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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Actisense NGW-1

Actisense NGW-1
I recently purchased an Actisense NGW-1 ISO. This is a bridge that provides a bi-directional link between a NMEA 0183 and a NMEA 2000 marine network. This device comes in several flavors (click on the link above) NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000; Seatalk NG;  USB; AIS. Like most boats Reboot has a hybrid network. Her's is based on Garmin 5XXX chart plotters. The GPS, XM Weather and Radio, VHF radio interface, and Wind interface are all NMEA 2000. The Radar and Sounder (fish finder and depth gauge) are Ethernet as is the chart link between the cockpit and salon chart plotters. The AIS is high speed NMEA 0183 and the Raymarine autopilot is standard 0183.

When the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) created NMEA 2000 (based on the CAN Bus standard for motor vehicles with special "sentences" for marine use) they agreed that manufactures could bridge NMEA 0183 data onto a NMEA 2000 bus, but would (note that they could, they chose not to) not bridge NMEA 2000 data onto the NMEA 0183 bus. Their motivation, IMHO, was to get people to rip out their NMEA 0183 networks and replace them with NMEA 2000 networks. Since marine electronics are one of the most expensive components on a boat we all knew this wasn't going to happen.

Being naive at the time when I replaced my wind vane instead of keeping it as NMEA 0183 I purchased a NMEA 2000 version. As a result the Raymarine autopilot no longer got wind data and therefore could not steer a constant course to the wind. Sailing at a constant wind angle is the essence of open ocean sailing so this was quite the drawback. After putting up with this limitation for a couple of years I finally decided to invest in a NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000 bridge. I selected the Actisense.

Perhaps my first surprise was that the device is much bigger than expected. It is in a robust housing. The cables are good quality and the entire device appealed to my engineering background. The instruction manual seems very brief but in fact is exceptionally clear. Big pictures explain "this wire goes here" Installation was easy, I disconnected the NMEA 0183 wires from the autopilot computer, attach the NGW-1 wires; add a "T" to the NMEA 2000 network and pluged the cable into the NMEA 2000 bus. It worked as advertised on the first try. (Actually installation was a pain in the neck - but that was all about the physical location of the wiring and the contortions my 6'6" body needed to accomplish to install the device!)

Checking the autopilot display at the helm confirmed that the additional NMEA 2000 sentences were being translated through the device. Too bad Garmin (and Raymarine, and B&G, and Lowrance, etc.) are not customer oriented enough to include these software bridges in their multifunction displays. Kudos to Actisense.

The one drawback of the NGW-1 is that to upgrade the firmware one needs to uninstall the device so that it can be hooked up to a computer via a serial port. It would be great if Actisense would merge the NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000 device with their USB device so that upgrading would only require plugging in the USB cable. Perhaps they will send me a prototype for free! (Not holding my breath LOL.)

Fair winds and following seas :)

Why I am not venturing out into the Chesapeake Bay

Weather Radar - June 30, 2015
We have been experiencing almost daily thunderstorms since I arrived in Norfolk. Here is my weather radar image from last night. The dark red with the yellow arrows is the Chesapeake Bay - currents and marine weather warning. The green is light rain, as the colors get darker the rain gets more intense. Oh, and those cone shaped things emanating from the thunderbolts are the predicted tracks of thunderstorms. The bigger the cone, the bigger the storm.  Needless to say I would rather be tied to a dock than at anchor. Since it is about $100 per night to go to a marina (definitely not in my budget) I have been hunkered down in Norfolk.

The most amazing thing was that none of this ever hit Reboot (near the flag in the center of the picture.) It all fell apart before it reached me!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Emily and Amanda

Amanda and Emily
Emily contacted me via Find-A-Crew and we agreed that she and her friend Amanda would come up from Georgia and crew on Reboot. Unfortunately their arrival corresponded with several consecutive days of severe weather activity, mostly thunderstorms. We didn't get to sail. However both women were great fun. We visited the Maritime Museum in Newport News, VA, went swimming off Island "2" of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (I discovered my SCUBA regulator needed service) and Emily convinced me to be shot 250 feet in the air on the "slingshot" at the amusement park in Virginia Beach. No sailing but we had fun!

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The view from the back window

That's a BIG ship
Photo sent from my friend Ed on Hooligan. He has been heading down the ICW from Norfolk to Morehead, not sure where this was taken.

Fair winds and following seas:)

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Weather Window

I have been here in Norfolk for a couple of weeks and as soon as my hatch (repaired) is returned intended to head up the Bay. I got my Kenwood MF/HF radio back today - repaired. So of course the forecast for the rest of the week is thunderstorms. Figures.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

AWOL Like a Sailor

I'm Coming for YOU!
XO decided to get off Reboot this morning. Since the companionway stairs are on the dock being varnished I didn't think he could get off, but he did. Apparently he managed to go all the way down the dock (a good 100 yards) and on to land. At that point he noticed some goslings. The DNA kicked in and he got into attack mode. He got about 5 feet from the geese and mama took big issue. She first started to flap her wings, then went after XO and grabbed his ear. Chip (the marina manager) heard the commotion and went out and broke things up. XO exited to under the marina office and Chip came and found me. When XO heard my voice he came out from under the office. He cried all the way back to the boat. It was my fault he got in trouble!!!

Just like a sailor - sneaks out for a night on the town and the Shore Patrol has to bring him back in chains.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Varnish Time

After a few months at sea all of the exterior wood gets quite beaten up. The last few days have been mild with sunshine so i took the opportunity to clean up the wash boards and put on a new coat of varnish (actually 3 coats.) Here are the pieces drying in the sun.

Fair winds and following seas :)

Alligator Pungo Canal

One of the most boring stretches of the ICW from Morehead City to the Norfolk is the Alligator - Pungo Canal. Long, straight, fairly wide (so its hard to pay attention) and reasonably deep it is just a long motor slog from one end to the other.

The only thing that makes it intersting is that there are a good number of eagles that hunt along the canal. They come over the boat, circle around a few times, and then look for smaller prey.  Here is a shot of one of them.

Fair winds and following seas :)