14 March 2019

We've Been In France!

Wow, time flies. I've just been too busy to keep up this blog for the past few months, but this morning I suddenly got the urge again. So where have we been?

In France! Yes, after sailing non-stop from Cape Fear down to St. Augustine, and discovering that the yard we planned to haul Petronella in had a broken travel lift, we headed back up to St. Mary's GA and hauled out at the well known and much recommended St. Mary's Boat Services yard.

Petronella hauled out for the last time for a while, I hope!
After hauling out, we tidied Petronella, emptied the fridge, lifted up all the cushions, and opened up all the locker hatches to allow air circulation, locked her up, and headed off to Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's in Charlotte.

From there, we flew off to live in France for two months.

First day in Paris...
Wow, how do I even begin? We decided to take this trip because we are seriously thinking of sailing Petronella to Europe, and in particular to France. But would we like it? It seemed crazy to sail all the way across the Atlantic, only to find out that we didn't like it there.

I mean, I've been to Europe probably a hundred times on business. But there is a big difference between a hurried business trip to an airport or conference, and a long term stay away from large metropolitan areas where colleagues and hotel staff all speak English. Helena is very good with languages, but I am not. Would it be isolating to not know the language? Would people be friendly? All unknowns.

So we decided to rent an apartment in Montpellier for two months and to give it a try. We picked Montpellier because it has several good French-language schools. We chose to attend LSF to see if we could get our French up to a rudimentary conversational level.

Gateway to Montpellier, France

Sandy, our French teacher at LSF
I won't keep you in suspense: We loved France far more than I expected. Montpellier is probably the nicest place I have ever lived, the people were outrageously friendly, we made a bunch of friends, and even learned enough French to get into trouble with.

Montpellier is in the south of France, within biking distance of the Mediterranean, so the weather was pretty warm for December and January. The city is about a thousand years old, and at one time had a wall around it (which is still there, in some places), so it has the feel of a classic European 'old city'. But it's a university town, so there are loads of college kids and young adults. It's incredibly lively, with tons of restaurants and outdoor cafes, amazing food, and loads of narrow streets and plazas and parks to explore. I didn't want to leave.

The main plaza at Christmas time

Just cold enough to need a sweater and scarf

Lots of little streets to explore

And the food... did I mention the food???
Another city gate
One of the things I liked most about Montpellier was the lack of cars. Only a few delivery vans are allowed into the city itself. It makes such a difference to live in a place that isn't overrun by cars. You just have no idea if -- like me -- you've never lived in such a place. The streets are for people, there's less noise and dirt, you get lots of exercise walking up and down hills, and it even smells different -- no exhaust fumes in the air! After a few weeks there, I could distinctly smell the fumes from cars whenever we left the city. It's amazing what you can get used to.

Anyway, what more can I say? I loved it.

We also toured a few nearby towns, but I was always ready to go back home to Montpellier.

Roquefort, where they make the cheese

Séte, to check out the huge marina on the Mediterranean 
Carcassonne, because it's amazing!
Bottom line, we answered our question: yes, it would DEFINITELY be worth sailing across The Atlantic to spend more time in this great country, and I'm sure many others in Europe and around the world. So, reluctantly, after two months, we headed back to Petronella to get her ready for her continuing voyage.

More on that very soon!

Next Up:

31 October 2018

Wrightsville Beach

We had a fast, if bumpy, offshore passage from Beaufort down to Wrightsville Beach. Dozens of southbound boats, including lots of Canadians. But we found a spot to anchor, launched the dingy, buzzed over to the town dock, and Ubered to Harris Teeter for some much needed provisions.

Now we are headed down to Southport where we were lucky enough to score a dock in a marina. The marinas are mostly sold out, and there are no good anchorages down there, so we were lucky.

Petronella seems to be in great shape. We were able to test the Aries on the way down and it performed perfectly. So nice to have silent steering while sailing!

Next Up: We've Been To France!

29 October 2018

The Slow Virginia Cut

Like lots of other cruisers, we have been working our way through the Virginia Cut, and I do mean working. 

The VC is a 200 mile 'short cut' inside of Cape Hatteras. The alternatives are to either buck the 3 or 4 knot current off Hatteras, or to head far offshore to get outside of the Gulf Stream before turning south. Both of which options start to sound pretty good after a week or two of motoring down the ICW, or slogging across an angry Ablemarle Sound (it's alway angry, right?), or beating down the Neuse River against 20 knot winds. 

