New Anchor

Anchoring technique and equipment is a topic near and dear to crusing boaters, and is one that can become something like a religious or political conversation – people have very strong views.  For example, Trawler Forum has an entire forum set aside for Anchors and Anchoring, with over 19,000 posts.  What we know about the topic is that we don’t like our CQR anchor, and have had a number of problems, both with setting and dragging, with the last one having us leave an anchorage at 3 AM to find a better spot.  So, high on our Philbrooks list was replacing the CQR with something bigger and better.  I am a member of the Nordhavn Owners Group, which is a wealth of information on all things related to owning and operating Nordhavns.  Consulting the group, it seems clear that the preferred replacement anchor is the ROCNA.  It has a long track record, and is reported to set quickly and hold really well.  The downside is mostly around how the anchor actually fits on the bow roller and stays in position.

I’ve decided to do something that may be a bit heritcal, and am going to experiment with a SARCA Excel, as I mentioned in a previous post.  I’m working with Chris from Ground Tackle Marine, who happens to be located right near Philbrooks in Sdiney, BC.  He sent me a couple of pictures today to show me the initial fit, and I like what I see.

img_6953

Here it is sitting on the bow of the boat.  It is certainly not obvious from the photo, but it is a “size 13”, weighing about 140 lbs.  It seems to fit really nicely on the pulpit and roller.

img_6954

Here is a shot looking at how it connects to the windlass. The bar at the end of the anchor is called a flip link, and basically causes the anchor to get into the right position to stow when it comes over the bow roller.  It serves the same purpose as an anchor swivel (another one of those topics that will generate endless arguments).  There is a chain stopper under the bar, positioned to evaluate fit.  However, I don’t think we will wind up going with that setup.  Instead we will have a short snubber line that has a loop to go around the windlass and a chain hook that we will use for setting the anchor.  We will use a turnbuckle setup to secure the anchor when underway.  I’ll show some pictures of those when they are installed.

Nav System Upgrades

Warning… geek-ish content.

Miss Miranda’s navigation system is put together from high quality components, mostly from Furuno, but I believe they are original to the boat, meaning that they are nearly 20 years old.  Furthermore, none of the systems have any built-in redundancy, so failure of one component could have some pretty serious consequences.  I would love to install a brand new, fully redundant system, but frankly, we could not justify the expense, which could easily exceed $100,000.  So, I’ve been thinking about how we might slowly upgrade and modernize the system while creating some redundancy.

The main components of the system are:

  • Furuno GPS for position and course/speed
  • PC-based chart plotter software, originally Nobeltec “VNS” which I have replaced with Rose Point Coastal Explorer and Nobeltec TimeZero Navigator.  More on that later
  • Furuno 1932 Mk II open array radar.  This model has a standalone “green screen” display but works very well.  What it lacks is an optional module for ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid), which allows you to track a radar target (i.e. another vessel).  We had the same radar with this module on our other boat, and I really miss not having it.  I think it is one of those critical safety components.
  • Furuno FCV585 fish finder.  This is a depth sounder with a color display to show bottom contours.  It also shows water temperature.
  • Simrad AP20 autopilot.  The autopilot allows us to steer a course based on boat heading, but is also integrated into the chart plotter so that it can follow a route.  It also provides rudder control for the 3 additional steering stations on the boat, located on the port and starboard portugese bridge and the cockpit.  These are super handy for docking.
  • Airmar PB200 weather station.  Provides weather information, notably wind speed and direction.
  • Furuno RD30 display.  This is a multi function display for navigation and weather data, typically things like boat speed, position, wind speed and direction.
  • ICOM VHF radios.  One of these radios has DSC (Digital Selective Calling) which allows us to transmit our location over VHF in the event of an emergency.
  • Vesper XB8000 AIS receiver. This is a recent upgrade and is a very nice addition to the system. It broadcasts our position, and also receives position data for other AIS equipped vessels. Very handy for places where there is a lot of marine traffic. It also has a high quality GPS receiver and has wifi capability, so it can send data to mobile devices.

