Showing posts with label satellite communications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label satellite communications. Show all posts

11 March 2020

WIFI Aboard: The Network that NotWorked, Works Again

One of the earliest projects we did on Argon was to install a Wifi network. It consisted of a Ubiquity Bullet m2 Titanium Radio/Router and a Microtik Wireless Access Point. It was our "ArgonAfloat" Wifi network and served us very well. After six years of baking in the sun and freezing in (some) winters - not to mention operating in a salt-air environment, the Bullet finally bit the dust in February while in Anguilla.

Capt. Bob

We considered several options, but at the time finally decided to just do nothing. On this cruise, we rely primarily on mobile data and that will be especially true for the last leg through the Bahamas before we return to the states.

Red Line is what we've covered. Yellow is still to go!
With a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico scheduled before our passage to southern Bahamas, we re-considered if we should replace the gear and get something shipped in. Once again we considered a few options:
  • Just get another bullet (about a hundred bucks plus shipping)
  • Get a Halo Redport system (about 400 bucks plus shipping)
  • Get a Rogue Wave Dual-Band Pro and MBR550 Router with SIM card (about two grand)
You can probably tell by the additional details in one of those lines, which one I did. We got the Cadillac system - Wave Wifi stuff from Defender in CT. They shipped it to the Marina a few days ahead of when we arrived and it was all here waiting for us.

Why The Splurge?  

We both work extensively from the boat, so connectivity is very important. The Bullet m2 always worked well, but it is complex to configure and tricky to debug issues with. Also, the old m2 version we had would only see 2.4GHz Wifi. Many times, we could see SSIDs from our laptops down below that the bullet couldn't see up on the radar mast! The Halo system also only works on 2.4GHz systems.

Removing the dead Bullet Radio in Anguilla

Wave Wifi makes high-end turn-key systems which are installed on private and charter yachts of all sizes. They offer the DB (dual band) Pro radio which will work with 2.4 and 5 GHz systems. And they have their own brand of "marine-grade" routers/access points: the MBR500 and MBR550.  The difference between these two (besides about $350) is that the 550 has a SIM slot in it and two high-gain Cellular Antennas. Interesting.

We normally buy two of whatever the local SIM card is and stick them in two different phones. Going forward, we have the option of sticking one in the SIM slot on the router and having that serve our main network. I can remember a few times in the Bahamas a couple of years ago where the BTC mobile signal was a bit weak. Perhaps having the BTC SIM in the router with those fancy Cellular Antennas will give us an edge - we'll see next month. We will have to configure the APN and other parameters for each SIM. I think the trick will be to get them to configure the card in a phone at the store and then use that phone to see which APN to use.  It should work.

The one disadvantage of serving up Mobile Data over our primary network is that we will now need to set the primary network as a Metered network on all of our devices. In the past, it was assumed that if our primary network was working, it was connected to some bar or restaurant near the anchorage. Now, we have to beware that it might be backed by expensive and limited mobile data. Windows10 and Android devices allow setting individual Wifi networks as Metered and as such, will not do super-high-bandwidth nonsense over them.


SIM Included

They do include a T-Mobile SIM and offer several insanely expensive monthly plans. I saw 50GB for $350 and ran screaming. I left it in the SIM slot for now just to prove that it works.  Later, we will be sticking local pre-paid SIMs in here and crossing our fingers.


More Benefits

The MBR550 has a series of ports that can work in a fail-over sequence.  Out of the box it is configured like this and they even name the ports to make it obvious. Previously, we used a separate router (a cheap tp-link) on our Satellite Terminal for offshore passages. Now, the sat terminal will just plug directly into our primary router and it will automatically fail over to it if the Wifi and Cellular data are down. Simple. Additionally, they provide a means to limit the data on each port. I have set the Satellite port limit to 5MB per day. That will avoid a nasty and expensive "accident" when offshore like we've had in the past. The Satellite data is $10/MB and only used for short text emails, GRIBs and to upload our Track underway for those playing along at home.

