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Boat US Smartphone App

Posted on Fri 15 April 2011 in Geek

Boat US has launched an iPhone and Android app for sending out your position, contacting Vessel Assist for a tow and browsing the Boat US directory. Panbo has a good write-up on the Vessel Assist part.

When you start the app you’re required to fill in all the settings which includes among other details about you and your boat an email and phone number for both you and an emergency contact.

The Share Your Location feature is pretty cool it builds up an SMS or Email message with a Google Maps Link and sends that to you and your emergency contact. On the iPhone it used the standard iPhone email and SMS forms so you can add and remove additional people from the message if you choose.

Couple of suggestions:

  1. I’d like to see this natively tied into Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare as well, but I was able to “hack” around that by setting the phone number of my emergency contact to Twitter’s number and it worked fine. I could also just add that to the TO: in the message but it’s not as elegant.
  2. Picking an Emergency contact should be something you do by browsing to the contact and picking them, not typing in their information. Who even knows anyone’s phone number anymore.

The BoatUS Directly was really just a link to a set of links that open up the web browser. I was kinda hoping for BoatUS Deals nearby (like Foursquare) but for guest moorage at marinas, deals at West Marines, nearby services, etc… THAT would be useful and awesome!

Obviously this requires you to be near land AND a cell phone tower, but for a lot people that covers all the boating they do. It’s a great start and I’m look forward to seeing their improvements over time.

Fishing Tackle

Posted on Wed 23 February 2011 in Fishing

I’ve been reading The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing by Scott Bannerot and it’s very thorough if not too thorough. He does a great job for recommending specific gear for every open ocean and dinghy based kind of fishing a cruiser might want to do. In fact there are so many recommendations that it’s a lot to take in. There are several charts in the book with gear recommendations and prices (as of 2009) that I put into a spread sheet and the total was over \$3500 !!

I don’t think it was Scott’s intention for someone to buy everything he recommends but instead to have the reader understand what kind of fishing they want to do, what kind of fish they want to target and then to pick from his recommendations. That’s a pretty tall order for a new fisherman who will be fishing in unfamiliar waters. However, narrow it down we must and make some educated guesses we will.

I am approaching these open ended “things” by trying to be aware and open about my assumptions, evaluating them as we learn more and trying to make the best decision we can. In this case, I believe that mostly we want to troll while we’re sailing with an unattended line and we want to do so in a reliable way that is likely to be most productive and with the least amount of lost gear and fish. I also do not want to have to deal with live bait on a regular basis and will limit it’s use as an occasional opportunistic endeavor. I’m now going to babble on a bit about these configurations and what I’ve learned thus far.

In my opinion that rules out handline fishing from yo-yo’s with snubbers and standup rigs. While underway a standup rig would require leaving the cockpit to get out from under the stainless steel structure of the bimini as well as the mizzen boom. Based on Bannerot’s recommendations it leaves us with the option of the Alvey 1225 Reef Master Deck Winch, a rail mounted reel such as the Penn Senator 116 or a wire-line rodreel setup like the Penn/Captain Harry’s Combo (Penn Senator 115).

The Alvey appears to be a very solid piece of gear with few moving parts to break or maintain. It’s manufactured in Australia and would be a special order item from Alvey USA, they are not stocked anywhere in the US.

The Penn Senator 116 seems like a reasonable alternative to the Alvey albeit with more parts and potentially maintenance issues. It has the added advantage of also being rod mountable and thus dual purpose. On the downside it also “looks valuable” as compared to the Alvey and in port would definitely need to be stowedhidden.

Bannerot gives rave reviews to wire-line rigs basically calling it his go-to setup

Wire line represents the simplest, most direct way to troll lures and baits deep, enabling you to wreak havoc on wahoo, tuna, mackerel, jack, grouper, snapper and many others offshore, inshore and near reefs, wrecks, and seamounts. It’s simple to use–no setting the hook, no removal from the rod holder, no belt and harness—all you do is crank the reel handle whenever the fish is not taking line off the spool until you get it boatside. … Shortcomings of trolling wire line are that it is generally not as effective for mahi mahi, and it may not handle the really big ones, especially larger bill fish. But when we need a good eating fish, particularly nearing port or some significant fish-producing area, we often deploy only the wire line because of its effectiveness. – Bannerot

Based on that alone I feel like the Penn/Captain Harry’s Combo (Penn Senator 115) upgraded to have monel wire might be the trolling rig I start with.

The Alvey and the wire line rig have the benefit of getting the line out away from the stern a bit before it leads down to the water. The windvane which will be on the stern may also pose issues here. That alone may require a release clip to get the wire over or around the windvane (more of an issue with the Monitor jungle gym than the Hydrovane). A release clip is basically a fairlead for the line which opens up when a fish strikes. Aftco seems to be the main manufacturer.