We decided that the critical systems for which we would want backups were GPS, Radar, Autopilot, and Chartplotter, probably in that order. We already had multiple GPS sources, and just needed a way to move the data around. Therefore, our goals for the upgrade were:

  • Be able to deliver navigation and weather data to multiple devices, including a second navigation PC and over the wifi network to various iPads. Most of the navigation data on the boat is shared by a marine networking standard called NMEA 0183, which is essentially a point to point serial communication protocol (does anyone remember serial ports on early PCs?). The data are sent to the PC via 4 serial to USB converters, which makes it difficult to send to more than one PC. Furthermore, some of the navigation devices are “daisy chained” together, for example, the fish finder gets GPS data in and therefore sends out both depth and GPS data. This results in duplication of data streams… messy.
  • Install an additional radar for backup and for the ARPA capabilities that I described above.
  • Install a second autopilot system as a backup.

The key component for making all of this possible is the Rose Point NEMO gateway. Rose Point describes it better than I can:

The nemo gateway connects your onboard data systems to provide your PCs, tablets, and phones access to all of your marine electronics. It can also translate information between NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 so you can use a combination of older and newer devices rather than upgrading everything at once.

When I learned that the NEMO would be on sale at the Seattle boat show, I decided to take the plunge. I bought the NEMO, a Furuno DRS4D-NXT solid state radar (with a name like that, it must be good, right?) and a Furuno NavPilot 711c. I then enlisted electronics expert Steve Elston (http://www.elstonmarine.com/) to do the install with me and teach me a bit along the way.

MM_Nav_NewHere is a diagram of what I hoped to have at the end of the project. We will replace the existing NMEA 0183 “network” with a small NMEA 2000 (the current standard) network as well Ethernet and wifi networks.

NEMO Installation

The first step was to identify all of the existing NMEA 0183 connections and wiring. Opening up the pilot dashboard panels was truly frightening – a mass of unlabeled cables running in all directions. It took a solid day for the two of us to clean up the wiring and trace all of the connections, giving the label maker a good workout as we labeled each end of the existing cables. Once that was done, installing the NEMO was quite straightforward. The cables that had USB connectors for the PC went instead into the NMEA 0183 inputs and we wired a couple of NMEA 0183 outputs to send signals to the devices that needed 0183 inputs (Autopilot, fish finder, radar, radio). We then created a small NEMA 2000 network to connect the Vesper AIS transponder to the NEMO, and we created an Ethernet network to connect the nav computers. Once everything was connected, we were able to use Rose Point Coastal Explorer and/or the NEMO web interface to configure the device.

We ran into a couple of interesting challenges along the way:

  • For some reason, we were not getting the depth output from the Furuno fish finder. It had been working before the upgrade, and we spent a lot of time diagnosing the problem. It turned out that the NMEA output chip on the 20 year old device had died. We were able to send it back to Furuno to repair, and were also able to get the screen, which was beginning to delaminate, repaired at the same time. I think it is very impressive that Furuno actually repairs 20 year old equipment. They have earned my loyalty.
  • When we got the fish finder back, we were getting depth on the network, but not to the Furuno 1932 radar. After another prolonged but of diagnosis, we discovered that the plus and minus wires had been crossed in a hidden splice far down the cable. It was one of those “what the @#$% were they thinking?” moments.
  • Finally, when we were configuring the PC navigation systems to use the UDP data stream from the NEMO, TimeZero seemed to be getting the wrong heading data. The source, we knew, was supposed to be the fluxgate compass for the Simrad Autopilot, and we could see that Coastal Explorer was receiving and displaying the data correctly, but for some reason, TimeZero was not. It turned out that the fish finder was sending an inaccurate heading through water (VHW) sentence that TimeZero was using instead of the standard HDG sentence. There was no way to turn it off at the device, but I was able to filter it out of the UDP data stream using the NEMO console.

