Install an Engine Space Fireport

One of the most common places for a fire to start on a boat is in the engine space, and if that happens the last thing we want to do is open an access panel to fight it, and thereby get a face full of fire, not to speak of accelerating the fire by giving it oxygen.

The answer is a fireport like the one I just installed on our J/109.

Amazing to me that Tillotson Pearson did not install one when they built the boat comparatively recently in 2004, particularly considering that the first fireport I ever saw was on a brand new Beneteau back in the 1980s!

More on fire prevention and fighting.


Mental Liquidity

I have quoted Morgan Housel, one of the smartest people in investing as well as one of the best writers, before.

His thoughts about investing often make sense for life, and offshore voyaging.

Here’s Morgan again:

A question I love to ask people is, “What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?” I use “decade” because it pushes you into thinking about big things, not who you think will win the Super Bowl.

I am always so suspicious of people who say, “nothing.” They act like it’s a sign of intelligence – that their beliefs are so accurate that they couldn’t possibly need to change. But I think it’s the surest sign of ignorance and stubbornness.

Morgan Housal, read the whole article

I struggle with staying open and flexible every day, but at least I can answer Morgan’s question in the positive:

That’s all that comes to mind right now, at least around sailing. Maybe I need to work harder at this!

What about you? Tell us what you have changed your mind about in the last 10 years, in a comment.


Installing a Propane Detector

i just finished installing a propane gas detector with two sensors, one near the stove and the other just aft of the engine where gas would pool prior to kaboom, on our new-to-us J/109.

I settled on the above-pictured unit from BEP Marine. So far it seems like a well-thought-out piece of safety gear.

One of the things I like most about it is that it has no off-on switch, unlike many other detectors, including both of the ones I have owned in the past. Just way too easy to forget to turn it back on.

This is a sensor that should be on at all times when anyone is aboard, so, despite there being a breaker for a gas detector on the panel, I wired it through a fuse and directly to the main positive buss so it comes on the instant the boat is powered up with the battery master switch.

I guess one could argue that it should be on even when the master switch is off, but that would be a significant parasitic drain on the batteries and you gotta stop somewhere.

Also, as soon as the sniffer is off, the gas is off in the locker, too, since this model includes the solenoid control switch.

Further Reading


New Iridium Go! exec

Predict Wind have a preliminary announcement video for a new faster version of the Iridium GO!.

Not a lot of details yet, but it’s supposedly a lot faster, although not fast enough to use for actual internet surfing.

The big drawback will be if the unlimited data package available with the original GO! is not offered with this new unit or is a lot more expensive.

I’m guessing it might not be the great deal that the unlimited plan on the original unit is since the new GO! uses the Certus modem like Iridium Pro.

If no unlimited plan is offered, or a much more expensive one, I’m thinking that for many users who are just looking to download email and weather information at sea the original GO! may still be the best option since I have never had any problems getting all the weather data and email I need over the older unit.

Definitely the key thing to look into and clearly understand before purchasing one of these new units is the availability and cost of an unlimited plan.

One upgrade I did like is that the new unit has a speaker and microphone and so can be used for telephone calls without connecting a smartphone. This is a big safety benefit since there have been incidents with the old GO! where users were not able to get voice communications working quickly in an emergency.

Here’s the intro video, not that it’s much use:

And here’s a Q&A that might be more useful.


Don’t Play With Your Phone When On Watch

Coast Guard crew from Station Curtis Bay enforce a safety zone around the Ever Forward during container removal operations April 10, 2022. Approximately 500 containers are expected to be removed. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Reaves/released)

I think we would all agree that smart phones are seductive and, as a gadget freak, I’m as susceptible to their siren call as anyone.

Here’s a really good reminder to me, and everyone else, from none other than the US Coast Guard, of why we should not give in to smart-phone temptation:

For approximately half of the two-hour transit, the Pilot on board the container ship placed and received numerous calls, texted messages, and drafted emails on their personal cell phone right up until the incident…

…The Pilot was drafting an email on their personal cell phone in the minutes leading up to the planned turn south, when the vessel sailed through its waypoint and grounded.

If a professional pilot can get sucked into his phone like this, are we immune?

Better to have simple rules. Being on watch is just that. No:

  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reading
  • Texting
  • Games
  • Emailing
  • Or general phone-wan….

I’m not even a fan of listening to music when on watch, because hearing something amiss has saved me huge grief on several occasions.

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Is It Time To Consider a Robot For Watchkeeping?

OK, that was a clickbait title, if ever there was one.

Anyway, I have been vaguely interested in the AI lookout and collision avoidance technology that has been used in the singlehanded racing game for some years, called OSCAR.

Now I see that the company has rebranded as SEA.AI and their entry level product is down to a still eye-watering €9,999.

But, then again, if this entry level unit really works, I can see that kind of investment (no more than a good integrated plotter and radar system) being worth it for singlehanders, or even double-handed crews.

And if we were still heading for the high latitudes regularly, Phyllis and I would be all over this technology, assuming it works for detecting small growlers.

Worth thinking about, although I’m guessing that waiting a bit longer before spending on this technology probably makes sense for most of us.

The other thing that could be a problem is how much power this thing uses. I note that it needs 24 volts—to avoid voltage drops on the mast cable since this model has all its brains at the top of the mast, I’m guessing—which is a bit of a smoking gun on what a hog it is.

Do any of you members have any first-hand experience with these things?

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Slippery Deck Shoe Fix

My Gill deck shoes were completely losing their grip. We are talking scary-slippery, to the point I nearly went on my ass, and overboard was a real possibility.

We have seen this before. Seems like whatever material deck shoe soles are being made of these days, it develops a hard yellowy layer way before the shoe is worn out—shoe on right.

We have tried sanding before, but with not a lot of success, so this time, in desperation, I took a grinder with an 80-grade disk to them—shoe on left.

That fixed it, as grippy as new.

Keep at it until the yellow is gone and wear a respirator, I can’t imagine the dust is good for us.


Safer Transom Ladder

Our new-to-us J/109 has a robust transom swim ladder that could definitely enable someone who fell overboard get back into the boat, at least in smooth water.

But check out the photo above: There’s no way for someone in the water, particularly wearing a lifejacket, to deploy the ladder unassisted. The angle is just wrong for that.

So I made the modification in the photo below. Works a treat.

I will be writing more over the next year about changes we are making to the boat to reduce person overboard risk, in our Online Book on the subject.


No Position

We were out sailing our new-to-us J/109 when I realized that neither of the default screens on the plotter or TZiBoat showed position. Pretty standard these days…and oh so wrong. Imagine a person overboard and we need to radio for help, but first have to dig through a bunch of screens to find our position. Two minutes to fix (above photo), but worth thinking about.