Saturday, October 5, 2019

Rebuilding the Navigators Area, the Electrics & Electronics.

Some years ago, I'm not sure when but the non-DSC radio and an early GPS gives a hint, a previous owner put in an electrical panel. Unfortunately it was installed approximately parallel to the hull which meant that the chart table no longer fitted except horizontally and forward of its intended position where it was essentially unusable and difficult to remove for access to the quarter berth. Much of the non-load bearing bulkhead over the berth was also removed, presumably to make access to the berth with the chart table removed easier.

The navigators area 2017, pre-purchase.
The electrical panel.
Immediately after purchase I had a plotter, VHF and autopilot head installed topside (pic below, I had these pieces installed professionally as I was busy on other things and wanted to go sailing) and I started a rebuild of the navigators area and the electrics which on and off took a couple of years.

WIP. Note the piece of pontoon decking! Now removed.
With the radio etc. out of the way the panel only had to cope with electrics. The first iteration supported the existing single domestic bank of batteries (250 AHr) and a new single solar panel mounted on the push pit. The panel was installed along the line of the original fittings, the bulkhead rebuilt - not easy as the bulkhead had been cut out irregularly and the refurbished chart table was reinstated.

The existing Sterling 4 step alternator regulator was moved to the bulkhead along with a new gas detector and car radio. The new anchor windlass CB, some USB and 12V power outlets were added to the panel.

Version 1 of the panel 2017. The main section hinges down for access after
removing 2 screws and undoing a cupboard bolt. The NavTex is behind
the short after section, behind the forward section is a powered USB Hub
and a NMEA to WiFi converter. The AIS transceiver is outboard of the
chart table.
Over the next year I added more solar panels to end up with 115W on a new gantry and 35W on the cabin roof, a wind generator, a second 200 AHr domestic battery bank with automatic charge management by Digital Voltage Sensitive Relays, NASA battery monitors for the domestic banks and an IridiumGo satellite system. A new hybrid solar and wind controller had to be installed which now independently feeds the domestic banks and the starter battery.

Version 2, 2018
Early in 2019 I added removable rain screens, teak grab handles to help me get out of the seat, SSB receiver and, somewhat belatedly, a consumer unit with duel pole RCCB and MCB breakers for the shore power which the previous owner had omitted when the shore power and mains battery charger had been installed.

Rain screens early 2019. In moderate rain from aft only
3 or 4 strips are needed to keep the charts dry.
A curtain from forward of the seat to forward
of the galley protects the rest of the cabin.
The iPad mount has been changed for an articulated RAM "ball" system with additional mounting points at either end of the instrument binnacle top side and adjacent to the bunk I use at sea, so with the Garmin Helm App (which replicates essentially everything the plotter can do) I can keep a Radar and AIS watch from my bunk or the from the Nav's seat.

In this pic, the iPad is slaved with the Garmin plotter as I cross
the Thames estuary. Power is from a dedicated USB socket. The
Laptop is running SeaPro navigation software and gets AIS info
via USB and GPS from either the boats network or a GPS dongle. 
An hour later on radar watch in fog, Radar, AIS and the planned route
on the plotter, which is driving the autopilot. An Admiralty chart &
AIS on an iPad for situational awareness. Power for the iPad is
from a waterproof USB port behind it
In late 2019 I tided up the panelling outboard of the chart table giving additional support to the chart table and to the electrical panel, panelled over the exposed bolts under the deck and fitted additional storage for small items and the binoculars. 

Hopefully the final configuration.
The back of the panel has got rather cluttered!

GPSmap, Autopilot head and VHF/DSC.
The low position can result in a crick in
the neck and back when keeping radar watch
in fog which I have had to do several 
times in the last couple of seasons.
I have two iPads (the refurbished one from a dealer was excellent value) both have internal GPS although only one has a 4G SIM card.  When logged onto the NMEA gateway they can also get GPS, AIS and other info from the network. One is normally topside under the spray hood, which except in bright sun is easier to read than the smaller plotter mounted lower down.

On deck when costal sailing I can have the iPad displaying the Imray chart & AIS and have the plotter (or the 2nd iPad) showing just radar (and optionally AIS) which, especially at night, makes it easier to spot radar targets than when using overlay mode.

Both iPads have a range of software but only requires one licence:
  • MemoryMap charting software with a full set of UK Admiralty Charts and Antares detailed charts of Scottish anchorages, which with the NMEA to Wi-Fi adapter supports AIS plotting.
  • Garmin Active Captain.
  • IridiumGo software.
  • PredictWind .
All of the above are also loaded on my iPhone but, apart from the IridiumGo and tides planner, are only there for emergency backup, "because I can" at no cost.

An iPad displaying the Admiralty raster chart as I wend my way
from St Helen's Sound, Isles of Scilly. AIS contacts and tracks
are available via the Wi-Fi bridge.