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Old 15-02-2010, 04:08   #1
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Cruising Is... Nov 14, '09 - Feb 14,'10, Part I

Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part I

Hi, y'all,

We left you with the warning that it would likely be some time before our
next log. Lydia's guest posting on the Wild Horses of Abaco aside, that
proved an accurate forecast. (As accustomed as we are to weather forecasts
here not being very reliable for more than a day or two, with high
likelihood of change after that, as you'll see shortly [well, maybe; I do
tend to rattle on!], the accuracy has me wishing it hadn't been so!) It's
been exactly 3 months since my last to you.

Once again, we're proving that Cruising is Boat Repair in Exotic Locations.
Except that it's not all repairs, most of it's new or upgrades. However, I
get ahead of myself...

We thoroughly enjoyed just kicking back and relaxing after a very busy
couple of months with visitors and passage making. Along the way, it
appeared that an investment I'd made a few years ago would, not by my
choice, be converted to cash. Because we couldn't possibly know that it
would take nearly 3 months for that to sort itself out, we set about coping
with, and planning our uses of, the sudden influx of cash.

As our ability to continue to cruise is based on recurring monthly income,
from a variety of loans extended in many places, the cessation of this
particular cash stream was worrisome. Accordingly, a lot of time was spent
on deciding how to best turn cash into a regular income, without depleting
the capital. However, the first order of business was to replenish our boat
fund, totally depleted as a result of the costs of our refit in St. Simons
Island and emergency loans made from funds available at the time.

As the deal dragged on, despite not yet having seen that investment turn
into cash, we thought about upgrades and, in some cases, repairs we could do
to the boat. I'll tell you more about those shortly (or not :{)) - we'll see
as we go along!), but, with the nature of the internet system here, we
weren't comfortable in doing all of the ordering while we were still on the

That's because all (aside from megayachts which have their own
satellite-based systems) the internet bandwidth in the Abacos - and most of
the Bahamas - comes through the same pipe, provided by Batelco, the
government monopoly on telecommunications here. In the middle of the night,
it's like being at home. By the middle, I mean it - like, between midnight
and 4AM - but for the rest of the time, frequently, bandwidth arrives in
very short, very slow bursts. Not the thing for reliable web-browsing or
internet telephoning (we use Vonage, a Voice over Internet Protocol system
which allows us regular wireless handsets communicating to our base which is
connected to the internet, but which base requires a fair amount of reliable

So, I got all our ducks in a row in preparation for our surprise trip to the
states, prompted by the expectation of a sudden influx of cash, to surprise
Lydia's grandson for Christmas. Those of you on her log list already know
about that, and since it's not really cruising related at all, I'll be
ultra-brief about it.

I took advantage of our month ashore - nearly exactly in the middle of our
time since my last log - to go see each of my children (4) and grandchildren
(6). I also took a side trip, on yet another airplane, to see my father,
likely for the last time, as he's in dementia-induced decline. My largest
project, though, was to source, and then order, then track, and then pack,
the 125 pounds of new or upgraded gear we brought back with us. I took
advantage of the full-broadband connection I had both at Lydia's
daughter/son-in-law/grandson's and my children and my father's retirement
community's locations to make that happen.

We located, through the morning Cruiser's Net (a daily VHF radio gathering
of cruisers in most places where there is a concentration of cruisers), a
dock, in a canal community, behind someone's home, where we could safely
leave our boat while we flew back. And, aside from the overweight charges in
both directions (a lot of what we brought back with us was either factory
repair, upgrade- or new gear-replacing stuff we took back with us for
service or eBay sale, so we were heavy going out, too, but 75 pounds less
than our return!), all was well in the entire enterprise.

That our investment conversion didn't happen until we were actually back on
the boat meant that there were some nervous moments as our credit card
balances grew alarmingly, but in the end, it all worked out. Only one
purchase went awry, and I'll save that story for a separate log posting,
once it's finally settled (it's still not settled, over a month later,
something which is very unflattering for the vendor, very well known in the
marine world).

During our time in Marsh Harbour, we discovered that our navigation station
VHF (used for local radio communications) radio seemed not to be doing well.
A very long discussion train on several forums and lists eventually led me
to replace the antenna cable from the top of the mast to the radio. In
between, we first proved out the antenna itself, and isolated a problem in
the radio. That radio still awaits logging in by the manufacturer who will
identify the problem and repair it but, over 6 weeks after receipt, even
that step hasn't yet happened. As a result, we had to buy a new one, a
duplicate of what came out, because there was already a hole in our
electronics panel, and all the plug-and-play connections, matching that
radio. Back to the story, the first one of our projects was for me to
identify the very best cable for the purpose, and get it ordered.

In all of the items we had to order, many of which were already identified
before we left for the States, we had to time delivery to our surprise
location so as to have them arrive after we did, maintaining the surprise.
Therefore, imagine my alarm when the first of them, the new antenna cable,
arrived the day before we did! A hurried email asking our hosts to
accumulate stuff for pickup by a mutual friend, one who'd be visiting us in
the Bahamas some time soon, did the misdirection trick; the look on the
faces when we knocked on the door with our Santa hats on, having gotten a
ride from the airport from that same friend, Saint Michael of prior logs,
who had a home nearby, was priceless.

