11 June 2015

WiFi Installation on Your Boat

Captain Bob Damiano

Winter (and spring) (and summer) project: Argon gets WIFI

Since I live and work from the boat, good connectivity is pretty important.  We have a couple of 4G hotspots but those come with those annoying data plans. Our marina has free wifi (via Beacon) but all the cool kids put up wifi routers and have their own LANs on their boats.

So back in December, I decided to buy the stuff. I was going to buy a package from Island Time, but I thought I would be even cooler and buy the bits separately myself. That's a great idea if you're an IP/networking genius and can configure this stuff. So I got a Microtik Groove radio and router and started struggling with it (with lots of help from my boss, Dan who IS an IP/networking genius).

Ultimately, I ended up replacing the groove with a Ubiquity Bullet radio.  This thing is MUCH easier to configure and I was actually able to do it with some email support from boss Dan, brother Duane and brother Duane's friend Ralph.

So... I have a brand new Groove radio for sale if anyone wants it.

Physical Mounting

Argon has an Edson radar mast on her transom.  I spoke to someone at Edson and he suggested I buy this "wing" thing that mounts under the radar platform. This provides a nice surface to mount several small antennas.

To mount to that, I got a standard 1-14 antenna mounting base and an extension tube. 

1-14 base with "extra" hole
Using breakfast bar as machine shop
The original Groove radio (ultimately not used)


The wireless router is installed inside the nav table instrument "pod".  I had to run a 12vdc line from a spare breaker to a new terminal block in there.  This feeds the router and the PoE (Power over Ethernet) injector to power the radio.

Terminal block for power

The new power/ground wires snaked into the breaker panel

Close-up of the Bullet

Router mounted.  Radio and antenna temporarily mounted for testing
We also had to run Ethernet all the way from the nav pod to the base of the radar mast and ultimately up the mast to the radio. 
Ethernet and wire snake

Linda doing best tie-wrap job ever down in the steering compartment
About now, is when I got the network to actually work. Until then, it was a notwork.

Putting it all together

This involved finalizing the mounting of the radio/anenna to the mount, unwiring the radar mast and removing it from the boat, installing all the stuff and hooking it all back up.  And then really really hoping that everything still works.

mounting the L-bracket to the extension tube

Bullet secured using a 'bulkhead" connector (and a couple big honkin washers)

Undo these wires at the base of the mast

Mast rail support removed and replaced with temporary measure

The stick is out

attaching the wing

We were smart enough to get help to re-install the stick.
And there she is.  DONE (finally)

14 May 2015

Overnight to Newport

The Volvo Ocean Race is in America and right next door in Newport RI.  We took off at 14:00 from Boston with a plan to hit the Canal by 23:00.  At first the winds were pretty brisk and right behind us.  We considered whether or not to reef the main at first.  And every sailor knows - if you're considering... just do it.  We didn't.  As soon as we turned a little upwind in Presidents Roads, we got knocked over very handily in some 30+ gusts.

Then we reefed and sailed with no jib for a while.

As we got around Hull and were able to turn more downwind we eventually put up the full main and the Jib.  The wind softened a bit and so we traded the jib for the reacher.  Now, we had a nice long stretch of 8.5kt sailing with about 14kts coming over the beam.

Once we got a few miles south of Plymouth, the wind pretty suddenly died. We motored the rest of the way to the canal.


We hit the canal about 21:30 right at peak current and flew through it at 10.5kts.  Once on the other side, there was no wind so we just kept motoring.  Good news is that buzzards was nice and flat.

Around 02:00, we got a little breeze. With 24 miles to go to Newport, we put up the main and reacher and tried to sail for a while.  We were mostly in the low 3's which would have gotten us to Newport later than we wanted.

We gave up and started motoring again and Linda took over watch.

And Sunrise

Linda woke me up about 06:30 as we pulled into Newport Harbor.  As we passed Fort Adams, we did a drive-by of the Volvo boats

10 May 2015

Software Development on the High Seas

Adam at the helm

After party back at the dock. 

Off for our first regular season day sail today with some Marina Neighbors. Also testing Bob's new realtime track andrdoid app.  Unfortunately, it stopped recording while going around Spectacle Island. Bob has some work to do.

25 December 2014

Winter project II - adding another lighting circuit

Tartan is great for putting all these lighting fixtures in the engine compartment and in the aft compartment where the steering is. The problem is that they hung them on the "Lights 3" circuit which is also shared with the aft cabin and the refrigerator light.

