Boat Projects

Marine Internet, An Internet Connected Boat.

Just a few years ago it was relatively unheard of to have internet on your boat. Now marine internet and connecting your boat and all the devices  needed for everyday life is a relatively easy process once you understand the basics. I will briefly talk about my set up at the dock in this post and I will link to a very well written article from a cruising  boater who goes into depth about the technical and logistical issues and fixes to have an enjoyable internet experience on your boat.

I may be in a very unique situation at my marina. I dock at a marina with no marina wide internet but they do have a house on the property that has internet capability from both Xfinity and Verizon Fios. The Current occupants of the house are using the Xfinity service so I called and was able to get Fios installed. When the installer came I had her install the modem in a housing at the demarcation box from the street so my modem is actually installed right where the Fios service comes into the house. I then installed a Ubiquiti Nanobeam M5-16 Wireless antenna at the house and another Ubiquiti Nanobeam M5-16 Wireless at the dock near my boat. These antennas were probably over kill for my needs but they are great antennas and are sometimes referred to as “air fiber” because they have a very fast high bandwidth capability along with a very long range. Once I had the antennas installed I installed a TP-LINK N300 Long Range 11n 2.4G Wireless Outdoor Access Point on the dock. The access point lets me “share” the internet with all of my devices just like your modem or router does at your house.

For a more in depth look at internet on the water from a boater who just spent a year on the water with his family please read Ben Stein’s article on Panbo.com

https://www.panbo.com/marine-internet-a-connected-year-on-the-water/

New Chris Craft Catalina Owners Group Forums

I am working on setting up forum software on the site for owners of Chris Craft Catalina boats. It seems the old catalina user group is no longer up so hopefully we can have a spot here to post and discuss our boats.

The forum can be found here: http://ilikeithere.net/CatalinaClub

We also have a Facebook group with a lot more activity than the online forum located here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/509735432730990/?ref=group_header

It’s a work in progress so bear with me!

Storing Batteries On Concrete Myth

We’ve all heard the storing batteries on concrete myth before. Some of us refuse to store a car or boat battery on concrete because our mechanic or trusted friend said it will drain the battery. Turns out this myth had some truth in it but is no longer relevant with today’s battery construction.

Early Batteries

Early Batteries were constructed from wooden crates holding glass encased cells. When the wood was subject to moisture or temperature changes it would warp and break the glass cells causing the acid to leak out and the battery to fail. You would have definitely wanted to keep one of these batteries off of the floor and in a cool dry place.

Next Generation Batteries

The next generation of batteries were Nickle-Iron batteries that were encased in steel and covered with a rubber coating. These batteries were susceptible to discharge when placed on the ground due to the rubber coating breaking down, absorbing moisture from the ground and allowing current to flow through the pores of the rubber membrane. These batteries were not meant to be stored on the concrete or on the ground.

Current Day Batteries 

Batteries made today are contained in a hard plastic case that is impervious to moisture and actually will benefit from the relatively stable temperature of a concrete floor.  New batteries can be damaged by extreme temperature changes and should be kept in a relatively cool environment when storing them.

What Damages Modern Batteries

  • Dirt and dust can become carbonized, creating electrical conduction which drains the battery. Combat this by using a clean rag to clean wipe off the tops of the battery.
  • Self-discharge occurs over time with lead-acid batteries. Reactions within the plates happen as the battery ages creating a leak. The warmer the air surrounding the battery the faster the rate of discharge. Keeping the air around stored batteries cool will help slow the rate of self-discharge.
  • While cold temperatures are rarely the cause of battery malfunctions, a battery that is at a low state of charged and exposed to freezing temperatures can freeze causing the case to crack. Keeping your battery fully charged during the winter months is an easy way to prevent this from happening.
  • Knowing the shelf life of your battery can help a lot as well. A car battery stored in a cool and dry place can last a few years if you keep it topped off with a trickle charger.

Today’s batteries are well insulated and no longer take on water that can cause discharging or leaking. That being said, there are clearly right ways and wrong ways when it comes to battery storage. Keeping your batteries clean, dry and understanding their shelf life can make a big difference in preserving their longevity and the quality of their performance. So go ahead and leave that battery on the cool dry floor of your garage. Kinda great, right?

Source: https://northeastbattery.com/do-cement-floors-ruin-car-batteries/


Don’t Fall For The New Coast Guard Documentation Renewal Scam!

