Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Living on a 63 Outer Reef - Diana's View

NOTE TO READERS: Be sure to read the article "Happy Two Year Anniversary" published earlier today in conjunction with "Diana's View."

While Les told you about all the physical details, I will attempt to describe the life style.   

First I should explain that after years and thousands of miles of boating, I desired a more stable, less nomadic situation.  So we compromised on north-south locations --  Sarasota, FL and Hingham, MA which works out fine.  As Les described, both are great areas. While they are both great, the culture is very different.   

In Sarasota life on the dock is very lively.  Although our permanent boat neighbors only visit every 6 weeks or so, they are wonderful and very friendly.  The rest of the time there is a constant stream of transient boaters. They come from all over --  Canada, the Midwest, east coast, west coast, even Europe. Often cruisers come as part of a yacht club rendezvous. Many are Loopers. It is like a boat show with the variety of marine vessels. Everything from a 130' West Port, sailboats to small runabouts.
 
Then there is Kodi who says hello to everyone. Surprisingly many boaters have dogs aboard.  We stop and talk and soon we are exchanging cards and having a drink. Life on board is not lonely.  If anything, we meet so many people it is hard to keep up. 

In Hingham we are now be on the T at the end of a very long dock. There are no transients. People commit for the season and come back year after year.  There are few large boats -- nothing like Sarasota. For the most part it's families or couples who live in the area and come to spend the weekend. Boaters tend to always be friendly and inclusive.  So we've met neighbors, but with the exception of one or two couples we don't spend time together like we do in Sarasota. 

One common denominator is the Marina staffs -  we chat with them every day both in Sarasota and Hingham. They become the constants. 

Space is a noticeable difference from a house.  Turnaround space is tight -- the boat is only 17 feet wide.  We have all the same rooms you would in a house, but each is small.  Add visitors and it gets cozy quickly.

Maintenance:  Les loves it, but it is time consuming.  It takes 5 hours to wash the boat and Les rinses the boat and dries it several times a week. (Meanwhile being inside while he is washing is like being in a thunderstorm.)  Interior maintenance:  Remember everything that comes on needs to go off .. Water, pump out, etc.  you don't have those concerns in a house.

Fortunately there is no movement at the dock in Sarasota and rarely of the T-dock in Hingham.

Upsides-Downsides: 

Saw a greeting card yesterday that read "life at dock is safe and sound .. but boats were built for boating".  And therein lies the difference.  Les loves the adventure.  I like the familiar.  (Which reversed itself -- when we were young, I wanted to travel and Les liked the familiar, i.e. the same vacation year after year). So now Les gets two big boating adventures a year (plus his everyday dinghy) and I get 5 months of continuity in two places.

-  waking up on the water everyday
-  the sunsets
-  Sarasota has Bayfront park
-  Hingham has 2 parks within walking distance
-  365 days of sun and warm weather (constant heat)
-  Art fairs every weekend in Sarasota; beautiful state parks in MA; the Ferry to Boston; 

How do we spend our days?  Just like anyone else:  we shop, we go out to eat, we visit with friends and family, we cook, we watch TV, we read the paper, read books, go for walks, bike, go to the movies, go to the theater, take a drive, etc.    What we don't do is have a job where most people spend a lot of their week.  We aren't on any Boards.  We participate somewhat in a charity (Southeastern Guide Dogs). When we worked we had a cleaning lady; now we do all our own maintenance.  We sleep later. 

Now twice a year there is a big transition (like other Snowbirds) except Les moves the boat and I move the car.  Vacation?  It is like being on vacation 24/7!

Written by Diana

Happy Two Year Anniversary

We took possession of our Outer Reef 63 on February 10, 2014. Therefore, today marks the second anniversary of our ownership of the boat and of living aboard. 

Thinking back two years to those commissioning days brings back memories which, while mostly pleasant, are best characterized as both exciting and chaotic. 


February 3, 2014 - Chaos - Salon looking forward
More chaos - galley looking aft
Notice the cardboard covering the floor
What brought about the chaos was the calendar. The 63 arrived in Fort Lauderdale on February 2 after a 13,000 mile journey that involved crossing the Pacific Ocean, transiting the Panama Canal, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and, finally, arriving in Port Everglades.

The clock started the next day as Outer Reef made a full court press to get the 63 ready for the February 14th Miami Boat Show. To complicate matters, we wanted to take possession and move aboard prior to departing for the show on February 11. Given that Outer Reef usually takes a month or more to commission a new boat, the accelerated schedule put us all under stress (except, of course for Kodi who handled the whole process with her usual grace).

