Sailfeed
August 4th

Self-steering options

I knew this day would come. I recently discussed having to make up new wood-chip “fuses” for the “electric vane” rig on Lunacy, and in the whole time I’ve owned the boat, about eight years now, this has been the only repair I’ve had to do to keep my autopilot system going. But the small tiller-pilot that is the brains of the operation is very old, and I did expect it would fail eventually. Which is what happened when Mr. Lassen and I were scuttling home from Nova Scotia a few days ago.

It wasn’t a big deal at the time, as I have two back-up systems and immediately deployed both, per the photo up top.…

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August 1st

Written by Ben Ellison on Aug 1, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Bob_n_Elaine_Ebaugh_cruise_courtesy_MarAzulAdventures.jpg

Bob and Elaine Ebaugh did it, leaving Florida in April, 2011, on their DeFever 44 Mar Azul and spending more than two years cruising a big Caribbean loop. Their blog, Mar Azul Adventures, is a good read, but you might miss the fact that during the cruise Bob managed to research, assemble, test and install a 1,200 amp hour do-it-yourself lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery bank to replace the 12 golf cart batteries they’d worn out. He also wrote a thorough white paper about why he chose DIY lithium and how he put the system together…

DIY_Lithium_Iron_Phosphate_boat_batteries_courtesy_Bob_Ebaugh.jpg

Here is Bob’s lithium battery blog entry, but you really should download the 14-page PDF mentioned there.

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July 31st

Edson Marine: old school, new school

Posted by // July 31, 2014 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

Boats and Gear,

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 31, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Edson_Marine_steering_wheels_circa_18xx_cPanbo_.jpg

I visited Edson Marine headquarters while Gizmo was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during my cruise home in May 2013, and one vivid memory is this old catalog that co-owner Will Keene showed me. My old sloop Alice had one of those Mahogany Steering Wheels, and while I’m sure it cost more in 1946, it’s amazing to realize that you could once buy one for $15, Ebonized Rim included. I also enjoyed seeing how well Edson has kept on keeping on since Jacob Edson invented and started manufacturing the first diaphragm pump in 1859…

Edson_pedestal_being_assembled.jpg

Edson still makes traditional wooden wheels but also super lightweight carbon ones, too — see their wheels site here — as well as all sorts of other hardware.…

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July 29th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 29, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Furuno_711c_autopilot_head_SETCSE_aPanbo.jpgThe press release (PDF here) for Furuno’s new color 711C autopilot control describe it as “completely redesigned to provide an excellent match with Furuno’s flagship line of NavNet TZtouch MFD’s… right down to the control knob!” There’s no denying the similar handsome styling, and doesn’t it make you wonder if Furuno will eventually offer a color NMEA 2000 instrument display with the same standard DIN size and 4.1-inch color screen? That’s 100% speculation on my part, but doesn’t it make sense as Furuno finds itself competing with Raymarine, Garmin, and Simrad over the glass style helm that the TZT Series arguably spearheaded?…

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July 26th

Life raft: more than two four letter words

Posted by // July 26, 2014 // COMMENT (9 Comments)

Boats and Gear, ,

Examining raft contents. Photo (c) Michelle Elvy

How do you choose a life raft? We looked for the best raft available. That wasn’t enough.

As dewy-eyed gonna-be cruisers, we focused on choosing a superior product for that moment of (heaven forbid) dire need. We looked at independent research reports, read books and blogs about the life raft experiences of other cruisers, and met with all major brand reps at boat shows. After much deliberation, we settled on a six-man Winslow life raft as the crucial piece of safety gear that we hope to never use.

Our initial certification on the new raft was good for three years, a longer term than typical thanks to the durable vacuum packing by the manufacturer.…

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July 24th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 24, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Gizmo_awning_AC_cPanbo.jpgToday it’s wet and gray here on a mooring float in Northeast Harbor, but we’re enjoying a distinctly non-electronic improvement to Gizmo’s gear list. It’s a new awning that stretches from the cabin brow to the bow pulpit, letting us keep the hatches open despite the rain bursts. Yesterday, when it was sunny and fairly hot, the awning shaded the forward cabin top and the main cabin’s large forward windows. If it gets really hot, I’m pretty sure that the combination of the awning plus the see-through “Florida curtains” over the other big windows and maybe a small fan will make the boat as comfortable as the air conditioning unit.…

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July 22nd

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 22, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Simrad_RS35_testing_GPS_source_cPanb_o.jpgIt’s taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35′s nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return the radio for the software fix, but now it’s installed at Gizmo’s lower helm and has no problem with the three GPS sources shown above and a lot more I threw at it.…

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July 19th

Plotter screen

I’ve been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I’ve been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

Landfall’s website, you’ll recall, purported to have a relevant chart card that was compatible with my machine, and I tried to buy that, but afterwards they confessed via e-mail that their website lied to me and the card really was not compatible.…

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July 17th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 17, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Navionics_Vexilar_iPad_app_aPanbo.jpgWow. Combining the Navionics Boating apps and the Vexilar SonarPhone WiFi fishfinder seems like an obvious development now, but there are so many marine electronics integration possibilities these days that even the ripe low-hanging fruit can be surprising. Announced yesterday at ICAST (PDF here) and available for iPhone/iPad in August (and Android later), the combined Navionics SonarPhone app means that a small boater can have a fairly sophisticated plotter/fishfinder for about $200, phone or tablet not included (and note the issue of screen visibility in an open boat).…

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July 14th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 14, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Inmarsat_iSatPhone_2_aPanbo.jpgA brief test of the new Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 showed it to be quite a good satellite phone. Compared to the original IsatPhone Pro I tested in 2010, the new phone locks onto both GPS and Inmarsat satellites noticably faster and the voice calls seem to sound better. I also found the screen quite readable in most conditions including direct sun, and the user interface struck me as fast and easy to get the hang of. However, if you sense some “buts” coming, you are correct.…

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