Tech Talk – Part 2, The Marine Side

Sailing the seas has a very complex technical side in the 21st century with tools that earlier sailors could not have imagined. As “small craft” and pleasure boaters, we only use a fragment of the technology used by the commerical and government sides.

GPS (Global Positioning System) revolutionized boating before it became the norm for land use. We have used a Garmin 5212 Chartplotter with integrated radar for navigation since 2009 (birthday present for Al). Adding the Garmin Homeport app to the iPad and to my Mac will make plotting routes even easier for the trip. Active Captain is a web-based site and is integrated with Homeport to provide up-to-date information and reviews posted by other cruisers. There are reviews of marinas and anchorages, fuel prices, bridges, locks, stores, local knowledge, hazard information, and more.

Garmin 5212 with Homeport on the iPad and the Mac

Garmin 5212 with Homeport on the iPad and the Mac

Our helm has the traditional navigational tools. The compass is critical, even with all of the fancy stuff. The electronics at the helm include autopilot, speed, depth finder, wind direction and speed, and even water temperature. The VHF radio is the primary communication device for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore.

Compass in the center with Autopilot above, and the rest on either side

Compass in the center with Autopilot above, and the rest on either side

We now have AIS (Automatic Identification System) which is an automatic tracking system used on ships for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data which identifies you, your position, and your track. Commercial vessels are required to have AIS.  It is an additional tool in our toolbox to aid in avoiding collisions with other ships, especially the very, very big ones. An added feature is that we have incorporated it into this blog (see the “Where is Kindred Spirit” page) so that our location will show on the map (through www.marinetraffic.com) when we are transmitting. Less privacy? Sure, but there is no such thing as real privacy anymore; it’s only an illusion.

AIS transponder with Mac below it showing the location

AIS transponder with Mac below it showing the location

Next to the AIS device above, you can see our solar monitor. We have two 84 watt solar panels mounted on the hard top.  Love them! They really help to keep the batteries charged.  As long as the sun shines……

Today’s technology is awesome and does make things much easier. BUT, and this is a BIG but, it can fail. We have all experienced that. So we also have our paper – charts and guides.

PAPER!!  Good old-fashioned aper charts and  guides

PAPER!! Good old-fashioned paper charts and guides

Handheld VHF and EPIRB

Handheld VHF and EPIRB

For additional safety, we also have an EPIRB now, mounted just below our handheld VHF radio. An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination center. We hope we will never, ever use this. If disaster does strike, we grab both the EPIRB and  the VHF above it on our way off the boat. The “ditch bag” (or abandon ship bag) is also ready to grab quickly.

 

 

 

Only about 13 days left to prepare…………….  still so much to do.

 

Tech Talk, Part 1

Taking land technology out to sea.....Let’s talk about technology. I use technology in my personal life as well as in my former work life as Director of Mathematics. At work it was mostly Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, OutLook, PowerPoint) and a variety of specialized software used in our district – PowerSchool, ProTraxx, AppliTracks, VersaTrip,  Atlas Rubicon, BudgetSense, SharePoint, Google Docs ……..(I’ll bet that all sounds familiar to a few of you!) There was also a tech department so that when I did fall into the black hole of technology, there was someone to rescue me!

Now in retirement, the technology is somewhat the same and yet also quite different. The technology side of planning a voyage on a small boat has been challenging, and at times, overwhelming (no tech department to call for help!) There is so much to consider and research for an 8-9 month voyage! We have each spent many hours researching all aspects of our planned adventure. Any question that popped into our heads led to a “let’s google that.” There are also some great sites for information, to name just a few –

  • Seven Seas Cruising Association
  • Cruisers and Sailors Forum
  • Women and Cruising
  • The Boat Galley
  • Active Captain
  • and many wonderful sailing/cruising blogs by other people who taken the plunge

The first question to answer was what technology would we need? We admit that we can no longer live without the advantages of technology. Or perhaps, a more honest way to state it is that we don’t want to live without some of this technology.  Therefore, we needed to figure out how to bring our land technology onto the boat.

Ipad, Nook, phones, iPods, oh my!

Ipad, Nook, phones, iPods, oh my!

  • We have our cell phones (my iPhone and Al’s good old flip phone), our good old iPods for music (gotta have our favorite music!), Al’s iPad, and my Nook reader. The Nook will allow us to save space onboard. I like to read and I finally have the time to do it!

 

 

 

 

My MacBook Pro 13 inch

MacBook Pro 13 inch

  • For the past 8 weeks I have immersed myself in learning how to use my new MacBook Pro laptop. I used the independent experiential approach as well as One-To-One sessions at the Apple Store. The Mac operating system required some new learning after 13 years in a PC environment, but I love it.
Smile!

Smile!

  • And a new camera, Canon PowerShot 280 HS with a 20X zoom for the trip. I am a point-and-shoot girl; never did learn how much about f-stops and apertures so please don’t expect amazing photos on this blog.

 

Imagine if it all gets tangled....

Imagine if it all gets tangled….

