Friday, 29 January 2010

Shall We Send Them Back ?

The First Mate bought a new pair of shoes for the summer.

No, they didn't come with mixed up sizes, but they did come with a cute "shoe" key ring, which matched the real pair.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Are We Going Down Again ?

Things have moved forward, on the Bilge Monitor front.

Some boaters just wanted a no-hassle, ready-to-go, Bilge Monitor that they could just connect to their 12V supply.

So, I've constructed an Alarm Panel for the Bilge Monitor.

This is for the boater who doesn't want to mount the indicators on an existing panel and wants something ready-made for bulkhead mounting.

From top-left, clockwise, the controls are:

Alarm on/off/reset button, test button, flashing alarm LED, buzzer, fuse

3ft of power cable is supplied already connected and can be connected directly to the batteries (to by-pass the battery isolation switch) or to the boats DC distribution panel. No additional fusing is required.


The next step is to make a dual channel alarm panel that can accept signals from two different sensor inputs e.g. one from the stern gland and one from the bow thruster space/fresh water pump or underfloor bilge...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Are We Going Down ?

Following comments made by some other boaters about their fears concerning unseen leaks on their boats, I decided to see if I can produce some electronics to provide a little peace of mind.

There was talk of sleepness nights, worrying about leaking stern gland seals or suddenly discovering wet carpets and flooring, as a result of a leaking fresh water pump.

Stern glands often drip when they need adjustment or re-packing, but when you are lying in bed onboard, in the dark, these fears can often assume unreasonable proportions.

Also, a fracture in a plastic pump housing can leak gallons of water into the bilge, undetected.

Sometimes, this doesn't get detected until the floor covering starts to show signs of the rising water.

It occurred to me that if I could detect a leak, then I could raise an alarm on the boat, to alert the occupants that the bilge was filling with water.

If the occupant was sleeping or on deck with the engine running, it would need to be loud.

If the boat was moored and unoccupied, the system needed to be versatile enough to be able to connect to an SMS alarm system, so that it would initiate an SMS text warning to the owners mobile phone.

So, I produced my "Bilge Monitor".

It comprises of a small waterproof box, which sits in the bottom of your engine bay, near your stern gland or by your fresh water pump (depending on what you want to monitor).

The box has rubber feet to stop it moving with the boats movement or vibration and its heavy enough to not float off in the event of water ingress.

There are two metal sensor pins coming out of the bottom of the unit. Their length is designed so that they will not touch the metal surface of the bilge.

If the water rises in the area where the box is located, as soon as the water level reaches the pins, the box will send a signal to an LED warning light and piercing buzzer, somewhere else inside the boat.

The system is supplied complete with a buzzer, Red Alarm LED and a Green On/Off and reset switch.

I have shown them on a cardboard background because they are designed to mount neatly in your console panel, electrical panel or just on the bulkhead somewhere.

All three items are designed for console mounting.

The system is supplied with a 5m cable which connects the indicators to the sensor box. It operates from a 12V supply and regulation circuitry is built into the box to allow operation from a voltage range of 11V to 15V, so your alternator output doesn't damage any of the components.

A 24VDC version can also be produced.

So, does it work ??

Here is a little movie that I made.

Excuse the quality, but hopefully it demonstrates the function.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Watering Down..

Bored with the ice-bound weather and spending hours on the Internet, I suddenly decided it would be fun to make myself a water level meter to measure the amount of water in the fresh water tank on the boat.

We already have one on Willawaw, but it uses a small moving needle gauge like the fuel gauge on an old car.

Its very hard to gauge (no pun intended) how many days worth of water, you have left.

So, I decided to make something a bit more sophisticated. 

This is the result:

The indicator has ten yellow LED's. 

The first one indicates tank 10% full, the second 20% full and so on until the tenth one shows 100% full.

Nothing illuminates until you press the red button (to save battery power).

The green LED then lights to confirm that the battery is okay and the relevant yellow LED's show you the level.

It doesn't need an external battery supply, simplifying installation and will work for 2 years on 2 x AA cells.

The sensor is a solid state, vertical cylindrical plastic tube (no moving parts !!) and is 25mm in diameter). 

It reaches from the top of the fresh water tank to the bottom of the tank.

There is no limitation on cable length for narrowboat use - the sensor can be in a forward tank and the display at the stern, if you so wish.  

I have given it a name for a bit of fun..

The cost of parts is less than £50.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

All The Nice Boys Love a Sailor !

The latest member of my collection arrived today.

As anybody who has read my recent AVO blog will testify, I have a liking for classic clunky electronics.

Sent to me by a friend who took it off an old vessel, this Sailor RT144B used to be the VHF of choice for fishermen all over the world.

 I like it because it has no complex integrated circuits and can be fixed with a soldering iron.

It works, but needs a bit of T.L.C.

It needs new lamps behind the dial for night time illumination and the volume pot needs replacing as the tracks are dirty/noisy, but otherwise it works well.

Lots of VHF radios were replaced when GMDSS came in and sets with digital selective calling became the order of the day.

Sailor sets are famous for their ruggedness and are characterized by their green colour.

The fishing skippers in Aberdeen, Peterhead and Buckie used to just ask for a new green set - no makers names were necessary.

Simon Petersen founded S.P. Radio (Sailor) in 1948 as a domestic radio and later TV manufacturer in Aalborg, Denmark 

Simon was born in 1901 at Bjergby, the son of a farmer. 

He is said to have studied with Bang and Olufsen at Aarhus Technical College in the twenties. 

S.P Radio faced increasing competitive pressure in the early sixties and finally stopped making television in 1965.

Meanwhile, Simon had noticed opportunities in the market for maritime radio communications equipment to small vessels. 

In 1970, they produced the VHF Radio Telephone type RT144A.

Suddenly, VHF was available at the reduced price of £3500.

(Ironically, you can now buy a VHF for under £100).

Sailor went on to build ships radio stations and a wide range of equipment.

Today, they are owned by the large communications group, Thrane & Thrane and their green sets were produced until only recently, still using the Sailor brand.

You can still get their later RT2048 and RT2047 VHF sets on eBay. These went out of production in the last year or two.  

Strangely, Willawaw has a fixed VHF set built into the control panel, which is an unusual grey version of the RT2048 - it's a very good VHF, which has been used on the Thames and Severn transit, but it is a pushbutton set !!

Thrane now use their corporate blue and so ends the era of the "green set".

Simon died in 1994.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

It's a Skier; No it Really IS

Happy New Year - First post of 2010.

Not much has happened since the last entry. I bet you're bored of snow photos by now aren't you ??

We have been snow and ice bound since just after Christmas, so not a lot to report unless we blog about cabin fever.

I'm used to the first mate saying mind out there's a cyclist coming along the towpath.

When she said mind the skier, I looked at her incredulously thinking it was a wind-up, until a skier passed me !!!