Twitter Digest

Radio Ga Ga

Never for Ever (I suppose I should start calling her that) came with a VHF radio. In fact, it came with a Standard Horizon Matrix AIS GX2150 VHF with a remote mic. The radio is both DSC capable and has an AIS receiver. Simply put, DSC stands for digital selective calling and provides a way to communicate digitally between two or more stations without tying up any VHF channels, which—if you have ever listened to the inane chatter on some of the public channels like 66— is a good thing. AIS stands for automatic identification system and is something that most (all?) bigger ships use to track each other. We won’t have a transmitter so we can’t be tracked, but the AIS receiver provided an easy way to keep a look out for big, fast moving ships, especially in fog or at night.

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Our radio is black, not white.

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Our RAM (remote access microphone) is white, not black.

The RAM mic allows you to use the VHF from the cockpit and has most of the functions of the main station. This is handy so you don’t have to keep ducking down into the cabin to chat with a fellow boater or the marina you are entering. The last boat we chartered didn’t have a RAM and it was often a bit of a pain to carry on conversations while steering the baot and you had to keep the radio turned all the way up to hear it.

The Radio Law

In order to use the DSC, your radio has to have an MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identify) which acts as your ID and your ‘phone number.’ These are supplied free by the federal government and are good worldwide.

The Restricted Radio Operator Certificate is required to operate a marine VHF. See Radio Communication Regulations para 30-33 at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-484/ in regards to certification requirements. 

Legally a ROC(M) with an DSC endorsement is required to operate a marine VHF in Canada. That means technically any individual cannot use the radio in your boat until that person has taken the proper course and passed the test; a regulation I think is often ignored based on the typical radio traffic you hear.

As per the Radiocommunication Regulations section 15.2 (1), radio operators are required to licence their radio If the radio will be installed and used outside Canadian water.  For more details on that regulation, please refer to the Radiocommunication Regulations SOR/96-484 located at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-484/page-6.html#h-16 and Radiocommunication Act at http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/R-2/FullText.html.

A station license for the radio itself is no longer required for use within Canada, supposedly to save on paperwork, but if you are leaving the country you must obtain a station license.

We got our ROC(M)’s a few years back when we did our PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card) which is also a requirement in Canada. There are a lot of dubious purveyors of this certification as the Federal Government decided it was best handled by private companies (wtf?) but we did ours online through the Canadian Power and Sails Squadron who are a national organization dedicated to boating and safety. They also administer the ROC(M) program so getting a membership there is a great idea. And you get a subscription to Canadian Yachting West!

The ROC(M) class was two days and you also learn about most of the radio-based equipment potentially found in a boat like epirbs and SSB radios that are usually only found in offshore boats. You also have to learn the phonetic alphabet: alpha bravo charlie delta…

The radio in our boat already had an MMSI number so I submitted a CPC-2-3-07 Annex B  to change the registration over to us (you can view it here w00t!). The old registration for our radio also listed a call sign so I figured it had already been licensed — so I contacted the Calgary office who processed my MMSI application to enquire. We want to go down to the U.S. and explore Puget Sound so according to the law, a license is a must. Turns out the Edmonton office does the licensing and they were already processing it. I have to pay a $36 annual fee to keep the license up-to-date but other than that we are good to go.

More on AIS

AIS is cool. I am tempted to get a transmitter (upwards of another $1000) just so we can be in the system. As it stands now the AIS receiver in the radio is (at least I am pretty sure it is  — now that I think about it, I forgot to check) tied into our chart plotter. That means I should be able to bring up a display that looks a bit like the one below that will show all the ships in the area and also display their MMSI and basic facts about them.

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If we got a transmitter then all the other ships would see us as well. The other great thing about AIS is that you can use one of many tracking services like VesselFinder.com to track traffic or even individual boats. One of the bloggers I follow (Life Aboard Gudgeon — a young fellow living in Victoria Inner Harbour) just recently installed his AIS system so if you go to VesselFinder and type in the name of his boat or his MMSI you get his most recent location—zoom out to see nearby boats as well. Or you can just snoop around and see what all the ferries or warships are doing. So cool!

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The vhf at our nav station with a small handheld vhf in a charger to the right as a back up.

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The RAM mic on the binnacle with the rest of the cockpit instruments
—Captain? #Posts

Rock Lake

Many years ago (the early 2000s?), we headed off for a vacation. I had done a bunch of research and found a place called Rock Lake that was just outside of the Willmore Wilderness Area, north and a bit east of Jasper.

There was a backcountry lodge there with 4 small wooden cabins for rent. The cabins had no power but hot water and refrigeration were provided by natural gas tanks and they had indoor plumbing. It’s a beautiful place to visit with lots of hiking and meadows full of elk in the evenings as you sat on the veranda.

