Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The top ten things that make my life difficult.

These are the things that grate on me. Although the numbers are very difficult to get at, I would estimate that annual North American sales of marine electronics related gear is about $800,000,000 per year. My guess is about 15 percent of the sales costs are required to install all of this gear. This works out to about $120,000,000 a year. Of this number easily half is spent working around poor boat design. That's $60,000,000 in annual costs to owners that good boat design would have saved.

Lets look at a small typical new boat package. Chart plotter ($2500), radar ($1000), VHF ($150), sounder module ($500), transducer ($200), VHF antenna ($80). This totals $4230. Using the 15% rule, installation costs would be about $635, this would be about one man day plus or minus to install the system. The wasted cost to the buyer is $317.00, This is a small system, and not an extreme case, of which there are many. So right out of its shrink wrap the new boat is already costing owners lots of real money. 

The incapability of most boat builders, both large and small in understanding even the basics of how their customers will use their boats, and what they might want to install on them astounds me daily. Why are the water pick ups on both sides of the hull insuring I can't install a properly working transom mount transducer? Did you think this might be important, or you just don't know any better? It was purported by marketing to be a offshore fishing boat, but there is no mounting plate to install a radar, and no way to get the cable down to the chart plotter. The three hours it took to pull the transducer wire to the console because the 2" piece of PVC pipe pretending to be a grown up conduit is already packed to the max. The boat with no place to install an autopilot compass. A console interior with no mounting blocks to install gear. No fuse blocks, power leads, documentation, wire pulls, and many others round out the list.

# 1 The wire pull.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thinking ahea

I'm sure the marketing department felt they had a winner. I can just imagine the presentation. "In conclusion, Magnifico Yacht customers polled liked the idea, and it's becoming common in many luxury autos. We can also point out the safety aspects of not having to take your hands off the helm to change the stereo volume, or channel." "Good presentation Bob, and I like the idea. It's a lot better than that Grey Poupon mustard cockpit holder you pitched us on last week. We'll go with." 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Iron Chef, Mac and Cheese Battle

This is Gecko's in the Landings mac and cheese cook off. Eighteen entries were submitted by regulars for the mass's consideration, and prizes to boot. The prizes were nice, but oh how the bragging rights would be coveted for all time to come. Teams were being formed, and the smack talk started early. Pejorative allusions to other's cooking skills and the quality of their palates were rampant. Ingredient teasers, and red herrings abound. Did you hear the rumor about the abalone and truffles mac? 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Local boats I like,"Route 66"

This is the first of the "boats I like series." These are vessels that catch my wayward and mercurial eye. Since Sarasota has such a diverse boating community, these can range from something stashed away in a garage, to vessels hidden in plan sight in the many local marinas and canals. The one thing they have in common is their uniqueness, and personal appeal to me. With most of these boats, I don't know the owners, and have never boarded them. We're starting today with "Route 66" that is currently residing in the Longboat Key Moorings marina.

You can miss the nearly 80' of elegantly crossed braced mast and swept back spreaders on Route 66 designed by B&R Designs (Lars Bergstrom, and Sven Ridder). If a sailor isn't familiar with these names, just look look up at the Windex atop your mast. This is one of their many sailing innovations.

Lar's, an experienced pilot passed away in 1997 due to a tragic powered sailplane accident. One of my favorite possessions is one of the carbon fiber water tank test hulls of Route 66 I bought when his Sarasota facility was closed and it now hangs from my living room ceiling.

Route 66 is the product of the many lessons learned from the Warren Luhrs's ocean racing sailboat children, Tuesday's Child, Thursday's Child, and Hunter's Child

Hunter's Child's hull shape was an improvement on Thursday's Child's designed by both Paul Lindenburg, and Lars Bregstrom, and built by B&R Designs. Thursday's Child was already a big winner, and broke the New York, to San Francisco record held by the clipper Flying Cloud since 1854, along with other records. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Miser Flag

"Hi, this is Bill." "I'm John, do you install marine electronics?" "Yes that's what I do, how can I help you?" "Well Bill, a couple of years ago I had a guy install a Sparrow fish finder on my boat, and it only works when I go real slow." I just bought a used Chartomatic Five inch combo sounder/GPS on sale off the Internet, Flag but this time I want it installed by a professional. So I called the manufacturer and got a list of six certified installers, and your name was first on the list. I want only the best to do the work."

