Archive for 2006

Alarm Systems On Board

Over the years we’ve looked at alarm systems for various clients, and even installed a few. However, the results have been less than stellar, often involving so many false alarms that the systems were typically not used.

We decided to give this subject another look for Wind Horse. After all, there has been a lot of progress in other electronics areas, so why not in alarms?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 21, 2006)    |    Comments (1)

Tongan Volcano Adventure

A SetSailor recently sailed onto the scene of a volcanic eruption near Tonga, where he witnessed the birth of a new island. Fredrik Fransson of Maiken has sent us a gripping account with incredible photos of the experience.

sailing through pumice

We left Neiafu in the Vava’u group of islands in the northern part of Tonga on Friday the 11th of August, sailing towards Fiji. There was no wind, so we motored along towards an offshore island called Late Island. We had seen on the chart that Metis Shoal and Home Reef in the area were known for volcanic activity. Both are south of Late Island, so we thought it was best to pass it on the north side. Fairly soon we discovered brown grainy streaks in the water. It looked like heavy oil mixed with water. The surrounding water was strangely greenish, like a lagoon, not the deep bluish color that you normally see sailing offshore. The further southwest we got, the streaks turned into heavy bands of floating matter, until the whole horizon was a solid line to what looked like a desert.

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (December 20, 2006)    |    Comments (1)

Maintaining the Outboard Motor

dinghy outboard maintenance

We’ve had a 30 HP Yamaha outboard on our dinghies going back to the days of Sundeer. Our first 30 was with us for 15+ years, and went to a new home when we sold Beowulf. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 20, 2006)    |    Comments (3)

BGAN Satellite System – Part Two

We’ve been following up on the INMARSAT BGAN voice and data service (previously described a couple of weeks ago). Here is what we have learned.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 19, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Propellor Engineering

Propeller engineering involves a combination of science, gut instinct based on real world experience, and trial and error. Regardless of the project, the latter part of this equation is always present – even on military vessels, when billions are spent to get it right, you cannot get away from trial and error.

With Wind Horse, we’re just on our second set of props, which have been slightly modified from their original design. By adding a slight amount of cupping we have gotten close to where we want to be. (Adding a trailing edge cup to a propeller works like a flap on the back edge of an airplane wing. The cup/flap increases the lift of the foil.)

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 14, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Cool Tools: Special Screwdrivers

For years we have carried a set of screwdrivers which mechanically capture the flange of a screw head.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 12, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Modifying the Dinghy

One of the cool things about metal boats is how easy they are to modify. Our dinghy is a good (if somewhat petite) example of this.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 8, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Preparing for Bear Encounters

Bearing on Bears: After an unforgettable summer in BC and Alaska, Linda and Steve feel magnetically drawn to return next year. They’ve done some research so they’ll be prepared for more bear encounters.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 8, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Engine Vibration and Noise

With 16,000 miles now on Wind Horse we’ve zeroed in on a couple of things that we want to fine tune. One of these is the level of engine noise and/or vibration. Mind you, at our cruising speed of 1900 RPM/11.3 knots this is just 57 dB in the saloon/bridge area, so the noise level is already very low. But when you are passaging for thousands of miles, what would be considered almost silent on most boats can become bothersome.

As we are in Ventura, California, we called our old friends Dale and Steve who own and run Ventura Harbor Boat Yard. Steve came down with his yard foreman, Tom, and they gave the exhaust system a quick look.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 6, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Propane Consumption

A few months ago, with a bunch of friends over for dinner and Linda busy in the galley, we ran out of propane. Timing is everything in life.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 5, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

BGAN + FollowMeTV: The Ultimate Communication Tool?

BGAN is a relatively new INMARSAT service with much higher speeds and smaller antenna needs than what has been available in the past. The service is new, but from what we hear it is working well so far.

The rub for cruising sailors is the lack of an antenna system to track the satellite, and – when these become available – the cost.