So, after all the excitement of our surprise arrival had settled down, I
settled into serious, last-minute/stage research and ordering and, in some
cases, sourcing locally. A frantic week later, it had all been put in
motion, and I headed out to visit with my various family members, landing
back at Lydia's daughter's home base in between those visits.

Fast forward to all of the stuff arriving, being packed carefully, weighed
hopefully, and, at the last minute, finding ourselves overweight by 25
pounds. Yikes. I'd been so focused on making sure we didn't exceed the
maximum dimensions allowed by the airline, and the last of what arrived
necessitating an all-day excursion to find missing parts (same story to come
later), that the last-minute packing so consumed me that I completely missed
the thought that including the overweight in another package, incurring a
"second bag" charge, would have been about one-tenth the cost of the
"overweight" we paid. Ah, well. With any luck we won't ever have to think
about that again!

So, what happened?

Well, before we left, we'd identified the problem(s) with the VHF at the nav
station. However, simultaneous to that identification, our helm VHF gave up
the ghost entirely. We took that dead radio back along with all the rest of
the stuff we'd expected to either upgrade or get renewed or repaired, as, if
it went out with us, we could bring it back in with us, too. Actually, we
never had to prove the point, but we'd been told that if we took our
cruising permit with us, any new or refurbished/upgraded/repaired boat items
we brought in would be considered for "boat in transit" exclusion from duty.

As it happened, our box was inspected (and poorly repacked by the Bahamians
on the way out, causing some scratches to the computer screen we had along,
my built-in navigation station computer being one of the upgrades) by the
local (Bahamas, and Transportation Security Association, for the US)
security agencies. The profusion of TSA tape on the boxes when we re-entered
the Bahamas, combined with our very adorable cat, Portia, who diverted the
attention of all who encountered us (we're not entirely sure which!), meant
that the Bahamian Customs folks waved us through without so much as a second
glance at our boxes.

So, what was in those, and what happened when you got back aboard, you ask
(well, you didn't, but I'll tell you anyway)?

Well, having said that, I hate to leave you hanging, but this is plenty long
enough to start, so, I'll leave you here.

See you next time - Stay Tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
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Old 18-02-2010, 11:52   #2
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Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part II

Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part II

As we left you, we'd arrived back in the Bahamas with over 125 pounds of
new, rebuilt or used gear to replace, make spares for or upgrade stuff we
already had aboard. Fortunately for us, we never had to prove the point that
all of this was destined for a boat in transit, and thus worthy of a pass
through Customs without incurring duty costs. That it cost us as much as
another ticket for the overweight charges was just another cost of doing
business, albeit one which, if the circumstances were ever to repeat
themselves, we'd not have again, being older (pardon the expression) but
wiser. Too soon old, too late smart, as the saying goes. Perhaps we won't be
quite so frazzled the next time, either.

Anyway, back to the boat we go.

The first order of business was the rebuilt injectors we'd bought for Perky,
our venerable but reliable auxiliary power (read: engine that pushes the
boat!). We'd already had a couple of spares (they'd come with the boat) in
our bins, so I ordered 6, so I'd have a full set of 4 in reserve, there
being no place we'd discovered in our travels who could service our
injectors. In they went, on went the fuel connections through the parts
which caused my 1-day diversion to obtain those missing from the injector
order when they arrived, bleeding and startup being very straightforward,
and he runs smoothly and purrs like a kitten. We presume we'll find a very
much better fuel burn rate when we've had some time to analyze it against
the last several hundred hours, but suffice to say we left the dock the next
day, and sailed back down to Marsh Harbour, where we've been for the last 4

4 weeks??!! What, you ask, has kept you there that long???

Well, I'll tell ya...

A good rule of thumb in marine work is to take your worst estimate, dividing
the single components of a project to allow for more accuracy in
calculation, arrive at a time you think it couldn't possibly take longer
than, and then multiply by 3. That's usually a pretty fair estimate. Even
Don Casey, a very noted writer and craftsman on older boats, admits to
rarely beating that end result. So, even the simplest of things (or what we
thought would have been simple), usually wound up taking far more time than
we'd anticipated.

Of all the projects, the injectors were the closest to estimation. No
backtracking, no do-overs, all very straightforward. However, much of the
rest was extremely fiddly work, which took much more time than we'd have
thought. Along the way, we encountered snags we hadn't expected, either.

One of our first was to replace the galley (kitchen, to landsiders) fresh
water faucet. Our prior had broken off at the hose for the sprayer-nozzle
head (single-hole fixture). No problem; it's got a lifetime warranty from
Home Depot; I'll carry the old head back and get a new one.

Not so fast, Bucko. Warranty items have to be sent back to the manufacturer.
OY! A month of total time ashore, that's not (reliably) going to work,
particularly since my going to HD wasn't until I'd been ashore for a couple
of weeks. Meanwhile, what do folks who have to use that fixture in the
meantime do??? Anyway, I bought a new one. It was the only item that got a
second look during our security screenings, as it traveled in my carry-on;
even that very-odd-image-generator only needed identification for the
scanner to understand it; the bag wasn't opened.

So, back to the story, the old one took quite some effort, in extremely
contorted positions, to remove. However, it did come out, and the other go
in, and we very much like the new one, which is a different design, though
still a single-hole, single-spray/hose head. So much for THAT day!