But, hey, it's not all bad. Not with early winter storms forcing us into creeks to anchor for one or two days at a time. We think of them as mini vacations. At least until the meat and eggs and veg and fruit start running low!

But we are almost through to the other end at Beaufort NC, and miracle of miracles, it looks like we've timed it perfectly for an offshore hop down to Cape Fear. We will anchor this afternoon just inside the Beaufort inlet, hook up our Windvane, rig preventers, stow loose objects, and head out this afternoon. We should arrive at the Wrightsville Beach Inlet (yes, those Wright brothers) early tomorrow morning. We'll then anchor, take a nap, launch the dingy, and head into this beach town for provisions and hopefully a decent meal at a nice restaurant. 

The weather is finally nice again so we are enjoying every minute of it. May it last more than a day or two!

Next Up: Wrightsville Beach

17 October 2018

Petronella On The Move

Well! Finally! Our 'Absolutely Must Do' list is completed and we are headed South again. And not a moment too soon.

Hurricane Michael dragged a cold front behind him, and it has been positively chilly for the past few days. That made completing our to-do list easier (less sweat involved).

The final big job was to bend on all the sails, and to sort out any rigging tangles that were left. We of course put all the halyards, etc., on the mast before re-stepping it. We got MOST of it right, but had one twist at the very top of the mast that could not be sorted from the deck. Helena quickly fixed that problem.

Then we were off! We dropped our mooring yesterday morning and headed out into the Chesapeake where a stiff northerly breeze was blowing. The Bay was quite choppy, but once we were able to turn south, the following seas were no hindrance.

We had 50 miles to go get across the wide mouth of the Potomac to our anchorage at Mill Creek, and our house batteries were nearly flat from all the cloudy weather we've had lately, so we motor-sailed all day, with jib and main set.

We averaged 7 knots, hitting 8 for long stretches, so made excellent time. There are a mess of boats heading south, so I wanted to anchor early to secure a good spot in the creek.

I shouldn't have worried. The anchorage was empty when we arrived around 14:00.

Our plan is to travel in the morning, and to anchor early enough to do other things. We shall see how long that resolution survives!

It's good to be on the move again.

Next Up: The Slow Virginia Cut

16 September 2018

Early Christmas Present

When Helena was last in Brazil, she went to a kind of antique shop looking for a ship's bell. We've been thinking we might need one if we ever get up to foggy Maine.

She didn't find a bell, but did find something she couldn't resist buying for me. As soon as I saw the case, which was very finely made, I knew she'd found a treasure.

Can you tell a sextant by it's cover?
The case had been built with care, and had nice brass hardware, including a lock with key.

Inside was a bronze-framed sextant, made by Filotechnica Salmoiraghi of Milan Italy.

Sextant in case
With inverting telescope installed
Compared with the only sextant I've ever used -- a plastic Davis Mark 15 -- this one felt like the real thing. It has a real heft and the micrometer moves smoothly as silk, with no backlash. All the original parts are in the box, including three different telescopes: a monocular, an inverting telescope, and a "zero magnification" tube. It dates from the 1940s.

It's definitely been used for navigation, so it could use a bit of cleaning up. I will be doing that when other projects allow.

Interestingly, the calibration chart says that this sextant was calibrated on Christmas Eve, 1946, not long after the end of WWII.

Well, Florence is currently making her deadly way through South Carolina. She's supposed to loop up north, and pass not far from the Chesapeake. Today is fairly clear, but it's supposed to rain Monday and Tuesday in Solomons, where P is hauled out. We're debating whether its worth heading down there today to do some painting while the sun shines, if we're going to have to sit out torrential downpours until Wed.

Decisions, decisions...

Hurricane Florence Position

Next Up: Petronella On The Move!

14 September 2018

Hiding from Foorence

Fredrick, MD

We are currently hiding from hurricane Florence at our son Nick's new apartment in northern MD, well out of the danger zone.

We had to make a decision to haul or not on Tuesday morning, because after that, the marina would only be doing storm hauls, which did not including power washing the bottom. Since we've been in the Chesapeake for several months, I was pretty sure our bottom would be foul, so I definitely wanted to get the bottom cleaned if we were hauling.

Also, on Tuesday, Florence looked like she might just turn north once she hit the coast. Other people in the marina were clearly not too worried, but Petronella is our home, and we were not taking any chances.

Out she came!

