The Ship Weather Station

Datawake was named for a central theme of this project: slurping information from a wide variety of sensors, presenting it on a console, then leaving a wake of data astern. “Sensors” come in many flavors, and I use the term to include status bits, temperatures, radio traffic, video, navigation data, network and server logs, motion detectors, and anything else that conveys the status of the environment… including the weather.

Expensive nautical sensors are poor at visualization compared to home weather stations. There is a whole culture around these, including public servers crowdsourced with data from thousands of volunteers. Why not? Here’s the latest addition to the Datawake console… the Ambient WS-1001-WIFI (Amazon link is to improved model with Internet connectivity) tucked beside the Rigol power supply:

I’ve wanted a weather station on the boat for a while, but every time I started to research the options I got overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn, including which products are poor, hard to use, or expensive to integrate… and last week I almost back-burnered that quest yet again. But I started noticing references to this Ambient product (often referred to as a “clone” in the weather geek forums, as it is made by Fine Offset in China), and found myself attracted to the display. It is much nicer than the ones that look like they were made in the ’90s, or those that do “fake color” with filters over a monochrome LCD. This actually looks sweet at about $300, and the size was perfect.

At first, my intentions were simple. I’d mount the sensor pod on the upper deck, stick the indoor sensor somewhere, mount the display on the wall where the Circle of Fifths clock used to be, then sign up to feed my data to Weather Underground. This is all turn-key with the product, and I planned to turn on logging to the internal Micro SD card so I could extract raw historical data down the road. But the project quickly became more interesting with my friend Steve Mitchell of Sailbits visiting from Seattle.

First things first… we couldn’t tinker with this until it was generating data, so I clambered topside to consider options. Fortunately, there is a stainless stub at the end of one of the spreaders on my radar mast, and with a bit of digging around the raw materials inventory I found some clear vinyl hose that perfectly filled the gaposis between that and the sensor array support tube. And by “perfectly,” I mean that it was an interference fit into the tube, and clamped solidly to the post with a hose clamp. Easiest topside mounting job ever, and it doesn’t even need wires! It does have to point north for the wind direction to mean anything, so I fine-tuned it with my hand-bearing compass and tightened it down.

That solar-powered unit provides wind speed and direction (including gust information), temperature, rainfall (self-emptying), solar radiation, UV, and humidity. The indoor sensor pod sends air pressure as well as inside temperature and humidity.

We powered up the display and were delighted to see it immediately begin reporting conditions, so conversation turned to what to do with the data stream out of the device (HTTP). Steve is a weather geek and has been doing this for 20 years… and he lives and breathes network architecture. I just stepped back and watched as he conjured the system, which came to life in about an hour. I’ll link you to his much more detailed explanation in a moment, but basically, this is what happens:

One of the machines sitting in the console aboard Datawake is an Intel NUC running Linux. This has been devoted to Zabbix, which is a suite of network monitoring tools. It had lots of clock cycles available, so Steve installed weeWX, an open-source system for doing clever things with personal weather stations. He did a router trick to redirect the HTTP stream that my Ambient box thinks it is sending to Weather Underground, then had weeWX use that to create a website that appears both locally and at the new URL hosted on an Amazon cloud server, updated every five minutes:

Friday Harbor Weather

Meanwhile, the system also feeds three public aggregators (links are to my own data):

If you are interested in studying Steve’s weeWX implementation as well as additional context from his decades of experience with this kind of data, he has a post at Sailbits that gives a much more detailed explanation.

And with that… it was done! A single afternoon’s work, with a couple of follow-up tweaks, and we have added yet another virtual anchor to this boat. There is a new item on the “preflight checklist” that requires me to interrupt the outgoing weather feed lest it look like some anomalous microclimate when I get off the dock. I also feed ADS-B data to FlightAware, although that can handle changing GPS coordinates, and I still operate the Friday Harbor radio check system on Marine VHF Channel 28. (At least I’ve handed off the AIS reporting station to my friend down on Griffin Bay… location-based public services are incompatible with that “open-ended wandering” I keep saying I want to do!)

