Of rain and satphones

Come to sunny Spain they said, it will be fun they said… it’s now been raining for  thirty six hours and the forecast gleefully predicts that this rather dismal situation is likely to last until tomorrow afternoon. Yesterday was supposed to be the day we started to replace the rigging – except that there is a fair bit of lightning around and I have no intention of sending anyone up the mast under the present conditions, thus we turn our attentions inward.


There is a satellite phone on the boat that had obviously been installed by the previous owner and when I questioned Jean Yves on this sometime back the response was that he had been told that the unit was working. He was fed a bit of a porky pie there as a couple of hours spent trying to revive the unit proved fruitless. Firstly the power source had been cut – literally. So we rigged up a new power lead complete with inline fuse as per the installation manual’s specification. Very satisfied with a job well done we switch the unit on – well at least we tried to switch it on. We got as much response from it as you would by trying to hold a conversation with King Tut’s corpse.

There was a spare main control box on board so we swopped this lot over with the same result – at least we are consistent… Further rummaging around revealed that not only had the power leads been cut but so too had the co axial cable that connects the unit to the antenna. For the life of me I fail to see any legitimate reason to do that, why not simply unscrew the connection to the unit? From all the evidence on hand I can only conclude that it has been an awful long time since this unit either sent or received any communication.

It’s a bit of a bugger as I had hoped to be able to use this to obtain weather forecasts along the way. Fortunately Jean Yves shares my concern about blundering along blindly across the oceans without any sort of heads up about whatever nasty weather might be lurking up ahead and we started looking for a hire unit. (Now before some folk out there tell me that for hundreds of years sailors crossed oceans without the aid of weather forecasts let me say this: I too did that for 17 of the occasions I have crossed either the north or south Atlantic and on a number of those crossings we got well and truly hammered. There were more than a few of those systems that I would have given my eye teeth to have been able to avoid. Deliberately running blind does not make you brave – if the technology is available and you do not make use of it, it makes you both reckless and stupid…)

There is also an E.P.I.R.B (emergency position indicating radio beacon) on board. This is the piece of kit that is essentially the last line of defence in a disaster scenario – you flip the switch and it starts sending an emergency signal to a series of satellites which in turn relay the signal back to the earthbound Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres dotted strategically around the world. They in turn then initiate rescue operations to come pull your sorry ass out of whatever trouble you have managed to get yourself into.

E.P.I.R.B’s have been around a long time now and in a way they have become a bit dated in a sense that they are a one way communication system – you flip the switch and for twenty four hours it will broadcast your geographical position. (By switching the unit on and off for four hours every four you can significantly extend that broadcast period). The big drawback with them though is that you have absolutely no way of knowing whether that signal has been received and if help is on the way, which as you can imagine could lead to a rather stressful few days out there…

The battery of the one we have on board expired in January 2010.. oops! A new battery is in the order of 300 euro’s – a new unit is not that much more, it’s similar to the desktop printer scenario where replacement ink cartridges cost just a bit less than what you paid for the printer. There is a whole new generation of PLB’s (personal locator beacons) that have come onto the market in the past couple of years that have proven to be very reliable and relatively inexpensive. We were looking into this yesterday and I got a link sent to me by Jean Yves for a new unit he had found.

It’s a really nifty piece of kit from what I read, being at once a standalone GPS, PLB and it has the capability of sending and receiving text and email when paired to a smart phone as well as a dedicated weather report facility. When connected to the service (and you have the option to connect or disconnect when needed, like for a delivery or cruise,) it has the ability to allow people to log into the system and follow the beacon – which means friends and family can now follow you in real time. One of these has been ordered today and I will post more about this when I have the unit in my grubby paws. All this for the same price as the old generation E.P.R.I.B’s – I am looking forward to seeing how this lot works.

We are still trying to resolve the battery issue, the problem we have at the moment is that the existing batteries had round post terminals – the same as on most motor vehicles. The replacement ones in stock have a completely different configuration that would require changing the set up quite considerably… I have this sense of Deja vu again – as mentioned in a previous post I went through exactly the same process a few years back in France. We are however a resourceful lot and we will get it resolved one way or another.

Until next time.
Y’all take care and stay safe.

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