Outer Reef got the boat ready "enough" and we moved aboard on February 10. The next day, with Captain Randy Ives in command, we headed off to the Miami Boat Show.


Will miracles never cease?
Fast forward to today. 

The 63 has proven to be a comfortable home and a magnificent cruiser that has proved to be perfect for our snowbird lifestyle.

Her capabilities as a long range cruiser with the ability to handle rough seas are summed up by an advertisement featuring Guided Discovery that Outer Reef will be running across all of the major boating magazines.


The quote above, which is slightly hard to read, deals with our November 3, 2014 transition of Cape Hatteras as we headed south to Sarasota. "We transited during a strong cold frontal passage with wind gusts as high as 49 knots, Seas built very quickly to 7 to 9 feet with sustained winds of 30 to 35 knots. The 630 showed no flaws in her sea keeping regardless of the point of sail, The experience was almost surreal. The boat moved through the turbulence with sure footed stability. Now I know from experience how stable she is and should the unexpected happen, the boat can handle it."

As readers know, I subsequently had the opportunity last May to validate the above conclusion when we rounded Hatteras' Diamond Shoal in 10 to 12 footers stirred up by Tropical Storm Anna several hundred miles to the south. Oh, did I mention the 10 foot head sea encountered last November between the Hamptons and Atlantic City? The 63's sea keeping has exceeded my expectations.

Even when it's not exciting, which I greatly prefer, the 63 glides through the water at 8.4 knots burning an economical 9.1 gallons per hour. To date, the 63 has cruised 6,613 NM with two round trips along the Atlantic coast.

The 63 is a comfortable 850 square foot 3 bedroom home with 2 baths and a full kitchen. Notice the absence of nautical language. This really is a home in every possible way except that we have to take-on 300 gallons water and pump out weekly. Best of all, it's a home on the water with excellent views in both our Sarasota and Hingham marinas. Diana's viewpoint of life aboard is published in conjunction with this article.

For readers who are interested in more thorough description of living aboard, see my April 22, 2015 article "Living on an Outer Reef 63." For those who want to relive the excitement of commissioning and the Miami Boat Show, go back to the February 2014 archives. I think I will take a pass. Just reading it is stressful.

Since taking delivery we have made very few improvements to the boat, which is a credit to Mike Schlichtig and his team at Outer Reef. They helped us spec out the perfect boat for our needs. 

That said, we have made two significant improvements to the pilothouse electronics. These include a Raymarine T353 infrared night vision camera added last November and a third Garmin 7215 multifunction screen added just this month. Both improvements were necessitated by my desire to run 24 hours a day along the Atlantic coast. The addition of the third 7215 screen on the right side of the panel required that we move the starboard Garmin GMI 10 to a new location next to the other one. Beyond improving operational efficiency, the result proved to be aesthetically pleasing. 


New Garmin 7215 MFS added to the right side of the panel
Note the two GMI 10s immediately to the left of the three 7215s
Left of the GMI 10s is the GOST system and controls for the 12 & 16 KW generators
The only other "major" improvement is to the dingy, our AB DLX 13 RIB (Rigid Inflatible Boat). This includes a new rear seat back cushion and a bimini top. The former to improve comfort and the latter, well I guess that's pretty obvious, to keep the sun from beating down on our heads.

Written by Les.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mattison's Forty One Knocks the Cover Off the Ball

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate of Sarasota sponsored a fund raiser billed as a Dinner Paw-ty for Southeastern Guide Dogs at Mattison's Forty One,

The Dinner Paw-ty was held here
My friend Marjorie Singer was representing Southeastern and asked that we attend with Kodi. I looked at the menu and it sounded interesting. A six course gourmet meal with a wine paired for each course. Mattison's calls it a wine-pairing dinner. The charge was $75 plus tax and tip.