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But the best part of the trip was actually the outfitters just down the road. They mainly did guided hunting trips on horseback during the seasons, but lucky for us, did day rides in the off season as well. These were great, back-country horses with none of the passivity commonly associated with trail ride horses and the trails themselves were exhilarating and magnificent. We scrambled up 60° inclines and crossed ridgelines and explored valleys. I think we went back three days in a row, just meandering around the mountains and ridges and up to the top of a few of them.

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But many of you will have heard my story of the one trip we did where the leader asked us repeatedly if we were scared of heights before he would take us up. From the picture below it doesn’t look all that terrifying, but if you are 8 feet up on the back of a horse and you can touch the side of the hill with one hand, looking down the side of the mountain was enough to make anyone close their eyes and pray to whatever horse gods there are.

But the view was oh, so worth it.

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Unfortunately I have never been able to find out if these cabins are still there. The original listing is long gone and the long meandering drive in a bit too lengthy to make just to find out.

The art of waiting

Boat ownership has, so far, been an exercise in patience. Actually from what ‘little’ I know of it, boating should always be such an exercise. There is apparently a cruiser’s saying that goes “The most dangerous thing in cruising is a schedule.” This refers to the fact that heading out on a day with iffy conditions or leaving dock with a boat that is ill-prepared just because you have to “be somewhere” is likely the worst decision you will ever make on a boat.  So I guess the last couple of weeks have been good practice.

The issue is basically the time of year. I have a fairly hefty bit of work to do on the boat—most of it to be paid for by the PO (previous owner) and a bunch of it necessitating hauling the boat. Now since the PO is paying for the lift and storage (upwards of $700) it makes sense to schedule the work I am paying for at the same time in order to save a few  dollars. And therein lies the rub. It’s springtime on the west coast and every dog and his brother wants his work done and his boat in the water.  Now, if not sooner.

And since we have our Vancouver Island circumnavigation booked for mid-May, it makes sense to wait to have the work done since we can’t use the boat anyway. It all makes sense. The only downside is we might be paying two moorage fees since moving the boat away from Granville not only costs money, but may delay the work if they have to move it back, and we have already reserved a spot in Mosquito Creek to keep the boat until we are ready to go.

But all that means I have to wait.

In case you are wondering what kind of things need to be done to boat that I just bought, here is a list of what was decided should be done and approximate costs. As far as I can tell they are in no way unusual or extraordinary:

  • lift & store 5 days—$700
  • repitch prop—$450
  • rebed (replace) strut bolts—$200
  • repair chainplate crack—$475
  • keel hull joint crack—$475
  • hull damage—$1300 (up to $9000 if there is core damage)
  • replace/repair galvanic isolator—$650
  • Webasto heater repair—$1100
  • rigging repair (misc)—$1500
  • engine repairs (misc)—$2000
  • *engine service & upgrades (misc)—$2000
  • winch service—$500
  • hot water tank repair/replace—$1300
  • *repaint hull—$700
  • *polish hull—$800
  • items marked with an asterisk are not paid for by the PO

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The galvanic isolator is the panel on the bottom. Actually that’s just its (non-functioning) panel but I have no idea what the isolator itself looks like.

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The hull damage on the port side that needs to be repaired (hopefully not to the tune of $9000)

I also want to investigate the cost of tying in the water heater to the Webasto and upgrading the alternator to 100 amps. The first will give us hot water without having to fire up the main engine while away from dock since the Webasto hydronic heating system is basically a mini boiler. The second just reduces the amount of time it will take to recharge the batteries using the engine; important if we intend to stay in one place for more than a day and cheaper than installing solar panels or buying a generator.

Hopefully I will have a schedule in the next day or two for all this work. Right about now, all I really know is Lawrence wants us to go to Specialty Yacht’s Hunter Rendezvous on Thetis Island in late June so the boat has to be ready for then. We aren’t scheduled to take off on our grand adventure until July so I guess that’s ok. Even if it means waiting…
—Captain? #Posts

Twitter Digest

Cats in our lives

Ghlaghghee, 2003 – 2015

Ghlaghghee died in January of this year. I had stopped following John Scalzi’s blog Whatever closely some time ago so I missed the entry. For some reason or another it was mentioned on twitter the other day and I finally read it. It’s a wonderful thing to have a person whose profession is words to describe something. I wished I could have conjured half the emotion revealed half the truths Mr. Scalzi does when Samantha died last fall. The bond with a cat is often so subtle that it is impossible to describe and though it leaves a disproportionate  scar when it’s finally sundered, you rarely  give much thought what that bond actually is.

John’s entry does this well and it speaks, for the most part, for me as well. Thank-you John.

Remembering is a source of joy

One of the things we too often discount in this ‘modern’ age is that by remembering and retelling stories we keep things alive in our hearts and heal our spirits. The disconnected glee that John had at my, among others, expense as I would try to pronounce Ghlaghghee’s name now, in turn, makes me smile. For those who are disinclined to read the blog post, apparently  John’s 4-year-old daughter wanted to name the new kitten Fluffy despite an official ban on such ‘cutesey’ names. The daughter won; but John, taking a page from Bernard-Shaw’s book, decided to spell Fluffy with assorted g’s and h’s to the eternal consternation of all readers and speakers. (Gh=f) (l=l) (agh=u) (gh=f) (ee=y)

Apparently Ghlaghghee was also the first internet ‘bacon-cat’ and his fame even exceeded the best-selling author’s for a period.