  • Then there are assorted little gadgets that accompany the core devices. Things like a DVD/CD drive, external WD hard drive to use with Time Machine for back-up, power cords, connecting cords, USB flash drives, and SSD cards ….. and did I mention power cords?
  • The steepest learning curve was for this blog – blogging, oh my! Learning WordPress has provided me with plenty of mental exercise. I am grateful that Al knows some html to help me out. The new blog vocabulary has been curious, like a new language – posts, plug-ins, widgets, avatars, gravatars, feeds, categories, tags, sidebar. All this just because I wanted my mother and father to know how we are doing while we are gone. I’d like to think our children might be interested too!
The magic JetPack

The magic JetPack

It’s all well and good to have a computer and an ipad, but you need to connect to the internet somehow while out on the water. After a bit of research, we decided to use Millenicom.com for our internet service. They provide you with a MiFi Jetpack 4G LTE “thing.” This little device fits in the palm of my hand and connects up to 10 devices to the internet – our own little hub. This option turned out to be much more reasonable than going through our cell phone company. 20 gigabytes of data per month with no contract compared to the 2 gigabytes and a 2-year contract with “Big Red,” (if you know who I mean.) We tested this at Block island last week and everything worked quite well. Seems like magic to me.

I guess the bottom line is that all of this technology allows us to stay connected, by phone, by email, by memories that are digitally recorded.  Being connected to others is part of the human experience.

I haven’t even begun to describe the new technology necessary for sailing! Necessary? I hear there was a time in the past when people sailed boats without the advantage of technology; just sails, the stars, and a compass – real pioneers! I will save the marine technology for another post.

A Block Island Farewell

The weather was outstanding. How could we stay home?? The sun, sky, and sea were calling to us, so off we went to Block Island, late on a Thursday afternoon. It was sparkling. The hydrangeas from our garden a colorful accent to the helm. We passed by an outrigger trawler (fishing boat) working the waters as the birds followed closely for a snack.

On our way to Block Island

On our way to Block Island

We also had a serious purpose for this little voyage. Al’s father, who passed away in July 2009, had requested that his ashes be spread in the waters of Block Island Sound. Al’s mother sent his ashes to us (from Florida) so that Dad’s wishes could be fulfilled. The sailing was outstanding; we moved through the water swiftly with a breeze of 15-18 knots. We dropped the sails and drifted.  With soft music playing and a setting sun, we let Charles Watson go into the waters he loved so much. A single hydrangea followed after him.  Neither of us had ever experienced a farewell ceremony at sea, let alone been responsible for one. It felt right, and it felt comforting. If you love the ocean, there is no better place to be.

CWW cermony

Salt Pond was crowded, but we found a place to anchor, testing our new Rocna – solidly dug in on the first try! These are the days you wish for – sun, cool and calm breezes, and clear water. On Friday we did our chores and continued taking care of assorted preparations for the bigger trip.  Al saw a Catalina 34 leaving the harbor that looked remarkably familiar. Sure enough, it was our previous boat! She was bought by a wonderful family from Long island. It would have been nice to connect with them again, but our paths did not cross closely enough. Almost!

Our first Kindred Spirit

Our first Kindred Spirit

This had to be a beach day. The waters were much calmer than our last stay here and I enjoyed the swimming very much. On our walk along the beach, we were able to go much farther than just a month ago. The beach had changed yet again – the rocks and stones were now covered by sand. We found four pieces of seaglass, “sea pottery”, and a heart-shaped piece of wampum.  I picked up colorful stones for another tower. (Yes, they came home with me. Al is a very patient man, but he did say no stones would be coming home with me from our trip south.)

A sand lobster sculpture -  A stone tower on top of the  rock My colorful stone tower and beach finds.

A sand lobster sculpture
– A stone tower on top of the rock
My colorful stone tower and beach finds.

We enjoyed an early dinner at The Oar sitting outside on the lawn and overlooking Salt Pond. We rarely go to The Oar so this was a treat.  Good food, good drinks, and lots to watch – dinghies looking for space at the crowded dock, people playing the lawn games, and the decor of buoys hanging on the fence.

The view from the lawn of The Oar

The view from the lawn of The Oar

We ended our day with a peaceful evening in our cockpit in the anchorage.

Sunset in the Salt Pond

Sunset in the Salt Pond

Saturday was a perfect day for kayaking, so off we went to Coast Guard Beach and the channel entrance.

Kayaking near the Block Island Coast Guard Station

Kayaking near the Block Island Coast Guard Station

After beaching the kayaks, we walked out along the jetty. Remember Confrey Cottage, the hut made of driftwood, that we stumbled upon on our July visit? This time I brought a black marker pen so that we could add a stone with our names. I placed it next to our friends’ stone – LeeAnn and Greg. The date of their visit was our anniversary, August 6th. See their stone next to ours?

"Our" stone is now at Confrey Cottage

“Our” stone is now at Confrey Cottage

After kayaking, we went swimming around the boat. Al scrubbed the rudder, scraped barnacles off the top edge and inspected the boat’s bottom. I played lifeguard for him. We practiced getting into our dinghy from the water using the new ladder he made out of PVC piping. No photos of that!!

A very pink sunset

A very pink Salt Pond sunset

Our last night at Block was a quiet evening onboard – dinner  and then a nice dinghy ride around the entire Salt Pond as the sun was setting.

We both commented on the number of very large power and sail yachts that were here at Block, something we never saw years ago. By “large” I mean LARGE – 80-120 feet.  We are also noticing some very interesting lighting on all sizes of boats. See the colored LED lights up those masts?

The harbor lights at night

The harbor lights at night

To catch a good current and be back home for an evening engagement, we left Block the next morning at 6:00 am.  It was an uneventful trip home, —  the waters were still very calm and there was no wind for sailing (we call that a “power boater’s dream”).

A sunrise farewell to Block Island

A sunrise farewell to Block Island