Little did I know that I was about to have the a spectacular meal that I would categorize as one of the best ever. This proved to be an even bigger surprise since this was a meal catered for a group of 40 people. Meals served to large groups can be good but are rarely spectacular. This one was off-the-chart. A little background:
  • Southeastern Guide Dogs (SEGD) is internationally accredited and one of the most respected guide dog schools in the United States. They provide guide dogs and veteran service dogs to recipients at no cost. They receive no government funding. All funds are raised privately, They are top rated 4 Star guide dog school on Charity Navigator earning 98.83 out of 100 possible points. We have been volunteering for Southeastern since 2012. Kodi is an official SEDG Ambassador Dog.
  • Coldwell Banker is a major real estate broker in Sarasota with 70 agents in their Sarasota office.
  • Mattison's Forty One is a restaurant and catering company located at 7275 S. Tamiami Trail. I've been to this restaurant several times including once for a cooking class conducted by the the restaurant's owner, Paul Mattison. Mattison's also has a fun casual outdoor restaurant on Main Street with entertainment at night.
The six course dinner was paired with wines from the Hahn Family Winery located in California's Santa Lucia Highlands. Hahn is ranked "One of the top 10 Wineries to Visit" by Wine Enthusiast magazine. I've never tried their wines before and was very pleasantly surprised. As a lover of chardonnay and Cabernet Savingnon I was especially impressed by their 2014 SLH Chardonnay and the 2013 Smith & Hook Cabernet.



What a pleasant evening. The event started at 6:30 PM with wine and a Golden Beet Brushetta hor d'oeuvre paired with 2014 Hahn Pinot Gris. A few very short speeches by each of the participants and we were off to leisurely delicious meal served with perfection. Dinner ended just short of 10 PM with a Chocolate Cherry Bomb served with a 2014 Boneshaker Zinfandel. Wow!

My only regret is that I did not bring my camera. I would have loved to photograph the food..

The four courses in between were each spectacular and very different experiences and, of course, perfectly paired with "perfect" wines. Check out the menu below.


Thanks to Southeastern Guide Dogs, Coldwell Banker, Hahn Familly Winesm Mattison's and especially Paul Mattison for a spectacular evening.

Written by Les







Thursday, January 28, 2016

Spectacular Computer Repair was DEFINITELY NOT SPECTACULAR!

I offer this article as a cautionary note to readers. I got scammed and I will take some of the credit for letting my guard down. That said, the story has a somewhat happy ending,

BEWARE OF SPECTACULAR COMPUTER REPAIR

BEWARE. Spectacular Computer Repair which goes under other names (i.e., B2B IT, Leiser Enterprises, Spectacular Stuff, LLC) is DEFINITELY INCOMPETENT and may be dishonest. I found “Spectacular” through Thumbtack. Wayne, whose card says CTO, offered to evaluate my laptop for $75 at my home. Upon arrival, he required my signature on a contract before he would look at my laptop, which he VERY quickly verbally reviewed. This was unusual. Most vendors do not do this. There is a reasonable expectation between the parties that the vendor will provide service for which the buyer will pay and the vendor will stand behind their work. I should have been suspicious.

Wayne then proceeded to identify problems using the internal Event Log (this is similar to what the Microsoft Windows scammers do). HE DID NOT CHECK THE RAM OR HARD DRIVE even though he could have used something like Ultimate Boot CD (which is free) to run a quick check of the RAM on site. Again, I should have been suspicious. He proposed a charge of $295 for the repair, which included replacing Kaspersky anti-virus software with Malwarebytes (an anti-malware application). He then took the laptop to his shop.

24 hours later he returned the laptop declaring that he had worked on it late into the night. Then he had me purchase Malwarebytes ($39.95) on line. I then proceeded to open a Word document and immediately the laptop crashed due to a memory error.  THIS DEFINITELY CONFIRMS THAT WAYNE DID NOT CHECK RAM OR THE HARD-DRIVE AT HIS SHOP. He said I had to get new memory from Lenovo. I asked that he assist me with the call for which he charged me $40. Total paid to Wayne was $335.

Wayne's Evaluation Report
Lenovo sent the memory which I then had installed by a Lenovo dealer in Tampa. That took 5 minutes. While there I had them review Wayne’s handwritten almost unintelligible Evaluation Report. They informed me that the “problems” (codes) he had found were all fixable on site and some were not even problems and that the $335 charged was outrageous. (Wayne had also offered to replace the memory card once received for another $125). They further stated that replacing Kaspersky with Malwarebytes was just flat wrong as Malwarebytes is not a complete suite of antivirus software. Hence, he left my computer vulnerable to attack. Noteworthy, is that shortly after I disputed the $335 charged to my credit card my email address book was hacked. 

THE HACK:

Diana discovered the hack when she noticed hundreds of "MAILER DAEMON - Failure Notices" in in our inbox.  Below is an image of the email sent by whomever hacked my email address book. The whomever is Lester Shapiro (bigalft@yahoo.co.uk), which of course is not my email address. Notice the email says that I am in Manila, Philippines. Other versions have me in different cities all over the world. What's strange is that there is no specific request for $$$ or an address where it should be sent. It appears if you respond to Lester Shapiro (bigalft@yahoo.co.uk) the hacker (crook, criminal, bad guy, etc.) will correspond and, I suspect, include an attachment that contains some walware; thus infecting your computer or, worse, he cons you into sending money.



