Monday, February 22, 2016

Getting the FAX! Weather fax that is...

We're planning our trip to the Bahamas in late spring/early winter. The boat is pretty much ready all except a few rigging checks/repairs as needed.

I'm really interested in understanding the weather options: How to get weather reports and how to include them in our cruising plans. Here in the USA we can get weather reports on the boat via the VHF Radio, Locally on our Phones & Tablets.

So far I have got the radio that can receive the weather faxes, it's a Tecsun PL-880 that has an SSB receiver and is a pretty cool radio. I also ordered a long HF antenna wire, but it has not arrived yet, should be here any day now.

Also got the HF Weather FAX app for my Android Tablet. But so far we have been too close to shore in order to get the signal to noise ration on the SSB down to where we can actually get the weather fax audio which will be the input for the Tablet.

Meanwhile, I'm studying weather lessons on the web and have a bunch of resources.

Weather Surface Charts from NOAA

Legend of Weather Chart Icons

NOAA Weather Symbols & Test Chart

Jeff Haby's online Weather Course

And the list keep growing.

Right now I'm working my way to understanding the weather faxes (weather surface charts from NOAA above) by reviewing all of the charts available on a daily basis. I feel that I'm getting reasonable at interpreting them, I forecast the storm that hit the cruise ship out of New Jersey last week with really high winds and waves. - Not my work, but at least I was able to tell myself that I did not want to be in that area ahead of the reports.

Of course, we'll have cell phone coverage for much of the time we're in the Bahamas, so we should be able to get data and receive the weather faxes from NOAA from the link above. But I feel that learning to read the charts ahead and make a more informed expectation of the upcoming weather will only be a benefit. Plus, with all the spare time we'll have aboard during our trip, what else am I going to do?

See you on the Water.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A stitch in time

For Christmas, my Birthday, and probably every anniversary in the future, I purchased a Sailrite LSZ-1 Sewing Machine - just in time!

For those of you that are not familiar with SailRite, they make awesome Sewing Machines, and the LSZ-1 was my choice.

For the past 10 years, I have done various canvas repairs or new canvas projects, everything from a Cover for our onboard TV, to a full blown Riding Sail for our previous sailboat. With our purchase of Eximius, I knew that we were going to have to spend a lot of dollars on Canvas work and our experience has been that if you pay for it, you really pay for it! The Sewing Machine cost just shy of $1,000 including shipping. To rationalize the purchase, I made a list of things that could be done if I owned a 'Real' sewing machine capable of sewing canvas - multi layers.
Here's my list:

  • Winch Covers.
  • Wheel & Pedestal & Instrument Covers
  • Cockpit Engine Control Panel Cover
  • Cabin Bug screen for V-Berth & Opening Ports
  • New Covers for the V-Berth Cushions.
  • Fender Covers (we have 6 Big Fenders)
  • Tool roll for the wrenches kept on board (the original plastic tool holders fell apart)
  • Companionway Cover
  • Weather Cloths (Port & Starboard)
  • Chaps for our Dinghy
  • Dinghy Outboard Engine Cover
  • Lee Cloth for Port Settee
  • Garbage Can(cloth) for Galley
  • Boom Tent (to keep boat cooler during the summer)
  • New Dodger (old is falling apart)
  • New Dodger Side Panels (to go with the new Dodger)
If you have not spent money on Canvas work, allow me to point out, that list will cover the cost of the machine about 3 times over!

This is the 'Kit' that I purchased, it weighs about 65lb, and the carrying box is strong enough to carry it, but I need to work out more.

The kit is portable, a lot of owners take their machine on board their boat all over the world. Luckily we carry a generator on board in case we ever need to use it afloat.

Note that little DVD package leaning against the case, that's a really good video and well worth watching.

Anyway, back to the 'Stitch in Time' thing. 
I finally did a few test pieces using the new machine, WOW, it easily sewed 8 layers of Sunbrella, I mean, it did not hesitate, the biggest issue I had was learning how to be tender with the foot control, it stitches those 8 layers so fast that it's easy to pass the end of the test pieces.

Next job was to repair our dodger, that's the canvas piece that keeps the weather out of the Cabin Entrance and provides a bit of wind shield when needed. The stitching on one of the zips was failing, wrong type of thread used in some past repair. The machine zipped through that repair (pun intended). But when we went out for the chili cook off, I tripped and put my weight onto the dodger canvas. That found another area where the thread has suffered UV damage and basically just came apart. So I brought the Dodger back home again and restitched it.
This job was a bit more complex, the restitching was pretty easy, but repairing the end connectors where the canvas had torn over several years was a challenge. Challenge for me, not the machine.

So hopefully, that stitch in time will prevent future failures until I can make an entirely new dodger & side panel set.

I mentioned about reviewing the DVD that came with the kit. That turned out to be a really valuable exercise.

While working on another project, adding a strap to a shade to go outside over our swimming pool (another item to add to the list of projects to pay for the machine) I broke a needle, it was my fault, and a lesson learned. However, after replacing the needle, the machine would not sew properly, and that's where reviewing the DVD turned out to be worth while.
The needle broke because I failed to follow a basic instruction, 'always put the foot lift lever down before commencing sewing' and the needle bent and dug a hole in an internal piece of the machine.

The DVD explained how that could happen, and what would be the consequence, and it's exactly what I experienced. I followed the instructions and filed out the ding in the workings, but the stitching was still just not right. It's amazing the confidence one has when armed with the right information. I reviewed the DVD again about the things to check and that's where I was able to figure out that the problem remaining was that the needle was not inserted high enough, it was an easy diagnostic after watching the video. A quick adjustment to the needle position and a test showed that everything was now ok.

So a big Thanks to the guys at Sailrite, and if you get one of their machines, watch the video!

Next project? We have the big Raft up event coming up on March 5th, and we have to have clean fenders! So it looks like I'll be making the fender covers next. They cost around $30 each! So get ready to recoup about $120 of the cost of the machine. Only $850 to go!

See you on the Water.