Sea Change has AIS


AIS Screen                                                                                                                                        The long drive to Turner Marine from Arkansas was uneventful.  We left at 8 am and arrived on Mobile Bay around 8 pm.  While the GPS suggests that the drive could be made in a mere 10 hours,  we have found after several trips that stopping for gas, bathroom breaks, and the occasional bit of fried food, the drive ends up taking around 12 hours.   We left the single digit temperatures and perma-frost of Fayetteville Arkansas to arrive at sub 40 degree temperatures and 30 mile per hour winds on Mobile Bay.  While many folks in Northwest Arkansas would welcome a day above 40 degrees; Mobile Bay is much different.   It is very cold.

Cold temperatures lend themselves to work inside the boat.  With the central heat and air running the interior of Sea Change is a pleasant 70 degrees.   Today’s project involved working on the ship’s AIS.

AIS is an acronym for Automated Ship Identification System.  There have been many advances in navigation systems aboard.   We have become accustomed to knowing exactly where we are located on the planet, be that with a smart phone or an automobile GPS system.    Boats are no different,  we need GPS signals to navigate.   AIS takes this navigation to the next level.

Robin and I are often asked the question, how safe is cruising aboard your sailboat? Sailboat cursing is inherently safe, perhaps safer than a morning commute driving down your favorite interstate highway.   However, driving down an interstate highway could be dramatically improved if you had a data screen in your car that clearly showed the other commuters speed, course, heading, and cargo information.

Today, Jimmie and I figured out how to install our AIS system.  This system will allow us to see most commercial ships and some recreational boaters on our chart plotter.   The chart plotter will display our ship in the center screen and other ships’ speed, position, name, and sometimes potentially hazardous cargo on our screen.   This will add to our safety factor especially when conditions are less than perfect.

We have made a few night approaches into harbors and the AIS system will give us an additional layer of data and identify ships of concern.  The system will also allow us to set up alarms when other and much larger ships are on a collision course with Sea Change.

The AIS system has been installed and works perfectly.   However, it only works at the navigation station below.  We called Raymarine today to see if were possible to make the C-120 transfer data to the C-70 at the helm.   Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The multifunction display at the helm needs its own wire pair to receive data. I’ll hook up another wire pair and we’ll make it work.

It seems with a boat, it’s one step forward two steps backwards.   For example, today I began work on the aft fresh water tank that has leaked since we purchased the boat in 2011.  It wasn’t a problem while on Beaver Lake, we really needed just one fresh water tank as water was readily available and filling the tank was easy.   Obviously, not the case in the salt environment.  So today I spent several hours making the necessary repair.  And like so many projects on boat, the repair required taking the bed apart, the drawers out and placing my body in a position that only contortionists could appreciate.  After a couple of hours of working in uncomfortable positions, I managed to seal the leaking fitting.  With the apparent leak fixed, I filled the aft fresh water tank to make doubly sure that I had fixed the problem.   While filling the tank,  I discovered that the vent had been blocked.    An Arkansas wasp with a penchant for packing spider carcasses into tight spots had managed to fill the tiny vent hose with mud and spider bits.   Clearing the vent involved removing everything in the aft lazarette, so that I could access the fitting.  Then adapting a fresh water hose to force the clog out into the bay.    Success!  Yes, and the project only took 4 hours to complete.   That said,  we now have almost 120 gallons of precious fresh water aboard Sea Change.   Shower time!

The project list seems to grow and grow.   I started with a fairly tight list of things that I needed to accomplish before we left Turner Marine.  Every time I get to tick an item off the list,  I find that I’ve added two or three more.   Perhaps more importantly,  I find that while trying to accomplish a project I end up doing three or four other tasks to accomplish what I really started out to do.   I’m not complaining, because working on a boat,  really is a labor of love and most importatnly isn’t working at all.   It is problem solving and figuring out he best ways to fix things.

We have a few more weeks and Sea Change will be ready to cruise.   Here we go!


Southern Alabama

Dog on boatIt’s a cold, damp, rainy day on Mobile Bay.   Much too cold and wet to accomplish any outdoor projects and the list of interior projects has dwindled down to just a few.  This mornings task involves bundling wires which will require an extra bit of patience before I begin.

I’ve been on the Bay for at least week each month since November it’s beginning to feel a lot like home.   The first thing that I’ve noticed is that the people on Mobile Bay are incredibly genuine and very nice.   The not yet learned (at least for me) art form of ‘southern visiting’ is alive and well. When the weather warms, boaters gather for incredibly long sessions of telling stories and sharing information.

My good friend Jimmie has this networking down to an art form.   A few days ago the fresh water pump on his boat failed.   A trip to the local West Marine store revealed that a new one would cost nearly 200 dollars.   So, in less than 24 hours he talks to a few folks and meets a guy, who knows a guy, who knows another guy, who has an Island Packet sailboat and will be arriving at Tuner Marine in a few hours.   A few hours and 50 dollars later Jimmie is installing a new fresh water pump on Soul Serenade. I can only sit back and marvel at it all.

My next observation about the Alabama Gulf Coast is that fried food is fantastic.  It would seem that everyone can fry food, it’s always cooked to perfection,  crispy and crunchy with just the right amount of seasonings.   Yum.

Perhaps more than fried foods and boats, Alabaman’s love their dogs.   While we in Orange Beach in 2011,  I jokingly made the comment that a boats length could be roughly calculated based solely upon the number of dogs that it carried aboard.    A 30 foot boat could easily transport six or seven people,  but needed at least 3 dogs to  be completely sea worthy.

Southern Alabama has a charm all its own; with slower speech and softer consonants, it does’t sound quite like home, but it’s beginning to feel like home. So you may just need to pull up a seat, sit and visit for a spell while I fry us up a little somethin’, and you pet the dogs.


Last week, I had the opportunity to accompany Robin to Baltimore Maryland; she had a class to attend and I had a couple of days free to explore the Inner Harbor.   Surprisingly, for me, outside of any states adjacent to Arkansas, somehow I’ve ended up spending quite a bit of time in Maryland,  although I’ve never been to Baltimore.  Without spending too much time writing,  I thought I would share the highlights of the trip with photographs.

Raw Oysters from the Chesapeake

Raw Oysters from the Chesapeake

Jelly Fish from the National Aquarium

Jelly Fish from the National Aquarium

Train Detail from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum

Locomotive Detail from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum

Train, Baltimore and Ohio Museum

Locomotive, Baltimore and Ohio Museum

Coal Hopper

Coal Hopper, B and O Museum

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

Detail from the National Basilica

Detail from the National Basilica

National Basilica, Dome Detail

National Basilica, Dome Detail