Of course, the moment Petronella was secure on shore, Florence decided to turn south in search for easier prey. I was perfectly fine with that.

At the moment, we are getting light rain and winds in Fredrick, but Southport, NC, the town we spent Christmas in last winter, is getting hit hard. Hope everyone in one of our favorite towns is doing well!

Florence's track as of this writing

Next Up: Early Christmas Present

13 September 2018

Fixing a Wooden Mast Part 2

After pulling Petronella’s main mast, the boys at Zahnizers laid it on sawhorses outside the shop of Dave the in-house boatbuilder. Dave grew up in a boatbuilding family, and an all around nice guy, so I was looking forward to seeing him work.

I didn’t have long to wait. He was already at it when I arrived mast-side at 9am, looking for both the source and extent of the rot. The good news: the mast had definitely been soaking up water from the deck. The further up the mast, the dryer the wood.

Also good news: I didn’t swoon while watching this surgery take place. With every handful of wet wood dug out, we got that much closer to having a sound mast again.

At least, that’s what I told myself.

Looking for the extent of the rot
Fairly quickly, Dave had all the rot removed and he had started cutting scarfs to re build the compression core. Unfortunately, while cutting the various scarfs, he discovered a previous repair!

With all the rot removed
This was a problem, because if he left the old repair in place, there would be too many scarfs too close together.

After a consult, we decided that the old repair should be cut away, so that there was just one repair, properly done.

With some previous repairs removed

After cutting more old wood away, Dave discovered not one but two more previous repairs, one a 'Dutchman's scarf' using some sort of white wood, like pine.

If we left all these scarf in place, there would be 6 scarfs, all within a foot or so of each other. Clearly not acceptable, so he kept cutting.

Finally, all the old repairs were exposed and removed, and the demolition phase was over. Mostly.

With even more (but not all!) previous repairs removed

The long side in the photo above actually has three scarf in it, but Dave left it in place as a guide and support for the repairs. When replacing the compression core (photo below) he inserted wax paper between the long side and the core so that the epoxy would not glue the core to the side. This would make removing the long side easier later.

Demolition phase (almost) complete... reconstruction begins
Here is with the core and most of the sides scarfed into place. It's starting to come together, now...

Reconstruction continues...

And here is with that final, long side completely removed. We cut it high enough so that we could see above the compression core, into the inside of the hollow mast, above the core. As we'd hoped, it was bone dry, and the old core (with black Resorsinol glue showing) dry and sound.

Phew. This confirmed that the leak was indeed coming from the deck, and not from some where up the mast.

The long-awaited look inside the mast -- all dry!

The final scarf, for the final side.

Fourth side and all old repairs removed

And the whole repair glued up.

Final side scarfed in
All that was left was to shape the repair to match the rest of the mast.

Shaping already in progress!
And that is a repair, properly done! In the end, we decided to paint the bottom of the mast with epoxy, but not to use any fiberglass. The goal is to prevent the mast from sucking up water from the mast again, causing a problem 10 or 15 years down the line.

Repair complete!

And then it was time to paint. Since the mast already was painted with a 2-part epoxy paint, I decided to stick with that, although the prep work for it is crazy.

Here it is with the first coat of 2-part epoxy primer. It doesn't look like it, but I was racing a thunderstorm, so it was a big relief to get that first coat of paint on.

First coat of 2-part epoxy primer on!
That was a few days ago. After lots and lots of painting, I'm NEARLY done, but I've had to abandon the mast job and prepare for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Florence!

More on that adventure, later...

Next Up: Hiding from Florence

17 August 2018

Fixing a Wooden Mast

Okay! After a whole lot of prep work, including getting a second opinion from Cutts & Case -- a well known boat builder in this area -- taking down sails, disconnecting the various wires coming down the mast, taping all the turnbuckles to make it easier to re-tune the rig, removing the staysail boom, getting the outboard off the wooden bracket clamped onto the backstay, removing said bracket, and getting Helena off to Brazil again, we were finally ready to start work on the mast.

To really get started, though, I first had to get Petronella to the service dock. The very narrow looking service dock. And since my first mate was off to Brazil, I had to do it alone.

Actually, the marina would have been happy to send a launch to tow P to the dock, but I figured it was time to solo in Petronella. After all, I've been handing boats practically my whole life. Sure, Petronella was a bit bigger than most of my boats (by like 4x in displacement!) by, hey, how hard could it be?