The Failover config screen. Wifi first, then SIM then Sat


The hard part of the install was actually done years ago when we installed the original Bullet/Microtik system. All the power and ethernet wiring that was done then will work now. Both the old and new radio get power over ethernet (POE). The Wave Pro DB came with a shiny new POE injector (this one with LEDs on it), so I swapped in the new one (because I like shiny things).

The Pro DB radio in hand and the MB550 and new POE mounted inside.

Bit of a mess during the install.
The Pro DB with spacers ready to be clamped to the radar mast.
Mounted and wired in. The Fleet One Satellite terminal now feeds a port on our primary router (white wire).

A bit of a stretch and balancing act.

And done!

The Review

Don't you hate those Amazon reviews where someone reviews something after owning it for only a couple days?  Well, I'm about to do the same.

It was incredibly easy to set up. The paper instructions included were not so great but I downloaded the manual (and of course put it in dropbox with all the other ship's manuals). One thing that is buried a bit is that you can configure it by connecting to it wirelessly instead of plugging in an ethernet cable as the instructions say. The trick is that the initial password is MBR550's serial number. That said, there is not much config to do. The router allows you to require logins for your users and can even redirect them to a disclaimer page. This is probably a very popular feature on charter boats and large yachts with lots of guests coming and going.

Product placement.

I've been using it for work for several days. The Pro DB is connected to the Club Nautico Guest Wifi here at the marina in San Juan. As is often the case with marinas, the Wifi is horrible at times and not so bad other times. This marina has a 2.4 and a 5GHz guest Access point. While the 2.4 is a slightly stronger signal, I've been having much better luck on the 5 (lately).  It's nice to have the option now.

The physical mounting of the MBR550 router is much nicer than the old Microtik A/P.  It has tabbed legs with screw holes and the footprint is a bit smaller.  I mounted it inside our nav table pod with the Sim slot facing forward.

The Pro DB radio feels very rugged and heavy. It has a standard antenna mount threaded base, however we are not using that yet. I'm doing the hose-clamps to a stainless rail method of mounting for now. Perhaps a winter project will be to add a threaded base to the Edson wing and run the wire up inside it. A nice touch is that when the Pro DB gets power, it makes a quiet bootup sound - like a rapid series of clicks. It's nice feedback to let you know that your POE is working all the way to it.  Like the bullet, there are no LED indicators of power or signal.

Another advantage over the Bullet is that anything the Pro DB connects to can be saved as a Favorite. Come back next year and it will connect - so long as they haven't changed the password which is often the case. The bullet had no such memory so it required another trip to the bar to harvest a password.

Speaking of harvesting passwords, this brings me to one thing that was nicer in the Bullet. The Site Scan Survey results screen for the Bullet was a nice tight table of SSIDs and signal strength. One could sort by signal strength, take a screenshot of that on your phone and go ashore to harvest passwords. The UI in the Wave Scan screen is modern and pretty, but it spreads the list of Access Points it sees over several pages. It will now require several screenshots to capture it all - especially when there are many access points around (most of which are from other boats).

Boo - a phone screenshot only fits four Access Points in this "pretty" UI. Give me the simple text table from the Bullet please!
Something that I have not figured out how to do (or if it can be done) is to change how the Pro DB appears to the access point it is connected to. In the old Bullet configuration, I had us showing up as "Bill's iPhone". This was mainly done because some restaurants/bars in certain places are very protective of their Wifi passcodes and insist on typing them into your phone instead of telling them to you. We would use our superior technology to thwart that, but then we didn't want to appear as "Bullet m2" in their router connected user list (if they ever look). I have a feeling that we show up as "Wave... something or other" now and I don't yet know how to change that.

There is a Bug (or feature) I've run into with regards to Favorites. I had both the 2.4 and 5GHz SSIDs saved as favorites. I deleted one Favorite and... it deleted both of them. Can I put this in Jira?

Time To Get Back To Work, And Play

We're spending a few more days in San Juan and will wait on a window to make a 460 nautical mile (3+ day) passage to Grand Inagua in the southern Bahamas. Besides this little project, we have gotten several other things done on the boat including some bright work. The Bahamas will be a test for the Cellular Data capabilities of the MBR550. Between that, a second BTC local SIM card in a phone and Google FI, we hope to stay well connected most of the time.