AFTERMATH:

I replaced Malwarebytes with a top quality anti-virus software and enlisted their technical support people to perform a thorough check of my laptop. No malware (i.e., viruses, trojan horses, ransomeware or spyware) was found. So, Wayne does not appear to be a criminal. However, the hacking of my email address book shortly after I disputed the credit card charge is at best suspicious as a malicious act. Or, it could have been a coincidence related to the removal of my Kaspersky anti-virus software, in which case, Wayne's INCOMPETENCE made the hack possible as he left my laptop vulnerable.

I also changed passwords as appropriate. Then, I posted a large number of reviews describing my unfortunate encounter with Spectacular Computer Repair. Payback is a bitch!

My loss! About two days time and a moderate amount of stress. Back in the days when I worked as a consultant for The Warranty Group, they billed my time at $2,000 per day. Hence, Wayne owes me $4,000 for my time. I suspect that I'm not likely to collect. 

Written by Les

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Marina Jack Wins Marina of the Year

Our winter haven, Marina Jack, has been named Marina of the Year for 2015 in the large marina category by Marina Dock Age magazine.


Marina Jack looking east into downtown Sarasota
This did not come as a surprise to us. I have been telling people for years that Marina Jack is one of the best run facilities that we've visited during our cruising years.

We stopped at 135 marinas on our 2010 to 2012 Great Loop Adventure, one of which was Marina Jack. Cruising Lake Michigan from 1999 to 2010 we managed to visit all but two ports and easily have stayed at over 50 different marinas in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. Include our east coast cruising and we tally visits to well over 200 marinas. 

What makes a marina exceptional from our viewpoint turns out to be only a fraction of the criteria that Marina Dock Age uses to judge excellence. Well get to that in a moment.


Looking northwest toward the Ringling Bridge and Longboat Key
Location, location, location. Marina Jack is conveniently located at the foot of Main Street in Sarasota. That provides easy access to a wealth of restaurants, shops, culture (e.g., movie, opera, theater, symphony, botanical gardens, weekly events) and a Whole Foods within half a mile of the marina. This is great for transient boaters and even better for people like us. The car stays parked most of the time as we walk to events. None of that counts in Marina Dock Age's criteria.


Prestige 75 and Two Hargraves, a 125' next to a 101'
Marina Dock Age looked at Marina Jack’s partnership between public and private sectors, It's strong ties in community events, highly experienced staff, industry involvement with boat shows and local brokerage affiliations, development of the City’s first mooring field, and it’s certification as a Clean Marina for the past 12 consecutive years. They also considered their continued infrastructure investment, hospitality, capacity to accommodate large yachts (up to 228 feet) and providing first class amenities and services to a wide variety of customers. 



We respect all of the above but what we look at is far more basic. Here's seven criteria that, in our opinion, evidence a well run marina:
  • Pump-out: Easy to access (e.g., at the fuel dock) with sufficient hose length and suction to drain a tank in a reasonable amount of time
  • Trash management: No trash on the docks or around dumpsters
  • Security: Always working and not easy to penetrate
  • Lighting: Dock walkways adequately lighted 
  • Dock safety: No hoses or power cables running across the dock creating a trip hazard.
  • Clean bathrooms.
  • MBWA (Management by walking around): Staff are constantly aware of everything going on and take action to correct problems.
Sounds simple. But we've stayed at excellent physical facilities with lots of amenities that fall short on those simple criteria and some that manage to come up short on almost every one. Marina Jack excels at each.


Notice the large clean garbage containers
Pump-out: The pump-out system consists of outlets mounted at every other finger with a cart containing 75 feet of hose. You can do it yourself or have marina staff do it. Equipment is in top condition. 100 gallons is offloaded in less than 10 minutes.


Trash Management: Large attractive white trash containers are located at every third finger of each of the docks. These are emptied several times a day. Large boxes left besides the container are removed quickly. I have no idea where the dumpsters are located and this is our second year.

Security: Marina Jack changes codes monthly. Malfunctions, which are rare, are rectified quickly. Security guards are stationed at the dock gate during events with a list of who is entitled to enter the dock.

Lighting: Docks are well lighted and bulbs that fail are replaced quickly.

Dock Safety: When it's necessary to run a power cable across the dock, staff provide heavy rubber cable protectors. 