But they are fun and very useful… especially when I can observe little anomalies and then have them corroborated by data collection and visualization tools. A big cloud cruised by this afternoon…

If you are interested in replicating all this to add to the fine-grained weather-reporting network, I am very pleased with the Ambient 1001 used here… and they also have the WS-1200-IP that would have slightly simplified the process of getting the HTTP output stream into a useful piece of local code. Still, it is pretty much locked in their ecosystem, requiring work-arounds to accomplish the kinds of things Steve did… so if you want to replicate this, I do recommend the 1200 (almost the same price, with all the same features plus that added ObserverIP box). Steve’s article gives lots more information about how to take it from there.

Meanwhile, back on Datawake, the topside is getting ever more prickly with antennas and sensors… soon I will be able to say that she’s in Bristle Condition! I’ve just acquired the hardware to add a stainless tripod to the pilothouse roof; this will support the 5-band HF dipole and a PTZ camera. Two other antennas are slated to join the ones around the upper deck, and at some point I’ll swap out the existing Marine VHF stick. And that white all-round light at the top of the mast will be replaced by a magnetic loop and an LED. Hope I don’t run into any low bridges…

Datawake upper deck at sunset in the Port of Friday Harbor

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Microship Seeks Geeky Skipper

A decade of my life (1993-2002) was focused on the development of this gizmologically intense amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran, but as the project neared its end, my own nautical desires were shifting. She sat in my lab for a few years, nearly forgotten… then had a swan song in 2013 with dozens of day-sails in the waters around my new home on San Juan Island. By then I was living aboard an Amazon 44 named Nomadness.

More years passed. Mostly because of back issues, but also on the quest for enough space aboard to build a proper starship with room to work, I moved to the Dark Side in the form of a Delta 50 named Datawake. Still the Microship sits… gathering dust in my lab, waiting for her next adventure.

For a while, I was sure I would be launching this from the upper deck of the mothership; I do have a crane, and there is even enough room (with a bit of fiberglass surgery). But it would be too complex… and I know from experience that I would rarely use it. This exquisitely engineered boatlet would become a sculpture on top of a big power boat, incongruous, offering windage and habitat instead of the gonzo technomadic adventure for which she was designed.

So. As I get older and find myself increasingly unlikely to take off on the epic voyage of coastal and inland waterways that inspired the decade of development, I have come to realize that she needs a new home.

There are a few links below about the design and systems, including a narrative of physical fabrication that shows the details of physical structure. We had the benefit of world-class consultation on this project, including naval architects, composites gurus, Boeing contractors, human-powered-vehicle experts, power system engineers, and lots of brilliant volunteers. About 160 corporate sponsors offered the best equipment available, and we built a 3,000 square-foot lab on Camano Island for the project… after 2 embryonic years in the engineering building at UCSD and another 2 years of intensive development in a Silicon Valley facility donated by Apple Computer. In other words, this was a serious undertaking with incalculable monetary value, driven by technopassion and heavily supported by industry.

So what is this unusual boat? The Microship was built for a 14,000-mile trip down the Missouri and around the Great Loop, with initial shakedowns in the Pacific Northwest from Olympia to Port Hardy. She has three modes of propulsion (pedal, solar, and sail), and includes deployable landing gear to allow haulout and basic portage without needing a truck and trailer. It is possible to sleep aboard, though it is spartan… you disconnect the pedals and retract the seat, then unroll a camping mattress and sleeping bag (I called this “on-water bivouac”). The structure was designed to integrate an electronics console with excellent serviceability… that cowling opens fully for access… and all mechanical controls of rudder and landing gear are hydraulic.

In other words, this is a very geeky boat. It includes 480 watts of solar panels bonded to vacuum-bagged folding panels that fill the spaces between the hulls, along with an 8-channel peak-power tracker system with thruster control. The sail is a 93 square-foot roller furling, vertically battened rig… with the mast rotating in its step under control of a furling drum. The pedal drive is a Spinfin, custom made for this boat, with 10x ratio between the crankset input and 13-inch prop… allowing easy cruise in the 3-4 knot range with faster sprints.

A few things still need to be completed or improved… I would estimate 2-3 months of shop time before embarking on an open-ended adventure. This would include integration of modern comm/nav electronics in addition to whatever tools are needed for the application, fixturing of the outer edges of the solar array, simplification of transition into and out of on-water bivouac mode, addition of tramps if the solar array is not used, fine-tuning the rudder control hydraulics (or replacement with cable control), completion of the fabric dodger and side windows, and a few other things. Small stuff compared to what’s already done, but there is work involved before she is ready for full-time… although a project involving data-collection day trips or other more casual application would shorten the list considerably.

