Heading South (January 2012)

February 1, 2012

Bradley in the Pilot House with new electronics

We have awoken to a wonderful morning in St. Helena Sound in SC, between Charleston and Hilton Head. Our departure from Jarrett Bay went smoothly and we’ve had amazing weather for the first few days. For the first leg of our trip, we wanted to do a day trip in order to test our new systems more extensively. We thought of going to Wrightsville Beach, but it has a tricky entrance and we would be pushing the limits of daylight by the time we got there. So we decided instead to depart Beaufort, see how everything went for the first couple hours and then either return to Beaufort or, if things were going well, continue on overnight to Charleston.

We could not have had better conditions for this trip. Unlike our sea trial of a couple weeks ago where we were tossed around pretty good, this time the seas were calm and peaceful.

The Navy Helicopter engaged in exercises

There were a few minor problems with our systems, which I will detail at the end of this post for those interested, but for the most part, things worked well. After the two-hour assessment point, we decided to push on to Charleston. We saw very little traffic along the way. We did encounter a Canadian Naval Warship and a US Warship conducting exercises and had our first ever VHF radio call with a US Navy Helicopter, which was hovering just above the water and asked us to alter course. As sunset approached, we prepared for an overnight passage. What a gorgeous night! The skies were clear and there were millions of stars. Seas were calm with winds from between 10-20 knots. Electronics, stabilizers, and electrical systems all performed well. We pulled into Charleston Harbor in late afternoon escorted by a bunch of playful dolphins who put on a great show and dropped the hook (anchor). Although we have some good friends in Charleston from our previous visits there, we did not call them as we did not plan to launch the tender and go ashore. It was just a place to get a good night’s sleep before continuing on.

St Helena sunset

The next morning was perfect. After a beautiful sunrise above Ft. Sumter, we raised anchor and continued south to St. Helena. Along the way we conducted some testing of our autopilot system (see below) and gained even more confidence in our systems and how to use them. The past four months of work now seem worth it. The cruising guide book we have warned that the entrance to St Helena is very tricky with lots of shoaling but we had no trouble coming in. Once again a greeting committee of dolphins played on our bow and we were anchored in time for a perfect sunset. The only disappointment of the day was that we had deployed our fishing poles for this trip but had failed to catch a fish. So it was leftovers for dinner – which wasn’t bad – we made a fabulous oyster stew with the leftovers from Steve’s oyster roast!

For those that are interested, here is a summary of some of the issues we had on the way. I will be providing a more detailed report of all the work we did in the coming weeks.

  1. We have NavNet 3D and Nobeltec Trident which provide chart plotting and other navigational aids. These systems do talk to each other so that a route created in one system is automatically sent to the other. There were a couple cases in which we activated or modified routes in NavNet and had to close and restart Nobeltec in order to have them show properly. We’re still learning how to use these systems together effectively.
  2. On the first leg, our autopilot had difficulty making turns of more than 30 degrees. It would oversteer, then have difficulty correcting. On the second leg we conducted some tests and changed a setting in both NavNet and Nobeltec – the waypoint arrival radius. It turns out this was set too low – to 100 feet. That meant that the software did not recognize that we had arrived at a waypoint until we were on top of it, then by the time the autopilot received the instruction to turn, we were past the waypoint, meaning the turn had to be larger. By increasing the “arrival radius”, we now “arrive” at the waypoint and send the instruction to the autopilot 300 feet in advance, making for a smoother turn and no more oversteering. We’ll continue our tests on the next leg.
  3. We noticed that in Nobeltec the “Time to Go” to a waypoint is sometimes incorrect and different than that shown in NavNet. We will report this to Nobeltec.
  4. We have had several sensor failure alarms on our Furuno 2100 radar. We are continuing to record and gather information to diagnose.
  5. We had one instance of NavNet shutting down unexpectedly.
  6. When we replaced our Nauticomp monitors, they come with controllers which power the monitors on and off, allow input selection, and provide dimming for night use. Initially, the controllers did not dim the monitors. This was corrected by Nauticomp with a software upgrade (which required new units to be installed). The new units did dim the monitors properly, but did not dim themselves. As a result, at night, the monitors were dim but the controllers were lit up like little neon signs! We had to cover them with paper towels to preserve our night vision. Nauticomp has a fix for this already, so we will correct when we arrive in Florida.

On watch with 19 knots of wind outside - we love sailing, BUTa Nordhavn does have some advantages! ! Note that is Nobeltec on the left and NavNet on the right

The above list is not meant to be complete or extensive – just to give you a feel for the kinds of things we are experiencing. Luckily none of them are serious enough to be safety issues. We continue to be very attentive when on watch and very conscious of every waypoint change when running on autopilot!

Once again, photos on this post are limited due to bandwidth issues – we are using an AT&T tethering data plan with a Telular device which provides a boat based wifi system. But it’s not high speed and we have limits on data. However, it is nice to be here where all we can see is water and shoreline with no people, no boats, and no cars in sight and still have internet and cell phone access!

 Click on the Comment button to leave a comment.

  1. #1 by Tom Hicks on February 2, 2012 - 11:05 am

    Congratulations and smooth sailing. It looks like a lot of instruments to learn. I hope to see you in the foreseeable future.;

    Best regards,

    Tom

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  2. #2 by Kathy Clark on February 2, 2012 - 8:12 am

    Ron – I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think that’s the case here. We were doing 8 knots in flat seas and the TTG for the next waypoint in line was the same for both Nobeltec and NavNet, but subsequent waypoints for a 5 hour trip were off by hours. I have photos of the screens to document and will let you know what we find.

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  3. #3 by Julie Sannicandro on February 2, 2012 - 6:30 am

    So happy you guys. Love getting the updates:) I am imagining I am with you guys. LOL!!! Be safe and enjoy:)

    Love and miss you both,

    JuJu

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  4. #4 by Vera on February 2, 2012 - 6:25 am

    Bon Voyage!:)

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  5. #5 by Ron Rogers on February 1, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    Time To Go to a waypoint is a function of averaging the GPS speed readings. So, if the GPS is having an erratic period and you are averaging the speed say every 10 seconds you will likely get a different Time To Go from another instrument which is set to average your speed say every 5 minutes. I may not be very clear in what I’m trying to say, but if you just set them both to average the speed readings over the same period of time, their Time To Go predictions should be the same if they are sampling the same GPS unit. Frequently speed sampling in rough weather will give highly erratic calculations as waves momentarily slow the boat. These differences will not be as obvious in a flat calm.

    I hope the solution is as simple as setting them up identically.

    Fair winds,
    Ron Rogers

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