Bathrooms: Marina Jack provides 10 individual bathrooms each equipped with its own shower. They are cleaned several times each day.  It is rare to walk in to a messy bathroom.

MBWA: From our viewpoint, the marina manager, Sam Chavers, has fostered a culture of proactive correction of problems. Dock hands see problems and make them go away. Mention a problem to marina management and the problem is immediately corrected.

Examples: I casually mentioned to Dan, a mere (just joking) dock hand, that the hook on the piling between my and my neighbors slip was broken. Next day it was fixed. I asked for an extra cleat to secure my forward spring line. Done! I suggested mounting a squeegee in the bathroom to push shower water that "migrates" outside the shower back in. Result: They increased the cleaning interval and now the bathrooms are almost always spotless. 

Marina Jack staff at the Marina of the Year award presentation
L to R: Unknown, Joe Catell, Sam Chavers, Kat Wilson, Unknown, Annie Wilson
Note: The unknowns are Marina Dock Age executives
Marina Jack has a total of 318 slips with capacity for mega yachts up to 228 feet.  Most are floating, 20 are dry storage hydraulic lifts and about 50 are fixed docks that ring Bayfront Park. Marina Jack also operates the Sarasota Bayfront Mooring Field with moorings for 100 boats.

Marina Jack caters to cruising boaters with 20 dedicated transient slips on the west side of D-dock. Our slip, D-11, which is rented on an annual basis, is on the east side of this dock. We get to meet lots of interesting people.


D Dock looking toward the restaurants
The empty slips on the lower left are for transient boaters 
Side Story: Last year I informed Sam Chavers, Director of Marina Operations, that we would be returning in 2015 and beyond and asked if we could have slip D-11. Why D-11 you ask? 1. It's got a great view of Bayfront Park. 2. It's has room to launch our tender from the port side. 3. It's on the best dock; wide walkway and least number of boats. 4. It's just far enough away from the restaurant music to where it can either be enjoyed or ignored. And 5, most important, Bayfront Park provides shelter from seas and wind. This is the calmest spot in the marina.


Looking west to the sunset over Bayfront Park
Sam informed me that I was in a permanent slip available for annual rental and that he was surprised that it was available. He further said that we needed to make reservations now or risk not even being able to stay here next winter. We had to make a $5,000 decision. Rent D-11 on an annual basis at $13,000 or spend $8,000 for 6 months and take our chances. Not a difficult decision.


View from Marina Jack's award winning fine dining restaurant
The facility includes three restaurants with fine dining upstairs and two outside informal restaurants downstairs and a banquet facility.The Marina Jack II dinner cruiser takes diners for a floating dinner of Sarasota Bay.



Want something maintained, repaired or upgraded? No problem as long as it can be done at the dock. Marina Jack Services has a wide array of highly responsive top quality vendors that address almost every boating need. Joe Catell, Yacht Services Manager, and Kat Wilson, who's title is Associate Manager of Public Services and Yacht Services Administrator (phew - long title) manage the operation and provide treats for Kodi. (Kodi loves this Kat.)


Guided Discovery in Slip D-11


Speaking of services. Marina Jack allows divers to clean bottoms at the dock, which for us is a very convenient. Our Massachusetts Marina does not allow this forcing us to leave the dock and anchor outside harbor. So what you say. Well, unfortunately the weather does not always cooperate resulting in rescheduling.

Back to criteria. The factors listed above are but a small part of the requirements that Marina Jack had to meet to earn Marina of the Year recognition. In fact, the application, according to Kat Wilson, was 180 pages long.

Sam Chavers, Director of Marina Operations, provided me with the rather extensive criteria they had to meet.  I've listed at the end of the article. Here's Sam's official press release statement:

“This award is truly a testament to, not only our ownership, but our staff and customers,  We’re honored and proud to represent the marina industry, the City of Sarasota, and our community with this nationally recognized distinction. Our business plan has always been to create points of difference for the customer in order to build one of the best marinas in the United States, and this award exemplifies our efforts towards that goal.”

Well, Sam and Company, congratulations. You and you team have truly achieved your goal. 



