Introduction

The idea behind the blog is to chronicle the execution of our plan.  We have a strategy.  However, as with most endeavors, there is the unexpected.  Here you will see what really happens.

With a number of projects open at any one time, the order of events vary.  We spend a lot of time waiting for parts to be delivered, waiting for paint to dry, and lining up contractors.  This is the practical reality of working with almost any project, but especially a restoration effort of this magnitude.  The end result is we bounce between tasks. 

 

More painting

We are down to final coats of paint, for now, and addressing a number of relatively small issues.  These are difficult to show in photographs because the changes are so minimal in comparison to the entire project. A handy group of American Indians: Leo, Poochy, Harold, and Edward are helping us take care of these.

Our greatest challenge this time of year comes from a commercial blueberry field only a few hundred feet away from Fir. Blueberries attract birds. Birds eat blueberries. Birds sit on Fir and crap blue excrement that has to be cleaned before applying the next coat of paint. So, every trip commences with a general boat cleaning that takes about a day. Then, every day begins with a wipe down to catch the bird deposits since the last cleaning.

 Fir's starboard profile.

Fir's starboard profile.

One of the last areas to complete is the aft mast. The aft mast is a difficult climb. The person working in this area must rely on the lanyard. In other words, they need to be willing to let go with their hands, lean back and trust that the climbing gear is safe.  Only Joe and Leo are able to do this. 

 Leo pressure washes the aft mast in preparation for painting.

Leo pressure washes the aft mast in preparation for painting.

Finishing the aft mast is critical because we have antennas and USCG required navigation lights that must be installed.

Class A AIS

In July 2018, we set up our class A Automatic Identification System (AIS) transceiver.  AIS has Class A and Class B systems.  Generally, Class A is used by ships.  Class B is used by recreational boats. Click here for more info on the system.

Fir requires a Class A AIS transceiver.  We have yet to make our global decision on a single marine electronics provider for the base system. The AIS transceiver is part of our secondary navigation system. That said, not all of the major manufacturers offer Class A systems.

Ultimately, we chose the Furuno FA-170. 

 Joe installs our  Shakespeare  6396-AIS-R to the top of the A-Frame mast. This is a 4 foot, top of the line (Phase III) antenna with 3db gain.

Joe installs our Shakespeare 6396-AIS-R to the top of the A-Frame mast. This is a 4 foot, top of the line (Phase III) antenna with 3db gain.

The Furuno 170A has three components: 1) the user display, 2) the GPS antenna, and 3) the main box where all the action takes place.

 The "head" or display of the Furuno system is mounted to the bulkhead behind the chart table.  Historically this is where Fir has mounted the communication systems. 

The "head" or display of the Furuno system is mounted to the bulkhead behind the chart table.  Historically this is where Fir has mounted the communication systems. 

 The Furuno 170A has an independent GPS antenna.  We chose to mount the antenna between the A-Frame supports and just above the solar panels. In the (hopefully) unlikely event that we encounter a bridge or storm that strips off our primary GPS antenna, this antenna should survive as backup. Also worth noting is that we ran the wiring outside the mast bundle which adds to the independence of this system.   

The Furuno 170A has an independent GPS antenna.  We chose to mount the antenna between the A-Frame supports and just above the solar panels. In the (hopefully) unlikely event that we encounter a bridge or storm that strips off our primary GPS antenna, this antenna should survive as backup. Also worth noting is that we ran the wiring outside the mast bundle which adds to the independence of this system.   

 The "main box" is mounted in the base of the chart table. 

The "main box" is mounted in the base of the chart table. 

Our starter system is not complicated.  We are only trying to connect the three components and have them function locally (the Furuno 170A is capable of extremely complicated network systems)..  The connection between the antenna and the main box is simple. The kit includes a wire with appropriate ends that plug into the base of the antenna along with the base of the main box.

