Monday, June 27, 2016

A couple of small epiphany's in a day in the life.

It was a bemusing and somewhat vexing problem that at first blush was all caused by a watch. It's 5ish in the afternoon on a Saturday and I'm clutching an adult beverage at a function when the phone rings. I stare at the magic box doing it's best to attract my attention. I sigh and take the call. It's a local Captain who is taking a boat way offshore on Monday and his autopilot is now kaput ostensibly caused by a Garmin Quatix watch. This is a new one to me and he now has my attention.

He launches into the saga. He has a original Quatix watch, and tried to connect it to the autopilot while underway. The autopilot immediately freaks out, and has to be put in standby to get control of the boat. The watch is disconnected from the system and he attempts to reengage to autopilot. The odd thing is now the autopilot seems fine until you engage it. Instead of doing its "Otto Pilot" thing it now pops up the "Shadow Drive" is on message and does nothing else. What this normally means is the helm has been manually turned, the autopilot thinks you want control of the boat, and gives it to you. This isn't supposed to happen when you first engage it, and I have never seen one do this. I agree to visit the boat on Sunday morning to see what can be done and will bring the latest software with me.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Electronics Undertaker

I've been dealing with marine electronics for a long time and now recognize when death is close at hand. More likely it's emulating Norman Bates's mother who's telling the owner to call me. As a matter of fact I can sense the miasma of burned electronics through the phone during the call. The quavering desperation in the callers voice. The hesitant answers to questions like "When was the last time you used it?" "Hmmm, you don't remember?" "What model is it?" "Whoa, that's old, those vacuum tubes are really hard to find nowadays." What it's a sailboat? That means the radar is on the mast and the use of the bosun's chair along with someone with a strong back."

The coup de grĂ¢ce in the conversation is the ever hopeful, "It could just be a loose wire you know." My inside voice is saying "sure buddy, but it's not statistically likely, and you should have called Hospice for this gear a long time ago." I hate these service calls. I will have to call the time of death and everyone is going to be unhappy including me. Like this is all my fault.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016


Hello, my name is Bill and I was once a pontoon boat hater. In days of yore they were ugly. Floating boxes largely devoid of hydrodynamic properties milling around on the waterfront at withering speeds of 6 or 7 knots with a geriatric crew. This has all changed. They're sleek, fast, safe and loaded with amenities. Corian counter tops, BBQ grills, bars, refrigerators, thumping stereos, and plush seating for the multitudes. Look at this curvaceous model with the arch. I don't know what those ports are on the bow are all about. Either they are intakes for the turbine engines or gun ports but they certainly look purposeful. The quality of design and construction is orders of magnitude better than it was a decade ago, almost.... You see I still have a small beef about most of these vessels. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The connected boat part 3 Digital Yacht's on air TV antenna.

Despite rumors of its demise digital on air television is alive and well, while analog cable systems used by marinas are continuing to fade away into the past.  In this series we have looked at installing a WiFi Access point connected to a router, smart televisions, and a Signal K server and there is more to come on this subject.  To round out our cornucopia of wireless tech we are going to install Digital Yacht's impressive TV antenna and play with it for a bit.

It's pretty easy to install and more than suitable for a DYI project. But remember the golden rules about boats. Access to everything typically sucks, and wiring diagrams don't exist. I heard a rumor that the last known boat wiring diagram from a sixties vintage Hatteras is archived at the Library of Congress. Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.