Projects

I love working on projects – I usually have 10 or so in process at any given time both on the boat, and at home. Many of these projects turn into reviews of various products or technology, which I also enjoy. Almost all of the projects are driven to make our lives on the boat and elsewhere more comfortable or safe, and are cataloged here.

Parker fuel polishing system installed

A while ago I wrote about the Parker Fuel Polishing module that I found and purchased.  I finally had the time a week ago to finish my design and install it.  So far, I’m very pleased with it, although I appear to have a potential leak in one of my splices… The whole installation took me about 3 hours, most of which was laying in odd positions and searching for tools that I had dropped or misplaced – the usual delays and challenges on any boat project.  In the picture above, you can see the pump, Racor fuel filter, and all of the fuel hose coming and going.  The fuel filter was already mounted in the current location, so it was relatively easy to install. You can see the fuel line from the tank going into the Racor filter.  Behind the filter, a new fuel pipe connects the outflow to…

Fuel polishing

For a while I have been searching for a solution to polish my fuel on the sailboat.  My motivation stemmed from one harrowing sail which I wrote about where dirt caused the engine to fail, and two other times where I’ve had to deal with the fuel filter at inopportune times – just when you need the engine the most as it always seems!Most of the systems I’ve looked at before are far too complicated, or require a huge amount of space.  One I’ve always admired is the Filter Boss from KTI Systems – it allows you to switch fuel filters on the fly with the engine still running.  While it’s primary purpose is to have filter redundancy, there are also ways of configuring it to provide fuel polishing. Besides the space required, many of the other systems require a separate fuel polishing loop, which I also wanted to avoid….

ScanStrut Self Leveling Radar Pole

In my last post here, I talked about my new Simrad NSE and the BR24 radar. Some of you asked me how I mounted the BR24 and I said I’d write about it a bit. Here we go…After reviewing a bunch of options, I found ScanStrut to have the best quality and most options from me to choose from.  I visited a couple of marine stores and looked at their design, as well as wandered around my marina to see what others used.  I knew I wanted it stern mounted because of the wiring headaches of trying to get it up the mast. The three choices I had left were: pole mounted, backstay mounted, self leveling radar pole mounted. My preference initially was backstay mounted, which ScanStrut has a very nice kit for.  Unfortunately, I have a swim ladder and split backstay, so making this work was either going to…

Climbing the mast

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had to climb the mast of my sailboat to get at some things that were broken, and also to install a new system to control my mainsail.  I’m afraid of heights, and so doing this was no small task. A few years ago I bought a system that ran up the track in the mast and it had foot loops in it.  It came with a belt to hold you around the mast as you went up, sort of line a lineman’s toolbelt.  It really didn’t work all that well.  The foot loops were amazingly uncomfortable – very little support in them.  Your feet would get stuck in them since they flexed so much, and that wasn’t a good thing since you would be fighting getting your foot in and out of the loop.  Add to that the somewhat supportive belt, but still requires…

SPOT Satellite Messenger Shared Page

I’ve had a SPOT Satellite Messenger for about 6 months and really like it.  I use it primarily when I sail to keep my friends updated on where I am, and if I’m safe. I have always been a little annoyed that the only ways they could keep track of my course were to save the individual SMS’es or emails that were sent, or I had to give them my password to my private online account at the SPOT home page. Recently, the folks at SPOT came out with the SPOT Shared Page to solve this problem.  It’s still a little rough around the edges, but it’s far better than the previous solutions.  The page contains a list of the last 24 hours worth of messenger check-ins on the left, and a Google Maps layout of the track on the right.  You can click on the track to see more…

I hate heaters

How many heaters have you gone through? I use a West Marine 1500W cabin heater, the ones you can buy for around $70 that sit on the floor, to keep the boat heated in winter.  I leave a door open to the engine compartment, and it also basically heats the rest of the boat without a problem.  However, the last 3 years in a row, I end up having to buy a new heater.  One year, I had to buy two.  The problem is they’re really cheap, and then the other issue I believe is the water and marine environment. I found two major manufacturers out there who make bilge heaters, which is really what I care about.  The best one with the smallest footprint appears to be Xtreme Heaters.  I’m considering the 750W model, even though my boat isn’t that large, I’d prefer that it kept the majority of…

