Showing posts with label wifi router. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wifi router. 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!

29 January 2020

Boat Projects in Paradise

Living on a boat, especially in the Caribbean, can be heavenly. Every day I am grateful for this lifestyle. There is, however, far less lounging on the beach with a mojito than one may assume. The adventure and relaxing segments are necessarily heavily intermingled with constant attention to the inner and outer workings of the vessel to keep her looking spiffy, functioning well, and sailing safely.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Quite a few boat projects were tackled back in November in the immediate weeks after Argon was  launched in Grenada. Most days since then include at least a sprinkling of boat chores or logistics. Some days are consumed by projects. Here is a sampling of fairly routine boat maintenance and repairs we have tackled recently during a couple of weeks in Antigua - often at anchor, sometimes tied up at Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbor.

Electrical:  Solar Panel Performance

We have four flexible panels mounted on the bimini and dodger with a total rated capacity of 385 watts. We should be able to depend on around 100AH (Amp-Hours) of energy from these on a typical Caribbean sunny day but the generated energy has been somewhat sub par. Step one was to clean all of the connectors and terminals between the panels and the controllers with alcohol. The good news is that our primary panel (the 135w on the bimini) is now doing great, as is the port side 100w panel.  The not so good news is that we're still getting a little less energy than we should and it's clearly because the starboard side 100w panel is just not performing. We've cleaned everything we can on that panel and we sadly conclude that the panel is failing.

All of the connectors for the solar panels were cleaned with alcohol.

Amperage readings in collected over the course of a day showing peak of about 17 amps midday - less than what it should be if all solar panels were functioning well.

Being the nerds we are, we plotted the net income of Amps from the panels for each daylight hour (over several days).  If that starboard panel was performing, the peak would be well over 20A. Seventeen is the highest we record. The main power consumers are the fridge and our work laptops. The fridge is probably using about 60-70 A-H per day (depending on how many ice cubes we can have in our drinks). Our work laptops have 130w power bricks and they need to be plugged in quite a few hours a day. The end result is unless we can get ashore for powering the laptops part of the day, more is going out than is coming in and we still need to run the engine periodically to make up the deficit.

Electrical:  New Windlass Switches (again!)

When at anchor in Maine, USA a few years ago, we learned that the up and down switches for the windlass are woefully unreliable when our windlass suddenly started paying out chain - potentially very dangerous. Now, as a precaution, we now always keep the breaker for the windlass off except when preparing to set or weigh anchor. And, despite replacing the switches with better quality ones, they continue to eventually start to fail after some time. It's not surprising really considering the location way up front on the bow where they are regularly being blasted by salt water waves while sailing. While in Antigua recently, Bob replaced the pair yet again (and purchased another set of spares for when these fail).

Crouching in the bow locker replacing the windlass switches (again).

IT Support:  Flaky WiFi Router

Starting around Martinique, we noticed that our trusty Bullet Wifi Router was starting to not work reliably (even when we could find some wifi to hijack). Bob was down in to a locker again (this time the transom locker) to get access to the network connection to the Bullet. He put a PoE (Power Over Ethernet) tester inline to see if the Bullet was getting power. It was. And... it was also working now.

Bob squeezing in to the transom locker to access the wifi network cabling.

The PoE tester inline with the Bullet. Plenty of power going through.

The diagnosis: Just interrupting and reconnecting the bullet "fixed" it - meaning we have a flaky connection. Bob cleaned the connectors with alcohol and it's been fine... until today. As we edit this blog and get ready to upload, the Bullet is wigging out again. It may be time to just cut the wires and re-crimp new connectors. In the meantime, we will clean the connectors again and cross our fingers. Mobile data has been our front line strategy for connectivity anyway as it has been rare that we can use the Bullet to slurp up some free wifi.

Cleaning:  Polishing and Waxing

The continual salt and intense sun are formidable opponents to a clean and well functioning boat. Salt spray while sailing gets everywhere and given our need to conserve water, we welcome the occasional heavy downpour for a good rinsing. In addition, it is necessary to rid the surfaces of salt before tackling the polishing and waxing. 

Quite a bit time is spent addressing rust spots on the stainless steel and keeping it shiny with extra attention needed in small crevices, around screws, at the base of stanchions and inside turnbuckles. As with waxing the gelcoat in the cockpit and on deck, this is normally done in the morning and late afternoon hours to avoid the intense heat of midday.

