Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Survey Says!!!

It is a go.  One of the state of readiness projects we initiated in getting ready to head out into the Atlantic Ocean was a survey of our dear boat.

Not for us one of those insurance surveys; you know the kind you want rushed through as quickly and cheaply as possible so the insurance broker will just get off your back.  No, we wanted a real survey done by someone who could point out the defects and weak points in our preparations.  Or so we thought.

Oh, the horror.

For those masochistic personalities who enjoy trips to the dentist or Income Tax Audits audits the process of having your boat examined by an exclusively critical eye might be a real treat.  For us having a boat survey was as welcome as...well as welcome as a trip to the dentist or an income tax audit.  No apologies here to dentists or tax auditors.  

Like most boaters we have spent a fortune on maintenance:  updating and renewing the boat and her systems.  It is our estimate that we need to spend about 10% of the cost of the boat each year on refit and repair just to stave off the ill effects of age and hard use to which any sailed boat will be subject.  Like most boaters we have difficulty restraining ourselves when it comes to the boat and her care.

Like most boaters we are intensely private people who do not welcome any intrusion into our private lives or living space by anyone.  Oh, we told ourselves that we really really would rather find out about major defects in our boat before we sailed off into the uncivilized waters of the North Atlantic but you know it was a lie.  

Having someone poking and prodding and prying around in our home on the water was a horrible violation of our personal space and contentment.  .     

Blissful ignorance allows peaceful slumber unblemished by nightmares of your rudder detaching itself from the boat and depositing itself on the ocean bottom.  After commissioning the survey I was filled with remorse and regret.  It was not sufficient to cause me to cancel the survey and so our trip to Europe but it was enough to instill regret in me about wanting to sail to Europe in the first place.

You see, without the survey we could not go to Europe.       

New maritime rules for that excessively civilized culture have made liability insurance mandatory for entry to the EU.  No insurance no Europe.  No survey, no insurance.  

Our existing insurer did not provide coverage for Europe.  Apparently no North American insurer provides coverage for Europe.  Probably because no North American company can find Europe on a map or globe.  Of course our existing insurer, arranged by the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, does not provide insurance coverage in Cuba either.

This the company alleges is because they are American and being American they are barred from doing business in or with Cuba.  Horse droppings is what this is.  To insure in Canada the insurer must be Canadian - at least a company incorporated in Canada even if owned by an American company in the end.  The Canadian Power Squadron insurer will not cover Cuba even though Canadians cruise Cuban waters in increasing numbers, all of us uninsured because our own boating organization cannot find its spine and dictate some terms.  I guess the Power Squadron designates an insurer based on the size of the donation made by the insurer to the Power Squadron not the welfare and usefulness of the insurance to its members.

As always I have fallen off the footpath on which I embarked.  

Our survey came back just fine.  Of the nine recommendations made by the surveyor  the biggest one, the one  mentioned more often that anything else by a factor of three to one was that we needed to have the US Rules of the Road on board as a Canadian registered boat we carry the Canadian Coll Regs which are, by international agreement., the same world wide..  

A second nagging concern was that we had to have a "garbage placard" mounted.  Apparently in the United States a boat is not seaworthy unless it has a big sign affixed prominently informing all aboard that throwing garbage containing plastic overboard.  Really?  I don't know if I am more astounded by the fact that having such a sign is deemed a "seaworthiness issue" or by the fact the US government thought they had to tell people not to throw plastic garbage overboard.  Either way I am dumbfounded.

To be sure the survey disclosed a couple of good safety issues and found a few things missed on the survey we commissioned when we purchased Meredith.  These will be addressed with half a day's work (yeah, yeah - half a boat day's work.  It might take 

But the nub of it all is this - WE ARE OFF TO BERMUDA AND MAYBE BEYOND. 

And if I never have another survey I will remain a happy man.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Offshore Navigation Issues: Avoiding the Shipping Lanes

Our interest in things like shipping lanes is recently heightened.  Primarily we are interested in not hitting or being hit by some massive ocean going freighter or tanker or such.

If we knew where the "lanes" were, we reasoned, we could make sure we stayed out of them.  Good theory.

The scope of the problem sort of overwhelmed us as you can perhaps appreciate from the following chart showing the main lanes used by commercial ships:

At this point we have decided to just remain overwhelmed.

The image came from http://billjaquette.net/top-major-shipping-lanes-and-ports-in-the-world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All I Want To Do is Make a Phone Call - From Mid Ocean

The Inmarsat with Antenna partially extended.
Turn the picture on its side and you will find the
secret message Inmarsat is sending Iridium

Still making decisions on equipment and services before braving the cold gray waters of the Atlantic.  Our communications choice was the new Isatphone Pro satellite phone from Inmarsat.  Inmarsat has a long history of providing rock solid satellite data services although the phone is a recent entry into the satphone market.  

Today we learned our satellite phone has been delivered to its US location and awaits only to be picked up to be useful.

Oh, and we have to take it out of the USA.  We cannot use our phone in the USA.  No fooling.

Apparently the technology used in the "prepaid minutes" system of charging for sat phone use is owned by Iridium, a satellite phone company in compeitition with Inmarsat.  That is what Iridium says anyway and they are claiming patent rights and have started a law suit.

The end result is that if you are in the USA you must buy an expensive monthly payment plan or you cannot use the Isatphone Pro.  

The alternative Prepaid feature provides an inexpensive calling.

When we get to our boat in Norfolk we will have to sail offshore 50 to 100 miles before the phone will work.  The phone has a gps built in so it knows when we are within the zone where prepaid use is prohibited.

Such is the benefit of the American Intellectual Property legislation.  No benefit to society, no benefit to individuals.  Just lots of law suits and bullying.

The American system is the one our own dear Prime Minister swears is best for Canada and the one that he is going to ram down our throats.  Not for us the Euro system which still protects the rights  of IP holders but allows other methods of resolution than blood battle.  

Lucky for us our PM is so smart.

In fairness we could pick up the phone and bring it to Canada to test it.  Then we would have to pay 13% HST at the border.  Welcome to Canada.  Let's do business.  Not.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking for Full Featured Chart Plotting Software for Your Laptop?

London, ON

We have been looking for some software that we can use as a backup to the chartplotter in event of a breakdown.  Not that we expect to need chartplotting in the midAtlantic but whenever we get close enough to run into an island or rock it would be nice to find the bits with deeper water.

Packages that display AIS info and Grib data usually have indigestible price tags at least for us poor folk.

For the past couple of days we have been using OPEN CPN, a piece of open source software  available on SourceForge or from http://www.opencpn.org/.  This does everything but integrate radar and it may even do that but we haven't tried.

We love it.

Having little to do each day other than act as a lab rats we have subjected the program to all sorts of tests and challenges which it might encounter in daily life aboard Meredith.  We even gave it a stupid test and so far the software is rock solid.

The program is Open CPN.  Try it.  If you like it donate a few bucks to the open source resource.