So the clocks have now gone back, the nights are long and the days are too short. The boating season has now come to an end and we are not visiting our beloved Vessels anywhere near as often.
So are they ok? Well if you are in a marina it is very probable that outwardly they are indeed safe, with dock masters walking around checking the fenders and lines. What about the things they can't check though? The most vulnerable items are your batteries they really do not like to be neglected, nor do they like yoyo temperatures.
So what do you do to protect these hidden power plants? Having a good battery management system is so important to protect these vital assets. Battery management is not about plugging in a charger from your local car shop, they really are not good for deep cycle batteries. Your batteries need conditioning, they need to carry out work. Modern smart charging equipment goes through step cycles, they charge, condition, float and yes they also discharge.
These actions keep your batteries happy. So you need to be plugged into the shore power right? Wrong, mains supplied battery chargers are not your only option. why not think green.
Solar charging over the winter is still viable and actually works well. It also keeps your marina electricity bills down too. We all know that you can buy solar relatively cheaply from the internet but does it do what a boat needs? Well it is all down to the controller. I am sorry, but in my experience the £20 Controllers you can buy from Amazon can not really deliver what is needed. They do charge, but that is it. They generally will not condition the battery. To do this you will need to have a fully programmable multi step controller. The MPPTs we would recommend are the likes of the Victron Smart Solar chargers.
These chargers (yes they are chargers) will Bulk, Absorb and Float just the same as a mains charger does. These MPPT units are more expensive but they are worth the cost over time they will certainly pay for themselves. You will save electricity but more important you will extend the life of your batteries
If you want to know more about protecting your batteries, charging options or any other electrical or electronic query please do contact us and we can talk about the options available.
Well that time of the year is upon us once more. Winter is when we are much more comfortable sitting in a country pub by an open fire with a glass of fine ale. in the meantime our spring and summer hobby is sitting ashore or closed up in a marina feeling very lonely.
This is the time to think about those boat Electrical and Electronic jobs that need looking into, but also how is the old girl coping in the cold. Are the batteries coping with the changes in temperature? Do you have shore power connected with the battery charger keeping the cells happy? So many boat owners don't think about the importance of keeping them charged in the cold weather, then in the spring find that they are no longer able to function and could well be needing to be replaced. Also important is having a good dehumidifier on board to keep everything nice and dry. Most are compact in size and have a drain tube so you are able to keep it running without having to keep emptying the tank.
Now back to those jobs. If you are out of the water this is a great time to fully check the Anodes and how much life they still have in them, and whilst under the boat, how are the transducers.
Is your instrumentation and equipment past its best? Have you been thinking about upgrading the displays to more user friendly ones? Are you thinking about a networked system where all the instruments are able to talk to each other? Do you like the idea of the latest ChartPlottters, that allow you to see exactly where you are at anytime. Do you like the idea of this information right where you are at the helm? Consider the routing of cables do Deck-heads have to be removed? Winter is a great time to have this work carried out.
if you like the idea of new equipment we offer the chance for you to come and see the latest set up on Astrality just to whet your appetite. We can also carry out winter checks on your electrical set up. For more information please drop us an email, you can find us on the contact us page.
Over the last decade we have seen a complete transformation in Marine Electronic technology this has certainly been the case with the advance of Multi Function Displays (MFD’s). With the rise of Touchscreen Technology and processing power that puts computers to shame, these devices have changed how we can operate on the water in both pleasure and Commercial vessels.
MFD’s are now fast becoming the electronic heart of boats of all sizes and uses, their function way beyond just being an electronic chart. The biggest ability of the new MFD’s is the ability to overlay different information on to the electronic charts. Overlays are great at giving you extra information right in front of you in real time.
The most important overlay that you can have is without doubt the position of obstacles around you and when I say obstacles I mean other boats. There are two ways of getting this kind of overlay one being from a RADAR scan however this still needs to be interpreted correctly.
Now though we have a relatively new kid on the block and it is a real game changer that can improve the safety of everyone that uses boats. This kid is Automatic Identification System more commonly referred to as AIS.
AIS has been on commercial vessels for sometime, and is a compulsory piece of equipment on them. Now smaller boats can have this too. AIS works in two parts. You can receive data and also have the option with the right kit to transmit data. AIS is a marine version of what has been part of Aircraft Technology for a very long time and actually works in the same way providing the same sort of results.
