Off-shore, In-touch

I’ll be giving a talk about some of the ins and outs of keeping in touch while cruising. We’ll start by looking at the most common options to maintain reliable internet access on a boat and going over the history, operation and future of

The venue is the monthly meeting of the Coastal Cruising Club of Australia (CCCA) on Thursday 21st November at the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club, 1 Green Street, Cremorne.

Here are the presentation slides:


Email at Sea

Thunderbird emailIn recent years, it has become pretty easy to enjoy full fledged Internet access on boats. Much of the coastline is covered by mobile broadband and most of us have learnt to take advantage of that in coastal waters. Dedicated wireless broadband “dongles” are economical to use or we can take advantage of the data-plans which are included with modern smart phones.

Further offshore or on a cruise to the islands, the options narrow. While various companies offer dedicated internet access via Satellite Transceivers, their cost is a barrier to most of us, particularly for casual cruisers.

Thankfully, there have long been economical options for email at sea. Here, we’ll look at a two such solutions, using HF radio and Satellite telephones. And with the introduction of Skipr Plus, it is now possible to  report a position on the Skipr system with just email access. Continue reading “Email at Sea”

The Evolution of Emergency Beacons

We’re all familiar with Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). Yachts venturing further than 2 NM off the coast are obliged to carry them on board. In addition, some of us may also carry Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), attached to our life vests to help find us in a man overboard emergency.

Both EPIRBS and PLBs send a signal to overhead satellites to set off an alarm at the Rescue Authority, in Australia that is AMSA. While these beacons have a proven track record in saving hundreds of people in emergency situations, they still suffer from some limitations. For example, EPIRBs can only send an “all out” Mayday message, with no possibility of indicating the level of emergency, nor can rescue authorities acknowledge or establish return communications. PLBs will only send a mayday and position to the rescue authorities, rather than to those closest to the incident, usually surrounding vessels, who are in a position to provide immediate assistance.

A variety of alternative beacons and Man Overboard devices have come on the market and I thought it would be interesting to highlight two new types which overcome some of those limitations. Continue reading “The Evolution of Emergency Beacons”

Track & SEND

Yellowbrick Satellite CommunicatorFor those interested in tracking technology, we’ve launched a sister site to at Over the next few years, we’ll see a whole range of interesting devices designed to facilitate reliable communication at sea and letting others where you are at any time. These might be dedicated tracking devices or satellite phone with additional features.

Some even propose that a new generation of satellite communicators may obsolete  EPIRBs.  No doubt there will be much debate before that is accepted! So, if you’re interested in communications technology and safety gadgetry, join us at Track & SEND. By the way, SEND stands for Satellite Emergency Notification Device !


Chart Plotters – the Ultimate Solution?

This winter, I have had the pleasure of ‘crewing’ on the boats of a number of friends who were making their way North. It has been a privilege to sail with them, to see how others sail, trim and navigate. One insight was the wide range of equipment and approaches to navigation among my friends.

It prompted me to reflect on the rapid evolution of navigation instruments on our boats, from handheld GPS and PC based chart displays to dedicated chart plotters, smart phones and iPads.

When I started doing coastal passages on our first boat, it was a matter of purely visual navigation (I never mastered the skill of using a sextant). That was among the reasons why we didn’t venture far from our home port. The nineties saw the rise of the handheld GPS, which gave us accurate positions to plot on traditional charts and the confidence to do longer passages.

GPS units soon gained plotting and charting capabilities. On our boat, we started using software at the chart table, using a laptop which was connected to our handheld GPS. Last year, before our cruise to the Whitsundays, we installed an 8 inch colour chart plotter near the steering station and thought that was the “ultimate solution”. But is it? Continue reading “Chart Plotters – the Ultimate Solution?”

Mobile Internet – it’s just radio

I have had a few questions lately regarding antennas for Mobile Phones / Mobile Broadband. As it happens, the “rules” for getting the most out of your connection are the same for other “line of sight” signals such as VHF radio. That’s because your mobile phone / mobile broadband set is basically exactly that, a radio.
So, as with your VHF set, it really comes down to three factors:

  1. Distance from base station
  2. Effectiveness of the antenna
  3. The connection between the antenna and the set.

Let’s have a look at each of these factors in turn. Continue reading “Mobile Internet – it’s just radio”

Affordable Cruise Communications

I thought we would highlight three gadgets which are changing the way we communicate on our cruising yachts. From affordable, convenient Internet access to economical satellite communications.

Prepaid Mobile Broadband

Internet at sea has become an essential part of cruising. Some of us might like to get away from emails, but easily accessed weather information and the ability to keep in touch with friends and family sways most of us. On our boat, Te Moana,  we have a permanent Wireless Broadband installation, with which we’re very happy. However, not everyone is prepared to spend $1000+ or have a permanently installed system.

Continue reading “Affordable Cruise Communications”

Cruise Communications Essentials

Here are the slides from yesterday’s seminar at the RPAYC on Cruise Communications. It was a follow up from an earlier presentation at the “First Friday” evening held by the club’s cruising group. It is part of a comprehensive series of seminars, held in preparation for the club’s 2011 cruise to the Coral Coast. The seminar notes can be downloaded here and the slide presentation is below.

Continue reading “Cruise Communications Essentials”

AIS part 3.5

RT650-MOB.jpgI’ve been busy with some other projects, so part 4 of the AIS series (about full AIS transponders) is on hold – hopefully we’ll get back into it next week.

In the meantime, here is another very geeky VHF receiver with AIS built-in, the French built NaviCom RT650 MOB. Not only that, but it also features a wireless mic, integrated MOB tags and DSC automatic calling.
Amazing! [via the always interesting Panbo]