I’ve been meaning to make a post about the documentation renewal scam regarding Coast Guard documentation and I just saw the Coast Guard made a post on their website about it. All boaters who have a documented vessel should be aware there are companies that will mail you a “renewal notice’ a few weeks or a month before your vessel documentation needs to be renewed. These mailings and the companies are fraudulent. They will charge you hundreds of dollars to handle your renewal but what you get in return is worthless.

 

The letters they mail out look official and are full of threatening wording in order to scare you into a knee jerk reaction and paying them to handle your renewal. Do not use these people to renew anything or give them any of your information. Many times they will try to sign you up for expensive automatic renewals and according to the Coast Guard they give you documentation that can’t be used legally.

Registering or renewing you documentation can only be done through the official Coast Guard website or documentation center. When renewing online only go to the official .mil website. Any website with a .com, .us, or .info is a fake website. The Coast Guard DOES send renewal notices by mail but that notice will direct you to the .mil website or a telephone number to the Documentation Center in West Virginia. Official documentation only costs $26 not the $100’s these scammers charge.

This new scam highlights the need to be vigilant both online and when receiving unsolicited mail or telephone calls. Many boaters are out of the country or traveling often and may not be aware of scams like these.

If you have fallen victim to this scam you can try to get a charge back from your credit card company though it maybe difficult without a fight.

For more information please read the Official Coast Guard post on this topic.

Know Before You Go With These Free Weather Apps For IOS and Android Devices

We’ve all been there, heading to the boat for a day of fun only to realize the weather turned and it’s no longer safe to head out on the water. Or we have spent a weekend out, get ready to head back to the dock and get surprised by a storm on our way in. Luckily these days we have access to many different forecasting and live data tools to make checking the weather an easy task.

Tides Near Me is a great app to see when the next low tide, high tide or what the current tide is right where you are.

Android version of tides near me can be downloaded here.

Iphone and IOS version of tides near me can be found here.

NOAA Buoy Data app lets you see real time buoy data from and NOAA buoy that is actively reporting data to NOAA. This app also includes all the data sent by the buoy including wave height and water temperature.

Android Play store version of NOAA Buoy data can be found here.

Apple App Store version of NOAA Buoy data can be found here.

Windy is a great app for forecasts, wave height and forecasted wave height. It is used by professionals, fishermen, governments and other people who want accurate real time information. I love this app and use it almost everyday.

Android version of Windy can be downloaded here.

Apple App Store version of Windy can be found here.

MyRadar NOAA weather app is one of the best no frills radar apps out today. It does just what is it supposed to and that is show you your local radar.

Android version of MyRadar can be downloaded here.

Apple App Store version of MyRadar can be found here.

qtVlm is a navigation software designed for sailing boats. It is also a free weather grib viewer that accepts all kinds of gribs. It can read and display maps in various formats, such as Vector charts (S57), Raster Charts (kaps, geotiff, etc) and mbtiles charts. This is a serious app for serious users and it’s only available on android devices. It is a weather app, a navigation app and is able to parse NMEA data on devices fitted to GPS or Chartplotters.

Android version of qtVlm can be downloaded here.

There are many free weather apps and maybe you use one that isn’t listed here and that’s great! These are some that I use and trust. There is one marine specifict app that I left out, I use it but the reviews are terrible. If you use it you will know what I am talking about and if you don’t use it the reviews may scare you away however I would say give it a try and see if you like it. I personally haven’t had problems with it like others have had.

Don’t forget about the free weather broadcast you can receive on your marine VHF radio or on your weather radio. The over the air broadcast contains real time information and alerts concerning the listening area. Boating on the Chesapeake bay I usually listen to the marine forecast on the radio and use an app to double check conditions before leaving the dock.

Remember your weather app might not work once you leave populated areas and no longer have a reliable internet connection. The NOAA radio is a true lifesaver.

Cleaning Your Boat

One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to maintain your boat is to keep it clean. When proper steps and effort is put forth cleaning your boat you not only gain a sense of pride but you are taking an important step in safeguarding your boats fit and finish.

Choose the right equipment for your type of boat. Sturdy brushes with telescoping handles help alleviate stress on our back and muscles and allow you to reach out of the way places. Consider the materials your boat is constructed of when buying cleaning tools. Generally a medium soft bristle brush is desired and won’t harm most surfaces. Some tougher non-skid decks may benefit from a stiff bristle brush. A sponge, clean rags, mop and detail brushes will also help you keep your boat clean. Applicator pads for vinyl cleaners and polishes are also suggested. Choose items that will stand up to the rigors of marine usage and the elements like salt water and the sun. Choose items that can be broken down and stored easily in the confines of your boat. Store your cleaning supplies in the same place and in good condition after every use and you will be able to find them and use them with little issue the next time you have to clean your boat.

