Mailport: February 2010

The February 2010 issue of Practical Sailor has letters on the following topics: requests for more used boat reviews, foggy electronics, hard varnishes, propane fridges and Iphone apps.

Multiplexing Marine Electronics

In an effort to find an inexpensive, reliable way to connect a PC (or Mac) to our onboard electronic navigation system, Practical Sailor testers scouted basic NMEA 0183 multiplexers with good track records. We zeroed in on the easy-to-install MiniPlex Lite from Holland-based ShipModul. This multiplexer was one of the first high-speed NMEA 0183 multiplexers capable of handling the data rates required for some of the newer electronics like AIS receivers. With very little effort, the Mini Plex Lite allowed us to network our Dell Latitude D620 laptop, AIS, GPS, and chartplotter, and it handled the data transfer without a glitch. Our chief gripe: This entry-level model uses the laptop for its power source.

GPS Receivers for Smart Phone Navigators

During our testing of pocket navigators for the December 2009 issue, we examined other approaches to propagating a GPS signal around the boat and found some viable alternatives. Several aftermarket options can turn smart phones or PDAs into handheld navigation tools by supplying or sharing reliable GPS data. Practical Sailor looked at a Bluetooth-enabled Globalsat BT-338 GPS receiver with the SiRFStarIII chipset and Franson Technology’s GPSGate software for Windows and Windows Mobile, which was designed specifically for the task of sharing GPS data. Testers found both utilities to be good choices for the job, however, we still caution against relying solely on a PC-based navigation network onboard.

Bad Elf GPS Pro Boosts iPad Nav Apps

Looking to add GPS functions to WiFi Apple devices or increase the GPS accuracy of a Bluetooth device? U.S. company Bad Elf created the GPS Pro, an external Bluetooth wireless GPS receiver and data logger, to simultaneously share GPS data with Bluetooth-capable i-devices, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. It also can serve as a standalone data logger that allows you to record up to 100 hours of trip location data.

Mailport: August 2013

On strolling through Port Townsend (Wash.) Boat Haven, while I was having some work done on my boat, I saw this boat (photo at right) and the owners attitude written on a sign in front of the boat. It reminded me of your June 18, 2013 blog, Dont Let Refit Pitfalls Derail Your Cruising Plans.

Plotting Your Escape in the Age of Satcom

I wanted to try a little experiment this week. Something safe, with little risk of getting hurt. Something I could do while drinking coffee and listening to Puccini . . . or the Rolling Stones . . . or Mumford and Sons. Something on the Internet. It got off to a bad start. I dropped in on one of those Internet forums where angry people wait to spring on innocents like me. The deeper I dug, the angrier they got.

Is the SEND Device Message Loud and Clear?

Sometime around 1:30 a.m. April 28, while participating in the Newport-to-Ensenada Race, the Hunter 437 Aegean sailed directly onto the rocky cliffs of North Coronado Island off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Fellow racers came upon pieces of the boat and reported their findings to the U.S. Coast Guard. The bodies of three crew were discovered with the wreckage. The body of the captain was recovered 16 days later. Contrary to news reports stating there “was no sign of distress” aboard Aegean, an SOS distress call went out from one of the crew—but by the time the Coast Guard learned of it, it was too late. Someone sent a distress alert form the captain’s personal SPOT Connect, a portable satellite emergency notification device (SEND) that delivers SOS messages and vital information—ship’s position and user identity—via Globalstar satellites to a third-party emergency call center.

The Tragedy of the Driverless Dinghy

In the wake of a terrible tragedy that struck a few days before Thanksgiving in Sarasota, Florida, home of the Sarasota Youth Sailing Program...