Who is this for?

The Microship was designed for a high-tech expedition in the spirit of my earlier bicycle adventures, and I like to imagine that somewhere out there is a next-generation technomad who is my spiritual descendent of sorts… certainly with a more current vision, given how far technology has come, but with the same gonzo obsession and eagerness to do something brilliant in the public eye. This boat attracts attention; the media loves it, and you never have a problem finding someone to catch lines. One of the hardest parts is escaping the crowd at the dock, taking photos and asking questions. This is a micro-yacht with fine detailing, and carries lots of things nobody has ever seen around a marina.

One possible mission for the boat is related to what I was doing, but with vastly more powerful tools. Imagine a jaunt down a river, streaming environmental telemetry and live commentary, along with underwater video from a Trident ROV and aerial imagery from a folding Mavic drone. This would be beautiful, with a broadband cellular pipe that scales back gracefully to ham radio when out of range. Visitors to your site could interact with a virtual Microship console, showing live instruments (via an N2K gateway) with graphic history served from a database that logs all the streams. This is what I was intending to do (although back then, high-bandwidth aerial and underwater video was a pipe dream).

Doing something publicly geeky like this attracts media and sponsorship, and becomes self-supporting if you have a clearly articulated mission and the kind of personality that keeps the buzz going. And the Microship fits right in… she’s not just some random boat, but a purpose-built miniature research vessel. Of course, not everyone wants to be this public, but part of the value here is that the boatlet already has a deep history of media coverage and development narrative, and I would love to see a new project leverage that. See my Reaching Escape Velocity book for more on this…

The Price

As I hinted above, it is impossible to pin a price tag on this… that depends on the buyer. The number will be high if someone just wants a trophy to display; that is not what I want to be known for. This would also be a poor choice if you are looking for a beach tri… Hobie makes some wonderful machines for that, with a lot fewer moving parts (I want a Tandem Island for my upper deck). And it is very much a one-person craft… and is not for ocean-crossings.

I can almost imagine it being used for a short adventure, like the Race to Alaska. Of course, that sounds hard… and there are lots of faster multihulls out there… and it would be uncomfortable… and then it would be over! Racing stress would probably break a few things, and most of the engineering in this boat would be irrelevant for that application anyway. (I’m the opposite of a racer, though R2AK is cool.)

Microship in the San Juan Islands
So here’s the deal: I’m willing to listen to proposals. A huge part of my life is tied up in this boat, and I will inevitably be part of whatever comes next… even if not hands-on. If a project excites me, and includes the sort of passion that launched this project, then the price will get very friendly. Heck, I can even imagine a scenario where it continues to be technically “mine” but is “loaned” to an expedition with the understanding that I share in the fame ‘n glory as the initial builder. Or perhaps there could be a hugely discounted purchase that hands over ownership but recognizes all the improvements that will inevitably be made, along with the publicity. Or maybe there would be ongoing involvement where I participate in the next layer of geekery and help with mission-control.

There could even be an outright donation of the boat, if I can be convinced that her new skipper will take her places where I would have loved to go, with me participating in the next generation (shared publishing project or other spin-offs). I can imagine a scenario based right here in Friday Harbor, with Datawake tethered to Microship for mini-expeditions that probe the space around us, generating virtual tours including something playable in the Oculus Rift and other VR spaces. Hmmmmm….

So there is no price tag. But she is available. Does this excite your nautical technopassions? Do you have years to put into an expedition, or a project involving education and telemetry, or a vision I have yet to even imagine? Got an idea that would help amortize the massive investment that has gone into this? Talk to me. (The contact form is up in the menu). Please bear in mind that I need to see a way for it to really work, which means a history of successful projects, a mediagenic nature, boating experience, clear communication, and enough technical knowledge to make such an undertaking realistic.

Microship Information

Here are some articles on this site that will give more detailed information…

Building the Microship Trimaran  — The ten-year Microship project left a trail of narratives from which it is difficult to extract a clear picture of what, exactly, lies at the heart of this machine. I wrote this to provide that, leaving out electronics, landing gear, hydraulics, pedal drive, thruster, solar array, sail rig, and other complications.

Microship Electronics Photo Essay Even though much of the electronics developed for the ship is now obsolete (and unnecessary to future expeditions), this gives an excellent look at some of the engineering that went into the project. Today’s tools are so much smaller that the comm/nav and telemetry side of things will be easy and cheap.