Written by Les

Criteria (FYI)
Business Operations
Describe your staff and their responsibilities. How do you manage your business
and monitor performance throughout the year? Please provide any financials
that highlight your business successes, including profit centers, overall profits
or revenues and expenses, or historical information showing the growth and
development of your business. We will not publish any financial information
without your permission.
Facilities Improvements
Describe any expansions, updates or added amenities. What did you do? How did
you do it? How did you finance your projects? What plans do you have for the
future?
Advertising and Marketing
Describe the market you target and serve. Who are your boaters? Where are
they from? And how do you know this? How do you attract customers through
advertising and marketing? Describe your website, newsletters, special events
and any other creative marketing efforts.
Customer Satisfaction
How do you build relationships with your customers? Describe events you
plan and manage. What special services do you provide? How do you measure
customer satisfaction, and what are the results?
Environmental Responsibility
How do you ensure a clean and safe environment for your customers? What
measures do you take to limit your impact on the environment? Are you a
certified Clean Marina? What environmental awareness programs have you
created in the marina and community? How have you confronted and remedied
environmental issues? What are you doing to be ”green?”
Industry Involvement
What is your relationship with nearby businesses or marina colleagues? List
memberships and position held in organizations and associations in the industry.
How do you celebrate National Marina Day?
Benefit to the Community
Include achievements for local tourism, jobs created and your membership
and activities in civic and/or charitable organizations. List memberships and
positions held in professional organizations and associations in the local
business community.
Special Challenges
What challenges are unique to your facility (location, regulations, natural
environment, etc.)? This can include challenges you faced in the past. How do
you overcome them and how do you take on current challenges?
Attributes and Accomplishments
What sets your marina apart from the rest?

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Pilothouse Control Panel

This is our new pilothouse instrument panel.


From right to left: New 7215 MFS butted up to the starboard 7215,
GMI 10s next to one another on the port side of the panel

New panel with 3 Garmin 7215 screens showing satellite weather
Port: Precipitation, Center: Forecast, Starboard: Sea Conditions

This is the original configuration.


Garmin 7215s multi-function screens flanked by two GMI 10s
Here's the story of how I got from here to there.

The electronics for the 63 were selected in early 2013 while the boat was under construction in Taiwan. The process of deciding what to include was largely based on my experience cruising the Lake Michigan for 12 seasons and completing the Great Loop.  In simple terms, I replicated the type of equipment I had on the 48 Sundancer and just upgraded it to state of the art technology and then duplicated everything so that the pilothouse and the flybridge were the same.

The following were installed and usable at both control stations:

  • Dual Garmin 7215 multifunction screens
  • Furuno Autopilot
  • Garmin AIS (transponder)
  • Garmin Radar with 6 foot open array
  • Garmin Sonar 
  • Garmin Satellite Weather
  • Weather Station
  • Garmin GMI 10
  • Furuno RD-33 (pilothouse only)
  • Dual Garmin GHS 10 VHFs (at each station)

Pilothouse control station as of February 2014
I did not specify night vision.  My night time cruising experience suggested it was not necessary and besides, night vision was a bit expensive. Also, the boat was equipped with shaft cutters.

Up until the time that we contracted to build the 63 my night experience had included one night crossing of Lake Michigan, a 100 statute miles from Chicago to South Haven, numerous nighttime cruises along the well lit Chicago Lake front and one 60 mile cruise from Mystic Connecticut to Branford Connecticut on the night after Diana's accident with Wolfie, a 95 pound doberman. 

The night run to Branford was along the shore on a calm moonlit night at hull speed.  Very straight forward until I got to the harbor entrance, which was tricky due to numerous buoys and exposed rocks.  Still, GPS and chartplotter proved adequate and I had no difficulty negotiating the tricky unfamiliar channel.

Fast forward to May of 2014. After taking delivery of the 63 and fulfilling three of our four boat show obligations, we headed north along the ICW. Then, at Hilton Head and again at Charleston, we ventured out into the North Atlantic. The 25 hour run from Charleston to Beaufort NC on calm water included an overnight. Night vision was still not on my "radar screen" although despite dimming all the equipment it was still difficult to see. Fortunately we were well off shore.

Then came my first long range cruise from Norfolk VA to Hingham Massachusetts, three days and two nights. As the light began to fail off the south coast of Long Island we began to see fish trap markers in the vicinity of Shinnecock Inlet and narrowly missed one. This prompted a VHF call to the Coast Guard for some "local knowledge" as to the extent of the markers. Lesson 1: The USCG does not provide local knowledge. Lesson 2: Sea Tow monitors channel 16 and came to my "rescue." The Sea Tow captain explained that once past Shinneccock we would not encounter any markers. 

Oh, did I mention that we were in 5 foot head seas. Needless to say I was concerned about hitting fish trap markers, which were even more difficult (change that to nearly impossible) to spot. Speaking of "spot," I attempted to use the spotlight to spot markers and found out that the spotlight was close to useless for that purpose.