The next project was to take that new, rather larger, antenna cable up to
the top of the mast, having first gotten all the old caulk out of the way at
the top, and, having first made a different path for its exit at the bottom,
attach it to the now-cut-off end of the old one (along with the new fish
line, the prior having broken inside the conduit), lubricate it with
Corrosion Block (a marvelous product for things electrical and electronic),
and stuff, while Lydia pulled from the other end, the new cable down the
mast. All went well. Well, except for the caulking-gun tube of caulk
exploding as I was caulking the hole at the top of the mast, requiring
troweling, rather than squirting, the caulk into the hole, and cleaning up
the mess in the caulking gun. Once that was finished, I Corrosion-Block-ed
and attached the factory-made-up end to the antenna, applied the rubber,
squishy tape to fully waterproof it, and returned to the boat from aloft.

The end we'd sent down the mast was raw, as the proper termination on the
end would not have fit down the hole at the top of the mast, and likely
might have gotten caught on the way down through the other wires in the
conduit. In my research for the proper cable, in one of the discussion
groups, a new thread developed on proper termination procedures to ensure
the best water-ingress prevention and signal assurance. The cable I'd chosen
was waterproof. That feature would prove to be my undoing in my initial
termination attempts.

I'll save you all the technical details of how one terminates cable, but it
involves soldering techniques. The recommended process wound up melting the
waterproofing, preventing me from removing a part of the outer shells of the
cable due to the waterproofing not only "gluing" one part to another, but
melting the inner core which protects the transmission line.

In the end, I attempted the "right" way three times before giving up.
Fortunately, I had plenty of cable, so the couple of inches I cut off at
each failure were of no significance. I eventually abandoned tinning the
braided shielding in the outer shell, a key step in assuring the last
soldering parts would be the best they could. That tinning of the outer
braided shell was the source of the melting of the waterproofing, and my
final attempt, using bare braided shielding was very straightforward, if
lengthy. It's sort of a rule of thumb that if it doesn't take you at least a
half-hour to make your termination, likely it's not the best. I took my time
and did it right...

I'm confident of the connection, and, once the new radio was plugged back
into the hole awaiting it, powered up and reconnected to all the various
plug-and-plays, our testing confirmed that all the problems we'd identified
previously were solved. We now have crystal-clear reception and transmission
at great distances. PHEW! You'd have to have seen all that went before that
to appreciate the depths of time and effort expended to get to this point,
but, we're very pleased with the end result.

Of course, these projects so far were relatively straightforward, as they
were somewhat plug-and-play, going right into where something either
identical or very similar had been. Since we're on the subject of VHF
radios, we'll move on to the one at the helm. Recall that the old one had

One of my targets in replacing the helm radio was to have a unit that had a
dust/water cover. Nearly any marine VHF radio is "submersible" - in some
cases, literally, in other cases, meaning that it can take a dunk, or,
certainly, water spray. However, this prior unit had already been back to
the manufacturer for a defect (warranty replacement, no charge), and, I'd
noted, one time, when Lydia had been on one of her cleaning sprees, that the
speaker seemed to have water in it, as it sort of burbled and splashed after
a wash. Whether that contributed to its demise I can't say, but it was an
inexpensive unit to begin with.

So, my research had a knock-out specification requiring a cover. Many
radios, most very expensive, had them, but most didn't. Fortunately for me,
I stumbled on one, a Northstar 721, which not only had a cover, but, at
least from the price and the features (e.g. built in barometer and
thermometer, AIS connections, other whiz-bangs), looked to be a very robust
radio. That I found them at a couple of vendors at a price fully 2/3 less
than the least of all the other sellers led me to buy two of them, against
the day we might have to replace it. Much to my surprise, included in that
very inexpensive price (more than a third off of the cheapest other
fixed-mount radio, without a cover, of any sort/quality I could find) was a
remote microphone extension, normally an expensive option. As our navigation
station VHF already had a wireless extension unique to it (another reason
for going back with an identical replacement), we don't expect we'll need
those remotes. Likely they'll go to eBay on the next trip stateside. They
might even bring enough to cover the cost of the radios!

Back to the Northstar installation, some minor challenges. The mounting
holes aren't the same, for both the bracket and the microphone. In fact, the
mike has a special bracket which detects whether the mike is on-hook,
preventing some functions from working on-hook, enabling others when it's
off-hook, so it HAD to be installed differently. Natch, that left old holes
which had to be plugged. In addition, where the wires came out from the
pedestal, there was a water-shedding cover that had been installed cup-like,
rather than shed-like, by our previous installer. That was probably because
of the antenna cable run to the unit, but we didn't like the concept, and so
had to redo that as well, including rerouting the wire.

Combined with all this excitement/head-scratching (as to how to accomplish
everything given what we had to work with), we'd ordered an AIS system. AIS
allows us to identify ships at sea, providing much useful information about
them, including how to reach them directly and uniquely, rather than having
to guess at who and what, this monster ship bearing down on us is. That
system uses the same frequency band as the VHF radio, so most users have a
splitter which allows using the same antenna for both. That antenna
extension, from the splitter, was a very much smaller cable, and would go
through the hole easily, allowing for an easy clamshell installation in the
"shed" position.

