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1409Re:: My Story (and electrics)

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  • olivershaw4229
    9 May

      Various issues arise;  too many for one post.

      > I will update the electrics (including fitting a VHF radio)

      I fully concur with the advice given a few posts back,  to use LED lights throughout,  both for cabin lighting and navigation lights.    LED technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last fifty-odd years;   when I was a student LEDs were in their infancy,  with gallium arsenide diodes the only type,  emitting only in the infrared,  and with dismally low output;  but look were we have got to now,  around 55 years later.   The saving in battery drain with modern LEDs is phenomenal,  and they are just as bright as their conventional equivalents.


      You could spend a small fortune on electronics,  but you don't need all of it yet,  although some may well remain an aspiration for the future.   I offer the following as my personal order of priority.

      Top Priority:

      1= A means of signalling distress;   this doesn't have to be electronic,  and flares can be used instead,  but electronic methods are safer and more reliable,  as well as being cheaper in the long term (and not desperately more expensive even in the short term).   And flares have a serious disposal problem at the end of their short (3 years) life.


      1=  VHF hand-held radio,  worn on the person,  and secured by a lanyard.    Preferably waterproof (immersible),  and it is a minor benefit if it floats.    Note that I put a hand-held set very much higher than a fixed set,  because it can be worn on the person;    if you go overboard and get separated from the boat,  as happened to me in 2005,  it is not much help to you if the only radio is still on board.
      Icom has been described as the professionals' choice,  and certainly both my club and I personally have been very well served by our Icom sets.   Standard Horizon are another popular make,  not as expensive as Icom,  and seem to work well,  although I have heard comments that their controls are not as intuitive and not as easy to use.

      There are various other very well known makes,  which I presume are good,   including Lowrance,  possibly Raymarine (although I am not sure whether they do hand-helds),  and the top end of the Cobra range.

      Entry level sets (e.g. the bottom end of the Cobra range) are comparatively cheap,  at around £60,  but may not be waterproof (so you then need to add an Aquapack to hold the set,  at additional expense),  and may not have channels M1 (a,k,a, 37A) and M2 (a.k.a. P4) which you may want from time to time for communication with clubs and marinas and occasionally (just once in my personal experience) for direct communication with lifeboats.   But an entry level set will get you started,  and the money is not wasted when you later upgrade;  the cheaper set then becomes your emergency reserve,  perhaps living in your grab bag.

      3.  A depth sounder.   You need a means of establishing the depth of water,  and in the short term you could manage with a hand lead instead,  but for speed and convenience electronics is the way to go.

      Beyond that:

      4.  If you intend sailing outside your immediate patch,  a chartplotter.   Ideally one that runs Galileo (the European satellite navigation constellation) and Glosnas (the Russian one) as well as GPS (the American system),  and many modern ones will all three systems;   but one that runs only GPS,  which was the first operational system that is still in use,  will serve you very well indeed for the overwhelming majority of the time.

      5.  A distance log,  and preferably one that displays speed as well.   This doesn't have to be electronic,  and a mechanical system is fine,  but I am not aware of any mechanical ones still in production  -  although secondhand ones do crop up on eBay and in boat jumbles and elsewhere from time to time.

      6.   If you would otherwise be carrying flares,  a personal locator beacon (PLB) or alternatively an EPIRB for signalling distress is a better alternative,  and the priority for the electronic option falls to 6.   But if you choose not to carry flares the priority is joint 1. 

      7.  An Electronic Visual Distress Signal (EVDS) for "final mile" homing in once the SAR asset is on scene and looking for you.    Arguably this should also be joint first priority,  except that hand-held red flares can be used for this purpose  -  with all the benefits but also the serious limitations of flares  -  and other alternatives can usually be improvised on the spot if needed,  albeit less good.

      8  A radar transponder,  to help ships to see you.   Until 2 years ago I had thought that a top quality radar reflector was sufficient,  until I called up a ship about a mile away  -  in excellent conditions  -  to ask them to check whether they could see me on radar;   the answer was "Not yet,  but give me a couple of minutes to re-tune the set".   And than,  a couple of minutes later,  "We can just see you,  with difficulty."   In private conversation with Tom Cunliffe last November he commented that he was not surprised,  and we agreed that a radar transponder would give a much stronger return signal,  but there is then the problem of battery drain.   Tom greatly liked my proposed system of a transponder controlled by a switch in the cockpit,  to be switched on only when in the presence of shipping or in waters where shipping is to be expected.

      9.   A fixed VHF radio,  preferably with DSC and with built-in GPS,   and possibly with AIS also.     The only reason this is left to last is that I am assuming you will already have a hand-held one,  and my experience is that on the vast majority of occasions a good hand-held one is sufficient.


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