So, I got up early, had a couple of cups of coffee, rigged bow and stern lines, put out plenty of fenders on the port side (thank God it was a port-side tie-up!), made sure I had a clear path to the bow on port-side, and tied the dingy to the mooring pennant.

Ready on deck, I went below to do my normal engine checks -- including checking both throttle and shift cables -- started the engine, and checked to make sure steering was working.

Then I hit pause for a moment and visualized everything I would do once I dropped the mooring line. I always find this a useful thing to do, even when Helena is on board. It gives me a chance to catch my breath, to take one last look around, and -- most important -- to plan what I was going to do.

There was a light wind blowing, so we should just drift back a bit from the mooring. There was plenty of room behind us, I could see. Once clear, we would motor forward slowly, past that other moored boat, then between those two empty mooring balls...

Once I had a plan in mind, I went forward, and confidently dropped the mooring line.

One good thing about having a heavy, long keel boat is that things don't happen too quickly. I calmly walked back to the cockpit while P considered the prospect of drifting down from the mooring. She'd pretty much made up her mind to do so by the time I had the wheel in hand.

A while later, we had drifted back clear of the dingy, and I put P smoothly into gear. We slowly gathered way, past the moored sailboat, and between the two empty balls, just as I'd planned.

Part 1 executed perfectly.

The service dock was on the other side of the marina, so I had a bit of time to fret. Okay, I admit that my heart rate rose just a tad, thinking about maneuvering P into a pretty tight dock space. I had walked the dock yesterday, just to see what I was getting into. There were several other boats on the next pontoon. Definitely would have to avoid hitting/sinking them. There was also an awkward turn, but I'd worry about that when I got there.

By the way, where the heck was that dock? I had maneuvered around to where I thought it was, but it was no where to be seen amidst the forest of masts to my starboard side. Where was it?

I stepped up to the starboard side deck, to see if I could spot it from there. No, but I could see a red-shirted dock boy waving at me. Phew! Just a little further.

I continued on, until I could see the service slip emerging to starboard. Gosh, yes, there was a bit of a dog-leg to the left on the approach.

My heart was really revved up at this point, but it was no time to faint. I stopped P's forward motion, and used prop wash to make the turn towards the slip. I would have to stay a bit to starboard, so I would have room to make the dog-leg to the left, and into the slip.

Recently, Helena had picked up a book that had a brilliant tip, and I intended to use it. Basically, even with the throttle at dead low, Petronella moves just a bit too fast to approach a dock. There is no way to reduce the throttle further, so in the past, I have had to reverse strongly to bring her massive bulk to a gradual stop.

The new idea (new for me, anyway) was to take her out of gear when approaching the dock, putting her into gear if she lost too much way. The book said this would give me much more control over my boat's speed.

Basically, it's neutral, drift forward, put in gear for a few seconds to keep boat moving forward, put in neutral again so you gather too much way, repeat...

Using this system, we very slowly maneuvered through the dog-leg to port, with the bow ending up slightly closer to the dock than the stern. By then, the dock boy had the bow line. I put P into reverse, gave her a medium burst of throttle, which stopped her within a few feet, and neatly pulled her stern into the dock (prop wash, again.) I  stepped off with the stern line, and voila, we were docked.

Trivial, right? But it was the first time I'd done it on my own, and I was extremely pleased.

In a few minutes, the marina rigger was on the boat, all business, and the job was underway.

Petronella in service slip
He quickly had the boom on deck (I'd already done all the prep. All he had to do was pull the pin.)

Boom down!

With a bit more prep, the crane guy showed up and the rigger was soon up the mast, attaching the sling.

Hooking up the crane

Then, like clock work, even more people showed up and soon my precious, recently rebuilt ProFurl was disconnected.

Whole crew in action
Before I could get really nervous, the rigger was disconnecting the shrouds and, just like that, they were pulling the mast up! I thought I might be sick, but I decided to video the process instead. Naturally, I hit the wrong button on my phone and missed the first part of the maneuver...

And, as neat as you please, the mast was down, and the boys were off to the next job. It's a real pleasure to watch people who know what they are doing.

Mast down!
Then I had my first chance to inspect the bottom of the mast. It wasn't what I was expecting -- a mass of rotting, soggy wood -- but it was definitely cracked and open on the bottom. Enough to soak up a significant amount of water? Maybe?