In the meantime, we're enjoying San Juan and even dressing up a bit for nights out!

14 June 2016

Tartan 4000 Becomes an Off Shore Sailboat

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Argon Graduates:  Converting a Tartan 4000 from a coastal cruiser to a sailboat suitable for off-shore and extend cruising

Argon, a 2014 Tartan 4000, was purchased as part of preparing to set off sailing on our first extended voyage (see the April blog post The Three Year Plan) and is entering her third summer sailing season.
Argon, a Tartan 4000, was chosen for her strength, performance, comfort, and pizzazz
Many of our friends, both sailing and non-sailing, have commented that they are surprised (or confused) as to why we are always so busy with boat projects considering that Argon is a new sailboat. Sailboats (well, boats in general) always have endless project and maintenance lists, however, in addition to the standard items, we have been busy converting Argon from a fantastic coastal cruising sailboat to a vessel suitable for the open ocean and extended cruising as we prepare to leave for a year or so excursion. Our sketched out itinerary includes at least several multi day open ocean legs sailing short handed (just the two of us) including Boston to Nova Scotia (July), Newport or Norfolk to Bermuda (October) and Bermuda to ~Antigua in the Caribbean (November) hence we will often be many days away from land and, when island hoping, will have unpredictable access to retail boat parts and marinas. We plan to anchor the majority of time in harbors and will be off the grid for long periods of time.

The key related projects as part of the conversion can be grouped in to the following three categories:
  • Safety
  • Sailing and extended cruising
  • Comfort
We endeavor to do projects ourselves but have employed professionals for a couple of the more thorny ones.


The vast majority of the projects (and spend) have been to maximize the odds of staying alive and just getting to where we intend to go. We have used the Newport Bermuda Race Safety Requirements (NBRSR) as a guideline adhering to the majority of the specifications. The NBRSR is an adaptation of the US Safety Equipment Requirements (USSER). Some of the safety related projects have included: 

AIS (Automatic Identification System):  
In addition to keeping tabs on the sparse traffic while short handed in the open ocean, AIS has proven a helpful add on for coastal cruising during overnight legs and bad weather. We also find AIS helpful while informally racing to keep tabs on our competitor's speed and bearing to anticipate wind shifts.
AIS is important off-shore to keep watch for traffic, especially large commercial vessels at night or during storms and poor visibility.
Satellite Communications:  
For weather downloads and communications - We went with a compact KVH Fleet 1 satellite system for data / phone through Cay Electronics in Portsmouth, RI. The dome is mounted on a custom bracket designed and manufactured by Edson to the unique specifications for mounting on the transom mast. The system worked perfectly and was very easy to configure. The data is very pricey and so this is only used for critical communications off-shore. The $50/month subscription gets you a whopping 10MB (yes, M, not G), with additional data costing $0.50/MB.  This is plenty to download a few GRIB files and basic text email and SMS with people ashore.

Running the wires up the transom mast and attaching all the parts one mild March day on the dock
Finished product - communication satellite atop the specially designed and manufactured mounting bracket, along with the radar and wifi router
This is what the cabin (aka our living room these days) looked like in the middle of the satellite project
Storm trisail from North Sails and track from Hall Spars & Rigging:  
Hall Spars and Rigging installed a track on the mast for the storm trisail sail and North manufactured the sail. We will certainly practice in good weather so that if / when the crap hits the fan, we will be ready.
Test hoisting of the new storm trisail while still at the dock; next we need to practice out on the water during a windy day

Jack lines (deck and cockpit):
We will attach ourselves to jack lines during rough weather or big seas to ensure we do not get thrown off the the boat. There has been controversy recently as to whether jack lines should run outboard along the sides of the deck or more inboard along the cabin top. We opted for the traditional configuration to be used with dual attachment tethers. A couple of added pad eyes in the cockpit enable easy attachment while at the helm.

