Sep 30, 2013

Dunkerque - Brest

N 48° 22.639', W 4° 29.302'

There was an incredible amount of ferries between Dover and Calais. On the background you can see the coast of England. We sailed very close to the French coast, but England was not very far.

When we left Dunkerque we thought about stopping in Cherbourg. The wind was so good that we just gybed near it and went on.

Going down wind was rolly, but going the other way really didn't look like fun...

We almost had good wind all the way to Brest. The wind died completely after 300 miles of good sailing. We motored for a couple of hours and anchored in total darkness right before the entrance to Rade de Brest

This is what we saw in the morning when we motored about 15 miles to Brest.

And this. For some reason, when I see lighthouses like these I remember the books "The famous five" written by Enid Blyton.

We'll be staying in Brest for a while. We are waiting for a package from Finland and then we've also ordered some more electronic component for Timo to play with.

When we get our stuff from the mail, we start to look for the good weather for the Bay of Biscay.

Sep 28, 2013

Finally some good sailing

N 49° 44.455', W 1° 58.480'

While writing this I see the lights on Guernsey. Once we thought we might stop there, but now that we finally have good wind we want to go on.

We are on the second night at sea. We left Dunkerque early yesterday morning. First we thought of stopping in Cherbourg, but the wind and current was excellent so we continued. The current was so good that it kind of shot us out of the English channel at the speed of 4 knots. Our GPS was then showing 11.6 knots.

Our life on board is quite easy. The wind is from behind so the boat of course rolls a lot, but it's so much better than beating and banging to the waves.

Our watch system is very simple. During the day and in the evening the one who is more tires gets to rest. When the other one feels more tired than the other we switch. During the night we both usually wake up about once in an hour to ask a couple of questions. What time is it? Is everything ok? Do you still want to go on or do we switch places? We actually switch places about every 3 or 4 hours.

So Timo is sleeping now and I'm on the watch. Let me tell you what being on watch on board Iiris is like. Autopilot is doing the actual driving. I sit on the couch and look out the windows. We have this deck saloon, so there is no need to be outside. We only go there to trim the sails. And while going down hill, there is nothing to trim.

We are hoping to get to Brest on this wind, but we'll see where we end up.

Sep 25, 2013

Two new countries in two days

N 51° 2.610', E 2° 22.389'

We ain't in the hurry, but we still got two new countries in two days :)

We were too eager to head for the open sea, so we didn't wait for the wind to turn, only waited for the wind to die. We motored from Roompot to Zeebrugge, Belgium. But we did it in the right time of the day, and got a good current that helped us.

We were still very eager to continue so we only spend one night in Belgium. The next morning started out very foggy, we could barely see the breakwater. We watched very closely at the radar and AIS and off we went.

The fog was not too bad when we got out of the harbor. But it was enough so we didn't see any of the Belgium coast even though we were only 2 miles from it.

The current helped us again and we reached the French city of Dunkerque in the late after noon.

That was yesterday. Now our plan is to leave early tomorrow morning and according to the grib files we might actually have some wind from a right direction for couple of days. Let's see where we end up next.

Sep 22, 2013

RFI problems

N 51° 35.564', E 3° 43.165'

Previously I wrote about our first installation of SSB radio with Winlink. After a great struggle we were happy that it was at least working somehow.

It wasn't that easy, as you might have guessed.

I was requesting a GRIB file while sailing and Simrad autopilot steering the boat. When the radio started transmitting, the boat started spinning. I was alone at night watch. It was good that nothing bad happened.

At the next marina we found out that RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) was making the rudder angle sensor to report ridiculous angles.

There are two ways the RFI can get to rudder angle sensor. Through air or through 12V electricity.

Wire to the sensor was long and the shield was not grounded. I changed the wire, added a ferrite bead and a 0.01?F capasitor parallel to sensor wires. It helped, but not enough. Angles were still changing about 10 degrees when transmitting.

Next I checked the 12V system. When not transmitting it looks like this:

Some of our battery chargers are making the nice figure.

When transmitting it looks this:

Icom IC801E is really causing trouble. It is taking about 30 Amps and it has bad decoupling.

Eliminating RFI is not easy. I added a ferrite bead to SSB power input.

After that the angle changes were only 1-2 degrees.

I also put 0.1?F capasitor parallel with 0.01?F capasitor connected to ground at both sides of this inductor, making it as a ?-filter.