We were wondering if the FollowMeTV single axis tracker, like we use for our Direct TV reception, would work. We talked to the guys at BGAN about this and it sounded propitious, so we got Ray Barnard at FollowMeTV to chat with BGAN – tech-to-tech, so to speak.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 3, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Favorite Tools, Part 1

Over the years we’ve accumulated an assortment of specialty tools. Most of these are rarely used, but when required, they have been essential for getting maintenance projects completed expeditiously. Whether you carry these or not depends on your fetish for tools, how much space you have for storage of rarely used gear, and where you’ll be cruising.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Specialty Electric Tools

Our last category of specialty tools deals with with electrical systems on board. These seem to get more use than the general tools – that probably tells you something about where most maintenance occurs on boats.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Drogue Testing

For many years we’ve been students of the concept of using drogues in heavy weather, or for holding station when disabled. We did extensive research on this subject – interviewing dozens of users – when writing Surviving the Storm. But in our own cruising experience we never had conditions where we thought the use of such devices was a better option than keeping the boat up to speed.

With Wind Horse, the situation is potentially different. So, we’ve carried a Fiorentino parachute anchor, Galerider, and Jordan Series Drogue. We’ve looked at the rigging of these, discussed how to use them, but until recently have not found the time to actually get this gear into the water (our strong suggestion to you, if you carry any of this equipment, is to become familiar with it before heading offshore). Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 6: Sea Trials

SONAR for Cruising, Part 6: First sea trials.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 5: Installation

SONAR for Cruising, Part 5: The Installation.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 23, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Furuno Sonar Flange

Dear Steve, I am following your gear review used on your new boat carefully as I am building 54’steel sail boat (Bruce Roberts). I am interested in the Furuno Sonar that you have recently installed. In your review you are praising Furuno for designing the flange to fit a 6" pipe.

"Furuno’s engineers were thinking ahead here, as the pipe is a standard size, as is the flange."

From what I can determine the standard flange for 6" pipe is not exactly the same as the flange supplied with the sonar.

My questions are:
Did you accept the difference between the two flanges and just bolted them together?
Did you have a metric flange installed instead of 6" one?
Or is there US model of the Sonar that comes with a 6" flange on its housing?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 16, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Getting the Stain Out of Stainless

If you’ve messed around with boats for very long you will know there are all sorts of grades and qualities of “stainless” steel. Sometimes good vendors will supply you with poor quality materials, resulting in a continuing battle with rust stains. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Binoculars Revisited

A few months ago we did a short report on the three types of binoculars we have aboard Wind Horse. Having 5000 miles more experience with them since that report, we thought we’d update you on our feelings.

First, the image stabilized Canon 15 x 50s. These are excellent in good light and smooth water. We can use them in light chop, but anything that is at all bouncy makes it very difficult to find and then hold an image centered.

binoculars for cruising
(Wind Horse’s compliment of binoculars. Fujinon 7x50s on the right, Cannon 15×50 image-stabilized glasses in the center, and Bausch & Lomb night vision glasses on the left.)

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 4: Deciding upon a System

Coming to a decision on a SONAR system for the boat.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Integrating Nav Equipment

Hello, We have just discovered your site and are very excited about it. With your help we may finally be able to figure out our best options for integrating a laptop, electronic charts, gps (none of which are yet purchased) and our existing auto pilot (Autohelm 4000). We have a 30ft Catalina sloop and are somewhat electronically challenged. We plan on using charts from Maptech, NOAA, Explorer and maybe The Captain. Anything you can suggest will be of great benefit. Thank you.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Aluminum Paint Specification

Aluminum boats are wonderful. The only problem area is with painting. It is not an easy material to get paint to stay on without problems. On the other hand, it is the only material which can be left bare, and that is a huge plus. We like the look, and the lack of maintenance. And if someone messes up a docking maneuver, we ignore the scratches – or if we’re feeling ambitious, polish them out with ScotchBrite pads.

Of course you still have to do something with the part of the boat that is in the water. What is done below the waterline is quite different than above. The system used needs to tie to the bottom paint being used. In the past we’ve always used TBTF bottom paint, but this is no longer available. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Outboard Motor: Engine Size vs. Fuel Consumption

For the past 18 years we have had 30HP Yamaha outboards on our dinghies. The 30 was chosen for several reasons. First, we like to water ski and this is the smallest engine with which we can drag start on a slalom ski (tricky, but it can be done). The second reason is that this is plenty of power to push the big boat around should we need it in a tight harbor with lots of wind blowing. In effect, this serves as our “thruster”.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 3, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Poly V-Belt After 1500 Hours

Powerful DC engine-mounted alternators require large doses of horsepower to produce their electricity. This is normally transmitted via V-belts, from the power take off (PTO) pulley on the front of the engine crankshaft to a pulley on the alternator. Traditional V-belts have a hard time dealing with really big alternators, and require careful alignment, heavy duty tensioning hardware, and early replacement (for a lot more on this subject, see Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia).