Lee cloths: 
For port and starboard settees.
Bob testing out the new lee clothes; yes, we will need these to keep from falling off the settee in big seas off-shore
Expanded and updated paper and electronic charts:

One can never have enough charts - We have many handed down from other sailors who have finished cruising long distance and we have purchased many new ones.  New chips for the GPS were also secured to cover our expected range.

Safety at Sea Seminar in Newport sponsored by the US Sailing Association: 
This was a fantastic experience well worth the two days time and cost this past March. One day was packed full of safety related topics such as off-shore communications, heavy weather issues, crew preparations, crew overboard, etc. and the second day was hands on including pool time with PFDs and liferafts, practicing with flares and fire extinguishers on the beach, and damage control practice in a USCG simulation trailer. 

PFD and life raft practice including pulling an "injured" person in to the liferaft

The USCG had a damage control trailer to simulate a vessel taking on water and provide practice with various ways to control the flooding; it was quite stressful but incredibly helpful!

SOS Danbuoy (Man Overboard (MOB) device):
To be thrown in the case of a crew overboard situation to mark where they are to aid in retrieval.   We've had mixed success with this device so far. We have not needed it (yet) but it has already once spontaneously inflated in the cockpit while sailing. We may be swapping this out for a MOM device.

Edson manual bilge pump: 
Boat manufactures are required to equip vessels with automatic and manual bilge pumps.They tend to do the minimum, especially with regards to the manual pump. Tartan equipped Argon with a Whale brand plastic handle pump. We wanted to see if this very weak looking pump would keep up with an ingress of water. We poured 55 gallons of water in to the bilge and marked lines every 15 gallons (with nail polish). We worked the manual pump for a while and managed to get through about only half the water after quite a bit of effort. If we were taking on water at even just a moderate rate and lost our electric bilge pump, there is no way this pump would ever keep up. Check out the video we made of this experiment. We drained the second half with the electric pump. 

The video above shows our testing of the standard manual bilge pump that came with  Argon.  After this test, we quickly decided to upgrade to a much better pump.

We decided on an 18gpm pump through Edson. Stanley Boat Yard installed this pump under the port side coaming. This pump is a beast compared to the former Whale! (No video yet) .

Bob squeezing in the transom locker to do the final mounting work for the Edson manual bilge pump.  The small stainless plate above his right hand is the only part that shows in the cockpit.  A handle provided (or any winch handle) is attached and one can sit and pump at a good rate
While squeezed in the transom locker, Bob epoxied G-10 blocks to the underside of the coamings with threaded rod suspending the outboard side of the pump to add additional support to the very strong and heavy bronze pump body

AIS Beacons for PFDs:
We have secured Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons to our inflatable life vests. These AIS beacons will send a "DSC" signal to not only Argon but also other nearby vessels to aid in locating the crew overboard. Of course we hope to never need these. The DCS alarm on most modern VHF radios will wake the dead.  We've heard ours go off once when a nearby cruise ship lost someone overboard near Gloucester.  For boats so equipped, it will also show the position of the victim on the chartplotter.

Inflatable life vests are activated by water pressure; in addition, our PFDs have a signaling beacon to aid in location of a crew overboard
Life raft: 
The four person Plastimo life raft that used to be stored in the bottom of a sail locker (difficult to deploy) was replaced with a six person Viking in a hard case deck mounted; an enhanced "ditch bag" was assembled as well. This included a handheld VHS with DSC (digital select calling), extra batteries, sea-sickness pills, basic medical kit, reading glasses, an EPIRB and a secondary PLB.

The viking bracket fastened down to the cabinhouse

The new Viking six person life raft attached to the bracket on the cabin house

Mast tie-down: 
In the event of dismasting (very bad), this will keep the lower part of mast from flailing below deck causing even more damage or injuring someone.
Mast tie-down is one of the less common safety features for off-shore sailing vessels but often a requirement for off-shore racing

Full medical kit: 
This is not the cute little pouch from West Marine with some band aids and gauze, but a fairly robust set of equipment that may be needed given the amount of time we will be out of reach of medical care for extended periods. The kit includes a variety of medications such as steroids, sea sickness medicines, antibiotics, etc.

