Effective ways to achieve better onboard ventilation

We expect air to be free, plentiful, and trustworthy enough to draw deep into our lungs. But COVID-19 has given air a bad reputation. While air on board boats is likely devoid of viruses (unless a fellow passenger is sick), there could be spores, molds, and fungus you definitely do not want floating around.

Using technology to rid a boat of dangerous spores, molds and fungus.

For my story on “Effective Ways to Achieve Better Onboard Ventilation” in Southern Boating magazine, I wrote about how clearing the decks and interior spaces of such contaminants depends on your budget and vessel size. Small boats with a cabin belowdecks can pop open a couple of portholes and let the fresh breeze flow. Boats 50 feet and longer with multiple cabins need to think in terms of advanced filtration and ventilation. If mold is present, no matter what size vessel, removal and remediation is required.

Here is a look at several ways to achieve a healthier
environment on board your boat.

Open Windows: Yes, it’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie. Having fresh air blow through, whether your boat is large or small, lets stale air out. Opening doors and hatches throughout the boat recirculates air.

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New inverter/charger systems provide onboard sources of electricity

Plugging into onboard electricity using 120-volt outlets like those at home is easier than ever. Whether you have a 60-foot or 24-foot boat, you can now generate, store, and make usable electrical power without a generator. I wrote about inverter additions for boats for the Wired column in Southern Boating magazine. Direct current (DC) power is produced from your boat engine, a generator, or via solar power, but to run onboard electronics and appliances, alternating current (AC) is required.

An inverter converts DC power from your boat’s batteries and turns it into AC power. Nowadays, better technology has made these integrated power conversion systems a viable alternative to diesel generators. Lithium-ion batteries provide excellent energy storage because they are more efficient in storing and releasing electrical energy than lead-acid or AGM batteries. Also, solar panels have become more practical and easier to use, as they constantly trickle-charge the battery bank when the sun is out.

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Sonar Secrets: See more fish and monitor bottom contours with high-tech transducers

Sonar allows you to find more fish

Sonar allows you to find more fish

The acronym SONAR stands for SOund NAvigation Ranging, and it’s a technique to locate underwater objects like fish. Transducers (devices that emit and detect sound waves) point into the water from the bottom or exterior of your boat and are connected to a fishfinder or depth sounder screen.

As sound waves emanate into the water and echo back to the transducers, the size and location of the objects below the boat are displayed on the screen. It’s a great way for anglers to find bottom contours and actual fish as well as determine the sea floor depth. I wrote about transducers for a Wired electronics column in Southern Boating magazine.

“The transducer is both the signal transmitter and receiver for your depth-finder/fishfinder,” explains Craig Cushman, director of marketing for AIRMAR Technology Corporation, a leading transducer company. “Having the right transducer for your needs installed in the proper spot on your boat’s hull will provide your fishfinder screen with clear, uninterrupted details of the bottom and everything in the water column under your boat.”

Read the entire article in Southern Boating

Elegant Interface: Yanmar’s new displays deliver in-depth data on engine performance

Today’s Yanmar electronic control units (ECUs) are fast computers that control the operation of the manufacturer’s high-tech common rail engines. The amount of engine data generated is so voluminous, it’s probably overwhelming for most boating enthusiasts.

That data is also valuable, not only to the captain and crew, but to service techs who need the engine alarm and diagnostic troubleshooting codes to properly diagnose and solve issues. Curating all that data and delivering it in a readable format led to the development of two new Yanmar displays: the full-color YD42 and monochrome YD25. The sleek displays are set into black bezels to match current glass cockpit styling. I wrote about the displays for a column in Southern Boating magazine.

Read the entire article in Southern Boating

San Diego waterways and locales tops for recreational cruisers

Front page of story about San Diego for Southern Boating magazine

San Diego’s skyline and Marriott Marquis Marina

San Diego may play second fiddle to Los Angeles and San Francisco in entertainment and commerce, but it is tops for recreational cruisers. This port city is a launching point for voyages to Hawaii and Mexico as well as an important stop for cruisers heading to and from Alaska and South America. I wrote about San Diego and the value it has for cruisers in the story “Stunning San Diego” for Southern Boating magazine.

When you enter the San Diego Bay, you’re struck by not only its size, but also its ships—it is 12 miles long, as wide as 3 miles, and home to the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet and Naval Air Station North Island. Aircraft carriers, submarines, and other warships are commonplace. Approaching from the north on a clear day, boats running near the coast will spy the tony shores and cliffside homes of La Jolla and Point Loma. Mild weather and warmer ocean waters offer a contrast to the colder climes of San Francisco and Los Angeles—the average temperature in San Diego is 72 degrees year-round.

While the Pacific Ocean temperatures hover in the high 60s, the breezes, and often strong winds, make for predictable sailing conditions. The America’s Cup was hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club and contested out of the Port of San Diego three times (1988, 1992, and 1995).

“When we cruise down from Santa Barbara to Mexico, we like all the options you have around the Port of San Diego,” says Jim Johns of Montecito, who cruises the coast of California south to Los Cabos, Mexico, in his Marlow Explorer 61E. “There are visiting slips you can rent out for a day or longer as well as anchorages. We often spend more time in San Diego than planned.”

And why not? Vessels can remain at the Guest Dock facility on the southern end Shelter Island for a few hours or up to 15 days. The facility is maintained by the San Diego Unified Port District and has 26 slips for boats up to 65 feet in length. Once docked, you can begin to explore both the land and sea. Visit the legendary San Diego Zoo, the lively Gaslamp Quarter downtown, the trails of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse, and the parks around Mission Bay.

Read the entire article.

