Get it in gear

Now that all of our company is gone and we’ve been de-catted, we’re trying to get organized enough to take advantage of the next weather window to move on. Jack is recovering nicely, and while he’s not exactly 100% he’s well enough for sailing south.

Yesterday we moved the new AIS unit from its original installation location to a more accessible place. We weren’t thinking this through at the time we installed it, but in order to access the advanced networking functions we have to be able to hook it up to a laptop via a USB cable. Oops! It was way back behind the starboard engine, requiring one of those gymnastic feats boating requires from time to time. We considered getting a long USB cable and leaving it in place but in the end it made more sense to move the AIS box itself, which, except for the gymnastic feat of detaching it and attaching an extension to the VHF antenna wire, turned out to be not too difficult a job.


It’s now inside the closet of the Presidential Suite where I can check the status lights and hook up a USB for programming. Nice!


We were sure that the AIS installation would be our last electrical/electronic fix for a while, but sometime in the last couple of weeks our Marine SSB radio ceased to function. I’ve had a hard time learning how to use it from the beginning but now I can’t get any signal at all. Normally I wouldn’t worry about it, but the radio is our only way to get weather information offshore and it’s not safe without it. We had this problem soon after we moved aboard but it turned out to be a loose antenna connector. This time we checked and cleaned all the connections and did whatever troubleshooting recommended by friends and online forums with no success.

We have a wonderful portable radio that would serve the purpose. If it were working. But that crapped out a long time ago. Online research tells me it’s a pretty common and simple fix, but I haven’t been able to find anyone to do it. We rented a car for the last day Drew and Ericka were here so we could buy an airline-approved cat carrier and transport the new nuclear unit to the airport. Of course any time we have a car it’s a shopportunity and we took full advantage. Top on the list was a trip to Mike’s Electronics, a ham radio shop not too far from here. Mike had the VHF extension cable we needed for the AIS, and we asked him if he could fix the portable radio. He could not. Then Drew and I asked for troubleshooting tips on the SSB and he spent time patiently walking us though a few basic steps.



Unfortunately, nothing helped. I hate that damn thing. Every time I turn it on I am reduced to tears because it is so incomprehensible to operate. If anyone has any ideas on how I can determine if the radio is broken or if I’m just an idiot, please let me know. It did work before; now it doesn’t. I don’t know what could have happened, and I haven’t used it often enough to even know when it ceased to work. We’ve done a lot of electrical work lately and I hope nothing we’ve done affected the rig.

I don’t want to be delayed any longer so I decided to buy a new portable. Sadly the broken one I have was the gold standard in portable Worldband/SSB radios but it’s no longer made and used ones are selling for as much as they used to cost new. The replacement model is by all accounts not as good, but whatever. If I can get weather reports on it and listen to the BBC then I’m ok with it. But then we run into the usual problem. No one carries the radio locally so I have to mail order, but we have no address. We asked the marina where we buy dinghy fuel if we can have a package sent there. No. We asked the Raw Bar where we pay $10 a day to park our dinghy. No. We asked a mail service around the corner. Yes, for $10, which adds $20 to the cost of the radio because we have to park the dinghy to get there. Finally, I asked the local FedEx office if I can Fedex it to them marked Hold at Location. Yes. We still have to park the dinghy for $10 but it’s the best I could do. If all goes well we’ll have a new SSB receiver some time tomorrow.

Without the big radio I won’t be able to send or receive email once we leave the US unless we can get Internet wherever we anchor, so our communications situation will be more dire than we expected. Fair warning.


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5 Responses to Get it in gear

  1. Linda

    Oh no – the last paragraph leaves me sad! We will miss your updates!

  2. clarkhaley

    ok, there’s still time to fix this no connectivity issue: For $495 you can buy a Globalstar satellite phone and through 3/31, the service contract is $50 per month, unlimited use. Last thing is to buy a $20 USB cable that connects the phone to your computer, then sign up with OCENS email and, TADA!! you have email AND phone service at an affordable price!!

  3. I’d be concerned what the costs would be after the 50 $ package expires!

  4. I just wrote a long message and then it didn’t take so the short version is I would get the installed radio with the aerial fixed before heading off into the pacific. Hand held radios from my experience are not very powerful and only good for short distances.

    Don’t forget to send us a “Spot” location so we can see where you are….


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