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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Onan Genset Blues

Fault Code 41 :  There is no way my hands will be clean for days - have just removed the control board on our Onan MDK-AU genset, which took about 4 hours.  Tomorrow I'll put it back again, after cleaning, in the vain hope that it might work.

This is very frustrating - the generator runs perfectly, when the controller will let it.  But an intermittent fault in the control board now prevents it from starting, most of the time. The controller reports that the rotor (field) is grounded (fault code 41),  however when we test the field circuit it is not grounded.  So the control board is faulty.  We've heard of similar problems with Onan control boards, but even knowing we're not the first, its still VERY frustrating.

A phone call to Onan back in Australia revealed that a new control board would set us back $2700.00.  Yikes. 
If anyone has any clues on this issue we'd be pleased to hear from them !  We hear that our friends on SV Sea Bunny and SV Tweed are also working on their generators, so we're not the only ones nashing our teeth.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Offshore Sailing With A 406 EPIRB - What Price Safety ?

Like many cruising sailors, we've been is Asia for some time, in our case over seven years.  We frequently look westward, hoping that the piracy problems will go away and allow us to continue our voyage towards Europe.  Unfortunately the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden are still not safe, as confirmed in recent sailing advisories. There is a strong trend amongst cruising boats to travel westwards on a safer route, via Rodriguez, Mauritius, La Reunion, South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.  A loose but effective communication network has been established for those boats, supported with great energy by Richard & Susan Kidd on SV Sea Bunny, who are this year maintaining a list of vessels planning to head west, and sharing information on weather, anchorages, pilotage etc.

Here on Crystal Blues we're busy servicing and checking everything we need to cross oceans safely.  As cruising sailors we absolutely depend on our primary safety tools - a sound vessel and responsible seamanship.  However when things go really wrong we would turn to our secondary safety systems to help us out - life jackets, life rafts, radio communications and the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or 406 EPIRB. 

This is the first of several stories discussing the recent changes in technology and the challenges we have selecting the right safety tools for a life afloat.

406 Emergency Beacons

Ten years ago we invested significantly in the latest and greatest EPIRB, a 406mhz device with built in GPS, designed to alert the rescue services and tell them (accurately) where we were.  It cost over $2,000.00 !  This year, we wanted to replace the battery, as required, preparing the unit for further service.

Here Is What We Found .....

First of all, a "certified" new battery installation for our beacon, installed by the nominated agents in nearby Singapore, will cost around US$750.00.  However, a brand new McMurdo 406 GPS EPIRB, a later generation with improved specifications, will cost about $20.00 less !  Other brands have similar options.  Understandably, many cruisers are opting to buy the new product, though we've now found there is an attractive option. Our research has also uncovered some interesting gaps in our understanding and some surprises regarding the performance of existing EPIRB products!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Gong Xi Fa Chai

The year of the snake is upon us ... it started a few weeks back with a green and yellow sea snake trying to climb aboard the dinghy at Kata beach in Phuket.  No photos I'm sorry, we were too busy trying to discourage it !

However this year is set to be an interesting one for us - we're up to our necks in planning a departure from Asia, after seven years.  The current plan (and it may change of course) is to head down to Singapore in May, then move down through Indonesia to the Sunda Strait, Krakatoa and then the Cocos Keeling Islands.  From there we'd head south west, across the Southern Indian Ocean to Rodriguez, Mauritius and La Reunion, about 4000 nautical miles in total we estimate.
I Love My Onan Genset ....?

So everything is being serviced and updated in preparation for our first long distance voyaging in some years.  This rush of activity has not been helped by yet another genset breakdown - working on it this morning I couldn't help but remember the sea snake that called our genset home for a few days back in New Caledonia - quite exciting to remove him.  This year may well be equally exciting !

We're presently anchored at beautiful Nai Yang Beach in northern Phuket, ticking off maintenance jobs and updating all our safety systems for the voyaging ahead.

The list of changes and updates required is a little daunting, and it includes some new technology that we hope will improve crew safety at sea.  We'll post news on that work over the coming weeks.  Visitors are expected later this month, so we hope to cruise back to beautiful Ko Phayam again in a week or so.

Nai Yang Beach & Anchorage
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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Our iPad On Board

iPad Can Display Your Existing PC Navigation System


Many cruising sailors have PC's installed onboard, running navigation applications such as Fugawi, C.Map, MaxSea, OpenCPN or other programs.  Then along came the iPad and muddied the waters somewhat.... well quite a lot actually !

The iPad is great for reading e-books, handling email, web viewing, skype calling, music listening, video replay and a million other tasks. It connects simply to our PC and has changed the way we communicate with others.

Like many other sailors, we use the excellent Navionics HD charting application on our iPad - it's a great tool.  Intuitive and simple to use, it keeps getting better with every upgrade.  I understand that Navionics sales via the Apple iTunes store are enormous.  Of course with the Navionics app the iPad is not linked to the boat's instrument systems, so it won't display ARPA or AIS targets, wind, depth or any of the other NMEA data relating to the boat or its environment.  But the mobility of the device is attractive - we can use it anywhere on board, subject to prevailing weather. 

However there is a simple way to have the best of both worlds - the mobility and convenience of the iPad and the complete suite of information that is already displayed on your PC screen.  You have two options ........