AIS uses VHF to transmit and receive and what it provides is a very detailed set of information. AIS gives a Vessel Name its unique MMSI Number, the callsign and most importantly GPS information including current position, speed and course. Some can also send extra information like at anchor, diver in operation etc...
How is this information used?
If you have an AIS receiver the information can be overlaid onto an electronic chart which instantly gives a visual representation of the boats around you. You can also have it shown on some multi mode glass instruments like the Raymarine I70 and this is shown in a RADAR type configuration. With all the data coming into the MFD’s or instruments you can then have alarms set to warn of potential collisions and other risks. RADAR has had alarm setting for sometime but the information from it can be problematic, especially with weather affecting it. Also with RADAR you have to identify the targets you wish to monitor. AIS though, gives all the information automatically and with an MFD you can look deeper into the vessels information. Having all this information available allows you to be able to carry out a number of options if you are at risk of collision. Such as calling the vessel by name on a VHF if you cant move or if you can, then you can alter your course to avoid the risk in plenty of time.
As a small boat you can now not just receive information but transmit it too, this then means that you are also visible to everyone else that can receive your data which includes ALL commercial vessels very handy in areas like the Solent. Small boats are very hard to see on RADAR, even with a reflector fitted a small boat can still look like scatter, where with AIS you are an object of equal visible presence irrespective of size.
What do you need.
Firstly you need a way to receive the AIS Data, this can be through some VHF radios or a dedicated receiver, to send your boats details you would also need a transmitter. More commonly though you can have a transponder that both transmits and receives, some have what is known as a splitter built in that allows you to share the same antenna with your VHF.
You will also need a way of being able to interpret the data received. The best way is on an MFD as this gives you the best representation with Chart overlays.
If you just operate in local waters that have a mobile signal you can now get Apps for phones and tablets like Ship Finder. These are passive and rely on internet data they also only give you the receive information and not transmit data. This however is good if you like family and friends to be able to track you from the shore or land.
AIS is not just fitted to boats but also Navigation Marks and structures too, this allows the ability to use them as signal aids and also know where they are in bad visibility.
Could AIS of prevented past collisions?
This obviously is a contentious question, the best way to answer it would be very possibly, it certainly would have given any vessels involved a better chance to take avoiding action if an alarm was triggered or someone saw the AIS information on a screen.
We know that all commercial vessels must maintain a watch and we know that these vessels also have AIS. We also know that small boats can be very hard to see if they get too close to big boats or in bad visibility.
Last year in the Solent there was a high profile collision between the Southampton to Cowes ferry the Red Falcon with a small Pleasure Powerboat the Phoenix we know the Red Falcon has AIS but in the report by the Marine Investigation Branch AIS was not mentioned, just the description of how the Phoenix ended up where it did. If however the Phoenix did have a Transponder working onboard it certainly could of given both them and the Falcon a better chance of avoiding the collision. This of course is a personal viewpoint as AIS was never mentioned. It does however make you think that it is certainly better to have it than to not have it onboard, I certainly feel more comfortable knowing that I am just that bit more visible.
What will it cost?
The cost will depend on what you wish to have. I personally think that having an MFD at the Helm is key and for a 7inch Raymarine Axiom you will be looking at around £670 then I would recommend a Transponder with a built in splitter like the Raymarine AIS700 which would cost around £810 and finally have it fitted commissioned and tested this will cost about £360 for the labour.
Can I see it in use?
We are able to give demonstrations on the benefits of modern electronic equipment on our fully equipped Sailing Vessel Astrality which includes AIS. We believe in letting people have real world experience of the equipment rather than just in a corner of a show area of a shop as you can then fully see how everything can work.
Astrality has the following Electronic Equipment onboard and all networked together.
1 x 9inch Raymarine Axiom MFD at the Helm
1 x 7inch Raymarine Axiom MFD at the Nav Station
2 x Raymarine I70s Multi Display instruments at the helm
1 x AIS700 Transponder
1 x Ray70 VHF at the Nav Station
1 x EV1 Navigation Pilot system with P70s head unit at the Helm
1 x ICT-5 Data converter for wind speed and depth
1 x Fusion multi Zone Entertainment system BB-300
1 x Amazon Echo (Alexa)
1 x 4g router
For more information about this blog or to discuss what is possible for your own boat you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian is the owner of Astrality Marine. A Former RAF A Tech Avionics (EngTech) with 15 years on Aircraft like the VC10, Tristar and Tornado before civilian life took him to work within BlueChip companies as a Lead Engineer. Residing in the Southwest.