Oops. Not so fast. All of our electronics are integrated, so as to talk to
each other and, in particular, to our chartplotter. Without getting into the
mind-numbing minutiae of the technicalities of how all that happens, suffice
to say it doesn't work seamlessly and easily. In the end, complicating that,
this particular AIS unit, unbeknownst to me, won't talk to our chartplotter.
More on that later, but, back to the drawing board. I came up with an
extension cable for the antenna that allowed the water-shedding cover to be
installed in the shed position, and, eventually, the radio was installed.

In the course of all our troubleshooting of these radios before we left,
we'd had some concern for the cable for the helm antenna being compromised.
This new installation proved to be perfect; we have essentially the same
clarity and distance as on the mast-top antenna, despite the helm antenna
being only on the top of our arch, 40 or so feet lower than the other. PHEW!
Saves me from having to either troubleshoot (a nuisance) or replace (a much
bigger nuisance, due to the nature of the run involved) that cable.

This seems like a good place to stop for now, as it's already too long, yet
again. The weather's fine, the breezes are gentle. I think we should go
ashore for a while. So, we'll leave you here.

See you next time - Stay Tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
and/or Flying Pig Log | Google Groups

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand
(Richard Bach)
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Old 19-02-2010, 15:58   #3
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Cruising is. Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part III

Cruising is. Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part III

When we left you, we'd finally gotten all the new VHF radio stuff installed
and working properly, ending at the successful helm radio installation.

One item on the helm finished, we move on to the hard stuff. We, in our
advancing ages, had come to rely on, or, at least, love dearly, our
chartplotter. However, with its 7" screen, we frequently found ourselves
resorting, in tight spots, to the backup navigation programs we have on our
nav station computer, with its 20" screen. Of course, we also use our paper
charts, particularly when planning our routes, but under way, it's mostly
the chartplotter. We made the decision to upgrade to a12" screen
chartplotter of the same family, Raymarine, as our prior, as our radar would
plug-and-play with it, and the communications bus between it and other
Raymarine instruments would work as well.

At the same time, we upgraded our GPS. Our prior GPS, while it was accurate,
took a long time to boot up (I believe I may have discovered part of the
reason recently, on which, more, in a later log), and, sometimes, cut out,
so we wanted to have some other means of finding our position. As the prior
also fed our computer, but only when the chartplotter was on, and we were
going to replace it with one which just (we thought, as you'll see) talked
to the chartplotter, I also, as part of my research, bought a USB-powered
"puck" GPS for the computer. That would relieve the need for the
chartplotter to be powered up, the prior condition for our position to be
displayed on our computer-based navigation programs. While I was ashore, I
proved out that installation; the puck worked, even inside the house, in the
living room, far from windows or other enablers for the satellite
information to get to it, and talked to our computer navigation systems

Back to the helm, however, this new Raymarine GPS looked like it would be
problematic in where to locate it. Shortening the story, however, it mounted
on the new pod, which contained the new chartplotter, very simply and out of
the way. However, I get ahead of myself...

The old chartplotter was mounted in a plastic housing ("pod") which mounted
to the binnacle - a curved piece of pipe attached to the deck and stood off
by stiffeners from the steering/electrical-wiring pedestal. It, being a much
smaller chartplotter, had a very much smaller pod. We took that pod, and our
prior chartplotter, along with the dozen chart chips we had, back with us,
having sold it to an internet acquaintance who was upgrading from his
mono-color unit of the same type. Like our old one, our new pod was
design-cut for this new (well, used, eBay) Raymarine chartplotter, so that
part would be easy. Just put in 4 screws, put back on the trim piece for the
face of the chartplotter, and it's finished.

The new pod, being very much larger, presented some problems, in that there
was a smaller pod below it housing three other small instruments. We'd have
to slightly lower that smaller one to make this one work. Oops. It's also
too fat, front to back, so the binnacle has to be moved out. Oops, again;
the binnacle isn't aligned properly. It appears to have been hand (vs.
mass-produced) bent for the installation, and it isn't square. After much
effort with a long piece of 2x2 lumber to twist it to straight, including
breaking same lumber, I gave up (partway through; I did move it, somewhat).
I also accomplished the additional spacing needed to move it away from the
pedestal and the twist removal at the same time, making one of the
extensions to the spacers about 3/16" longer than the other. It's now
aligned to squarely face the stern, but it's also slightly offset to port

However, that's only the beginning of the saga. The radar cable has a molded
end, including a locking outer ring, at both ends. You may recall from a
prior log that we'd succeeded, finally, in making the radar work, by
installing a new cable, attaching it to the extension provided by our
original installation company. That extension cable was what ended at the
chartplotter. There was no possible way to pull it up or down, leaving the
binnacle tube empty.

Why do I want to leave that tube empty, you ask? (Well, again, you didn't,
but I'll tell you...) Because drilling into a 1" pipe, with a
larger-than-1/2" cable inside of it, is pretty nervous-making. In the end,
proceeding extremely cautiously, starting with a tiny drill and working my
way up to the size needed to tap for the very-short machine screws I used, I
was able to drill that single hole in the tubing without damaging the
interior cable.