How Volvo Penta’s smarter engines share info for better boating

Mobile phones are great at connectivity. Apps like Tinder foster romance, emails make it easy to work anywhere, and Facebook keeps you up-to-date with family and friends worldwide. Even inboard engines can “talk” to owners and service techs.

Volvo Penta controls operate to smarter engines

Volvo Penta has made engine technology smarter with Easy Connect, an app that gives boat owners remote access to engine, boat, and route data directly on a smartphone or tablet. “For Volvo Penta, the key to this integration is the Electronic Vessel Control (EVC) which serves as the platform for all components throughout the boat,” explains Jens Bering, vice president of marine sales for Volvo Penta of the Americas. “Through Easy Connect, the EVC can share information through the mobile dashboard that allows them to provide data quickly and accurately to their authorized Volvo Penta service dealers, lowering maintenance time and improving repair precision.”

I wrote about Volvo Penta’s powerplants for the Engine Room column in Southern Boating magazine.

Besides the ability to quickly connect with a service technician to analyze diagnostics, Easy Connect provides a live dashboard display so passengers can follow along with the performance of the boat while underway via Bluetooth, a great complement to analog instrumentation. The app also stores the data from the boat’s previous trips so you can view the route history, fuel usage, speeds, and more from the comfort of your home to help plan future voyages.

Read the entire article.

Bright Idea: An LED makeover adds value, safety…and enjoyment

Adding LED lighting to your boat can add value and safety.

Light emitting diode (LED) lights became popular in the early 2000s. Since then, prices have dropped and efficiency has increased. Today, more boat owners are switching over to LED lighting as their old incandescent and halogen bulbs burn out. While it makes sense to convert to LEDs, boaters should think about whether the job is do-it-yourself or one for a marine service professional.

“As simple as lighting sounds, it really is what you cannot see powering and controlling the lights that makes every boat different,” explains Bobby Stone, vice president of DRSA in Riviera Beach, Florida. “For example, a 65-foot Viking is completely different than a forty-foot Marlow. In most cases, the Marlow runs off a battery bank with an inverter, and the Viking has generators plus a few DC circuits.”

An electrical professional can determine the condition and layout of the wiring, input power specifications, if transformers are in line, and how to install new switches, dimmers, or LED power supplies.

“If simply replacing the existing halogen or incandescent bulbs to LED, end users can do this themselves without requiring a technician,” says Petro Ploumis, president of Apex Lighting in Deerfield Beach, Florida. “We can either just sell the LED lights to the customer, or we can go on the boat to make a design plan and provide the installation as well. It all depends on what the customer wants and the planned budget.”

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Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) are all-around performers

RIBs have air-filled collars surrounding a rigid hull

You can spot a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, or RIB, instantly because of the air-filled collar surrounding its hull. The collar’s lighter weight may look different, but it’s entirely functional and in some ways, better than fiberglass—the RIB’s collar makes low-speed collisions with the dock laughable, not disastrous. Fewer pounds also means enhanced performance with the same horsepower.

Today’s RIBs benefit from outboard motors that are better than ever—cleaner, more powerful and easier to service. Some RIBs are utilitarian and built for durability. Others are loaded with comfort features, such as soft seats, carpet and ski-tow eyes for recreational towing of tubes, skiers and wakeboarders. Here’s my article in Southern Boating magazine about some of the top rigid hull inflatable boatbuilders and their models, and how one may perfectly suit your needs.

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Radar Love: For cruisers, this tool is more than a convenience, it can be a lifesaver

Think of radar as a sonar fish-finder, except the transducer/antenna is spinning inside the radome— that round covering on top of your boat. By transmitting thousands of harmless microwave pulses per second, the radar determines what objects are around you and references their position to your bow.

Invented in the early 20th century, radar is now a common accessory on boats and costs have come down. However, powerful radar systems are underutilized, as many owners don’t know how to get the full value of their units aside from the safety aspect. I wrote about getting the most out of your radar for the What’s New In Electronics column in Southern Boating magazine. You will notice the byline on the story is by Don Minikus, my maternal grandfather, and a pen name I use with pride.

“Most boat owners today use their radar systems as a tool for collision avoidance,” says Jim McGowan, Americas marketing manager of FLIR Maritime and Raymarine. “Typically, that means nighttime, in the rain or in the fog. If you’re out after dark or in the fog, it’s very comforting to know that you have the radar on board if you need it in those circumstances.”

Another popular use for radar is for finding sea birds that feed on small bait fish. This is a specialized usage of the technology, but many anglers find success with it. By locating the birds at long range, it gets them on the fish sooner with less fuel burn.

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Spin Control: How to get propellers to perform their best

A service tech takes down propeller specs

When a boat runs poorly, propellers often get blamed. If the engines are in good shape, it’s only natural to get “propeller tunnel vision” and start indicting your blades for not doing their job. Before you yank out the prop puller and start trying new wheels, remember that props must work in harmony with the rest of the boat. If other parts of the vessel are not in top shape, then the prop can’t save it. I wrote about propeller performance for the May 2019 Engine Room column in Southern Boating magazine.

“Some people seem to view the propellers as isolated and independent from other important factors, such as the power and condition of the engine, or the weight, or the cleanliness and capability of the hull,” explains Jim Thelen, sales engineer for Acme Marine in Big Rapids, Michigan. “I’ve seen people buy numerous new propellers as if to assume that sooner or later they will find the one prop in existence which will ‘fix’ all other possible concerns and transform their performance by something outlandish.”

There are some boat owners who take the oversimplified view of propellers merely in terms of diameter, pitch and number of blades. That’s like defining all automobile tires only in terms of diameter and width. Propeller design and manufacturing differences affect engine load, speed, power, plane time, smoothness, and efficiency.

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