This pic is taken shortly after a welcome rainstorm. We sometimes get out on the deck with sponges during heavy rain to clean off the baked on salt. The cool freshwater rinse of our sweaty bodies is a bonus.

Cleaning off the extra stubborn rust spots and polishing the bow roller.

Shiny bow roller. (I wish I took a before picture too.)

Some of the tools and products for waxing and polishing. Flintz for routine stainless steel polishing; OsPho for the more difficult rusty spots; ScotchGuard wax and 3M light compound-wax combination for the gelcoat.

Bilge and Sump Cleaning

Ah, that important albeit dirty, stinky gully beneath the floorboards... We finally made ourselves pull up the flooring, get on hands and knees, and scrub out the bilge, rinse, repeat. And, while we're down there, there is the sump receptacle that catches the grimy shower and sink water. Cleaning the pumps carefully with a toothbrush to get out all the crude accumulated in every corner restores faith in their reliability. We also used this opportunity to test the manual bilge pump - check!

Cleaning of the sump and bilge.

Thorough cleaning of the Rule 1100gph bilge pump.

Cleaning:  Corroded Propane Tanks 

We have two small (10 pound) propane tanks for our stove/oven. When one empties, we arrange for a refill asap to be sure we never run out completely. With regular use one tank lasts 2 to 3 months. The base of the tanks have corroded severely (but luckily the integrity of the tanks remain) causing some damage to the locker as well as lots of noise as they bounce around while sailing. We searched for fiberglass replacements in Antigua but no luck. In the meantime, the locker was cleaned out and we were able to secure a makeshift new base for the tanks out of cut up pool noodles. (One day I'll do a blog on all the various uses of pool noodles on a boat.)

The base of both propane tanks have corroded.

Cleaning: The Bottom

Argon started off the season in November with a smooth, freshly painted bottom. Despite the effective anti-fouling paint, regular scrapping of barnacles and algae growth is needed to prevent growth from getting out of hand. A dirty bottom can dramatically negatively effect a boat's speed also.

Regular snorkling with a scraper or brush to keep the bottom clean.


Inspecting:  Air Conditioner and Steering Mechanism

As we were docked at Nelson's Dockyard for several days, were were able to plug in to shore power - yeah! In addition to not having to monitor and ration electrical usage continually, we could even turn on the air conditioner! But since this would be the first time running it since April, we did an inspection first.

Argon's air conditioning unit is below the forward V berth thus requires the bed to be cleared and mattress to be pulled out.

Inspecting the air conditioning unit - all working well!

At the opposite end of the boat.... we cleared out the aft cabin. The aft cabin functions as our storage closet on board holding all sorts of things including water and diesel jugs, side panels for the cockpit, 2 guitars and other music gear, deflated paddle board and paddle, charts, storm sail, fishing poles, pool noodles and cockpit cushions. We have not used this space for its intended sleeping berth for several years.

Once cleared, the back access panel is removed to allow inspection of the steering mechanism and the vented loop for the sump.

Steering mechanism looks mostly good except for...

Collar seal around the rudder bearing is torn. Luckily no water is seeping in and although not urgent, its replacement is important. Add to the list.

New Dock Lines and Eye Splicing

Ninety feet of 3 strand dock line was purchased to make 2 new 45 foot dock lines. Bob has gotten quite proficient with various types of splicing.

Making eye splices for the new dock lines.

Re-attaching the Jib Furling Drum

Furling in the jib had been oddly difficult and upon examination, we realized the furling drum was not attached properly since Grenada. The pin which sets the height of the drum was not going through the hole it was supposed to. It was going through a larger opening in the rigging toggles allowing the drum to wobble and turn very hard when the line had a heavy load. On a low wind morning while docked we took down the jib to enable lifting of the mechanism and re-attaching it properly. Then the jib was re-hoisted and furled before the winds kicked in.

Adjusting the jib furling drum on a low wind morning while docked at Nelson's Dockyard.

Oh, And Still On the To Do List...

We have since finished our time in Antigua and have started a new boat chore list including: cleaning the bottom of the dinghy, addressing issues with the toping lift, lazy jack refit, rudder collar seal replacement, more stainless polishing and gel coat waxing, cockpit teak cleaning, water tank sanitation, pad eye retrieval and fabrication, sail track car/bearing inspection, vented loop replacement, etc... Ah, the luxurious cruising life!