Night vision was installed in the fall of 2014, just before the first trip south to Sarasota. We selected a Raymarine T353 high resolution thermal camera unit with pivoting capability. Cost: $15,000 and worth every penny. The T353 was connected to the pilothouse Garmin multifunction screens. I reasoned that we would never use the flybridge while running the coast in May and November.

We ran the coast in November 2014 from Hingham to Stuart Florida in 7 days and 6 nights. Night vision proved helpful both in spotting other vessels, especially ships in the shipping lanes, and fish markers. Hurrah!

However, this introduced another problem. With only two multifunction screens the question became how to display night vision with the other data.

Explanatory Note #1: I've learned a great deal about running at night from the three 1200 NM runs made to date, each of which included 72 hours of night running. When running at night we display chartplotter, GPS, AIS, black screen radar and night vision. Chartplotter provides navigation data, AIS identifies ships and other vessels with AIS transmitters, black screen radar displays AIS and other targets at distances and night vision lets us identify fish traps, buoys and other obstacles within 1.5 miles.

Explanatory Note #2: Radar can be overlayed on the chartplotter. However, this has not proved useful at night. Black screen radar is far to superior for spotting other vessels simply because of resolution.

So, what's the problem? The answer is split screens. I have found that night vision is more effective when displayed on its own screen and this is true also for black screen radar. No matter how you cut it, either radar or night vision has to be displayed on a split screen and this reduces it usefulness. Also, there is other data that I could display, such as sonar, weather and video of the engine room.

After three coastal runs and over 250 hours of night experience it became obvious that a third screen would be helpful. Now, the question became how to do it. My first though was to use a laptop equipped with Nobeltech marine navigation software. I needed a new one anyhow and saw this as a way to kill to birds with one stone. The cost, not including the laptop, would be around $1,700 including the cost of a removable mount. The laptop would run around $3,000.  All in $4,700.

Explanatory Note: Introducing Nobletech on our boat posed a problem, although not insurmountable. Nobletech used the NEMA 0183 network while Garmin uses NEMA 2000. Our Furuno autopilot also uses NEMA 0183. Nobletech could drive the boat through the Furuno autopilot and import routes from the Garmin 7215s. However, exported routes modified or newly programmed routes could not be exported back to the Garmins. Again, not an insurmountable problem.

What killed the laptop idea was the ability to dim it down sufficiently at night. After talking with other Outer Reef owners and vendors, I learned that Nobletech was best run on a marine monitor with a CPU tower mounted under the control station. The new plan was to install a movable mount on the starboard side of the panel. This would allow the Nobletech screen to be perfectly positioned for night operation. The plan was to run the chartplotter and AIS on Nobeltech with black radar and night vision each on its own 7215. Cost killed this idea. The vendor quoted $7,000 for the package.

Then I considered adding a third Garmin 7215 and redoing the pilothouse instrument panel so that the Garmin screens would be perfectly spaced. Cost was estimated at $15,000. Besides not liking the cost, I was concerned that remaking the instrument panel had too much potential for problems (i.e., tearing the entire panel apart, etc.). If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Then I got out a tape measure. Would a third Garmin 7215 fit in the open space to the right of the starboard screen if we moved the Garmin GMI 10 to the other side of the panel? The answer was "yes" if a could tolerate no space between the old and new screen. Master's Touch Mobile services quoted the job at $3,600 including a brand new Garmin 7215.


New Garmin 7215 installed in what was open space.
Garmin GMI 10 relocated to left side of the panel
So I now have three Garmin 7215's with an asymmetrical layout (i.e., center and starboard screens butted up to one another) and my two GMI 10s together on the port side of the panel.

What I got was the best possible, most practical and cost effective solution.  I plan to display black radar with AIS on the port screen, night vision on the center screen and chartplotter with AIS on the starboard screen split 50/50 with two smaller windows displaying as appropriate, weather, sonar or engine room video.

Running at night just got easier.

A word about Master's Touch. Joey, their electronics tech expert did an outstanding job with this installation. His first challenge: Getting the new 7215 to fit within the space and align with the other screens. You've heard the cliche "measure twice, cut once." Joey measured several times and cut perfectly. Owner Jeff also played an important role. His challenge: Stepping up to the plate when the new unit was not right. Specifically, the contrast was way off (as compared to the other 7215s) and both version and maps were out of date. Garmin had sent him and older (although new) unit. Jeff is a no bull guy. He immediately agreed that the unit was not right and sent it back, which ultimately had to be done twice. My only complaint is that not I had a big hole in the panel (poor me). Back to Joey: The third unit arrived with perfect contrast and updated maps. Then Joey took the time to update the version to 5.10, verify that my G2 Vision Cards were working properly, and most important, verified that all the black boxes (radar, sonar, weather and AIS) were working correctly on all three screen.  He even ensured that the preference settings were in sync with the other 7215s and taught me how to save my data. Master Touch is a first class vendor.