Before I could tap it, however, I had to grind down one of my taps so that
it didn't have much taper on the end, that taper being long enough that it
would have tried to drill through the cable! That single hole was needed to
lower the smaller pod, providing the needed clearance for the new, larger
pod above it. The opposite side's hole was made very much simpler by our
removing all the cables that terminated in the pedestal below. Those cables
went to the other functions of the other chartplotter. Once the new hole was
drilled in that side, and that hole (also) tapped to accept the Ό-20 short
machine screw I'd use to hold the bracket, while tedious, the new plotter's
cables (other than radar, which was on the other side) could be threaded
through it, into the pedestal below.

Before all that, however, we had to mount the new pod. Using the existing
cable holes, in one case, the radar, a requirement, and the other, a
convenience, meant that I had to blind-locate them on the new pod, and then
drill them out to allow those cables to come through. In the case of the
radar cable, it had to be big enough to pass the molded plug and collar; the
other could match the prior hole in the tubing, as we'd be feeding the
raw-ended cables through.

Nothing's simple, right? I didn't have the right sized hole saw for the
radar cable. Off to the local hardware store to buy one two minutes before
it closes at noon on Saturday. Back on the boat, it doesn't fit the mandrels
I have, and the store's now closed, so I can't go back and start over, and
it will be a couple of days until I can. SIGH... So, I drill the largest
hole I can, and proceed to very carefully, using a flap-wheel sander,
enlarge the hole JUST ENOUGH! to squeeze the collar through. Making a round
hole in a curved-to-fit-a-1"-pipe piece of plastic is work to concentrate
the senses, so I'm tired, but it's finally done. Ahhhh. Let's take a break.

Now the fun part. Rather than drill all new holes in the tubing (recall the
challenge on the radar cable side), let's try to blind-center on the PRIOR
pod's mounting, tapped, machine screw holes. (I surely don't want to have to
drill and tap new holes for each of them, one of which has that pesky radar
cable in it!) Ever-so-carefully, in each case working the radar cable out
and back in, I measure, remove the pod, and then drill, again using very
small pilot holes, put the radar cable back through it, put the pod up
against the pipe, and peek around the edge to see where the pilot drill is.
Sure enough, I'm right on, in each case, and, one-by-one, the holes are
drilled out to the right size, and the mounting screws loosely attached.

Oops. The nature of the cable holes, and the new pod's shape, means that
there are some openings left, particularly on the radar side, as the
collar's actually bigger than the pipe itself (another reason it couldn't
possibly been pulled down and then put back up). As it happens, there's an
adhesive foam piece that mounts on the plastic, between the pod and the
binnacle pipe, designed to minimize vibration, I presume. Careful
measurement reveals that this will take care of some of the exposed holes.
By design, the new chartplotter is designed to be mounted either in a pod,
like we're doing, or merely on a bracket, exposed to the elements, so
water's not a concern for those holes. Once we have the location of the new
pod settled, we go about figuring out mounting the new Raymarine GPS.

Much head-scratching, and multiple careful-measurement-assurances that it
won't interfere with the plotter itself, already mounted on the face of the
pod, later, it turns out that it can mount right over the pod, ON the pod,
with the wiring connection going through the top. That's much better than
the expected on-the-tube, on a bracket, sticking either up or aside, as the
prior, ancient Garmin, was, limiting movement room in the cockpit or vision
over the pod.

Ho-Kay... So, we've got everything trial-mounted, and it looks like it will
work. But, there's still a fair amount of open space showing where the hole
is larger than the cable. As we can expect that water might get in there, it
would be lovely to get it out again, see above about component waterproof
levels for lack of concern on that part, but not wanting standing water in

More measuring, more calculating, and I drill a very small hole in what I
believe will be the lowest part on the pod. So far so good. Still have that
cable/wiring hole excess looking at us, though, even though we've applied
the foam layer. Hmmm...

Before all this was happening, Lydia, as is her wont, was cleaning, and
since we had all the old stuff off the binnacle, she took some of our
miracle cleaners to the red rope lighting we used to have running around the
binnacle, under the old pod. Brightened it right up, it did, but, now, with
the new stuff, it didn't match up in length. However, it DID, if we put it
just right, hide those old holes. Well, nothing to do but pull it out, and
install new, longer rope lighting. The new rope lighting I got from the
remaining reel-ends of our red and amber rope lighting (I had to buy full
reels to get 12V stuff, at the time). It not only hides the wiring holes,
it, despite the other having been majorly cleaned up, is very much brighter
than the old stuff. So, now it's in, and brilliant.

So much so that it completely lights the cockpit. It's WAY too bright to use
under way, compounded by, as we learned on one of our passages, that it can
be confusing to oncoming shipping, not knowing what this red glow is out
there - a very large port light? - a bouy? - something else?? So, we leave
it on at anchor when we're off the boat as a location-assist, and for times
we'd like to be upstairs with lighting. It's pointed straight forward, but
the nature of the rope lighting is that it has about a 60* spread pattern to
the light, so there's pretty good ambient lighting without being in anyone's
eyes if they're sitting on the settees. Another dragon slain, and off we go,
for some more.

Now that we have it firmly placed, with the holes blocked it's time to put
on the front of the pod, with the new chartplotter mounted in it. This new
pod has a very effective gasket system in it, and blind mounting nuts that
allow us to use actual machine screws, rather than just "screws" as was the
case in the other, a much more secure mounting. However...