The John Deere diesels which are aboard Wind Horse use a new (to us) type of drive belt off their PTOs. These are called Poly-V belts, and are ribbon-like in appearance. They are reported to be more forgiving than traditional V-belt designs, but we took a wait-and-see attitude.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Forepeak Storage

Improving storage in the forepeak.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Gig Harbor Rowing Dinghy

We’ve carried a variation of the Catalina Wherry, a 14-foot (4.3m) rowing dinghy, on all our cruising boats going back 30 years. Even Wind Horse had a used version which we picked up in New Zealand prior to leaving. However, we’ve been hankering for something a little more sophisticated, and have been looking at rowing dinghies with sliding seats. A sliding seat allows the rower to use both arms and legs when working the oars.

After arriving in the Northwest we started seeing a lot of sliding seat dinghies built by Gig Harbor Yachts, of Gig Harbor, Washington. There were a number of things about their 14-foot model which appealed to us. Its sloop would fill the need to daysail. And it allows the sliding seat to be fixed in an aft position, and then rowed double. We contacted the factory in June and were told four months for delivery. That was too long as we’d be a 1000 miles south by then.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 27, 2006)    |    Comments (6)

Staying Informed with the News While Cruising

We asked all the SetSailors how (or if) they stay informed with the news while cruising.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 26, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 3: Is It Practical?

SONAR for Navigation, Part 3: Filtering through the info to make a decision. Should we get a SONAR, and if so, which model?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 18, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Two Different Sonar Models to Try

SONAR for Navigation, Part 2: Test-driving a Furuno, and checking out a different approach from FarSounder.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 14, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 1

SONAR for Navigation, Part 1: With recent advances in SONAR technology, and since prices have come down, Steve & Linda are investigating whether SONAR is now a feasible navigation tool for cruising. They’ve written an in-depth three-part report about their discoveries.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Ventura, California: End of a Summer Romance

End of summer’s travels: Ventura, California.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 12, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Organizing Charts

How to organize your paper charts – and why they’re still essential.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 2, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Icemaker Solution

The Dashews’ system for making ice.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 1, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Cruising on the Columbia River

Exploring the Columbia River Gorge, and checking out design details on the tugs, container ships, and a mysterious "stealth" craft.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 3, 2006)    |    Comments (2)

Vancouver, British Columbia: City Cruising

Steve and Linda are generally not into cities as cruising destinations, but are pleasantly surprised with Vancouver.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 18, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Binoculars

Thirty years ago, when we were looking for binoculars, we ended up at a discount sporting goods store and bought a pair of 7×50 land-style binoculars. They cost us 10% of the fancy marine binoculars ($35 for a display model), and worked all the way around the world. We would have liked some high-quality glasses, but these were almost as good, and we could not justify the hit on the cruising budget for the marginal gain of the highest-quality pair. At the end of our circumnavigation there was some fogging from moisture, but they still functioned.

Twenty years ago, we were given a pair of Fujinon 7x50s. These had wonderful optical properties – at night and during the day – and they were still working well when they went to Beowulf‘s new owner as a part of her equipment after 17 years of rough service.

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Wind Horse’s compliment of binoculars. Fujinon 7x50s on the right, Cannon 15×50 image-stabilized glasses in the center, and Bausch & Lomb night vision glasses on the left.

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (August 16, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Second Time Through

Return to Seymour Narrows – passing through in a day where you could easily spend a whole summer.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 15, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Dinghy Set Up

Exploring in cold country with the dinghy introduces an additional set of risks which call for extra emergency preparation. We’re usually off by ourselves, and it is doubtful that anyone would miss us or hear a call for help. So we need to be prepared for a wider range of risk factors than in warmer climes.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Digital Chart Risks

Electronic charting systems are a step up from the olden days of pencil, dividers, and paper. Used correctly, they reduce workload and offer a higher factor of safety, especially in difficult conditions. However, there are numerous risk factors associated with using electronic charts, so we feel it is wise to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism and double-check the results.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Blunden Harbor

Blunden Harbor on the British Columbia mainland.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Inshore Debris

Inshore debris.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Heading South (Southeast Alaska)

Heading south from Prince Rupert, and encountering lots of traffic (cetaceous and otherwise).