The wiring between the head and the main box seems overly complex.  Furuno provides plenty of cable to connect the head and main box but, this is raw cable and you have to strip the ends before placing them into a connector.  The head needs a special tool to connect the wires to the terminal. Therefore, the body of the unit must be disassembled.   The main box requires another special tool to connect the wires to the terminal. Meanwhile, the wire sequence from the head does not match the wire sequence from the main box.  There is a schematic in the manual so we figured it out but, it would be so much easier to have a dedicated connection.

Upon powering up the unit, you are asked for a password.  Unfortunately, no password is provided in the box or the manual.  As it turns out, the system is supposed to be installed by a technician licensed by Furuno that would have the code.  Luckily, Furuno agreed to help given that we are a recreational vessel. The unlock key sequence is: NAV/STATUS, DISP, BRILL, BRILL, BRILL.  

After unlocking the device, we followed the instructions to enter our radio information (the MMSI and Call Sign from our FCC license).  We then entered basic information about our boat: name, length, beam, draft, and antenna location (relative to the boat).  Finally, we entered our journey information to say that we are at anchor.  We felt that this last bit of information was necessary since we are within a mile of the shipping lane and Fir's orientation is perpendicular to the lane.  

Upon powering up, the Furuno went through several sequences.  After a few seconds, our GPS location stabilized and the system began populating a list of AIS contacts in the area. The initial list only displayed MMSI numbers.  After a few minutes, list details were filled out with boat names etc.  The system started generating alerts.  And, when Joe went home at the end of the day he confirmed that Fir showed up on his Class B system which is several miles away.  So, the simple system is working well.

The next step will be to connect one of the COM ports of the main box to our NEMO using an NMEA0183 connection.  This should allow us to display AIS target on our Coastal Explorer charts. Check back to see how this goes.  

#yachts, #marine, #marineelectronics, #furuno, #marinenavigation

 

     

July work on our Willard tender.

July work on our Willard tender.

Sonar

Our tender will primarily be used to take soundings of the areas around Fir.  Chart data is often years old and there are endless stories of boats that run aground when they relied on outdated information. With a draft of 11.5 feet and slow rate of turn, there are plenty of places where Fir will need to be careful.  The right sonar system will keep the sounding data current on our electronic charts.  This will allow us to use the tender to map anchorages before we commit to bringing Fir close to land.



We gotta get out of this place

We gotta get out of this place

In the words of Eric Burdon, "We gotta get out of this place if its the last thing we ever do." The marina where Fir sits has been in some state of legal trouble for years. San Joaquin County, California has cited the marina operator for a variety of infractions. Eventually, this led to the lender foreclosing on the property. This plus a host of lesser disputes and accusations have been advancing slowly through the local courts.

Navigation (Part 1)

General

We decided to build two independent navigation systems. One system will be based around chartplotters from a major marine electronic manufacturer (final selection not made). The second, will be a PC based solution.  Obviously, having two systems creates redundancy. However, two systems based on very different platforms will decrease the chances of a single problem taking out both.

Navigation Computer

 Our navigation computer is housed in a generic 8U rack cabinet. Below the computer is the Ubiquiti ethernet switch. The Rose Point interface is to the right.

Our navigation computer is housed in a generic 8U rack cabinet. Below the computer is the Ubiquiti ethernet switch. The Rose Point interface is to the right.

We completed the physical set up of PC systems. Snapping components into our generic computer cabinet was quick and easy.  Loading Windows 10 created a "missing file" error message which was a PITA. We spent 4-5 hours googling the error message and trying to resolve the problem on board. When we got sick of this, we pulled it out and took it to a local computer repair shop.  It turned out that the stick provided by Microsoft was bad so we were never going to solve the problem on board.  This twist of fate turned out to be a benefit when the computer shop quickly loaded all our software which would have taken days on board through our cellular connection. 

The homemade computer is lightning fast and the display is gorgeous. We are very happy with our selections so far.  