Travel clinic visit at Mass General Hospital: 
Resulting in vaccinations or medicines for Hepatitis A, tetanus, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Malaria. And some preventative measure counseling.

Spare anchor and rode:
Our primary anchor is 35 lb Delta on a windlass with 120 feet of 3/8 inch chain and 200 feet of rhode. We secured a 15 lb Fortress anchor which will be our reserve. We also put together a new rode with some 5/16 inch chain and some 7/8 inch nylon line (the latter will double as our drogue rhode). This spare ground tackle is whimpy compared to our primary setup, but will hopefully do the trick as a secondary/backup.

A drogue is a sea anchor... to be used in stormy seas when we need to slow the vessel down. We went with a Shark Drogue by Fiorentino. The drogue can also be used as a steering device should there be damage to the rudder (in fact practicing this technique is a requirement for NBRSR).  We've reworked our secondary anchor rhode to double as the rhode for the drogue.  We also replaced our tiny danforth dinghy anchor with a 15 lb mushroom which will double as the sinking weight for the drogue. As with the storm trisail, we will be practicing using the drogue in the coming weeks before our first off-shore trip.


Sailing and extended cruising

We sold our home and became live-aboards more than a year ago as part of our logistical and emotional preparations for extended cruising. The following items have proven important or at least convenient given Argon will continue to be our home for quite a while longer and we will often be anchored in remote locations.

Solar panels: 
We opted for three flexible panels made by Solbian purchased through Cay Electronics (2 x 100W and 1 x 137W) with individual Genesun controllers. Kinder Industries fashioned zipper attachments and covers for UV protection for the wires for the bimini and dodger .

Two 100W solar panels lay atop the bimini and one 137W panel is secured to the dodger. Bob has unplugged from shore power many days to test out the solar panels which have kept up nicely with his high powered work laptop and the refrigerator nicely. Thus far in our northern latitude, we have seen 220 Watt output from the system.

The Genesun controllers connected up and ready for mounting

LED lighting: 
All internal and external lighting has been converted to LED. Some of the lights were LED as standard but we were surprised this was not throughout. Cockpit, anchor, and various internal lights were upgraded. We also went with a tricolor LED masthead light to serve as redundant navigation lights.  This makes a huge difference in energy consumption.

Dinghy and davits: 
We purchased a new nine foot AB dinghy with an aluminum V bottom and a Tohatsu 6hp outboard last year. The davit installation project was featured in a blog post last year. We have been very happy with our custom Kato davits.
Kato manufactured custom davits; we did the install. Drilling holes in the hull is a bit nerve-wracking

Carrying our dinghy,  Neon, on the davits off the transom
More recently we practiced mounting the outboard on a rail mount homemade by Bob and rigged a lifting sling to enable hoisting of the dinghy on to the fore deck which is needed for off-shore passages.
For off-shore passages, we will have to tie down the dinghy on the fore deck as large following seas would make using the davits dangerous. We recently practiced hoisting the dinghy on the fore deck and figuring out how we will tie it down securely

First test mount of Bob's nicely designed and fabricated outboard motor mount bracket off the port side stern rail

Acrylic companionway hatchboards: 
These replace the very attractive teak ones but are much more practical / easy to slide in and store and the visibility a plus. These were custom fabricated by Custom Marine Plastics in Bristol, RI.

Custom  hatchboards - We never have these in while sailing along the coast.  However, when off shore, we will often have one or both secured in place to keep water from getting down below in the cabin when we take on large waves in the cockpit.

Spare Parts: 
Lots of stocking up on spare parts (e.g. macerator pump, bilge pump, fresh water pump, filters, belts, blocks, shackles, tons of fasteners and hardware, etc.). Basically, everything that's broken has been replaced with two items: the one that broke and an extra for next time it breaks. Where possible, we try to eliminate the root cause of the breakage. See the former blog post Water, water everywhere.

With so many parts and equipment, we endeavor to stay organized. In addition to many labeled containers that are stored behind the settees and in cabinets, there is a chart to label the contents of many of the more hidden spaces.

The bins as of a few months ago.  There's more now.