Since they are in difficult-to-access areas, one wants to leave the switches on and then control them from the breaker panel. Doing this means that we don't get a refrigerator light because we would have to turn on the breaker whenever we wanted to open the fridge door and then remember to turn it off.  (We would usually forget the turning OFF part and leave the engine room lit without us knowing it).

Fortunately, there are plenty of spare breakers on the panel so it is possible to run another circuit for these work-area lights.  The electrical part is not rocket science (or even boat science).  The difficulty is in physically running the new wire along the existing wiring harnesses (and to do it in a way that looks Tartan-quality).

From the breaker panel, there are a few "raceways" that the wire must run through. Then it runs through a long pvc pipe into the aft steering compartment. From there it has to get over to the port side to a terminal block. It required forty-some feet of wire.

New yellow #12 wire in the bundle and fed into the raceway
I used a household wire snake to pull the wire through the conduit to the aft compartment. From there, getting over to the port side was the slow/difficult part because the wire had to be run through existing plastic wire "hose". This was slow going.
Wire snake emerging from the PVC conduit into the area behind the breaker panel

new yellow almost pulled through

new yellow still taped to the wire snake pulled through the PVC conduit into the aft steering compartment

new yellow terminated at a spare terminal on the main distribution block on the port side. I'm sitting in the sail locker. My legs are in the engine compartment and to the right is the aft steering compartment
Ready to test

Once the new yellow wire was terminated at the block, I moved what I thought would be just the engine room light wire from the "LT3" terminal down to where my new wire was terminated. With everything wired up, I went over to the breaker and turned on the new spare breaker. I was all ready to see just the engine room light up and congratulate myself. But to my surprise, the refrigerator light ALSO came on.  Well, that was a sub-optimal result. Somehow the fridge light is still branched from the engine room lights.

After pulling some of the sound-proofing insulation down over the engine, I found where they spliced in the fridge light. It was just forward of the middle engine room light fixture.

Here is where the fridge light is branching off from the engine room light circuit
Finally a working fridge light
After tearing up enough of the metalic HVAC tape on the engine room insulation, I as able to splice on a new length of blue #14 to the fridge light feed and get that on the Light-3 circuit. 

23 November 2014

Winter Projects

Argon is sitting in a parking lot in East Boston these days.  We have a few projects planned for the winter and I finally got round to finishing up one.

Additional Spinlock Rope Clutches

Tartan installed most of the deck hardware to support a Spinnaker. There are various blocks and bullseyes to guide the spin tack line toward the cockpit. However they left us short on deck organizer blocks and a rope clutch for the tack line.

We got even shorter with rope clutches because we redid the "German" sheeting on the main and brought the main sheet to the port side cabin-house winch.

The short version is that we need more rope clutches on the port side.  The starboard side had two triple clutches, but the port side was fitted with two dual clutches.  So I added another dual.

The surface for the spinlocks has a glassed-in aluminum backing plate. On Tartans, everything is tapped into these integral backing plates.  So I had to buy a 5/16-18 Tap, A drill bit for the tap size for 5/16-18 (in aluminum) and a bigger tap handle than I had.  According to the interwebs, an "F" sized drill bit was what I wanted.

So I started by drilling small pilot holes all the way through the glass and the backing plates

Initial pilot holes drilled. Spinlock does not provide a drill guide so you have to use the clutch itself to mark the hole locations.

Then drilled the "F" sized tap holes through the glass and Aluminum.  Then 5/16" clearance holes through the glass just down to the backing plate.

Ready for tapping. There is a good 3/4" of glass above the backing plate. Pretty strong boat.

Tapping - trying very hard not to break the tap inside the hole.  I only had WD-40 to use as tapping oil.

We love that the Tartans have removable headliners. I could have done this blind, but almost certainly would have drilled and tapped right through this bundle of wires!  Removing the headliner also allowed me to not have aluminum chips bouncing around above the ceiling forever.

The backing plate is glassed in just above this area

Headliner panel hanging

A little Life-Calk and the new spinlock is mounted

Now we can have the spinnaker tack line come back to the cockpit.  We can also shift the main sheet over so it lines up better with the winch.

Another bit missing for the spinnaker tack line was that there was no room in any of the deck organizer blocks for this line. This I fixed by adding a second level to the organizers on the port side
Upper level deck organizer added. Now room for two more lines

The Winter Cover

Not really my project, but Argon got a nice new winter cover from Kinder Industries in Bristol, RI

The Frame: 14 ribs, and 4 spine sections plus various supports

This frame works with mast up or down