Thursday, June 14, 2007


Yesterday I mentioned that our position-reporting software was called Explorer. Well no, that's not right. It's called Reporter and it's part of the YOTREPS "Offshore Toolkit".

And Lindsey says olives, and wants a certain person to know that she saw four satellites last night.

If you checked our YOTREPS position report web page, you probably thought our track looked a little strange. The explanation is that all of our position reports from last year's delivery are in the same database, so the plotting software just strings them all together and it looks like we already went to Point Richmond and then zoomed back to Hawaii. It would be somewhat complex to try and get it changed from where we are, so hopefully you can just ignore the extraneous positions and enjoy this year's story.

By the way, it may surprise you to know that one of the issues we deal with daily aboard Cirrus is radio interference. We have an Icom IC-M710 marine radio transceiver that we use for contacting the Pacific Seafarers net, as well as Richard aboard Addiction, and Lou and Kim ashore in Kaneohe Bay. If you think about it, you realize that this radio has to listen for tiny radio signals from thousands of miles away, so it's pretty sensitive, and any local interference would make it very hard to hear those tiny signals.

We have at least three sources of interference: the alternator, the inverter, and the autopilot. Obviously, we use the alternator to charge the boat batteries, including the "house" battery that powers the radio. But it creates a tremendously loud buzz in the radio, rendering it (the radio) useless. So, if we want to have a fully charged house battery in time to call Richard at 5:30, we have to plan ahead so that we can run the engine, charge up the batteries completely, and then shut it down so that we can use the radio without alternator interference.

We use the inverter to charge the computer battery. Again, causing tremendous static in the radio. So, same deal. We use the computer to prepare our position reports, but we can't run the inverter during the reporting session starting around 6:00. So we plan ahead and run the inverter long enough to charge the computer, and then shut it down before our 5:30 call to Richard.

But wait! You say the autopilot also causes interference? Yes, and apparently lots of boats have this same problem. Since joining Cirrus last year, I have seen lots of references to this problem on the internet, but no solution until recently. Every time the autopilot controller commands the rudder servo to move, every second or so, we get a loud BEEE-EEE-EEP in the radio, but only on certain frequencies. Guess what frequencies. Well, for one, 14.300 MHz, the exact frequency of the Pacific Seafarers net. So what's the solution? Turn off the autopilot when you want to use the radio. No, not seriously. That's what we do because we have no option. Whoever is on watch gets to hand-steer the boat for about a half-hour while I play radio operator.

But the real solution involves changing the way autopilots are installed. I recently saw an online installation manual that states specifically, but in the fine print at the back of the book, that the autopilot controller and certain related cables must be installed at least seven feet away from radios and certain radio cables. Now they tell us. I think our autopilot cable goes through the same hole as the antenna cable under Bill's bunk. The two cables might even be taped together with a gigantic bundle of other miscellaneous cables.

So now you know the finely-tuned ballet we go through every day to be able to use the radio.

Just an update on the sailing. We are reaching off a little in strong winds and steep seas. The plan is to keep the boat moving north even if we lose some of our easting. We are seeing gusts to 20 knots and the occasional 12-foot seas. Lots of blowing foam. Current position: 26N23, 154W38. Course 340M at 4.5 knots. That's all for now. Please keep your comments coming. Fair winds ...


1 comment:

christin said...

I am glad to read you guys are trucking along nicely! Less than 2000miles to go! Yeah! Wishing you the best of luck and fair winds! Our weather here by Timor has come down to Force4, 2m Swell from the South. Nice relief! Very interesting to hear about the radio interference and operation, already learning lots! Can't wait to be sailing with you guys soon! Liebste Gruesse an alle! Ahoy, Christin