It takes us a good dozen tries before we can get all the machine screws to
start. Making things more difficult, they are security bolts, with a torx
head containing a pin. The supplied angle wrench, looking like an allen-head
wrench in shape, is a bit difficult with which to apply pressure like you
might with a screwdriver. That's complicated by, inexplicably, its being a
slightly sloppy fit into the head. That makes all the insertion and later
removal just that much more difficult, raggasnaggagiggafratz!

However, much cursing and grumbling and on-and-off with the face of it,
adjusting the blind nuts in a couple of places over and over, we finally get
all the machine screws to start, and I tighten them all. Once they're all in
place, it's a very elegant solution, extremely secure and theft resistant,
but, Boy, Howdy, was that a PITA to make happen. That particular part of the
entire helm was the most vexing experience of the entire upgrade/refit
projects we did.

Once again, I see I've become (What??!! You say, "When have you not???")
long winded, so we'll leave you here with a buttoned-up chartplotter and
instruments installation, cables run but as yet unpowered and unproven.

See you next time - Stay Tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
and/or Flying Pig Log | Google Groups

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand
(Richard Bach)
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Old 20-02-2010, 18:33   #4
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Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part IV

Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part IV

When we left you, we'd finished with the physical installation of our
instrumentation at the helm. Now it's time to wire it all up.

Over the past several months I'd been in frequent contact with the technical
support folks at Raymarine, trying to resolve the intricacies of NMEA
(National Marine Electronics Association) and SeaTalk (Raymarine's
proprietary electronics buss) communications between instruments. An
extremely long and convoluted genesis excluded, the upshot was that we
couldn't really do what we wanted to.

That was exacerbated by the discovery, as part of the below wiring
discussion, that the AIS receiver we'd bought would not talk to Raymarine.
The upshot was to do what was, to me, the minimally acceptable connection of
the GPS to the chartplotter and the nav station radios (the GPS would allow
emergency communication through both the SSB and VHF radios, with our
location imbedded). My contact at Raymarine had given me very specific,
wire-to-wire (with color codes) connections, so it was a connect-the-dots
exercise in that regard.

Our final step was figuring out where to mount the power supply for the
charger/mount for our wireless extension for the nav station VHF. It had
previously sat next to the chartplotter on the other pod, but our new
plotter took all the available space on the new pod's face. After a lot of
trial placement of the base with the hand-held remote mounted in it (no
holes!), we settled on the space under the winch handles, next to the winch
handle pocket. A neat, clean installation, out of the way. It, too, had been
a warranty-return item, as it had not had usable reception or transmission
with the prior radio. After wiring it up for power, allowing the internal
battery to recharge, and establishing the connection over its wireless link
to our new radio at the nav station, it came through loud and clear in both
respects. In retrospect, the prior unit may not have been defective at all;
it may have simply been the base radio at fault! Finally, we're finished
with all the wiring pulls...

However, like most aging boats, where new components had been added, the
wiring was a rat's nest inside the pedestal. Getting ready, as I
disconnected each old item, I labeled the connection point, identifying
color codes for everything that came off. I also traced back the old wiring
to where it terminated at the nav station terminal strip, and noted all the
color-codes for the various connection points. With all connections bared
and separated, I planned out my connection routes, and, in the end, wound up
with a very much neater installation than before, with each individual cable
labeled for future troubleshooting. Additionally, all the wiring is bundled,
and the 30' cable which came with the GPS, bundled in the center, does
additional duty by pushing against the rest of the bundle and the decorative
panel with the Morgan logo which covers the front. This keeps all the wires
from potentially contacting the projecting screw points which mount the
protective decorative panel on their sides, an additional bonus. In case you're
wondering, I kept all that cable in case we later decide to run it down to
our terminal strip at the nav station for other integration duties.

Holding our breath, we powered it all up. OH NO!!! The radar doesn't work!!!
Back to the computer and Raymarine's help desk, the answer quickly arrived:
we need a software upgrade for the chartplotter, as the radar's newer than
when this unit was built. Shortening the story, again, while a new chip
(with the software upgrade) was ordered, and on the way, a fellow cruiser,
in discussion during a potluck hors d'oevres session at one of the local
eateries, said he had the chip, and offered it to us. We gratefully
accepted, and installed the upgrade. Voila!, it works, and all the chart
colors and separations came along with the now-functional radar. Because
we'd heard, in prior readings in various forums and lists, that he was truly
the best there was, the local wizard, Pat, at Merlin's electronics, was
scheduled to come to try to make all of our stuff work together. He agreed
to allow Raymarine to ship him the chip for our pickup, but as seen above,
we'd not actually need it...

Better yet, however, while doing some chart cross-checking (this was our
first experience with the charts on this new type of chip) against what we
recalled on our computer navigation programs, we discovered that, through
SeaTalk, the Raymarine proprietary information buss, connected to our nav
station terminal strip's connections in our prior layout, our computer now
showed the GPS as well!!! Hooray - the computer's USB GPS puck is now in
backup mode, awaiting simple insertion in case the new one, for some
unexpected reason, takes a dump.

