I wish SeaTow would fix their app

I like SeaTow. I’ve been a subscriber for at least four or five years now. They’ve shown up to jumpstart me, pull me out of the mud, and tow me back to my slip.

HOWEVER, almost two years ago they released the SeaTow 2.0 app for Android and iOS. I can’t speak to the iOS version, but the Android version has an issue — and I don’t mean the fact that it has errors and closes repeatedly. I know how hard it is to program for Android and all the various phones on that platform.

The big problem is with the weather.

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Do you see the issue?

Note that the date I took this screenshot was 4/05. The weather then starts with “Today 04/05.” Then shows Friday … except I took this screenshot on Friday!

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. They have the wrong day/date for all the weather entries.

I have reported this error at least four times, and SeaTow only bothered to reply once and said, “The weather portion of the app is sourced from Weather Underground. It is functioning correctly. We suggest you delete the app from your phone and try reinstalling it.”

Yes, the information you’re sourcing is working correctly, but the genius who re-skinned that information in your app screwed up the date/date labels. It has had this error since it was released July 25, 2016! It’s been almost two years, and you still have the wrong days of the week on your weather report.

Please fix this SeaTow. It’s driving me crazy.

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Our visit to Doug Jackson and SV Seeker in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The boat the Internet built — that’s the slogan emblazoned atop the website we’ve visited the past few months watching Doug Jackson’s progress as he continues to build SV Seeker, a 74-foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer in his front yard.

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Doug has come to the conclusion that the best way to realize his dream is to share it with everyone around the world. Readers from across the globe comment with their ideas and expertise, and Doug is willing to house and feed anyone who wants to make the trek to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work on Seeker.

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As we made our way back to Houston on a cold, rainy Sunday after spending a week visiting family, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a small detour to meet Doug and actually see SV Seeker for ourselves.

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When we arrived we met Dave Fickle from Arizona who had spent the week of Thanksgiving helping Doug with wiring the ROV and welding the propeller shroud. He began welding cable guides onto the rudder quadrant while Doug took a break to give Mary and myself the grand tour.

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After a very busy summer the pilot house and hull are mostly constructed and some of the hatches are in place.

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The cabin is also beginning to take shape as Doug continues to leak-test his keels and tanks.

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The pile of portals is growing. If you look back at the hull photos, you can see that Doug has drawn in their future locations.

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The water-tight doors to be installed in Seeker’s cabin are also a sight to behold.

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We even got to check out Doug’s dinghy design, complete with seasonal elf captain.

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The tour was great, but no trip to visit SV Seeker would be complete without doing some work. Mary took an interest in the welding.

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Doug was kind enough to explain to her how the welder worked and gave her a quick lesson.

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And suddenly, Mary, who had never welded before, was attaching a cable guide to the rudder quadrant.

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And it turns out, her welding isn’t too bad!

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Doug said he estimates at least two more years of work before Seeker is ready to hit the water, and you’re probably wondering, how will Seeker get to the water.

Tulsa is actually an inland port city, and just 15 miles away from where Seeker sits is a shipyard on the Arkansas River where she’ll eventually be launched. Then it’s just a matter of making her way through the Oklahoma lock and dam system until eventually she’ll hit the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

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We could have stayed all day, but with dogs sitting in the car and another eight hours of driving to do, we had to say goodbye and get back on the road.

Special thanks to Doug for his incredible hospitality. We hope to see you again on the water.

Make sure to visit Doug’s site at www.svseeker.com. There’s also an SV Seeker Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/svseeker/?fref=ts

 

Sunset Cruising aboard SV Hippokampos

Mary spent last Saturday evening in a classroom taking the ASA 201 written test, so our friends Andy and Jayne were kind enough to invite me along on a sunset cruise.

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All the usual suspects were aboard.

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And I got to a chance to bring along my friends Chris and RJ, who have never done much sailing.

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We were making our way down the channel when we noticed several dolphins cruising along with a sailboat not too far from us.

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And soon they were on their way over to say hello to Hippokampos as well.

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As we made our way towards the ship channel they dropped back. This time of year they seem to spend more time in the upper bay.

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Soon the sun was dropping towards the horizon. It never ceases to amaze me how fast it moves once it starts setting.