I am very happy with the NEMO. I can now run two (or more) navigation PCs on the network (but make sure that only one is trying to control the autopilot!) and all of the data from the NMEA 0183 devices is converted to NMEA 2000. That means that the Vesper can rebroadcast all of the nav data over wifi so I can use it with an iPad running iSailor.

Radar Installation

The next phase of the project was to install the Furuno radome. Before doing that, we had to remove the KVH trackvision system – the Furuno dome was going to replace the unused KVH dome up on the stack. The removal and replacement was uneventful for the most part, with the biggest challenge being getting access to the upper part of the stack to pull and secure the signal/power cable. The only way to get to it was to pull off a stainless steel vent grate that had been extremely well sealed into place. Nothing that a little bit of heat and a lot of salty language couldn’t fix. Once physically installed, all I needed to do was to configure the Ethernet network to live in the Furuno proprietary address range. I purchased the optional radar module for TimeZero and was up and running in no time. The only configuration needed was to tweak the alignment setting to account for the dome not pointing perfectly straight ahead. TimeZero allows the radar to be displayed standalone in a separate window, or as an overlay on the chart display. I have to say that I really like the overlay mode, and I love the automatic target tracking feature, which identifies and color codes targets based on whether they are moving towards or away from your vessel. At about $2500 for the hardware and software, this is an upgrade that delivers huge bang for the buck.

img_6768.jpg

Here is a not-so-great picture of the stand-alone radar display in TimeZero.

We have not yet gotten around to the autopilot installation. That is planned for our second visit to Philbrooks, sometime in mid-August.

To the Boatyard

This morning it was time to head over to Philbrooks Boatyard in Sidney, BC for some planned refit work. We brought the boat here last year and were really pleased with their capabilities and level of service, so we are back again for more.

Yesterday was a beautiful blue sky day in Anacortes, but this morning was shrouded in fog. It was a great opportunity to test out our new Furuno Digital radar, which can overlay a radar image on top of a chart on our PC based navigation system… but that is the topic for a different (overdue) post.

Crossing Rosario Strait and finally emerging from the fog.

As I approached Thatcher Pass, the fog began to clear. You can just begin to make out land in the photo above.

Thatcher Pass.

Then the sun came out, making it a very pleasant 33 mile cruise over to Sidney. Philbrooks gave me a slip assignment just inside the breakwater of Van Isle Marina.

A beautiful afternoon in Sidney, BC

The tall building on the left side of the image is the Phibrooks boat shed, and they have a marine railway for hauling boats out of the water. It is a cradle on tracks that goes underwater, and you drive the boat up on it.

The marine railway

Here is a photo of the cradle. Tomorrow they will roll it down the tracks and we will bring Miss Miranda up onto it to begin work which includes (in no particular order):

  • Bottom and running gear, anti-fouling paint as needed
  • Install a new Sarca Excel anchor to replace our drag-prone CQR.
  • Major electrical system upgrade that includes replacing our house batteries with Firefly Carbon foam batteries, adding chargers, and installing solar panels. This will allow us to stay at anchor indefinitely.
  • Reupholster the salon settee. After nearly 20 years, the cushions and fabric are shot, and Philbrooks did a terrific job on the pilot house settee last year.
  • Install an Iridium GO satellite messenger. This will allow us to receive weather data from Predictwind at sea, and also supports (very slow) email access and voice calls.
  • Scheduled maintenance for almost all major systems, including main engine, wing engine, generator, stabilizers, hydronic heating system, watermaker and autopilot/steering.

It’s a good thing that the condo renovations are (almost) complete, since the boat, our home for the past two months, will be at Philbrooks for all of April. The plan is to have the work done by May 1st, when we will pick up the boat and head down to Seattle for the Opening Day of the boating season.

A fitting end to the day

Hydraulics, fluid dynamics and wine

This week we went to Santa Rosa California to spend two days at a training class learning about our hydraulic stabilizers and bow thrusters. The stabilizers are very important features that make our boat easier to handle and more comfortable in rough seas. They won’t save our lives, but they will make us less likely to want to die from seasickness.