Problem is now solved. No problems with autopilot. As long as we are transmitting higher than 7 MHz. We are not expecting to have good connections below 7 MHz at sea anyway.

Sep 21, 2013

Sailing through the Netherlands

N 51° 35.564', E 3° 43.165'

A long time ago (a month or so) we were looking at the chart of the coast of North Sea. We then thought that if the weather is good, it's not very long way. Back then we were wondering if we'll stop in the Netherlands at all. Now we have been here for more than two weeks.

The weather has not been what we wanted. Strong winds from the wrong direction.

So we took the inland route. Here is this wonderful Standing mast route that you can take through the country.

Here we are in the first lock entering the inland sea "Ijssel meer". We have had about half a dozen locks after this one.
Sailing to Amsterdam was nice and easy over the two inland seas.

Amsterdam was busy on the canal.

We enjoyed the city for a couple of days at then it was time to move on. We made plans to go through the city. The only time you can do it is in the middle of the night. After all the trains have stopped for the night they open the railway bridge right next to the Central railway station.

Here in the country of canals and bridges you can not make too precise plans with too tight schedules. The railway bridge was broken. Luckily there's an other route down south. So we took a detour through the city of Haarlem. It only costed as about 15 more miles. but we didn't see Amsterdam by night. We are not sorry about that because we didn't have to stay up all night and we saw other wonderful things. 

The city of Haarlem had 8 bridges that opened for us. Here we have passed one of them.

There were a few of these funny lifting bridges on the way. So you do have a limit of how high your mast can be (about 20 meters).

Even though we have passed about 30 opening bridges we haven't disturbed any freeway traffic. They all go in the tunnels under the canals.

What a great country for kids when you can have your own water slide in the back yard.

The weather has been quite cold and rainy. We should be getting south pretty soon...

We have now traveled about 150 miles through the Netherlands. We have nothing but good things to say about the Dutch people and marinas. Everybody has been very nice and helpful to us and the facilities in the marinas have been very good.

Now we are in Roompot and there's only 1.5 miles to the lock that separates us from the North sea. When the wind changes so that we don't have to tack we'll continue our way.

Sep 3, 2013

Installing Winlink 2000 with Winmor and ICom M801E

N 53° 52.456', E 8° 42.350'

We finally got our new ICom M801E SSB radio working with ham frequencies opened. Our first QSO to Finland from Cuxhaven, Germany, was successful.

Besides marine radio and ham station we were naturally interested in receiving email and weather reports. Most of the people use Pactor modem for this, but we decided not buy it unless it was absolutely necessary. It looks like it's not. Good, because it's very expensive, more than 1000 euros. 

ICom M801E user manual is just for the marine radio, it's very limited and also contains some errors. The radio has a AF/MOD and a Remote D9 connectors for the external modems. 

Knowing that M801E is almost the same device as the American version M802, I was able to find more information.

There must be other ways to do it, but this is how I got this working.

Remote interfaces baud rate is 4800. I am using RS232C interface and no handshaking. This means 3 wires for the radio remote handling. You can use a normal PC to modem cable. Pins are one-by-one.

AF/MOD interface has pins 1-2 MOD pins to radio input and 3-4 AF pins to radio output. These can be connected to a sound card. AF to line-in or mic and MOD to headphone or line-out.

So far this is quite simple. The problem is with the PTT (push to talk) handling. Icom controls the radio frequencies by using the remote interface, but it doesn't handle the PTT. AF/MOD has pin 5 for PTT. If pin 5 is grounded, it puts the transmitter on.

Pactor has a relay for this purpose. RMS express has a feature to use rs232 RTS or DTR pins to control PTT.

I don't need a relay, because the currencies are minimal. Just one transistor is enough. 

I just happened to have one small device stored, that was not working, which had one npn and one pnp transistor and 10Kohm and 220ohm resistors. I used the npn transistor 1N 3904 as a switch. 10Kohm resistor somehow limits the quite high RTS voltage in base. Because I didn't have anything else to use there was no need to make any Ohm's law calculations. 

Collector is connected to AF/MOD pin 5 and emitter to ground. 

As it happened, it worked very well.

First version of the junction circuit.

The full documentation, but better than Icom manual :)

The Creative X-Fi usb sound card we use for the purpose (because we had it) and the necessary cables including the hi-speed and lo-speed NMEA for the radios and navigation.

The settings we are using.

I don't say this is the final settings, but at the moment it's working all right.