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Samantha was never so famous. Named simply Samantha by our then 5-year-old after a classmate, she eventually became formally know as Samantha T(he) Cat. But she did perfect the ‘clamber-up-the-bathrobe-in-the-morning’ and modeled for several books and magazines—although rarely when she was actually supposed to be modeling.

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Anyway, it’s good to remember and it’s good to smile and I hope when my time comes everyone pauses to laugh at me, laugh with me or simply just laugh.

 

Yacht Brokers

There’s a lot of smack online about yacht brokers. I suppose it’s like any sales profession: there are good ones and bad ones. Personally I have rarely been afraid to walk away from a bad vibe; my borderline misanthropy and innate distrust of other people’s imperatives generally makes staying in a bad relationship worse than the fear or embarrassment associated with walking away. On the other side of the coin there are a lot of good people out there and a lot of them are in the field of facilitating other people’s dreams. Leslie and I have had some good luck along the way, and the trend seems to have continued with our venture into the world of yacht brokers.

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Leslie and I met a lot of brokers the last two trips out to the Vancouver Boat Show. My favourite was a fellow who worked for Fraser Yacht Sales. Actually I recall him saying he didn’t work for Fraser but like helping out at the shows which is probably why he stuck out as my favourite; he had no horse in the race. I don’t think he remembered us from year to year, but we remembered him. The only thing I don’t remember was his name. My second favourite was a fellow we met only this year. He (Julian Clark) had relatively recently started working for Specialty Yacht Sales after he had left his boat (a Beneteau) in the Grenadines to come back and be with family. Talking with him was informative, fun and encouraging. He left us with a sincere offer to talk sailing regardless of whether or not we actually wanted to buy a boat. Also this year, when we visited the floating show with Dave, he introduced us to Len Baronit, one of the partners in Yacht Sales West. They sold Dave his Tartan and are also the Catalina dealers; it was a chance to talk about boat styles and the difference between North American sensibilities and European designs and even the economics of brokering boats. Very enjoyable, although it turns out Len doesn’t do much in the brokering field anymore. It also turns out I favour North American designs.

While one or two did give off that high-pressure sales vibe, there are some nice brokers out there and they genuinely seem to want to open up the world of boating to anyone curious enough to ask. Which brings us to the fellow we eventually found ourselves dealing with.

Oddly enough if I was to have picked a broker from just the advertisements and print materials that abound in boating magazines, I would’ve made some completely different choices. It is odd because of my profession. It’s just that slick and professional often leaves a different impression when people are trying to separate you with large sums. I’ve generally tried to stick with the (relatively) smaller mom & pop business, even when we built our first house. I look for a company with a good solid brand identity, but without too much ostentation and hint of personality or individuality. But if you’ve read the lead up to hear you will remember I didn’t exactly pick the broker we worked with to buy our boat. So my impressions or criticism of their marketing materials really never factored into it.

So who was it? Since the ink is dry and the deal is done I am now less reluctant to name names—I’m not sure why I was reluctant in the first place but I was…maybe it was a jinxing kinda thing…. In fact I suppose I really should be singing some praises right about now. Throughout this weird and complex process, Lawrence Fronczek, owner of Specialty Yachts has been everything I could have wanted as a business partner. While his primary responsibility was to the seller, there was never a moment I felt he wasn’t on the lookout for both parties and trying his best to make sure everything was fair and equitable. I suppose it helps that ‘driving a hard bargain’ isn’t my thing and that the owner and I had already gotten on good terms before Lawrence was added to the mix, but I doubt it changed much about the way he did his business.

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If you judge them by their brand and their presence in the market place, Specialty Yachts is one of the bigger players and with that comes, I suppose, a bigger commitment to the health of the industry. Well it showed through. But the service was also personal and pleasant. And I suppose its possible I will be swearing a blue streak this time a year from now about some detail or another but I know Lawrence will still be in his office on Granville Island and I am pretty sure I can out-run him so we’ve got that covered…but really I don’t forsee it happening. His advice has been solid, the explanations pretty thorough and the ‘high pressure sales tactics’ have been limited to the occasional “Well if it were my boat I certainly would…”. And my judgement on his judgement of me is pretty positive. I like someone who reads his clients well, it makes for a much more comfortable experience.

So ya, all in all, I am pretty happy with the experience. And I would definitely recommend the use of a broker if buying a boat and recommend Lawrence in particular. Now I just want the work to be done so I can actually go sailing…

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Besides, their office is in a cool blue building.

 
—Captain? #Posts, #Purchasing