 First look at bottom of mast
Then it was round to the other end to get my first really good look at the mast head, complete with it's integrated radar reflector. Wow. It looks like business. There are a few changes and repairs I want to make up there.

First look at mast head
And that was it.

Dave the boat builder will be back from his vacation on Monday, and then we will start to figure out where the rot is coming from, and how to fix it.

Finger's crossed...

Next Up: Fixing a Wooden Mast - Part 2

24 July 2018

The Big Push

Life's funny, isn't it?

We were on our way to Block Island and points north this spring when we hit some awful weather off Cape Hatteras. After being hove-to for 10 hours, and seeing nothing but even worse weather between us and Long Island, we decided to duck into the Chesapeake for 'a few days'. Just to wait for a better weather window, you know.

Two months later, we are still here. 

Not that I'm complaining. The Chesapeake is one of the great cruising grounds of the world, and we have found a fantastic base of operations here in Solomons Island, MD. 

The indispensable pool
A couple of things have delayed us. First, Helena had to head back to Brazil for a few weeks to visit her parents. And then, while she was away, I was dumb enough to trip over the mizzen sheet and land smack on my knees. Kneecap Bursitis was the diagnosis; a month of rest (at least) was the prescription. 

Luckily, the best nurse in the world soon returned and I've enjoyed being pampered a bit, whilst doing all the chores on my to-do list that didn't require kneeling. 

(It's amazing how many boat jobs DO require kneeling!)

Petronella's second owner, the writer Les Weatheritt, calls what we are doing 'a Big Push'. This is what you have to do every so often with an old boat, to bring her back up to snuff. That's sailor talk for making her seaworthy again.

As my knee healed and my list of jobs grew shorter and shorter, I started to think we were almost done with our Big Push. I even made the mistake of saying so out loud.

You would think that by now I would know better than to tweak the nose of King Neptune. No sooner did I say the words, "I think we are almost done with our to do list!", than I heard Helena asking me a seemingly innocent question...

"Have you ever noticed this soft spot on the mast?"

"Oh, it's nothing," I said. "Probably a bit of rot just under the paint. It's been on my list for awhile. I just haven't gotten round to it."

The soft spot followed the grain of the wood and was about 1/4-inch wide, and 4-inches long. The paint over it was intact, not bubbled or anything ominous looking. I was sure I could just chisel it back to good wood in a few minutes, and fill the shallow groove with thickened epoxy. Painting it would be the big part of the job, so hadn't given it much priority.

But with Helena's furrowed brow to motivate me, I soon broke out my chisels and awl and started probing around. 

A few minutes later, I had a rather gaping hole in the mast.

The rot dug out.
This hole above is about 5-inches high, 1.5-inches wide, and 2 inches deep. You can see I was not shy about vigorously probing the area around the hole, to make sure there was sound wood all around it.

It does seem to be sound, but this rot clearly didn't start from the painted side of the mast. The water intrusion obviously came from above or from below, and the answer to that question (above or below?) will make a big difference in the repair.

Petronella's mast is hollow with compression blocks where extra strength is needed: at the base, where winches are attached, at the two sets of spreaders, and at the top. 

My guess is that the lower compression block is probably 4 or 5-foot high, from the base of the mast to just above the boom gooseneck and the winches. If the leak is from above, then the water has worked its way through 3-feet of compression block, nearly to the base of the mast. 

If, however, the mast has been sucking water up from the bottom, (because the end grain is exposed due to paint wearing off, or other reason) then the moisture and rot might be localized at the bottom.

Obviously I am hoping for the latter, but there is only one way to know for sure.

We had been planning to pull the masts to inspect them and to give them some TLC before heading anywhere adventurous. I'd been hoping to do this over the winter in Florida where there are some good DIY marinas, but we now we will bring this job forward.

In a few weeks, we will pull both masts and give them whatever attention they need. Besides the repair, we will inspect both masts thoroughly, re-bed all the hardware, replace any bad sheaves, add any new electronics we might decide we need, and giving them a good coat of paint or two. 

Luckily, there is an experienced boat builder (Dave) here in Solomons. We will be leaning heavily on him to make sure both masts are seaworthy.

Maybe then we will be done with the Big Push? 

No, I won't ask that question out loud...

In the meantime, I am going to make a temporary repair so that we can continue our cruise up the Chesapeake. We'll avoid any nasty weather, just to be sure.

The weather here has been great, lately, but just this week we've had lots of rain. Helena caught this beautiful photo this morning...