Use only environmentally friendly products to clean your boat. It may seem like a proverbial drop in the bucket but imagine the environmental impact of every boat in your area using unsafe products to clean with. Try to avoid using concentrated products at full strength. This will potentially damage or strip finishes from your boat.  Don’t use dishwashing soap to wash your boat as this will strip the wax or polish from surfaces. Don’t use bleach as it will corrode certain metals and is harmful to marine life. If you have stubborn stains try to use hydrogen peroxide or a cleaner like oxyclean diluted in water. Borax is also an alternative to bleach that works well on decks.  Make sure you are using the proper cleaning agent for the proper surface. On isinglass or strataglass only use cleaners recommended by the manufacturer. On vinyl only use cleaners and protectors made for vinyl. Steer away from using a magic eraser as these are technically little blocks of sand paper and will remove finishes.

When washing your boat wash in sections so that soap doesn’t dry on the surfaces. Pay attention to the condition of your boat and note any damage or areas of concern where items might need re-bedded or repaired. A good wash is followed by a good rinse. Make sure to rinse all of the soap and dirt from scrubbing off the boat to avoid streaks. In areas with hard water hand drying with a towel is necessary to avoid water marks. To remove hard water marks try using vinegar and if they are on glass try using Bar Keepers Friend to polish them out.

When cleaning vinyl clean off heavy dirt and debris with mild soap and water then use a vinyl cleaner to remove stubborn stains.  A mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part ammonia can be used to remove mildew or mold stains. There are also commercial cleaners that will safely remove mildew stains. Follow up with a good marine quality vinyl protectant.

Clean your canvas with a soft bristle brush and a marine canvas cleaner making sure when rinsing all the dirty water rinses clean off of the boat. Then apply a marine canvas protectant to protect your canvas from UV light and the elements.

Depending if your boat is painted or has the factory gelcoat you will need to wax your boat. In most areas of the country waxing twice a year is recommended with spot waxing when needed. In places with harsher UV light levels more frequent waxing might be needed. I wax twice a year, in the spring I apply several coats of a high quality marine liquid wax and one coat of a high quality paste wax. In the fall I apply one coat of cleaner wax and two coats of liquid wax. This protects the finish all year and makes the boat stand out. Painted surfaces may need a polish applied yearly or nothing at all depending on the brand of paint used and the amount of shine the paint has.

Washing and caring for your boat’s exterior shouldn’t take away from the fun and enjoyment of boating but a small amount of time spent caring for your boat will pay off in the long run. A clean shiny boat is worth more to a buyer and is more appealing to your guests.

 

Keeping Your Boats Head and Sanitation System Odor Free

We all know those smells and how they affect our time on the boat. No one wants to spend quality time working on your boats head (toilet for you land lubbers!) We’d all much rather be on the water enjoying the day.

Head odors can be caused by a number of things. The biggest culprits are; Using raw water for flushing, old permeated hoses, lack of airflow in the holding tank, mixing of waste products, lack of beneficial bacteria in the holding tank, not pumping out the holding tank often enough and mechanical issues with the head.

Compact Electric Head

Unfortunately many of use have an electric flush head that draws raw seawater from a through hull located somewhere on the boat and uses that water to flush the head. This introduces all kinds of bacteria and elements to the sanitation system that can and will cause odors. If you have this setup, there are a few tricks you in order to help keep the smell down.Flush using freshwater once a day. I use the shower head to fill the head and flush it every time I shower on the boat.  Flush or use the head daily, this helps keep the water from becoming stagnant in both the pickup hose and the hoses that lead to your holding tank.  The longer the raw water sits without being oxygenated the more anaerobic bacteria grows and creates odors.  This odor is typically a sulfur like smell. You can disconnect the raw water intake and with proper check valves and anti siphon devices hook the head intake to your freshwater tank. Another option is to replace the electric flush head with a vacuum flush system that uses freshwater only to flush the head. A concern with this set up is contaminating your freshwater system with wastewater from the toilet, either through failure of a check valve or from a siphon created when the water tank is lower than the head. There are industry standards regarding hooking up a fresh water tank to a sanitation system. Another concern with tying into the freshwater system is over using your fresh water for flushing the toilet. In some areas and for some long range cruisers water is an important and expensive commodity. Adding freshwater flush capability will improve many foul odor issues drastically.