The dinghy desperately needs a good bottom cleaning. The algae growth is very stubborn and not easily scrubbed off the hypalon surface. The outboard needs to come off and the dinghy brought on land or on a dock with an assortment of chemicals and elbow grease.

We need to retrieve a broken pad eye out of the boom which will entail removing the main sail and tilting the boom forward (hopefully).
The topping lift will be a whole project blog to come. But the short version is that since getting the new main sail in Grenada last November, we're having a lot of trouble with the topping lift getting fouled on batten pockets and reefing rings on the leech of the main sail due to the increase in roach. More than once, the fouled topping lift prevented the mainsail from being swiftly dropped - one time while we were approaching some dangerous reefs. After much consideration of options, we have decided to remove the topping lift and make some other modifications. Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog on how we will manage sans topping lift.

The topping lift hanging up on one of the frictionless Antal rings for the reefing line.

And Now for that Mojito...

In between boat projects, day jobs, and sailing, there is much to enjoy! This is a unique and eclectic lifestyle indeed. Consistent attention to maintenance, repairs and inspections is just part of the cruising lifestyle and enables us to appreciate the more relaxing aspects of island life.

It is not all work! (But perhaps while we are in the water, we should scrub the rudder and water line...)

29 July 2016

Sailboat Projects - Stuff We Broke in Canada

Bob Damiano

Stuff We Broke in Canada

On July 2nd, we sailed Argon to another country.  It was our first offshore experience together aboard Argon and served as a shakedown/practice cruise for what is to come. We lived to tell about it and the crew and vessel were only slightly injured as a result. The crew's various bumps and bruises are taking care of themselves.  Argon, needed some TLC to address the following:
  • Main halyard clutch and shackle
  • Wifi router
  • Macerator pump
  • Windlass
  • Jib tear
  • Alternator belt
  • Compass deviation

Main Halyard

Argon is equipped with Spinlock XTS rope clutches for the halyards, and various other control lines brought to the cockpit.  I used to think that was a good thing but I've since changed my mind about that. The Main Halyard in particular has been really abused by the spinlock. They work by basically crushing the line between a cam and a flat surface so a lot of crushing force gets applied to just one point on the line. Our poor old main halyard was getting "lumpy" from this abuse and we decided to replace it this spring when we had the mast down.

So Hall Spars made us a nice new 10mm Halyard. We quickly realized that this one was going to get just as beat up as the last one. In fact, the new one is slightly thinner than the old one and so it would slip even more in the spinlock.

Another issue with this new halyard is that instead of putting a simple twist-lock shackle on the end like the old one, they put a shackle with a "captive" screw pin. Yes I meant to put "captive" in "quotes".  This is a pain for us because we always undo the halyard when we're not sailing. It makes attaching and detaching it much more difficult and as we found out in Nova Scotia one day, VERY difficult if the boat is bouncing around in waves at the time.

We replaced the new shackle provided by Hall Spars with our original shackle from the old halyard. The original shackle has a much more convenient and secure pin.

We were heading from Lunenberg, NS down toward Cape Sable in some very big seas.  I went up on deck to get the main sail ready to hoist. The boat was all over the place in these waves and I was doing all I could do to hang on AND mess with screwing this shackle onto the mainsail. Then, the expected happened: The halyard slipped out of my hand and was flinging around all over the place as the boat bounced around! I finally got hold of it again and after feeding it back through the lazyjack lines, I noticed - oh no - the "captive" (with quotes) pin was gone!  I said some very bad words at this moment. Then I looked down at my feet and - can you believe it? - it was sitting right there on the deck! How?

We apparently got the sail hoisted (as proven by the fact that I'm writing this from Boston), but one project for sure would be to transfer the nice Wichard quick locking shackle from the old halyard to the new one.  The new shackle with "captive" pin is now in our spares kit.

So what about the rope clutches?

Before we left for Nova Scotia, I did some research and found Ronstan Constrictor Textile Rope Clutches. These work like the Chinese finger trap you used to play with when you were a kid. The line you want to clutch goes through a long textile sleeve.  As the line loads up, the sleeve constricts applying gentle pressure over a long section of line instead of a crushing pressure from a cam at just one point.  I ordered a 10mm one. It arrived before we left but I didn't have time to work on it before departing.