Amazing sky over the Chesapeake

Next Up: Fixing the Wooden Mast

14 July 2018

Another Look At Weather Faxes

After my last post on the various costs of receiving weather information at sea, I received a couple of emails from people who thought I was overstating the amount of electricity required by the SSB in receive-only mode. That it should be possible to leave the SSB on receive for hours without draining the house battery excessively.

If so, that would enable me to receive weather faxes by SSB at least while anchored, or when I had the energy/time at sea to tend to the reception.

That encouraged me to take another look at it, and to see whether they were correct -- at least with Petronella's specific combination of house batteries and solar panels.

No-Power Weather Fax System

The first thing I tried (or re-tried) was using a system that was completely independent of P's house batteries. I could run this to my hearts content, and never use an electron that might be needed by the fridge, lights, fans, etc.

Since it doesn't take use any electricity from P's house batteries, I call it my No-Power system, although clearly it does take some small amount of power, tapped from the Sun of course.

The basics: SSB radio and iPad with HF FAX App

External Antenna -- this one is really not good enough for WFAX

Beefy battery, with its own solar panel to recharge it (not shown)
Battery powered, AirPrint enabled portable printe
The No-Power system consists of the following components:

1. Tecsun PL 880 portable SSB radio
2. An external antenna3. iPad running HF FAX app
4. A power source independent of house batteries (optional?)
5. Battery-powered, AirPrint enabled printer (optional)

The portable SSB is required to pluck the radio signals out of the air and convert them into sound waves. These sound waves are fed into the iPad and its HF FAX app, which convert the sound waves into images, and the optional printer is used to convert these images into actual hard-copy faxes.

To keep it independent of the house batteries, I use a rather hefty portable power source, which has it's own solar panel to recharge it.

This system seems ideal except for one thing: so far, at least, it produces pretty lousy weather faxes.

WFAX produced by No-Power System
 It is also a bit of a pain to use. I have to hoist a wire (usually up the mizzen mast) to use as an external antenna. This is always in the way, and so far, at least, the results are not great.

I'm blaming the antenna at this point, since the radio itself seems high quality. I will continue to work on this system to improve the quality.

Here is the No-Power system in action:

Low-Power Weather Fax System

Since I could not get quality results from my No-Power system, I started testing my Low-Power system. The only difference is I use Petronella's ICOM SSB and its tuned backstay antenna. All other components are the same:

1. ICOM IC-M700 SSB radio
2. Tuned backstay antenna
3. iPad running HF FAX app
4. A power source independent of house batteries (optional?)
5. Battery-powered, AirPrint enabled printer (optional)

Low-Power System
Petronella's previous owners were very cautious about using the SSB, even in receive mode, and I guess I picked up the habit without thinking. However, during our restoration process, Helena and I replaced all of P's house batteries. I'd never even tried just leaving the SSB on to see if it drained the battery. I just assumed it would.

Never assume!

After being chastised by a number of readers, I decided to put together this low-power system and to let it run for the two hours needed to download a complete set of Weather Faxes. This made me absurdly nervous -- I really didn't want to end up with a dead battery, warm fridge, etc. -- but all for nothing. At the end of the two hours, the battery still had a healthy charge.

I wish I had measured the amp-hours used for this two hour period, but I didn't think of doing that until just now. Next time I try it, I will record the actual power used by the system.

Warning: I performed this test on a sunny day in the Chesapeake, with both P's solar panels working to keep the house batteries charged. I have not yet tried this at night, or even on a cloudy day.

A more modern, energy-efficient SSB would probably use even less power than P's ancient M-700.

That said, the results were much improved. The fax below was received immediately after the one above, on the same frequency. That is, the received signal quality was the same for both faxes. Only the radio and antenna were different.

WFAX produced by Low Power System
Here is the Low Power system in action.


While it still takes more effort to receive weather faxes over SSB than to receive the same faxes via Satellite phone, and the quality is not quite as good, clearly my battery-energy argument was over-stated. It is clearly possible to build a low-power system that produces acceptable quality faxes without killing off the house battery -- and without using any high-cost satellite air time.

It's also more fun than the sat phone. It's something of a challenge to get good results, and like anything you have to work for, more satisfying to accomplish.

I will definitely be using one of these systems to receive weather faxes, whenever sailing conditions allow.

Thanks to all who got me to take another look at this method.

"Life is for learning." -- Joni Mitchell

Next Up: The Big Push