Microship Hydraulics — Landing-gear control, ship steering, and rudder deployment all depend on a hydraulic system that allows linear push-pull movement to be routed through cabling harnesses. This piece gives a look at that system.

Microship Revival — In 2013, after a decade of lying idle in the lab, I splashed the boat and kept her for a few months in the Port of Friday Harbor… leading to lots of short adventures. This is the tale of that launch.

In addition to those stories, the archives of this site have lots of media coverage and a few of the 144 Microship Status Reports that were published during the decade of development. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask… and if this is triggering a powerful itch to take a geeky boatlet on a grand expedition, I definitely want to hear from you!

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360 Views around Datawake

I’ve started playing with 360° photos, and of course the first application is to create a virtual tour of the boat. The tool I’m using is the Samsung Gear 360, driven my my S6 phone. I’m working on a proper walkthrough with about 15 images and warp points to connect them, but that’s a large project… first things first! Here’s a quick look at my slovenly workspace…

And another, while playing on 20-meter ham radio…

Yesterday I clambered up to the top of the pilothouse and looked around the neighborhood….

And, here’s the galley, with the wonderful Instant Pot and all-important espresso machine, along with the iPad for recipes in a wall-mounted holder (it has three homes aboard; when not in the galley it is either over the bed or on an arm at the console for sheet music or audio management)…

The machine shop is tricky to photograph. One end is a giant mess, and the end with the mill is very bright…

The engine room door is just aft of the machine shop, and holds two massive Cummins VT-903 turbos (more detailed photo) that are due to be replaced in a daunting electric/hybrid repower project…

Up in the pilothouse, you can see the helm that is still in serious need of equipment upgrades, along with the wall o’ Stanleys (yet to be properly fixtured) and a little electronics workbench…

360 photos are trickier than normal ones since they show everything; I can’t just carefully frame an image to show a clean spot while piles of clutter are just out of frame! It is also more difficult, since the light sources themselves are usually in the image. But it’s a hoot, and with Facebook making it easy to embed 360 images I’m having fun sharing the project (and Friday Harbor) with friends. As I do more, or get better images to replace these, I’ll update this page until it is a full tour of the boat.

Samsung Gear 360 camera aboard Datawake

As I mentioned, my camera is the Samsung Gear 360, which I chose after considerable research. It’s about $250 plus SD card, and the other major player in that price range is the Ricoh Theta S with a larger user population and more convenient packaging, but the Samsung has higher resolution and uses a smartphone for live remote viewing and stitching. I have the Samsung S6 Edge, and being able to get out of the shot without a timer is wonderful. I added a 128GB micro-SD card, so there is a ton of room for 30 megapixel stills (7776 x 3888), along with many hours of 360 video (it does 4K, as well as time lapse with .5-60 second intervals… that is going to be fun!

If you look down in some of those images above, you can see the wye-shape of the tripod legs. This is a big issue for 360 cameras, and normal tripods add a huge amount of visual bulk that often ends up getting masked by a disk (with logo). The work-around for that is to use a light stand, and I already had one that has been part of my photo studio kit for years. If you don’t have one of those, the normal solution is a combo tripod and selfie stick.

You can see more of my photospheres in the Facebook page where I post images from around the islands and adjacent waters: San Juan Islands 360

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Every Starship Needs a Holodeck

The Oculus Rift aboard Datawake

Years of watching Star Trek convinced me of the importance of holographic environment simulators, but my little ship is too small for the imagery and matter-conversion subsystems used on the Enterprise holodeck. We had to await the development of personal-scale tools that present the illusion of virtual realities without requiring a significant physical space. I’m excited to report that this technology is now part of Datawake, and I’ve just returned from a whale encounter in TheBlu followed by a slow circuit around the International Space Station in Discovering Space. Here’s a screen shot that doesn’t even come close to the weightless and fully immersive sensation of being there at the helm of a small ship:


Even now, back at the computer, I glance down at my hands and think “wow, they look so real…” And my friend Julie dropped by the boat, only to find it a portal to other worlds:

julie-rift-allVirtual Reality has moved well past the “science project” level to become a viable toolset for immersive experiences, games, education, and entertainment. There is now enough high-quality content to build a useful library… and having it aboard is a hoot! One of my favorite activities now is cruising my old bicycle routes in Google Earth VR (a killer app right there… it is magical and free). I hadn’t planned to include this on the boat, but since I needed a PC with fast graphics anyway, why not? My little ship now has a holodeck. Here is my friend Jenny meeting a whale:

There are a few major choices when diving into VR, and two years ago I picked up a Google Cardboard as a teaser. For a while I had the more refined Samsung Gear VR in my Amazon wish list… but it didn’t seem like a deep enough leap into the field, and thus never seriously tempted me. But things have been changing rapidly. The system aboard now is a shared conferencing space, an immersive environment for driving the Trident ROV, a drawing tool, a viewer for 360 stills and video, and an anatomical reference. OK, and fun.

nolan-bushnell-eyephone-larry-wallWay back in 1988, I was at a conference in the hills above Silicon Valley, and in the demo room there was an amazing device: the EyePhone, by Jaron Lanier (VPL). In addition to trying it myself, I was fortunate enough to get a photo of Atari’s Nolan Bushnell playing racquetball, with Larry Wall (who later wrote the Perl language) in the background. The moment stuck with me: smart people playing with something destined to become huge (though farther off in the future than they probably imagined). During the BEHEMOTH years (1989-91) I used a helmet-mounted display, but that was just a floating screen… current VR headsets create a true sense of all-around immersion that feels real.

With accurate head position tracking, sharp optics, quality sound, hand controllers precise enough to allow gestures, and fast high-res graphics, this technology is at last at the point where it has attracted the huge gaming industry. So when I found myself shopping for a suitable PC to support my upcoming movie-scanning project, it was a minor leap to bump up the graphics engine and add VR capability. For various reasons, I decided to go for the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers.

rift-asusMy friend Steve (SailBits) and I then went back and forth for weeks, researching a PC suitable for both fun and work needs… ranging from an a-la-carte homebrew box with potential integration issues to liquid-cooled custom solutions that cost over twice as much. There are a few “Oculus Ready” machines in between, and we chose a suitably configured Asus G20CB… off-the-shelf, small, and QUIET. This version has the OS on a 500GB SSD, along with a 1TB HD for the monstrous image files I’m about to start accumulating. And it’s “Oculus-ready,” so even a non-Windows-literate person like me could get it going without hand-holding. Graphics is the insanely fast GeForce GTX1080, and CPU clock is 4GHz… all of which makes this old-timer’s head spin (my 8008 in 1974 had a 600 kHz clock). I didn’t expect to love a PC, but I am getting attached to this contraption.

steve-riftThis all came online in the past few days, and I’m already hooked… diving into the holodeck for recreation, relaxation, education and challenge. At first I worried that it would be too “gamey” for me… I have zero interest in first-person shooters and battle simulations… but I’ve been delighted to see that the range of titles is huge and provocative (including tools that bring the entire PC environment into virtual space, so you can reach outside and control things without having to switch gears).

Toybox is an amusing example. With pop-up control panel holographically projected by a virtual wrist tool, you can choose categories of toys… slingshots, guns, boomerangs, foam blocks, puppets, ping-pong, M-80s and Roman candles, radio-controlled tanks, and more… in a room with lots of tempting fragile things, plus tetherballs and other goodies. Sounds very silly, but it works… then gets better with glass balls that you can shatter (with slingshot, or just tossing on floor) to transport the whole playroom into deep ocean or outer space. But all that just sets the stage… it becomes stunning when a friend arrives. You suddenly see the other person (as an avatar head and precisely tracking hands), hear them clearly, hand things back and forth, and interact with the room full of goodies. It’s insane… social real-time simulation in a funny place that has realistic physics. Less frivolously, I have other tools in the library for more sedate conferencing, sharing movies with distant friends, and so on.


A region of interest in 3D Organon VR, with a few vertebrae removed for clarity. This tool allows diving deep, with over 4000 models, anatomical names, pop-up details, and ability to look inside.

I’m resisting the temptation to post many photos from VR experiences, since the desktop screen just shows a flat version of whatever is in the tiny region in front of me. Such images don’t even begin to reflect the sense of awe that comes from finding yourself in another place… above the rings of Saturn, a floating town in the clouds, riding through an alternate reality, or exploring the anatomical model of 3D Organon. (I’ve been learning about body parts, chasing cranial nerves, disassembling the skeleton, and peeking into endocrine systems.)