In choosing an internet connection, we borrowed heavily from Panbo's recent articles before purchasing a Netgear LB-1120 4G cellular modem ($88), and MIMO antenna ($27).  When combined with our Shakespeare cellular amplifier (more to come on this), cellular coverage is excellent.

The bridge between our computer and internet sources is a  Ubiquiti Edge Router ($184 ).  This is a "managed" router and switch that decides how to move data across our internal network. This unit can be configured to choose between two internet sources.  In our case, the unit will use a WIFI connection if possible. Should no reliable WIFI be available the unit will make use of the signal from the Netgear cellular modem.  Setup for the Ubiquiti unit is a challenge.  Fortunately, this only has to be done once. I used Ubiquiti products on a previous project and was so impressed that I invested in the stock.  Go Ubiquiti Networks Inc.,NASDAQ: UBNT

Charting Software

There are several good PC based navigation packages. We selected Coastal Explorer from Rose Point  ($379 for download version).  Rose Point is a Washington State company started by one of the founders of Microsoft

 
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In making our decision, we read the sales materials, studied a number of YouTube videos, and spoke to sales reps at boat shows. But, the most compelling endorsement came from the Adventures of Tanglewood.   

Coastal Explorer offers excellent planning facilities. One can easily flip between raster and vector charts and charts from different sources. So, we can plan a route using basic vector charts.  We can then study the route using raster charts and charts from other sources. The idea is that we will build our routes based on all the available information. This PC based system will interface with our autopilot.

A large part of our decision was driven by Rose Point's Nemo interface ($699).  Nemo is a device that enables communication between the NMEA2000 and NMEA0183 marine devices, and a computer. There are a number of ways to accomplish this.  Nemo pulls all the information into a single box, and fully complies with NMEA standards making the system more stable than many other interfaces. 

 
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Nemo will let us select (or ignore) devices connected to the system, which is critical. On the one hand, we want an integrated system and the ability to incorporate new technology.  On the other hand, we want to ensure that there is a firewall between our central navigation system and recreational devices.  Nemo will prevent other devices from interfering with our navigation system.

We can also set priorities.  We have multiple GPS sources.  Nemo allows us to select the order in which the GPS are used.  We will program Nemo to first use our reference quality Lars Thrane GPS system on its NMEA 0183 wiring and then the Furuno LT-1000 if the Lars Thrane fails.  

 

 The display for our PC based navigation system is flush mounted in the original chart table. This is a touch screen system. We do have a backup keyboard and mouse in the top drawer (visible in the lower left portion of the photograph). Since the screen is flush mounted, we can easily use the table for traditional, paper charts. Note that the glare is a problem with the camera. 

The display for our PC based navigation system is flush mounted in the original chart table. This is a touch screen system. We do have a backup keyboard and mouse in the top drawer (visible in the lower left portion of the photograph). Since the screen is flush mounted, we can easily use the table for traditional, paper charts. Note that the glare is a problem with the camera. 

We also loaded PredictWind onto the navigation computer.  PredictWind is a subscription service. There is a free version that shows wind and wave predictions in increments of 50KM.  A paid subscription service offers weather models in 1KM increments. This allows us to select between PredictWind's proprietary weather models as well as the most popular publicly available models. The system will download GRIB files (standard weather files)and push them into our chartplotters and navigation computer.

PredictWind also offers route planning assistance.  We enter the intended route that we developed using Coastal Explorer. PredictWind then calculates the best date and time for our departure.  We can also use PredictWind to adjust our route for the most comfortable course considering wave predictions.          

 

 A sample screen with general wind data. More detailed information is by subscription.

A sample screen with general wind data. More detailed information is by subscription.

 Wind and wave data in table form.

Wind and wave data in table form.

Memorial Day Weekend -- Water Tanks, Computers, and Sleds

 Another coat of PS700 to the port freeboard. Primer on the aft mast. Note the new decal on the bow.

Another coat of PS700 to the port freeboard. Primer on the aft mast. Note the new decal on the bow.