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Local Knowledge

Not trusting the cruising guide, Steve and Linda rely on local knowledge and their own observations in order to make their way through some tricky passages and find a safe place to anchor for the night.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Using RACON Beacons

Using RACON beacons.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Radar Plotter – Approaching Prince Rupert from the West

Radar plotter – approaching Prince Rupert from the west.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Hunter Bay

With a gale forecast, Wind Horse hunkers down in Hunter Bay.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 8, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sandy Cove to Craig

Wind Horse makes her way through big swells and a large fleet of trollers from Sandy Cove to Craig, a small tourist-free fishing town.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 7, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sandy Cove

Sandy Cove, where low tide reveals a surprise.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 6, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sitka to Secluded Cove

Heading back down south from Sitka to Secluded Cove – more bears!

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 5, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Favorite Cruising Grounds?

We asked all the SetSailors to write about their favorite cruising grounds. Not surprisingly, Alaska ranks high on the list for Linda and Steve.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 4, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Warm Spring Harbor and Peril Straits

Teaching 8-year-old granddaughter Emma to navigate in the perilous Peril Straits.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 1, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

The Wild Life of Cruising Alaska

Extremely close encounters with brown bears at Pack Creek on Admiralty Island.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 30, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay, where the spectacular scenery and wildlife are worth the bureaucracy of getting in.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Icy Straits – Part 2

More humpbacks – this time they put on an acrobatic display. Also some tense moments when orcas come on the scene.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 27, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Icy Straits – Part 1

Icy Straits – Watching and listening to humpback whales as they feed on the ebb tide.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 26, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Lynn Canal

Heading down the Lynn Canal in heavy fog.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 24, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Taiyasanka

Taiyasanka Harbor – a great spot to hole up in a blow, as long as there are no earthquakes.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 23, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Skagway

Skagway – lots of cruise ships and a furry visitor.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 20, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Juneau

Juneau – a neighbor goes aground.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 19, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Prince Rupert

More cool gear found on boats in Prince Rupert, BC’s northernmost city.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 15, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Tracey Arm

Tracey Arm, Alaska – spectacular bergs, and a chance to test the radar in ice.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 15, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Princess Reach

Steve and Linda see an interesting variety of cockpit enclosures among their fellow cruisers in northern BC and SE Alaska.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Inside Passage

Navigating the tricky currents, weather, traffic, and deadheads in the Inside Passage. Making full use of the Furuno 2117 radar.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Khutze Inlet

Khutze Inlet – spectacular views shared with just one other boat.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Cruising in the Pacific Northwest: Rainy Day Routine

Rainy day routine.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Johnstone Straits

Heading north through BC’s beautiful and fascinating Johnstone Straits. Giving Nobletec software a try.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 8, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Desolation Sound

Warm water, beautiful scenery, and lots of company in Desolation Sound.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 7, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Ganges Harbor, Salt Spring Island

Interesting boat-watching and a great farmer’s market at Ganges Harbor on Salt Spring Island.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 6, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Canadian Customs Regulation

The skinny on dealing with Canadian customs at Pender Island.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 5, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Friday Harbor

Running into additional old friends at Friday Harbor, and the quieter Park Harbor.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 2, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

New Propellors

Over the years we’ve worked with Martec folding props, Max Prop feathering wheels, Hundested controllable pitch props, and Gori folders. None of these unconventional (in power boat terms) props have good engineering data. Specifying the correct prop of this type is very much a black art based on experience (for a more detailed look at this subject see Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia).

When we began work on Wind Horse propeller design was high on our agenda. We talked to lots of experts, consulted our various suites of software, and interviewed propeller manufacturers around the world.

Our goals were simple: quiet and efficient operation.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 1, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Choosing an Inverter

We’ve just finished updating the inverters on Wind Horse so we thought it might be timely to discuss the logic of how to chose an inverter.

There are a number of choices available. The question is, which is the right unit with the best features for your intended application.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 30, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Lake Union

Lake Union.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Furuno Radar Software Update

One of the cool things about our Furuno 2117 black box radar is that the hardware is secondary to the software. The hardware is basic, robust, and powerful. It is the software, that controls the various functions like signal processing and scanner, which gets out of date. The fact that the software can be easily upgraded is one of the reasons we decided to go with the 2117 in the first place.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Port Madison – Circumnavigator Magnet?

Port Madison, and a serendipitous gathering of circumnavigators.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)