Another completely unexpected discovery was the creation environments, Quill and Medium (both free with Oculus Touch). The first lets you create 3D illustrations, and the other is for making things with clay… working in a space that feels real, with tools that spring from your hands and respond precisely to your movements. Objects can be exported and 3D-printed, making the jump from imagination to model to thing without stepping more than a couple of feet away from a desktop in a boat. It’s magic.

nick-riftRhapsodies aside, this short post isn’t a review of experiences… I’m still a newbie, and there’s an entire culture of VR users discussing the fine points of Rift vs Vive, sensors to expand playspace to room size, hacks to allow installing something not yet released on a platform (Google Earth!), and which spaceflight simulators minimize nausea without giving up realistic motion controls. I’m just dipping my toe into virtual waters, but the Oculus Rift has already been a wonderful addition to life aboard. I have a feeling I’ll be getting more visitors, like my friend Nick who dropped by last night to play Ripcoil and take the Senza Peso cruise!

I’m learning about authoring environments, and the various ways of getting at least a few static 360º images of Datawake online… it’s really hard to express with these old daguerreotypes and tintypes. (I had the crazy thought this evening of viewing a 360º panorama of this space while sitting in this space. That might be oddly unsettling, especially when the invisible cat jumps onto my lap.)


The Datawake holodeck is to port, across from the lab console, and will get properly integrated before the ship actually moves. The Asus box will have a fixturing system to keep it in place, and the monitor will deploy on an arm from the shelf overhead, clearing desk space for the movie-scanning system. That monitor in the photo is shared by the Intel i3 NUC that owns a USB hub for software-defined radios and other comm tools, and serves as a Raspberry Pi development display. Lighting above the desktop (as well as the whole lab) is Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus, voice-controlled via Alexa or manually via phone and computer apps… but that is a topic for another post.

All this has been messy… with headset, Touch controllers, wand, and XBox remote laying on the desk along with PC, monitor, cables, keyboard, mouse, and other stuff. I found a clever Rift hanger design mentioned on the Reddit Oculus group, downloaded it from Thingiverse, doubled the Z-axis thickness, printed a pair for the goggles, and mounted a couple of 1-1/4 plastic tubing straps for the Touch controllers. The little wand hangs from one of the brackets, and the Xbox controller lives between the ScanSnap and the laser printer just above all this. Much better! I got my desk back.

“Alexa, set laboratory lights to ten percent. I’m going to go land the Eagle on the moon, then take a languid Artaal cruise before bed… unless I end up wandering around Hunrath and Kaptar for a while, trying to figure out those trees…”

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The Datawake Console

by Steven K. Roberts 
Nomadic Research Labs

Much of my past year has been spent integrating a wide range of equipment into the 8-foot console aboard Datawake. It has been a huge project, but is already paying off… making everything feel like a single system, simplifying interconnects, and minimizing clutter. It is not yet “complete,” but it’s far enough along for a tour.


This has been considerably refined since I first described it in this blog a year ago. There’s nothing like actually putting a system into daily use to shine a harsh light on design choices, and it didn’t take long to banish the messy electronics lab gear far from the computer, then bring audio and comm panels into close proximity since those are the knobs I most often want to twiddle while in the Big Chair. The photo above is current as of January 2017, with the Mac just out of frame to the right.

desk-done-clean-emptyJust for a quick background, this began with the footprint of a comfy L-shaped couch, including stowage bins under the cushions for life vests and other nautical gear. Within a month of moving aboard, I had pulled that and built the console substrate… with a laminated desktop 1.5″ thick, 31″ above the floor. This is a little higher than a typical desk, but I needed to accommodate the piano drawer… and besides, I’m a tall guy. The two heavy desktops are supported by eight stainless rail legs with marine fittings, along with three attachments to hard points on the cabin side and rear.


Early assembly of console cabinets (March, 2016)

The console is built into five Middle Atlantic CFR1216 cabinets, which I chose for their minimum overhead (hardly any surrounding edges beyond 12U of panel real estate). They are also symmetrical, which makes it possible to flip them around if a 10-32 threaded hole is damaged. It’s good stuff, though the price made me wince. I found a matching tool cabinet to provide a set of locking drawers that would be visually consistent, and added a “trellis” of stainless tubing along the back to help with cable management. The cabinets glide on Delrin runners, but will index onto receivers bolted to the back of the desktop with thumbscrews inserted from below to lock them in place.