Painting

Painting Fir is a combination of practicality and pride.  She would be easier to paint in a shipyard. Our PPG paints are very forgiving which means we can often pull off painting when the weather and lack of supplies prevents other work. The paint is protecting her from the elements which is necessary for trips to harsher environments. In addition, painting forces careful inspection of every surface which allows us to ensure we know every issue with the hull.

A fresh coat of paint prevents us from looking like a derelict vessel.  California and San Joaquin County in particular have issues with derelict boats.  A San Joaquin County video seems to define a derelict boats as one that "needs love."  As a matter of pride, we want to roll into the Bay looking good -- and loved.   

Water Tanks

 The last coat of Amerlock 2/400 goes into the aft tanks.  Ready to close.

The last coat of Amerlock 2/400 goes into the aft tanks.  Ready to close.

Getting the water tanks right has been a major pursuit. We need clean, potable water.  Equally important, Fir's six belly tanks cover a large portion of the underwater hull. They essentially provide a double hull structure.  There is an old saying that steel boats rot from the inside out. Protecting the hull and developing a good seal is a significant safety issue.

Furthermore, the water tanks are also our ballast. The tanks will be drained for a short trip from her current mooring to the Stockton shipping channel.  Once in the channel, we need to take on water to provide much needed ballast. 

 
 Chris installs new gaskets for the tanks and cleans around the seals.

Chris installs new gaskets for the tanks and cleans around the seals.

 
 

Computers and electronics

We plan to have two computers: 1) a navigation computer and 2) a ship's computer.

This trip we started to get the computers up and running.  This includes getting our WIFI and Cellular internet connections online.  Building the computers from components is as simple as snapping a few cards into place. Its been 15 years since I last did this.  15 years later my biggest problem is I can no longer easily read the tiny labels on the wires. Luckily, Chris is a bit younger and was able to get the wires into the right plugs.

Our next blog will have a complete description of our system and our plan to integrate marine equipment with the PC.  We also hope to select and load our PC based navigation.  This will be one of our two navigation systems.  

 Testing the electronic chart table using a laptop. We are keeping the original chart table but we are flush mounting a 30 inch monitor to display electronic charts. 

Testing the electronic chart table using a laptop. We are keeping the original chart table but we are flush mounting a 30 inch monitor to display electronic charts. 

 

Sleds

Our new equipment will be grouped by function and mounted on sleds for a single source of control.  We worked on three sleds this trip: 1) the fresh water sled that takes care of our water making and domestic water distribution, 2) the HVAC sled that houses our boiler, hydronic heat distribution, domestic hot water production and rack of chillers for cooling and 3) the sled for new generators. We will soon be making our final decisions on these systems.   

 The beginnings of our water sled where water filters, water maker, and pumps will be mounted. 

The beginnings of our water sled where water filters, water maker, and pumps will be mounted. 

 Getting our home built computer up and running. Loading Windows etc.

Getting our home built computer up and running. Loading Windows etc.

Painting the aft mast relates to our electronics in that this is where we will install the last of our Shakespeare antennas and remainder of our McDermott navigation lights.  

 Chris pressure washes the aft mast in preparation for priming.

Chris pressure washes the aft mast in preparation for priming.

 
 This sled added to the engine room will house the boiler for domestic hot water and heating and the chiller block.

This sled added to the engine room will house the boiler for domestic hot water and heating and the chiller block.

An advantage of the sled is that it gives us fewer connection points to Fir's current systems.  Connecting to Fir's existing systems can be challenging.  The braided wiring can be tough to strip.  Pipes can be frozen.  Splicing into existing pipes can lead to breaking parts which leads to endless searching for a part on the boat and ultimately ending with an hour trip to Fergusons.  The sleds limit the number of connections to existing systems.  For example, the water sled will have power, water in, and water out. All the plumbing and wiring within the sled are new and matched with the other new components. Connecting these components is relatively quick and predictable.  The sled allows us to deal with a few key splices and move on with the install ion a predictable fashion.