Even better yet, rather than being on the old GPS breaker, this new one's on
the instrument breaker, which means that whenever we have the instruments
on, exclusive of the chartplotter, which doesn't have to be on, we still get
the signal to the computer! I LOVE redundancy :{))

Everything talks to everything else, and, the AIS issue aside (which can be
solved with another unit more appropriately designed, and, perhaps, another
piece of gear designed to overcome the dinosaur which is the current NMEA
standard's limitations) all is well with the world.

We call Merlin's, letting him know that we won't need his expertise, but
that we need to arrange for the chip to go back to Raymarine when it
arrives. He says he wants to buy the chip from us, as he's sure he can use
it. We learn, when we go to settle on it a couple of days later, that
Raymarine, despite having taken my credit card on a memo billing basis (use
it, send it back, no charge other than shipping), has billed THEM for it. We
all go away happy, and I've not had to pay a dime. I've also backed up the
software so that should some other cruiser need it, and has a Compact Flash
card, I can give it to them, too (a freebie from Raymarine, they encouraged
me to do so).

So, finally, it's time to mount our drinks caddy, which mounting bracket
goes between the lower pod and the upper pod. I'd already drilled and tapped
the hole in the binnacle (on the empty side!) for one of the mounts. The
other, sitting in the crook of a curve of the binnacle on the radar-cable
side, is pressure-held by the curve (so I didn't have to drill another hole
in the pipe carrying the radar cable). Pressing against the pod with the
back of the caddy keeps it stable.

Now that everything at the helm is finished, it's time to reinstall the
table, removed to allow access to the wiring section. Oops... The new
forward offset of the binnacle means that the clip we use to keep the table
secure against the binnacle is no longer long enough. Off to Dad's Hardware
Store, my parts bins at the workbench, and, Bob's Your Uncle (a Britishism
my English-raised wife brought aboard), the attachment point is shimmed out
to the appropriate distance, and it's secure, again.

Meanwhile, back to the morning Cruiser's Net, I put out the word that I have
an available, new, computer-based (won't talk to most chartplotters but
speaks computer just fine) AIS unit available for cost, no shipping (I'll
eat it), duty paid (I came through customs with it!). A sailor with a real
whiz-bang of a computer which he uses for his chartplotter (do a google
search and check this out if you're not familiar with them: Itronix Gobook
260-3 made by General Dynamics.- it's nearly indestructible, and hundreds of
them are coming back from Iraq, available cheaply on eBay), but no radar,
jumps on it like a dog on a sirloin, and is thrilled, immediately chatting
up incoming cargo ships, getting sea state information from those out at
sea. He's thrilled, I'm relieved, and I'll revisit AIS at another time :{))

An aside and a teaser on these touch-screen computers in which I have
absolutely no financial interest: They are completely waterproof,
withstanding a 40 PSI water (like running a household hose directly on it)
stream on all 6 axis for some astounding amount of time with no intrusion.
Each component can be removed and replaced easily. Sand in the keyboard? -
it laughs at it. Peel it up and shake it out and put it back. They have an
incredible battery life (my buyer reports 22 hours on a charge, under way;
recall he uses it for his chartplotter). With their titanium cases, they
have impact resistance beyond anything you're likely to submit them to. A
built-in GPS makes them ideal for chartplotter applications, and the WiFi
antenna makes it the usual laptop equivalent - except that they're virtually
indestructible. Given that they're expected to hold up in combat conditions
in places like Iraq, it's no surprise that they'd do well in anything we'd
subject them to. I found a very basic one on eBay at a Buy-It-Now of $299,
and a tricked-out, loaded one at a Buy-It-Now of $795. Makes ToughBooks look
wimpy and hugely expensive. I'm very intrigued.

Even though this one isn't quite as verbose, here's a good place to stop, as
it gets very interesting in short order, as you'll soon see.

See you next time - Stay Tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
and/or Flying Pig Log | Google Groups

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand
(Richard Bach)
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Old 24-02-2010, 07:42   #5
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Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part V

Cruising is... Nov 14, '09-Feb 14,'10, Part V

We left you with the helm installations complete, and all the boat and
computer electronics working. Better still, we found an eager buyer for our
useless-to-us AIS system, with both parties happy with the end result. Of
interest for later exploration was that buyer's lead to virtually
indestructible computers at very inexpensive prices.

The hard part done, I set to the non-critical tasks...

We'd noted that the alternator on Perky didn't seem to be putting out its
full potential on a few prior motoring sessions. As we'd had our generators
fully checked out (see prior log of us in Charleston) I laid that to the
regulator, so started researching where to find replacements, even though I
already had one, as well as two backup alternators with new regulators on
them. (See above about redundancy...) That search led to a source that had
the appropriate regulator, but also an inexpensive high-output alternator
with the same frame as what we had now. Discussions with the vendor
concluded that we should stick with the type of regulator we had, rather
than the internal regulator they initially recommended, due to the heat
involved in the typical engine room.

So, I ordered one, with two spare regulators, making, now, three complete
spare alternators, each with a spare regulator. That, weighing in at 15
pounds, certainly contributed to the overweight situation on our return :{/)
However, while simple enough, just replacing the current with the new
alternator was not enough for me. I'd noted a visually apparent misalignment
in the pulley on the alternator as compared to the water pump and the
crankshaft pulley sometime along the last few hundred hours of engine
operation, and knew that I'd have to address it soon.

