Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yaesu VX-8GR APRS use while sailing

Recently we went on a bareboat sailing charter and along with my other sailing essentials I packed the Yaesu VX-8GR that I received as an early birthday gift from my family while at
Yaesu VX-8GR along side my Garmin GPS
Hamvention in 2013. I have used the APRS capabilities a few times on his HT but I was not sure how it would function while sailing. I forgot the battery charger but as I learned with this experiment that wasn't an issue.

Radio setup:
Call sign: k8esr-8
Single frequency receive
Transmit an APRS packet every 10 minutes
Battery : FNB-102LI (extended battery)
Transmit power: 5 watts

Over the course of the week I ran the radio for 10 hours:
Monday: 1 hour
Tuesday: 2 hours
Wednesday: 3.5 hours
Thursday: 1.5 hours
Friday: 2.5 hours

I was very impressed with how well the radio worked while sailing. After the week of use I was only down to half of the bars of battery remaining. To get an idea of the battery usage running APRS I chose to not use the radio for voice communications.

Map of the received packets from 
After sailing on Wednesday I pulled up the data on and took a screen shot. In areas of the bay there were fewer points plotted but packets in other area were still well received. That said, the performance is not totally based on the transmitter but also on the location and height of the receiving digipeter or I-gate.

Overall I was very happy with the performance of the HT considering it is transmitting at 5 watts. The antenna was attached to the radio but had I mounted the antenna higher I probably would have had even better results. The VX-8GR has been discontinued by Yaesu but the performance characteristics may be similar on the other Yaesu radios like the FT1DR.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chesapeake Bay Sailing Charter - The Final Day

Our final day on the Chesapeake Bay charter was not rushed and we spent the morning at the Rock Hall Landing Marina. To amuse the kids we lunched the dinghy from the back of the boat and gave them a water tour around the marina. The act of bringing the dinghy back onto the boat took 4 guys. During the checkout process they neglected one critical piece of information - how to telescope the boom to lift the dinghy. This is one of those situations best left to pictures but unfortunately I have none. We will leave it at this: it was more difficult than it should have been and required 4 guys again to get it back on the boat.

After giving the kids a break on land we departed at 11:30 AM to
return to the marina in Back Creek. A cold front was moving through so we had 10 kt winds with waves of 1.5 to 2 feet. At this point we motor sailed with just the jib which gave us an extra knot of speed. At this time I fell asleep with my youngest child (I hear that there are good pictures of us sleeping) so we will just fast forward...

We made it back to the marina, waited in line a bit for fuel /
pump out, and proceeded back to the slip for Dream Cat. We transferred our belongings to our cars, said our goodbyes, and drove back to reality.

While I didn't exactly like the configuration of parts of the boat it was the first we have chartered with an electric winch to raise the mainsail (a plus!). The winch was also very helpful to have for raising the dingy onto the boat.

Everything considered it was a great charter and we had a lot of fun and stories to reminisce on our next charter.

Happy sailing!

Chesapeake Bay Sailing Charter - Rock Hall

Today was a mix bag of land and sea activities. We spent the morning on land to give the kids some non boating playtime. In the morning there was some decent wind so we decided to head out of the marina to do some sailing. Poof, there went the wind. After putting the sails up we achieved a whopping 1 to 2 kts of speed. We were able to get some slow sailing in today but after the wind decreased to the point that we were making half a knot of speed we dropped the sails. The decision was also prompted by the storm building on the west side of the bay. Back to the marina!

The main adventure of the afternoon was many of us being
caught by a rapidly building and fast approaching storm. My child and I were trapped in on the main street of the town. After trying to stay dry and failing next to someone's garbage cans I made the run to the other side in hopes for a dryer location. After about 30 minutes of standing on a porch we headed back to the boat only to find that we were not the only members of our crew trapped by the storm.

It wouldn't follow the tone of the these posts if I failed to say that our sewage tanks were full from the start - Oh yeah, stinky. The current theory is that the cleaning crew may have filled the sewage tanks with water thinking it was the fresh water tank. I do wonder what they put in our fresh water tanks.

Tomorrow is our last day on the bay. Hopefully we will find some wind and no other issues.

I do want to give a shout out to Rock Hall Landing Marina. They have great facilities (bathroom and pool), helpful staff, and excellent wireless even at the end of the dock.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chesapeake Bay Charter - New Acquaintance

On Wednesday we packed and transferred our possessions and
provisions to the sailing vessel Dream Cat. She is a 44' catamaran and also a beautiful sailing vessel. After the transfer we were away! Rock Hall here we come!

We motored from the Severn River to past the bay bridge and then brought to the sails - we finally had wind! We sailed for a bit making 5 to 7 knots. It was a beautiful day and guess what? We made it to Rock Hall. We are at a marina for the night and plan to see the town tomorrow.

Chesapeake Bay Sailing Charter - The Fire

On Tuesday morning we started the engines only to discover that the starboard engine wouldn't turnover. We called the charter company and they sent over Mr. Mechanic to see what was up with the engine. He determined that the starter's relay was bad. To get us moving on our charter due got us going by shorting the starter relay with a wrench. We would get the starter replaced in Rock Hall.

Pull up anchor and off we go. Next stop, Rock Hall! Um, no...
Towing our broke ass boat. 

We motored out the Severn River and we almost made it to the bay bridge when the port engine cut out. The engine compartment was opened only to discover a burning smell and a very small fire. Fire extinguishers to the rescue! First a call to the charter company and then a call to a water towing service (think AAA but on water).

Let's take an inventory - the starboard engine won't restart if stopped and the port engine was dead.

We aimed for our port of origin and the towing service met us and helped to get us back into our slip.

It turned out wires shorted out to - guess what? The port starter. Two engines, two bad starters. The charter company could not locate two starters so they offered us a different boat.

We took it.

Chesapeake Bay Sailing Charter - Getting Acquainted

Every so often we do sailing charters with friends of ours. We have sailed in the British Virgin Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Adriatic off the coast of Croatia, and of course in the Chesapeake Bay.

On Monday started off on our next bare boat charter in the Chesapeake Bay. Our general plan was to sail / motor from the Severn River to Rock Hall, Maryland. We took possession of our charter the sailing vessel Lux. She was a beautiful 40' catamaran and in this case we learned that beauty was only skin deep. After stowing our possessions and loading our provisions we set sail. Well, actually there was little to no wind so we motored up the Severn River to Little Round Bay and anchored there for the night. We had a great meal of grilled burgers and hotdogs.

... now the real fun begins!