"Well thanks John, but I suspect the list was alphabetical, and I don't think all of them actually live in Sarasota, but anyway tell me what you need done." "Well Bill, I want the Sparrow unit and transducer removed intact because I want to sell it on Ebay, Flag and have you install the new to me Chartomatic and transducer on the boat." "I can do that, John, what kind of boat is this?" It's a Magnifico 30 go fast boat." Flag Flag Flag Flag "I'm familiar with that boat John, where does it live?" I don't want to tell you that yet." Flag "Well that's fine John, is it on a trailer or in a marine facility?" "Ah no it's on a boat lift, and you will have to bring a boat to install the transducer, or do whatever you guys normally do to install these things. The water is only five feet deep at low tide, you could do it in the water." Flag Flag "Okay John this is possible."

"Bill how much will you charge me to do this?" Well it's hard to say John, I haven't see the boat, but normally on most boats it would take about three hours at $70.00 an hour to do this from scratch. That would be about be about $210 but like I said I haven't seen the boat. It might be less if the transducer wire pull is easy, but the transducer will be much more difficult to do on a lift." "Three hours? Flag You charge $70 an hour? Flag That's outrageous, I'd  rather do it my self." Flag, Flag, Flag, Flag, Flag, Flag
"Well you said you wanted a professional John. I'm certified, insured, bring all of the tools required for the job to you, guarantee the performance of the system, and teach you how to use it. I can't get a plumber to show up for less than a $100 at my house, and that's before he picks up a wrench. You apparently didn't have a professional install your Sparrow fish finder or it would have worked in the first place, and in the end it will cost as much to uninstall the Sparrow as it cost you to buy in the first place." "Well thanks for the advice Bill, but "I'm not one to just throw my money around. I think I will keep shopping around." "That's fine John, If you need me I will try to help. I will flag your number in my phone directory so I will recognize your call."

"I wanted to make real sure I was too busy to take that call if it appeared. It fortunately hasn't happened yet, and I'm delighted. I'm pretty sure he has a difficult time hiring a plumber. Sheesh!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Radar Rx

It's not op art, only a cheesy replica of a radar screen image I get to see on occasion. In reality it's pretty close to what the screen actually looks like. This image has two likely sources. If it's a reasonably clear image the array is not turning, and you're seeing an image from one direction only. If the image is noisy another possible scenario is you have a lot of condensation on the inside of the radar dome.

In this case the little domed Furuno array was not turning. Opening the dome and seeing the drive belt disconnected immediately conjured the insight that if the belt was put back in place, the array would turn, and the problem would go away. This proved to be the case, for a few seconds at any rate.

Pretty picture, oops concentric circles again. The dome gets re-opened, and I take a closer look. The belt is off again, and when I looked closely at the little DC motor drive gear, I found it was loose.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Compass Conumdrum

I hear it often from power boaters, nothing ever matches. The compass says one thing, the GPS says another, and the autopilot heading is different. Which one is right? My answer is usually all of them to some degree, but when in doubt, trust the GPS/COG heading. Why It's a math thing assuming you have a decent fix, and you can check on that. The magnetic compass in the dash, as well as the autopilot digital compass are actually more prone to give you a wonky readings due to a variety of environmental factors.

I'll start with the venerable magnetic compass. This is old, very old technology that works perfectly as long as it's in a wood boat with no ferrous metal, or electrical wiring. Truth be told, this is rarely the case, and here is a simple example. The boat builder installs the compass that came from the factory perfectly calibrated. Also installed within inches is now a chart plotter, wiring harnesses, and even a nearby storage compartment to keep your steel screw driver, and hook pliers in. Calibrated it may have once been, but now no longer.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Illustrated Garmin DIY Auto Pilot Installation

It's a "Green Field" autopilot install. By that I mean I'm dealing with a new boat. I've also been waiting for a while to find a boat with little infrastructure, and design forethought for an autopilot. This will allow me to talk a bit about some of the tribulations you can encounter, and what the options are to solve them. At some point I will ask that the Garmin and Teleflex people to leave the room briefly, while I read from the Installer's sacred text titled "In the Real World." The goal is to make you feel good about your chances of installing one of these systems, and have it work, ahem, the first time.

As my colleague Jay Sellers used to say, "Here is my office today." The good news is it's clean, and has room for me. The bad news it's steam room hot, there is little room to install things, and the dealership has already installed a chart plotter, radar, stereo, and other odds and ends.