A fin – one of a pair that are attached to the hull. Their hydraulic powered motors react to waves hitting the boat to reduce roll.
A tube with a thruster – we have one of these in the bow of our boat – huge assist for docking in wind!

The company ABT Trac holds these classes at their US based manufacturing company in California. The most amazing thing we learned was how service oriented ABT is – they have all the original drawings of our specific boat installation from 20 years ago, and we can call them at any time for help. We got the entire history of parts replacement and service for the life of our boat from the previous two owners. Now we are ready to do what’s required before we set sail on our voyage. We were truly impressed with ABT’s commitment to quality and reliability, and to their highly skilled long-standing staff.

The machine shop and one of the machines that builds the parts.

Our instructor Eric was hilarious – I wish my Physics professor in college had Eric’s enthusiasm and excitement for fluid dynamics – I would not have struggled nearly as much! “Hydraulics is like baseball – everything goes back to home plate. “

In addition to learning the principles of hydraulic systems, we also got hands on mechanical experience taking the system apart to fix problems that are rare but COULD happen. Larry now thinks I am in charge of all maintenance.

I learned a lot doing it myself. Including the importance of LOTS of oilsorb towels available at all times.
The left side is the assembled motor for the stabilizer, the right side is the one I disassembled.

We’ve ordered the list of spare parts that would be hard to get in Mexico. Now I just need to review where everything is on our own boat so I know what to look for when and if anything stops working.

Jordan Estate Winery

In Sonoma County, if you are studying fluids you must study wine. We spent an enjoyable day with two tastings – Jordan Winery and Ramey. Perfect on a dreary rainy and chilly day in California.

Biking Around Anacortes

A beautiful spring day in Anacortes.  Time to dust off the bike and do some exploring.  We had head about the Tommy Thompson trail (https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/tommy-thompson-trail), and have seen where it crosses Fidalgo Bay while driving into town.  Today I decided to go find it.

strava.app.link/dXcjiaUx8U

I rode in from Skline on SR 20… not many options here, and the shouldder is pretty decent.  I went to see if the local bike shop was open (it wasn’t) and then across to “R” Avenue.  The trail is a paved, multi-use path that runs beside it.  It winds through the boat yards on the way out of town and then out and across the bay.

I rode a little way towards March point.  This is a photo looking back across the Bay to Anacortes.  On the right is a trailer park owned by the refinery for recreational use by employees.

img_6811

This is looking back at the trestle across the bay.

img_6814

Finally, a shot from the trestle looking north up the Bay towards Anacortes and Cap Sante Marina.

img_6816

Our Land Base

The dock that Miss Miranda lives at is accompanied by a one bedroom condo. This is our land base for the foreseeable future. Miranda will have a place while we are away, and this will be a touchdown spot for us in between voyages.

For the past 3 years we’ve rented it out and not set foot in it. When we reentered in December, it was obvious it needed a LOT of work. It’s 40 years old and not much had been done in all those years. Remember 1970s avocado green and orange? We first decided to do the kitchen, paint and refloor and replace all the appliances. Along the way we decided might as well do the whole thing – a bathroom refresh is still in the works.

The old condo – you can’t see the 1970s orange flowered floor tiles in the kitchen!

Of course, as all remodels do, it’s taken twice as long as planned. To be fair, that’s partly because all the snow delayed the delivery of the kitchen cabinets by two weeks.

Yesterday, all the protective covering was removed and the new condo revealed!

Now we can clean the dust off and the movers will pull up with our stuff from storage on Monday morning. I am having a bit of a panic that we haven’t downsized our stuff enough! I’ve also realized that after nearly 2 months on the boat, there is not much I have missed from our stuff.

I can’t wait to enjoy the view through our newly revealed windows while sitting on the couch enjoying a cocktail.

Miss Miranda is right outside the window on the left.