High Quality Sanitation Hose

Sanitation hoses are another common area odors originate from. Make sure you have marine grade impermeable sanitation hose installed on your boat. Even impermeable hose will allow odors to leach out after a few years of use. I’ve read recommendations that say to replace your sanitation hose with high quality hose every 4-5 years. Waste sitting in low spots along the hose can and will permeate through the hose. One account I read from a boat owner claimed just replacing the hose eliminated almost all the waste odors from her boat. To test if your sanitation hose is causing odors on your boat wet a clean rag with very hot water and wrap it around a low section of hose and leave it on the hose until it cools. Remove the rag and sniff it. If you smell any bad odors on the rag it’s time to replace the hoses.

The boating community is never short of debate and differing ideas on what works no matter the topic. The next item on our list is a hotbed of debate amongst many boaters. A holding tank with poor airflow will be a hotbed of odors from anaerobic bacteria that thrive in low oxygen environments. To tackle this you want to make sure your vent lines to the holding tank are adequate and unclogged. Vent lines can become clogged from the waste itself when the tank is overfilled or from spiders or other things crawling into the vent and setting up a home. A good charcoal filter on the vent line also helps with odors outside of your boat. Now, the debatable item. A newer trend is to install an aerator pump to the holding tank and aerating the waste 24/7. From what I’ve researched and read most people claim aerating the waste tank eliminates most of the odors emanating from it.  The detractors claim it is unnecessary and a waste of battery power. Either way large 1 inch vent hoses or an intank aerator both will help encourage aerobic bacteria to form and digest the waste in the tank. Aerobic bacteria are good for the health of the sanitation system. Using bleach or other products that kill germs may reduce the level or kill off all the good bacteria in the system.

Anyone that has a composting head will tell you they are great until you mix the urine and feces. Poop by itself in the composting head doesn’t smell all that bad but if you mix urine into the equation you end up with horrible smells. Anyone that has used a camp toilet or composting toilet in years past can relate to the horrible smells. New composting toilet designs keep the pee from the poop. They use a urine diverter to store the urine in a separate detachable container from the main waste receptacle. Installing a composting head in most cases and when used properly will eliminate most head odor issues. I am considering replacing my head with a composting head for these reasons.

Composting Head

Waste shouldn’t be in your holing tank long enough to set up shop and start stinking. Pump the holding tank out frequently and before leaving the boat sit unattended for any length of time. The simple act of having the tank pumped and flushed will drastically reduce odors plus who wants all that stuff sitting around anyhow. After pumping the tank out flush the tank with water a few times and pump it empty. Adding a few capfuls of liquid fabric softener to the tank while washing it out will help make it so waste doesn’t stick to the sides and bottom of the tank.

Marine Holding Tank

A poorly maintained head and tank can also contribute to odors. Duckbill or joker valves need replacing and can be damaged by using household chemicals to clean the head. Seals and tank fitting can leak into the bilge and cause boat wide odors. Check and maintain your head and tank, inspecting the system often. Never use bleach or other caustic chemicals to clean the head or tank as they can breakdown seals and parts. If needed vinegar is a decent alternative to bleach.

How to Let your Children Enjoy Boating

Many of us with kids have found out our children don’t enjoy boating as much as we had hoped they would. To us adults boating is a way to relax and get away from the pressures of everyday life. To our children it can seem like a prison. When I met my girlfriend and her son I had visions of time spent on the boat together enjoying the outdoors and each other’s company for days at a time. After the first boat trip I realized her son didn’t share the same views and being “stuck” on the boat wasn’t his idea of fun.

It seems I projected my views and feelings onto others without taking the time to understand we are all different with different likes and dislikes. When I was a child I wanted nothing more than to be on the water and would do anything to be on a boat traveling and exploring new places. I lived in Florida and spent most of my time growing up either in the ocean with my parents or deep sea fishing with my dad. Those are some of my fondest memories of that time in my life.

We are seasonal liveaboards meaning my girlfriends son stays with us most of the summer on the boat. Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things that work for us to make everyone happy and make boating enjoyable for us. Being in a larger cabin cruiser we miss out on some activities like tubing and skiing but with the help of friends with smaller type appropriate boats we manage to get those activities in.

Some of the things I’ve found that help us are:

This may seem like common sense but it’s a big one. Allow your child’s friends to spend time on the boat with you. We are in a marina that is mostly childless. Occasionally there may be someone with a like aged child around but for the most part we are the only ones with children at the marina. Having one of your kids friends (especially one that is excited about boating!) along for the day or weekend makes for a memorable time that you and your child can remember for years.