Having been through this before, I knew it was possible to manhandle the
mild steel brackets which mounted the alternator, using a 15" crescent
wrench, albeit a contortionist and strong-man's job. Fortunately, I have
sufficient of both attributes, and, using a laser level my friend Erkki gave
me, I was, after about a dozen or so mount-dismount/bend/re-bend cycles,
able to perfectly align the pulleys. That should enhance my already
satisfactory belt life (see prior posts during our time in the Chesapeake
for perspective!), even though, the brackets being mild steel, I'm sure I'll
have to do that again at some time in the future.

Along the way, while we were in Marsh Harbour, our 15HP Johnson's
pull-starter rewind spring broke, again. As I'd kludged up a repair for it
on the prior two times it broke, I had no confidence that a repeat would not
follow another repair, so I ordered a new one as part of our 125 pounds of
stuff. That went on with only a minumum of aggravation, other than that in
the course of wrestling the coils around (rewinding it), I broke off a
critical part of the throttle system! That provoked a brief outburst of
profanity, which, due to the wind level at the time, fortunately, assailed
nobody's ears other than Lydia's, below. As always, we always being
protected, the local Johnson dealer had a replacement for the obscure part
for our dinosaur in stock, and it was quickly replaced (less than an hour of
manhandling flywheels and electronics stuff in the way of its removal). It's
back to its superb performance, now.

My final chores were to make some changes to my computer system. As part of
what I'd carried home and back, I'd added two USB ports and three serial
ports to the computer. Additionally, one of my backup hard drives (we have 5
external HDs - 1T, 500, 400, 300 and 220G, used to back up, or store movies,
music, pictures and the like) refused to be recognized by the computer. So,
my project was to see if I could revive that drive, and change a couple of
USB-Serial converters to straight serial connections, as they're more
efficient, and would free up additional USB ports. Accordingly, I carefully
ordered 3 new cables.

YIKES!!! Wrong ones! All my excavation of old wires, enlarging the holes
they'd go through (serial cables have large rectangular ends on them), VERY
carefully, with a RotoZip tool, with the remaining wires still in the holes,
proved unneeded, as the new cables I'd bought wouldn't work. Not a big deal,
as the cables are dirt cheap, but that conversion project will have to wait
until our next visitor can bring the right ones along. (They're not cheap
when you buy them in the third world; the Internet is your friend, but only
if you can ship them to a State-side address!) I just hate doing all that
contortion and unneeded (at the time, given the failure of my understanding
of what's on both ends of the cable - it should have been male-female,
rather than female-female as I ordered) enlargement.

And, at the end of this particular story, the drive was fine; there's some
sort of anomaly which requires it to be powered up and USB-connected to the
computer when it starts, not later, for it to be recognized. So, having
proven that point, I moved all the data, which was all old backup material,
onto the terabyte drive and finished the installation of all the
computer-related stuff. We've even watched several movies, now, as
everything works as is should, once again.

So, that's what I did on my summer vacation, fellow students :{)) There's
some more to tell, but it's recent history, so I'll save it for some other
installment, after it's finished (the new issues/stuff are/is not yet
resolved). In the meantime, in the next couple of days, we'll have finished
departure preparations. Assuming the current weather forecast holds, we'll
be off to Georgetown, either by going around Eleuthera, or through two
channels (requiring daytime passage, a downside due to scheduling for
daylight arrival) and under Eleuthera, on the way, departing Tuesday,
weather permitting.

Departure prep - tomorrow's chores - includes unrigging of the protective
stuff we did for the gales (top gust 56 knots) we had over the weekend and
changing the oil in the Honda portable generator. We'll also stow all that
we've not had totally secured while we've been at anchor, including some
stuff in the engine room having been taken down in troubleshooting some
electrical/electronic stuff, the conclusion of which will have to wait for
another log, as it's not happened yet.

The final items for tomorrow will be to change out the primary Racor fuel
filter, one that finally clogged after 3 years and over 1000 hours of
operation. That it took that long is proof-positive that our fuel polishing
system has paid for itself. The other part of that fuel system installation,
done before we left over 3 years ago, the dual-Racor system, allowed us to
merely flip a couple of levers, engaging the second filter, allowing us to
make that filter change at our leisure rather than under way. Life is

After we've done the laundry and final minimal provisioning at the marvelous
grocery store here, we'll get the outboard and fuel cans out of the dinghy,
the dinghy raised and lashed, and enjoy a good night's sleep.

First thing in the morning, we'll check in one last time with our weather
guru, Chris Parker, confirming what we expect to be a green-light for
departure, and take on fuel and water on the way out. Whether we go out the
top of Man-O-War or jig and jog our way down the inside, avoiding all the
sand bars and coral heads, to Little Harbour's exit, we'll have left the
Marsh Harbour area before noon. With any luck, we'll be in Georgetown for
dinner on Wednesday :{))

So, for now, that's more than enough, I'm sure. Stay Tuned :{))


Skip, Lydia and Portia, the seagoing cat

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
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"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand
(Richard Bach)
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
and/or Flying Pig Log | Google Groups

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hand
(Richard Bach)
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