Boatsense unit failed again

A few evenings ago I went to the boat to check on some things, and decided to test the new Boatsense unit by tripping the bilge sensor. After 5 minutes of waiting, nothing happened. Then, I got a call from the guys at Boatsense. Bad news they said – the unit sent the message for the bilge alarm, but it also sent a battery low message, and then sent an “ominous” message that it was “on it’s last legs”. This was some new code they had added to the unit to detect when the unit was failing. After discussing it for a few minutes, they decided to send me a new unit (unit #3!) and they wanted the dead unit back to do a post mortem. Apparently I’m an early adopter of their technology – in the first 500 customers – and they have had some other issues in the…

Second Boatsense unit installed

Got a replacement Boatsense unit from the manufacturer, and installed it last week. No problems on the swap – took about 10 minutes, and everything tested out correctly. Set up my custom alert messsages and tested each alert by tripping the various sensors. No problems. Took a while for the manufacturer to respond to my queries to get it repaired, and initially it was quite frustrating getting text messages for things that weren’t broken at all hours of the day. The technology is new, so I know there will be some bugs. Hopefully this will be the last of them for this particular piece of technology!

Knocking noise partially solved – PSS Shaft Seal

For a while I’ve had a knocking noise when at low idle after the engine repower.  After a lot of trips to the bilge trying to figure out what’s going on, I found that the PSS Dripless Shaft Seal was dripping.  This has been ongoing now for 6 weeks or so.  The seal is a stainless steel disc attached to the propeller shaft near the transmission, and a matching set of bellows and a carbon disc that pushes up against the steel disc.  The stainless steel disc rotates with the prop shaft, while the carbon disk stays still, and is pressed against the steel disc.  Water lubricates the carbon disc so that it doesn’t heat up, and the whole thing is supposed to provide a dripless solution that is better than a stuffing box because of low maintenance. During the engine repower, this was not replaced.  The shop that did…

Boatsense Problems

I’ve had the new Boatsense Remote Vessel monitoring solution installed for a week or so now, and have had a few problems with it. First, the company that manages it did some sort of firmware update to it, and it now sends me pages at random times (usually at 1-3AM) with gibberish in it. They have looked at it and believe they can repair it. Then, it started paging me that my battery is low. I tested the battery just to be sure with a very accurate multimeter, and found no problems. After repeated emails to the manufacturer, they finally conceded today to sending me a new unit, but not until I expressed my frustration at being paged at random hours, and again reiterating that I expected not to pay for all of the pages beyond the 20/month limit. They theorize that the voltage component in my current device is…

Remote vessel monitoring

For a long time I’ve dreamt of having a system that would send me an email or text message when there’s something wrong. There are a lot of very high priced systems out there that you can purchase and for a monthly fee, have specific things monitored. Many of them are very bulky, require a lot of specialized hardware, and cost an arm and a leg. Recently, I was reading a sailing magazine (forget which one) and saw a write-up on a new system called Boat Sense Solutions. The system seemed really well thought out, and was reasonably priced. The product is a cell phone based text message device that will monitor a number of items on your boat, and send you and your two closest friends text messages when things are awry. After a bit of investigation, and questions to the manufacturer, which were answered very quickly, I bought…

Navigation system overhaul

I decided it was time to re-wire and re-tool my entire navigation system.  I’ve written articles on parts of each of these, and they’re linked below.  Here’s a general overview of what I had, and what I wanted to do.  I started with: Raymarine ST2000+ autopilot with wireless remote Tacktick wireless instruments for depth, speed, GPS, wind, compass, heading, including NMEA interface Handheld Garmin 76 GPS Uniden VHF radio with wireless remote None of the systems above really worked well together, other than the Tacktick instruments and the autopilot.  I used those two to sail a specific set degrees off of the wind when under sail.  The purpose this process was to increase the capabilities of the system, and make sure everything talked with everything else.I ended up with: Raymarine ST2000+ autopilot with wireless remote Tacktick wireless instruments for depth, speed, GPS, wind, compass, heading, including NMEA interface Uniden VHF…