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And just as the sun disappeared somewhere over there behind the Kemah Boardwalk, the wind picked up, so we turned the boat around and made another lap around the bay in the dark.

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The Misadventures of Mounting a Masthead Meter

Excited to get our new Garmin GWS 10 wind instrument mounted atop the mast and feeding info back to our chartplotter, I started Sunday afternoon by removing the mainsail and rigging the MastMate. I had four items on my checklist, run a new halyard, mount the new wind instrument, drop the NMEA 2000 cable down the mast, and change the bulb in my steaming light.

It should have been a straight-forward project … emphasis on should have.

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For my first run up the mast, I packed a stubby phillips-head screwdriver, a stubby flathead screwdriver, a tiny phillips-head screwdriver, and a pair of pliers.

The steaming light, which I’d never serviced before, had phillips-head screws. Unfortunately, one of my screwdrivers was too large. The other was too small. No worries, I’d get it on the second trip.

I climbed upwards to the masthead.

I needed to unscrew the anchor light that I’d just installed a few months ago to then remove the top plate of the mast. This time my screwdriver was the correct size, but because I’d brought the stubby one, the handle wouldn’t let me get the tip on the head of the screw.

On my old boat I had many extra halyards, so it was easy to hang a bag on one and run tools up and down. We don’t have that luxury on Gimme Shelter, which is why I was planning to run a new halyard.

I climbed back down and reshuffled my selection of tools. Then I made my second climb.

This time I opened the steaming light and pulled the bulb, although it didn’t look burned out.

I got back up to the top, removed the anchor light, and opened the top of the mast.

As I moved the new sheave into place at the front of the mast, I realized that the new halyard would have to be run inside the mast, but I had no holes for it to run back out of the mast. No worries, I’d move that job to the end of the list, and if I had time I’d go grab a padeye and drill a new hole for it.

I came back down the mast and set to work drilling and mounting the Garmin GWS 10 wind instrument.

Within a few minutes I had the wind instrument mounted and found a replacement light bulb for the steaming light.

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The day was getting better.

I made my third climb up the mast with wind instrument in my backpack and the NMEA cable tied to my belt. I started running the cable down the mast and then sent Mary to go pull it out the bottom.

We ran into a small problem — there were no openings in the bottom of the mast.

I just assumed that since there were other cables running out of the foot of the mast that we’d be able to fish the new cable out as well. I assumed wrong. I came down from the mast and drilled a new hole.

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That’s when I ran into an even bigger problem — our mast was full of foam. And it wasn’t just a little bit of foam, it was 6′ of foam all the way from the foot of the mast to the cabin top. There was no way to poke a cable through.

I climbed up the mast for the fourth time and pulled all of the cable back out of the mast, then dropped it back down the side of the mast to Mary. I screwed the mast light back on and secured everything at the masthead and made my way back down to the steaming light.

This trip I’d packed a multimeter, so I checked the fixture only to find I was getting plenty of current. I then jiggled the bulb and found that if it was in the fixture cockeyed, it would come on, but when it was properly seated, it didn’t work at all.

I spent a few minutes cleaning it with a wire brush but got not improvement, so I left the steaming light as an unsolved mystery and climbed back down.

At this point my legs were toast, I had a new hole in the mast, but not in the place where I needed it, and the steaming light still didn’t work. However, the wind instrument is now mounted.

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Next weekend we start again securing the NMEA cable to the outside of the mast and take another shot at getting the steaming light working again.

Lessons learned

I wish I’d connected the anchor light with a waterproof plug instead of splicing the wires together. If I had used a plug I could just leave the light fixture connected when I remove the top of the mast. It would have made this project much easier.

I should have done more research on my mast. I should have checked to see if it was open at the bottom for the wiring, although I don’t know how I could have known it was full of foam. I also assumed I could run the new halyard externally, but that proved impossible without a spinnaker crane.

Installing a NMEA 2000 backbone

One of the things we liked about our new Garmin chartplotter that we installed in December was its connectivity.

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The chartplotter was our first electronic device with a NMEA 2000 plug.

NMEA stands for National Marine Electronics Association, and 2000 is the standard set for communication between devices. Garmin sticks with a NMEA 2000 nomenclature, but Raymarine SeaTalk, Simrad Simnet, and Furuno CAN are all rebranded NMEA 2000 systems that only need a plug adapter to be compatible.