Comfort / lifestyle 

A few more features are mainly to just help us be more comfortable.

Full canvas cockpit enclosure:  Fabricated by Kinder Industries for cold weather sailing and for general living aboard while docked in the cool spring in Boston. The panels are easy to remove and store as it will quickly become a sauna as the temperatures inch up. 

Internet:  Unlocked hotspot with WorldSIM SIM card; bullet WiFi router on radar mast. Bob is working 25% during the voyage and needs decent connectivity for data and voice.  We will certainly try to hijack any free wifi we can find (perhaps when anchoring near a resort or other civilization), but the unlocked Alcatel hotspot will probably be the primary connectivity.  The data on the World SIM card is pricey and varies depending on which country you are in.  They partner with local carriers in 180 countries (the whole Carribean for sure). Because the hotspot is unlocked, we're also free to plug in any locally purchased pre-paid chip (if we find something cheaper than worldsim's data).

Defunded Projects

Perhaps as important what we did do, is  what we did not do. Below are a few items we discussed (often at length) but opted not to do:

Storm jib:  After consulting with North Sails, we believe a double reefed main or the storm trisail (mentioned above) and the ability to unfurl just a wee bit of the jib will provide appropriate sail plan options in heavy weather. We considered getting a "gale sail" that slips over an existing furled headsail, but our self-tacking jib has a very large clew-board (where the line attaches) and it probably would not work.

Single Side Band (SSB) radio:   The communication satellite was chosen instead but we also purchased a simple SSB receiver so we can listen in on conversations as another source of information.

Water maker:   It will be interesting to see how we manage filling our water tanks with the jerry jugs when dock side drinkable water is difficult to come by. Time will tell if it was the right choice to forego a water maker. Argon's carbon fiber "pocket" boom is also a pretty good water collector (as our passengers find out when we hoist the main after a good rain). We will definitely be collecting as much rain water in the Carribean as possible.

Windvane:  Although common for off shore boats to aid in steering over long distances, we are opting to use a combination of our autopilot and human power.

Wind generator:  We are fairly confident that with smart monitoring of energy usage and our efficient solar panels, we will have sufficient electricity so we opted not to also secure a wind generator.

As our departure date nears, there will surely be additional projects - there always are on boats.  But the above represents most of what we need to have in place for our big adventure. In addition, my last day of work looms near which also means my final paycheck. And Bob's 25% work schedule will start soon afterwards. Therefore it is a good thing that the money outflow will be easing up.

Lastly and importantly, one can have an ideal boat tricked out with all sorts of equipment, but good seamanship, judgment and situational awareness will reign supreme in keeping a vessel and crew safe and comfortable and getting us on to the next port.

Next stop..... Nova Scotia!!!

27 March 2016

Satellite System for Sailing: Fleet One Project

Bob Damiano

Cell phones don't work off-shore.  We're going off-shore.  So... this requires some sort of long-distance communication system to get data (such as weather reports, GRIBs, etc).  The two ways to go are with an SSB (Single-Sideband) radio or some sort of satellite system.  For various reasons, we decided to go satellite.  Maybe because I always wanted to be an astronaut. With satellites, you can either buy or rent a Sat Phone, or install a full-on sat receiver system.
After weighing options and considering what we want Argon's future mission to be, we decided on a KVH Fleet One satellite system.  We purchased this system (along with solar panels) from Cay Electronics.


The parts

The big bits are the satellite receiver and the terminal.  The trick is to connect these two things together somehow and mount them so that they work and don't look stupid. The cool thing about the Fleet One is that the antenna gets its power over the coax wire!  There are no power wires to run. Our total run is about 58 feet (40 from the nav station to the base of the radar mast and 18 to the top of the mast).  I like to leave nice big service loops at the disconnects to save my back when I have to work on it. The other major part was to add a dedicated wifi router to the terminal so that any computer (or phone) can connect. 

Initial Testing

We asked for the data plan to go live March 1st.  This way we would have time to debug any issues and get used to using it during the season.  It turned out that there was zero debugging to do. It just worked perfectly out of the box.