Still a lot to think on and more fun reading to do, luckily there is no time criticalness to these decisions we can get this gear whenever we feel like it. Let me know if you have any suggestions or additional thoughts in the comments.

Manning Up In Alaska by Dick Drechsler

Posted on Mon 01 November 2010 in Review

Manning Up In Alaska by Dick Drechsler

This is a great book for cruisers who want to see all the little things you will have to deal with while out sailing. No matter that Dick’s pockets are deeper than a lot of cruisers; you’re still going to have to deal with the same equipment failures and navigational challenges. This is one of those books you can read a few pages at a time (good for reading in the head) as opposed to a must read, but it’s a solid book for cruisers to get a feel for the life of cruising.

Cruising Information Groups

Posted on Wed 27 October 2010 in Amateur Radio

Just wanted to take a second to give a shout out to a bunch of mailing lists I’m on as I think they useful to anyone looking to go cruising some day.

Puget Sound Cruising Club: The PSCC holds monthly local meetings (if North Seattle Community College is local to you) with topical speakers and on the water meetups. I find the list is a good source of local knowledge and referrals. Most of the members in PSCC have no long-term cruising plans beyond the Puget Sound, but they love to hear about your plans. When Dawn and I did last go to one of their Friday meetings we felt like a bit of a novelty, being under 40, but we were very warmly received. I’d probably find time for the meetings if they weren’t on Friday nights, but the list is a great resource even without the meetings.

These next set groups are area specific and the membership seems to be people actually cruising or planning to leave shortly. Conversations tend to focus around best cruising guides, entrance requirements changes, and referrals for mechanics, haul outs, marinas and anchorages along the route. I am sure there are groups for other regions but as I am not yet interested in those areas I’m not on those lists.

There are also several lists oriented towards different technologies you might find of interest;

  • Airmail2000 This list will walk you through setting Airmail using an internet connection so you can at least rule out the SW not working when you go to use it on your SSB Rig
  • NavMonPC NavMonPC is a PC based instrument display that works by displaying the data on your NMEA network. I am experimenting with this on Deep Playa. The guy who writes it is very nice and fixes bugs as you point them out, but it has a ways to go still in terms of usability, modernity of UI and reliability.
  • WINMOR A software based PACTOR hardware modem equivalent. I have a PACTOR so I don’t really follow this group too closely. If you don’t have a PACTOR you should at least give this a try.
  • 12VDC_Power Most members are doing off the grid installations,but they know a lot about 12V DC, solar panels, wind generators, etc.
  • Honda_EU2000_Generators All hail the mighty Honda EU2000, enough said. Winking

How do you handle all of that email?

  1. I use an email address that I don’t plan to use all that often once we go cruising. That way random people won’t have my email address I plan to use on my SSB.
  2. DIGEST MODE !!! You can edit your subscription to any Yahoo! Group so it sends you a daily summary email of the posts on the group. For these groups you’ll get one email per group instead of 5 to 10 (or more).
  3. Stay on Topic – These lists are about getting things done, not social networks (well maybe PSCC is, but it has low email volume) so keep your replies and questions relevant.

Lot of information to glean and by all means don’t just ask for help, try to offer some answers as well these lists only work if people who have information share it.

Liferaft Comparison

Posted on Fri 17 September 2010 in Review

I’m starting to do some long-term research on liferafts and part one of that process for me is to survey what’s out there and what the features are. My basic criteria to even make it into my list are:

  • 4 Person
  • Offshore
  • Valise packed

My checkmark of features is pretty loosey goosey just going by what I see in the marketing brochures which sometimes don’t make it 100% clear what’s extra and what’s in “plus” versions of that raft. My general feeling is all the liferafts have the basics covered. The decision points to me look like:

  • Usability – Do they actually work well. Need to look at Practical Sailor for that
  • Survival Goodies. Do I want them to be supplied by the manufacturer or do I want to pack in some minimal items and also have a ditch bag.
  • Servicing – What is the required service interval? (3 years seems the norm) and where do they have service centers?
  • Double Floors and Walls – Do I plan on being in this thing in the cold for days?
  • Price – At some point the price just ends up going beyond our budget.

No thoughts yes as to what I‘m going to buy, but here’s the raw spreadsheet.

There is also the possibility of looking into used and factory refurbished models. I’ve not looked into that all yet.

BoatTech Articles on BoatUS

Posted on Thu 16 September 2010 in Review

Just wanted to take a second and share this link to the BoatTech articles on BoatUS. There are a lot of handy articles on topics like picking docklines, proper bilge pump installation and VHF basics to point out a few. Many but not all of the articles are written by Don Casey.

If you don't have Don's other books (see the Amazon link) you should have them. They are a great series, very straight forward and easy to read.

Armchair Sailor Book Sale and Trade-In Special

Posted on Wed 31 March 2010 in Gear


Armchair Sailor is offering trade-ins and discounts on books. They’re a great local company here in Seattle and super nice people. (Hi Cass!) Go spend your money with them!