Friday, September 2, 2016

Adios Hermine, Lightning Strike Stickershock, and More Nav Setup

Hurricane Hermine handed out a few jolts as we flew around it to the east this morning, but otherwise proved fairly benign as it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm. It was pretty calm but rainy in Myrtle Beach until this afternoon, when the wind finally picked up. I've been monitoring the METAR reports on the Aviation Digital Data Service site; it looks like MYR registered top wind of 190 @ 35 gusting 48, though for the most part the gusts have stayed under 35 knots. John sent me a picture of Windbird in a very wet Lightkeepers Marina this morning. At least I won't have to wash the bird poop off the deck on my return!

We got the damage estimate from the lightning strike for our insurance yesterday...over $23,000!!! Mind you, that's if everything I think might be inoperative actually is, and includes professional repair/installation. Thank God we had insurance. I'm not going to gripe about the 5% lightning strike deductible now.

There are three things I'm not sure about. I think the big Rule 2500 bilge pump is inoperative as it normally comes on for a short burst every two minutes or so. It doesn't have a float switch; instead it has a pressure switch. If there's water pressure when it activates, it keeps going until there isn't any. Otherwise it shuts off right away. Normally you can hear its cycling in the engine room but after the lightning strike it was silent. I need to see if the pump can still be manually activated, though. Secondly, the AirBreeze wind generator might be fried, or I may have just never run the batteries low enough to reach its cut-in voltage. Right now it doesn't turn much except in the strongest wind (48 knots should do it!), which is exactly what it's designed to do until the battery can use it to charge. While in cutoff mode an LED light on the side of the wind generator is supposed to blink. It's not, but that could just be a bad LED. So I need to get the boat off shore power for a while and then see if the wind gen will make power in a decent breeze.

And the last thing I'm not sure about is the SSB. It's 100% plausible that a lightning strike would cause it to malfunction, but the fact that I've never used an SSB means it could be operator error. They're very similar to the HF radios I use when crossing oceans at work, though. The surest way to test an HF radio or marine SSB's reception is to tune up 5000, 10000, or 15000 kHz and listen for the ticking clock and time hack every minute. On Windbird I can only pick it up very faintly. I also tuned up Chris Parker's Weather Net on 4045 kHz at the appropriate time of morning and didn't hear a thing. I unplugged shore power and turned off all unnecessary electrical services on the boat, and that didn't help. talking to Mark & Judy, it turns out that Lightkeepers Marina has a ton of interference, and they were never able to pick up Chris Parker there either. So I really need to spend a night on the hook, read the Icom's manual, and get up early to try to pick up a weather net and maybe get a radio check.

I talked to Mark about the nav setup after my post on the subject a few days ago. He confirmed that there's no NMEA 2000 on the boat and everything he had wired up was NMEA 0183 except for the p70 autopilot control head, for which he used a Seatalk-NMEA bridge. That made me inclined to replace the masthead wind transducer and wind instrument with identical ST60 units, to avoid mixing and matching network types. However while looking through ST60 installation manuals it turns out none of them have NMEA 0183 ports except for the ST60 multi instrument in the nav station. So now I'm curious if maybe the 3 cockpit instruments and the multi instrument aren't networked using SeaTalk-1 cables after all, and the ST60 multi is providing NMEA 0183 output for the three others. If that's the case then a new i70 masthead unit and display would be just fine as it supports SeaTalk-1. Something else to check out on this trip.

One surprise from my conversation with Mark was that while he was bringing GPS and other NMEA data into his laptop via a RS232 port, he was not using that data link to feed waypoints or routes back into the GPS. He was typing in GPS waypoints manually with lat-longs. If there's one thing I've learned in 15 years of flying advanced airplanes it's that any manual entry involving easily transposeable lat-longs is a prime opportunity to screw up navigation. So I'm looking at alternatives. One is to transfer routes and waypoints via SD card. However, it actually turns out that the Garmin 741 will accept routes and waypoints via NMEA 0183; you just need to connect one of the wiring harness NMEA input wires with Pin 3 (data output) on the RS232 plug. Since I'll be getting all the tablet input data wirelessly via the Vesper AIS/multiplexer, the only time I'll need to connect the RS232 (via USB dongle) is when transferring waypoints and routes. Easy 'nuff.

Speaking of the tablet, I decided to go with an Asus Transformer Book T100HA. It has 4GB RAM, an Intel Atom cherry trail quad-core processor, and a 64GB solid state drive. Once I remove the current radar monitor, I'll figure out a good nav table mounting solution (likely using a RAM X-grip mount, which we use for our electronic flight bag tablets at work). I'll make it easily remountable at the helm and behind the dodger where the remote monitor was previously mounted. The Asus should arrive tomorrow before I do, so I'll likely take some time to get OpenCPN up and running on it.

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