Boating to me is a way to unwind, remove technology from my life and meet new people. My girlfriend’s son enjoys XBOX and streaming TV shows. For me I always thought being outdoors and experiencing new things trumped playing XBOX and resisted any type of electronic games on the boat. I installed a gaming system on the boat and allowed him to bring his games onto the boat now we will sit and play games together and have a bonding experience where we not only game but talk to each other. If you have no room or electricity for an XBOX or something similar play board games together at anchor or at the dock.

It’s boring sitting and watching the adults talk while underway. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. You may have several adult guests aboard. Some might be indulging in adult beverages, some talking or sightseeing and others operating the boat.  Making your child an active participant in boating is both an educational experience and a fun thing for most kids. We bought a book on tying knots and with short sections of rope practiced until all of us could tie all of the basic knots needed for boating. I also ask for help on lookout and explain the rules of the road for boating and safe operation of the boat and share how important it is to be on watch. When we are underway we discuss the mechanical operation of the boat and things like the gauges and controls so when he is ready he will be able to operate the boat safely and without damaging the systems. When it’s time to clean the boat after a day on the water we all participate in cleaning and washing. It doesn’t seem like much but being included in the operation of the boat and in maintenance kids gain a sense of belonging and responsibility.

On our traveling adventures we try to select marinas with amenities that are child friendly. Boating on the Chesapeake bay we are lucky we can find things our child loves to do like swim in a swimming pool or bike around the marina. We also like to anchor out and swim or float in the bay. I carry a few water games and toys like floats, a football, squirt guns and an underwater camera. All these things are easily stowable and quick to deploy. This year we bought kayaks to use at the marina and to take with us and we each have our own kayak we paddle around in. We also have a small dingy that he gets to operate (he is the legal age in our state) while we are in it with him. The smiles and joy that we get while putting around in the dingy are worth more than gold to me.

Hopefully with some understanding on both sides and with a little work you and your children can enjoy boating together and build lifelong memories that will pass on to future generations.

Controlling Mold and Mildew On and In Your Boat

I have an older 35 foot Chris Craft Catalina that has a few little leaks and because of the way the bilge is designed I always have a little bit of water in the bilge. I recently started having a problem with mold in the cabin and on the soft top canvas enclosure at the helm. I tried a few different products to remove and prevent the mold from coming back with varying results. I had unbelievable success with Concrobium Mold Control. This isn’t a paid review, I am just so happy with it I thought I’d share my experience.

Mold Control Aerosol

 

Mold control comes in an aerosol can, spray bottle, gallon jug, and a fogger. I used the aerosol can version on my boat. They also sell a Mold Stain Eraser. I didn’t have to use this product as the Mold Control I used took the stains out without needing anything else.

I started cleaning the canvas and vinyl at the helm first. Spray the Mold Control onto the entire affected area and wipe with a clean terry cloth rag. That’s it! For me I only had to spray the area, wait a few minutes then wipe the damp area off with a rag dampened with the mold control. My canvass and vinyl looked brand new! For this post I wish I had before and after photos but I didn’t think to take them at the time. The way I did it differs slightly from the directions on the Concrobium website but it worked great for me. Mold Control also helps prevent mold growth and odors. If the area treated is regularly exposed to water, retreatment with a light coat may be necessary every so often. My canvas hasn’t needed retreatment this year and I did the original application in may of this year.

I have used Mold Control on just about every surface of our boat since I have a serious mold allergy and am very sensitive to mold and musty odors. I treated the walls, carpet, A.C coils in the air conditioner’s, Drain lines for the A.C units, finished wood on the boat, the head and shower, and the headliners in the cabins. It didn’t discolor any of those items or surfaces and so far only the A.C coils needed a re-application of the product. As always test in a hidden area first before going hog wild and spraying everything down. I’m interested in buying the fogger for next year and treating the entire boat at once. I did read one online review that said while the fogger works great you have to wipe down all the surfaces right after using it and that you have to be careful with fabric surfaces as it may leave residue.

They also have Moisture Grabbers that are suitable and recommended for boats. These combined with good airflow and fans will help keep your boat’s cabin and closed areas mold free. I keep a small fan running 24/7 on my boat to improve airflow on days we are away from the boat. You might also be interested in solar powered deck fans that you can rig to keep air moving in your bilge.

Moisture Grabbers XL

The boat smells and looks much better and is a healthier place to be now!