I set up the dome in the cockpit and connected it.  Even under the shrinkwrap and down low, it got a very strong tracking signal and I was able to download a GRIB to my android phone (over the wireless LAN).  I also sent texts (both directions) and made a very short phone call (both directions).

The data is very expensive:  $10/MB.  Our rule is that no phones or computers can do the "connect automatically" thing to this.  It will require typing in a password each time we connect to the Lan so there are no accidental big downloads.  This system will only be used off-shore to receive updates from shore support, texts from family/friends and weather info. We will also be able to send messages back to shore as well as our position for anyone interested in tracking us.

The test stand.  Notice it's under the shrinkwrap!

First GRIB download over the Fleet One

How to mount it?

Argon has a transom radar mast.  Last year when we added the Bullet Wifi Router, we purchased an antenna "wing" from Edson to mount that antenna on.  We purchased the Fleet One system at the Newport Boat Show in 2015 where Argon was featured in the Tartan Booth. There, Will Keene (CEO of Edson) actually came out to the boat and drew in a notepad the basic design for a mounting system for the KVH antenna.

A couple days after the show, we had this CAD mockup in our inbox from Edson:

Edson's mockup for the KVH antenna hoop
We liked the looks of this design and Edson went to work building one for us (it is now a regular item in their catalog).  When it arrived, we realized that we still needed to purchase a standard base for the KVH antenna. Here is a shot of the top of the hoop with that base installed.

The Standard Edson Base for the KVH mounted on the hoop

Strength Concerns

The Edson Wing is designed to have whatever antennae mounted by drilling/tapping into a plate of aluminum. I think this is fine for our bullet router or a small GPS antenna or something like that.  But this thing is pretty big (and expensive) and I just didn't like the thought of a few tapped holes in aluminum being the support.

I wanted to Thru-bolt that sucker somehow. Problem is, the top and bottom plates of the wing are not parallel.  This is the problem with wing-shaped things. So, I ordered a couple squares of King Starboard from Boat Outfitters who will very quickly cut any custom sized piece of starboard you need.  My plan was to drill some 1/4" clearance holes at a slant, and then use a wood boring bit to drill a flattened out countersunk area for a screw head.

The Starboard Squares drilled and countersunk

Here are some photos of the antenna hoop thru-bolted with the starboard squares.  This thing is really strong!

Underside of the wing with the 1/4-20 bolts going up through the wing.

The hoop thru-bolted to the wing and very strong


The wiring is fairly straightforward. The RG223 Coax is connected with TNC connectors. I have crimpers that work more or less pretty good for TNCs.  It took a bit of trial/error (and a reorder of TNCs from I-Com, but I got it.

getting ready to crimp some RG-58

While we're at it... AIS GPS Antenna.

Last year when we installed AIS, we took a bit of a shortcut and installed the GPS antenna right inside the nav station inside the boat.  My feeling was that if my crappy little android phone could always get a great GPS signal inside the boat, this thing should too.  And it did - it worked fine.  But since we were taking the mast down anyway and since there would now be a spare place to stick another antenna, Linda convinced me to move the AIS GPS antenna up there.  So another 40' length of RG-58 and a few more TNC connectors is really all it took.

And another while we're at it...

There is a cockpit light at the top of the radar mast.  It was a big honkin current sucking halogen light.  Since I've been on a quest to rid Argon of every non-LED bulb there is, and since the mast was down anyway, we replaced it with a new 4w LED fixture.

The Fleet One base unit and the Linksys router that will be the Lan for it.

A small wiring project

The included IP phone

Ready to put it all together

The night before, here is everything wired up and mounted including the bullet, and the AIS GPS antenna
Getting ready to attach wing to mast

Putting the wing on the mast and re-mounting the radar dome

Notice the sexy new cockpit light

Up she goes

A crew of always-helpful marina neighbors came by for the lifting procedure. We really try to do this without dropping the mast overboard. 

Final Installation and testing

The best part about these projects is when they are done and not only does the new thing work, but you haven't broken anything that already worked. Radar, Wifi, GPS, and of course Satellite are all working perfectly.  And I don't think it looks very stupid at all.