Written by Les.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Snowbird Migration: Guy's Thoughts

Every year the Hingham Shipyards Marina holds 2 customer appreciation events.  It is a chance to have some free wine and cheese outside with the other boat owners.  The marina has a good number of boats and their owners are from varying backgrounds.  

I have been at HSM for 2 seasons now and met some nice people.  However, on July 2nd 2015 I found myself in a conversation with one Lester Shapiro.  Rather quiet but a nice man.  In our conversation he mentioned that he was taking his yacht to Sarasota.  That got my attention.  Then he simply said, “Would you like to join me”.  Well my jaw just about dropped.  What an opportunity!   It was just what I was looking for.  I had recently received my captain’s license and now I needed experience.  You know the deal, you need experience to get on a yacht but if you don’t have experience you can’t get on a yacht.  I just took a breath and said “Absolutely”.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it work but I knew I was going to be on board.

The morning we left, the transmission went on my jeep.  Months prior I was told that the transmission needed to be replaced.  I could only call the repair shop while close enough to the coast and find out what it will cost.  I guess that it was good that the repair shop will have plenty of time to complete the repair.
That said, we left the dock early on Saturday the 31st of October.  Almost right away I was at the wheel of the Guided Discovery heading out through Hull Gut.  We got off of Hull and set the throttles (1400 rpm) and the Autopilot.  There was no need to touch the throttles for days.  Day and night we traveled at 8.4 knots.  Using all of the available electronic equipment such as radar, GPS chart plotter, Autopilot, night vision camera, sonar and a large spot light we set off for Sarasota Fl.

I napped for a while on Saturday evening and was ready for the overnight run.  I got on the wheel at around 1:30 am and we had gotten into some 5’ waves.  As it happened, our course had changed slightly.  Due to a dredge project in the Hamptons and a favorable forecast off shore it was decided to alter our course that would take us out off of NY harbor entrance.  Around 3 am I felt some motion sickness coming on.  When I left the helm around 5:30 am, it wasn’t getting better.  I was sick from about 6 to 8 am.  I really felt bad for my shipmates.  The sounds that I produced cancelled breakfast for them too.  The seas calmed down around noon and I was able to get 2 hours sleep.  By 3:30 pm I was back on the wheel and feeling 100%.

On day 2 I received a text message from my friend who was caring for my 2 yorkies, Asher and Kalvin.  On Thursday and into Friday before we left, Kalvin developed a case of diarrhea. I had the vet come to my house on Friday to check him out.  She gave him a saline treatment and a prescription.  She gave me the bill.  Now, I get a photo of the lesion on his back that looks infected.  My friend was kind enough to bring Kalvin back to the vet where he was kept overnight for surgery to remove the cyst on his back. 

On day 3 I received a text message from my family that our old Aunt Loraine has passed peacefully the previous night.  I knew that she was failing and was okay to remember the person that I saw at the last family cook out.  The only prudent thing to do was just say a quite good bye to Aunt Loraine and keep vigilant. 
Half way thru day 4, we pulled in for fuel.  By this time I am evaluating my decision to be a captain.  In the first half of my trip I have experienced a number of things that only other “yachties” really understand.  The very first thing was my dog, then the jeep, then more dog issues, then the loss of a family member.  At this time I am thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be on this trip.  Then I am thinking that this is exactly what I should be doing.  Things happen that we have no control over.   The only difference is that I am miles away and at sea.  That’s just where I want to be.

For the balance of the trip we had a great time, memories that will last forever.  The things that I did and saw just leave me speechless.  There is nothing like nature in the raw.  Passing Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals at 3 am was amazing.  Cruising across Lake Okeechobee had a feel of being alone on the lake.  Weather lessons from Les, the Okeechobee Waterway, many locks and bridges, Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina, Dolphins off of Captiva Island, South Seas Island Resort and turtles in the Gulf of Mexico are just a few things that make me feel like I should be living on the water again.

They say that things happen for a reason.  Well I don’t know what the next chapter in my life will be but I’m open to it and hope that it will draw on my new skills.  And for the trip to Boston in the spring, it can’t come soon enough.  I have to thank Les Shapiro for making this all possible.