Theoretically, any two NMEA 2000 devices will connect and communicate with each other no matter the brand. However, since we’re starting from scratch when it comes to the electronics on Gimme Shelter, we decided to stick with Garmin as much as possible.

The first step to setting up any NMEA 2000 system is to install the backbone. We went with this Garmin NMEA 2000 Starter Kit that cost about $60 through eBay.

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The only directions that came with this kit was the diagram on the label. That’s it. It’s THAT simple. However, I chose to hook the yellow cable, which is the 12 volt power cable, to the chartplotter circuit on the back of my breaker panel instead of directly to the battery.

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Once it was tied into the power system, I started adding T connectors. (Note that there was terminator plugged into the open end of the backbone when I finally took the photo.)

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The starter kit came with two T connectors and two terminators. I ran a cable from one T to my chartplotter. I ran the other cable to my GWS 10 Wind Instrument.

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I switched the chartplotter to the “gauges” setting, chose wind, and … nothing.

Nothing happened at all. It didn’t work.

I stared at the diagram. I retraced my wiring. I pulled the breaker panel off again and re-checked my power connection. It just wasn’t doing anything.

I finally resorted to Google and almost immediately I found out the most important detail of this system.

NMEA 2000 doesn’t work unless there is a terminator on every open T plug!

The starter kit had come with two terminators, and I hadn’t bothered to put them on. I figured they were just to keep the dust out or something. Wrong. It turns out there’s a resistor in those terminators, and unless they’re on the open plugs, no signal gets sent anywhere.

So after plugging a terminator onto the end of the backbone, I turned on the chartplotter again. This time I had success!

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Now all it takes to add new devices to my system is another T and a NMEA 2000 cable.

Of course, setting up the backbone was the easy part. The real fun starts this weekend when I climb the mast to drop a new cable and mount the wind instrument.

It’s so good to see the sun

After three weeks of the dreariest weather you can imagine, the sun is actually visible in the sky today. It’s still cold. In fact, there was frost on the cars and grass this morning, not something that happens too often in Houston.
wpid-psx_20150116_105130.jpgAfter being stuck in the house with cold rain falling outside for so long we’re excited to get to the marina tonight. Tomorrow’s forecast promises weather back in the 60s!

I have no idea how people living further north manage to deal with winter.

Here’s one more video we made while stuck inside with nothing to do last weekend. Hope you enjoy.

2015 GBCA Icicle Series begins

With rainy weather in the mid-50s, there were no actual icicles to be seen during the first race of the 2015 Galveston Bay Cruising Association Icicle Series Regatta. However, I was glad I decided to put on a coupe extra layers of clothing before reporting to the boat Saturday morning.

With Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed with last year, suffering from a leaking fuel pump, I crewed for our friends Andy and Jayne aboard their new boat Hippokampus, a Pearson 422. It was my first time sailing with them, and it was their first time racing the boat, so it was a learning experience for all of us.image

All was going well as we approached the starting line. Then we attempted our first tack to begin the race.

That turned out to be a very long tack. The jib wrapped itself up on the furled stay sail, and it never took less than two of us to run to the foredeck and work it loose. Jibes were no problem, but a clean tack proved impossible, and we ended up starting ten minutes late.

Once started, the first leg of the race went well. Then when we were about ten minutes away from the second marker, the wind shifted. That resulted in a couple more very dirty tacks to stay out of the ship channel and make it around the tower.

The last leg would have been uneventful until we were about ten minutes from the finish, at which point the wind completely died. That last ten minutes stretched to thirty as we sped towards the channel at a whopping 1 knot.

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Of course, the day wouldn’t have ended appropriately if we hadn’t had to make one last tack to get through the finish markers. We actually furled the jib and used to stay sail to  make the turn, then unfurled the jib to finally crawl across the line.

It’s interesting how many time during the race that starting ten minutes late made a difference. Of course, nobody was worried about where we placed. It was great just to be on the water with friends, learning the ins and outs of a new boat. Of course, the rum served after the race was great too.

More photos of the regatta can be found here, courtesy of John & Scott Lacy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lacyphotos/sets/72157649706310299/