lots of storage most boaters are limited to two, one,main and one kedge (a smaller anchor normally used off the stern.

The Kobra 2 anchor did very well in most tests and feedback from owners has been very positive and lastly price wise here in the UK it is much cheaper than other brands that many cruisers use, eg fortress or Manson supreme etc

The chain went on with a few hitches, the windlass packed in half way through (would only wind one way) a few knocks to the solenoid got the motor going again, (it must have dodgy contacts), heaving 80m of chain by hand is not the best of fun.

80m of chain is a good number, keeps the weight down a bit, but allows for plenty of chain for deeper anchorages , most cruising boats are sold with anywhere from 30-50m of chain out of the box so to speak, while fine for most everyday cruising, there are many times where you would want more!

Just watch that the chain you select matches the gypsy in the windlass, or you are in for one headache!

I used a Kong swivel to connect the anchor and chain, these are among the better swivels, many don't use swivels as the are a weak point, but they do make retrieving the anchor so much easier and some bow rollers don't get on too well with bow shackles ( a rounded shackle which connects the chain to anchor)

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The postman

Now I used to hate the post man, all he brought to me was bills and junk mail, never anything interesting or fun, but this week has been different, my chartplotter arrived, a little garmin gpsmap 451, today came the satellite phone, an inmarsat isatphone pro (bit of a mouth full there) and finally came most of the bits to do the bimini solar install (now that part is not going to be fun!).

On a side note, the little garmin draws virtually no power at all, less than 1/4 amp with the screen dulled down and about 0.8 amp at full brightness, food for thought Most of the power is consumed by the screen, so when you are admiring those large screen chart plotters, just think how much more power that screen is going to consume.

The laptop as a 24/7 chartplotter just consumes way too much power, now I would have been miserable and never bought a charplotter really due to the over priced charts, they are fine if you stick to local waters and only need one chart, but for going distances, deep pockets are required or some ingenuity... Pirate em ;) arrghh me harties!

I've never liked shopping much and ordering everything online is so much less time consuming , avoids all the queues and traffic and usually is far cheaper!

Plus recently its been feeling like Christmas every week, new prezzies/toys arriving, just a pity I had to buy them all myself!

The list of to do tasks to the boat is finally becoming fairly small, we sorted the mast head cable for the vhf antenna (this was lost down the mast on the delivery journey, shoddy riggers never tightened it up properly and it fell off in an f8 so no one volunteered to go up the mast to rescue it, eventually it chaffed through and was lost to the drink).

The garmin has been fitted and linked up to the standard horizon 2100e vhf with ais, all very painless, well apart from routing the cable to link the two, the ais on the standard horizon is useable but needs a gps feed from the plotter, the ais display on the little garmin is great, im sure you can use the dsc from the garmin but not sure how, more to be learned, I will write a little post on the gps/vhf/ais soon with some pics.

So whats left? fit the water maker, been leaving this till near leaving time as it is pickled and once I unpickle it  I need to either use it regularly or pickle it again, all at cost. The solar panels and regulator still have to get fitted to the bimini, the life raft cradle to be mounted, its currently taking up much needed locker space. Ah yes fix the gas pipe in a proper manner for the stove, its kinda kinked just now as the fitting was in a completely different place from the last one and for sure it will chafe through very quickly unless I add some extra pipe and a bend.

I have been toying with a cruising chute, but to be honest I really cannot justify the expense, for the limited use it will get I think extra diesel and jerry cans is going to be a far cheaper option, yes I know it's not sailing, but budgets are limited. I will leave this on the lets see how well the budget does and if I really feel the need for it later list.

I'm sure there are a few things i have missed.....

Great little unit!
In case of emergency!
It will run off the little Honda eu20i no problem
Memory foam for a better nights sleep!! I hope!