Playing with the constrictor the night before installation. The halyard is run through it and it seems to fit properly. Note the white lanyard - that's the release line.  You give that a little tug and it retracts the sleeve and lets the line pass through again.  There is also a bungee that is supposed to apply some "pull" on the sleeve to keep it constricting.  When you pull the retraction lanyard, it's supposed to work against that.  Could such a simple thing really work?

Today, I went for it.  I removed the headliner in the aft cabin so I could see the holes drilled and tapped into the backing plate.
Headliner hanging down. Notice the motor for the electric winch exposed

This is not the first time I've drilled and tapped holes in the clutch backing plates.  Last year, I added another dual Spinlock to the port side for the Spinnaker Tack Line.

Holes drilled and backing plate tapped 5/16-18 thread.

Constrictor set in place. Notice the small footprint compared to the spinlock. The mounting hole spacing is the same so the mounting is just as strong. A little Life Caulk Bedding Compound and the thing was mounted.

So does it actually work?  

Fortunately there was a light south-ish wind tonight so I hoisted the main using the electric winch as usual.  Nothing unusual to report so far. It went up just fine. A few times along the way, I would lower it a bit to see what would happen.  If I didn't retract the sleeve, it would drop a few inches and then grip the halyard perfectly.  Finally I hoisted it all the way. When it's up, this line is REALLY loaded up.  Notice the four winds on the clutch. You won't get the sail up with fewer than that.  At this point, I did NOT have the bungee mounted and rigged up. So I manually slid my hand down the sleeve to "pre-snug" it a little.

Sail is hoisted. Load is still on the winch.  The sleeve has been pre-snugged by hand.

I removed the line from the winch and...  well to say it didn't slip at all would be a bit of an exaggeration.  But it did only slip about 1/4 inch and then held the halyard perfectly.  This is a huge improvement over the spinlock which would sometimes slip 3 or 4 inches until the cam squeezed the life out of the line at just one point.  I am a fan.

As for that Bungee, I've decided not to mess with it. Without it, the constrictor still constricts as long as it's not retracted. In its natural state, it will slip maybe 4 or 5 inches before it grips it enough. To really lock it in place, it's simple to just run your hand down the sleeve and snug it. 

And the sleeve holds! So, now we have a nice new halyard that can be fastened to the sail easily, will not be crushed by a clutch and will keep the sail up!  And, it's a pretty red color.

Bullet Wifi Router

I worked most of the time during this three week trip in Nova Scotia and Maine taking only three days of vacation for the offshore legs. So I needed constant connectivity.  About two weeks into the trip, the Bullet Wifi Radio/Router stopped responding. Well Snap! this is a problem - and don't even ask how much we spent on data during this trip. I limped along for a few days on expensive 4G data but when we finally got to a slip at Dimillo's in Portland, ME, I decided to work on it a bit.  I was able to climb up on the stern rail and just reach the Bullet.  After retrieving it, I wired it in directly to the router at the nav station and... it works!  So the problem was most likely the disconnect at the base of the radar mast.  This is not the first time this has failed.

Detaching the Bullet and antenna from the Radar Mast at DiMillos

Fortunately, I carry another 20' network cable so I temporarily ran the wire out  through a hatch and tie-wrapped the bullet to the dodger frame.  It worked great and just in time to find out that DiMillo's wifi was down.  Another day of 4G...

The Bullet's temporary mounting for the rest of the trip.

I searched around and found what looks like a very nice weather/waterproof RJ-45 Coupler.  I ordered it so that it would be waiting for us when we returned home.

One side of this fancy waterproof network coupler (Amazon $10)

Macerator Pump

There comes a time in every boat's life when something goes wrong with the sanitation system. In this case, our macerator pump had been ceasing up repeatedly and more recently just plain failed to pump.  This pump is used to empty our holding tank overboard and can only be operated when outside of the 3nm "no-discharge" zone.  Without it working, and without any available pumpouts, we were starting to get a pretty full tank.

Yay.  Can't wait to work on this.  This was our "spare". A new spare has been ordered ($129)

I begged Linda to let me take on this job, but she insisted.

The old mac pump on the hull behind the sink drain hose

Linda the plumber (no crack)

The new pump mounted and plumbed - waiting for the Electcrician (me)

Does it work?

I won't know until next time we're 3 miles offshore.


Dear Marine Industry:  Can we come to an understanding?  Can we either have "marine" prices and get excellent quality and service, or can we get cheap prices and continue to get the crap we get today? I'm beginning to lose my patience with the "marine" prices for crap quality.

In Mackerel Cove, ME, we started the process of dropping our anchor for the night. The anchor grabbed nicely and we were almost done.  I wanted to take up a few feet of chain to attach our snubber after which I would let those few feet back out.  I pressed the "Up" button.  It came up.  I released the Up button. It KEPT COMING UP, and up... and up and up.  Eventually the clutch started slipping (good) and the breaker blew (good).  I want to point out that this is a Quick brand Windlass with very little use - just saying.

Autopsy on the UP switch
So much for my relaxing night after work.  I had a "project".  Yay.  After disassembling the switch, I found that under all that rubber pushbutton stuff, is a cheesy little 75 cent microswitch.  Yes, really.  The control for your Windlass (did I mention it was a Quick Brand Windlass?), up there on the foredeck where it is covered in salt water and mud and sand, is a $0.75 plastic switch. Ugh.

For the rest of the trip, our "up" button consisted of shorting out two wires which used to be connected to this failed switch. We also learned that you should ALWAYS leave your windlass breaker OFF when not operating it. Could you imagine the fun if this switch failed like this in the middle of the night and lifted the anchor off the bottom?

We're going to rip these cheesy switches out and fill the holes in the deck

The new UP switch for our Windlass.  Just short those two wires together.  Reminds me of when I used to steal cars.
I'm still not sure what I'm doing about this yet, but it sure the hell isn't going to be to replace the switch as-is.  I think we will be building something from scratch with some real switches and filling the existing switch holes in the deck with epoxy.

And just to help keep awake at night... our Bow-Thruster is also Quick Brand.

Torn Jib

Astute readers may remember that we had a bit of excitement during our first night offshore three weeks ago en route to Nova Scotia. We ended up losing control of the jib sheets in high winds and for a few minutes, the jib was beating the crap out of itself.  Apparently, the metal clewboard of the sail slapped the sail such that it put a nice slice in it.  The clewboard is a pretty heavy metal thingie with some sharp-ish edges so I'm not surprised.

Clean slice in the jib from the clewboard, luckily not along a stress line. We taped it up in Lunenburg temporarily but then did a more permanent fix when back in Boston.

Our good friend Yolande from team Prairie Gold just happens to have one of those fancy Sailrite Sewing machines.  We applied sail tape to both sides of the rip, and Yolande stitched it in for extra strength.  Will this get us through the next year?  Maybe.

Dockside service on one of those 90+ degree afternoons recently. Thank you Yolande!!

Fresh piece of dacron sail tape sewn on for good measure. The culprit clewboard is to the right of Yolande.

Now time to get this jib back on the forestay.

Alternator Belt

Before we left for Nova Scotia, we noticed that there was some black dust from the alternator belt on the engine.  The belt still looked fine but we knew its days were numbered.  After a particularly long day of motoring from Southwest Harbor, ME to Small Harbor, ME (Casco Bay), we noticed that the belt was audibly squeaking a bit when the engine was first started.  So before we set off from Small Harbor to Portland, we decided to change it.  This is fairly easy to do and we of course had a spare.  We have since ordered TWO spares to keep on-hand.

Checking/tweaking tension on the alternator belt.

Compass Deviation

I've been trying to plot a nice Compass Deviation Table.  I wrote about it a while back if you're interested in such things.  I noticed in some recent readings that there were pretty big differences between the port and starboard wheel compasses. I had a hunch. Could it be because of the speaker in my guitar amp which happens to be stowed in the aft cabin directly under the starboard wheel? Why yes it could!

We had to remove everything from the aft cabin anyway to get the floorboards up in order to gain access to our spare macerator pump.  So while it was empty, I asked Linda to move the amp around and try different orientations.  I went up in the cockpit and watched the starboard compass swing 10 degrees!  This is about as close to having a roadie as I'll ever have.

Linda adjusting the starboard compass by moving the guitar amplifier around. (Doesn't every sailboat have an amp aboard??)
Anyway, we have now moved the amp more forward and face down.  The effect on the compass seems minimal at most.

In addition to always having something to fix, there are various logistics that go hand in hand with sailing and living aboard.  Linda outlined some of these in a blog post last summer, The Other Side of Sailing. Now that we have the most recent fix it list addressed, it is time to move on to some routine maintenance projects such as:
  • Winch cleaning and lubrication
  • Chrome polishing
  • Oil and fuel filter changes
  • Teak treatment
And, to get in some more sailing!