The L-shaped extension at the aft end provides a perfect setting for the workstation, with an adjustable keyboard tray that swings side-to-side, raises/lowers, and tilts. This photo from last March shows it all clean, which is a rarity… in this early arrangement, I had speakers flanking the monitor:


This “wing” of the console is where I spend almost all my time, so it has been getting ongoing refinement. The dead space behind the monitor was going to accumulate clutter no matter what, so I screwed on a couple of bookends and used that area for the music library. The “demi-wall” at right provides a visual break as well as blocking droplets from wet clothing when someone comes in the aft door, and it has become the spot for studio microphone boom, headphone hanger, a webcam, lighting control, cat scratching post, and other fixtures. A USB charger and dual-bander microphone are in the desk inside corner, and underneath are useful things like trash can, shredder, and foot massager.

Shacktopus Power CartThe area below the desk is critical, and houses two uninterruptible power supplies — the AC provided by a 675-watt CyberPower UPS that reports to the NAS and Zabbix engine, and the Shacktopus power cart that handles all the 12-volt loads (like radio and marine stereo gear). This architecture isolates the console from ship power, adding an additional layer of security and backup with all distribution local and well-documented. The original sofa structure provides other useful cabinetry below the desk, as well as a platform for the subwoofer…. and the desktop provides mounting support for a heavy-duty piano drawer. That was a huge project, but the Kawai keyboard now tucks completely under the desktop but can deployed in a moment if I get the urge to play.

The surface above the console is prime real estate, and has become the repository of a variety of objects that need open space, don’t panel mount well, or are just frequently needed. The dominant features up there are the KRK studio monitors, their angle optimized by IsoAcoustic stands with 3D-printed spacers to direct the rather tiny sweet spot at my head while I’m playing the piano. Much more position-tolerant are the Polk bookshelf speakers, driven by the Crown rack amp along with a pair of Fluance units on the other side of the room. All in all, this sounds pretty decent. (I should note that these toys would all go expensively flying if I were to head out into heavy seas today; on the to-do list are the Southco soft draw latches to hold the monitors down to the HDPE substrate, as well as simple bolts for the passives.)

monitors-stright-thinOK, that takes care of what’s above and below… now let’s cruise through the console itself. The five 12U rack cabinets carry Greek letter designations, left-to-right, to decouple the packaging from functional groupings that have less-precise boundaries.

Console zone α (alpha)

alpha-zoneOff at the far left end is the analog video gear, including an 8-by-8 Extron switcher and a Delvcam triple monitor. On top of this cabinet are Sony VHS and Hi-8 VCRs, since I’m converting a ton of old TV appearances and other events to be embedded on this site (linked here). Video is routed via the switcher to local display and Elgato digitizer, with audio passed to the MOTU interface so I can tweak, monitor, cue tapes, send to the TV/soundbar in the cabin, and so on.

This zone also has the Crown XLS-1000 audio amp for the passive speakers, and a somewhat-undefined 4U covered space known as the “hack zone” for data collection, tinkering, and random I/O. And the top slot of alpha contains a Furman power conditioner with monitor, tied into the UPS that is under the desk as well as other loads.

alpha-delvcam-extron-crownBy the way, that Crown is a nice unit. For a long time I considered it overkill and even had it up for sale, but now I appreciate it as a solid driver of the four speakers without a hint of fan noise or other misbehavior. It’s Mode D (digital) and runs cool, with reconfiguration modes (crossover, high-pass, low-pass, bridged) available for more complex setups. Their newer version, with various improvements, is the XLS1002.

Console zone β (beta)

beta-zoneThis shiny-tan expanse needs to make its way to the local powder-coating shop for a pigment update, and is the Rigol test equipment suite (DMM, Oscilloscope, and triple-output power supply). There is also a Siglent SDG805 signal generator to the right of this group that I plan to repackage alongside the DMM at the top of this cabinet, better integrating the lab gear and opening up precious space over in gamma… it would be nice to add a spectrum analyzer. (It never ends, does it? At least the 60U rackspace and general constraints of a boat enforce some hard limits on sprawl.) It’s a nice little lab, with an antistatic mat that fits the desktop when is in use.

siglentI used stock Rigol rackmount kits for all this, but would probably not do so again. They were overpriced and inconsistent… expensive kluges made of steel, hard to adapt. The oscilloscope one is particularly annoying… the DS2072A just sits there, captured only by a little lip at the base, and until I zip-tied the expensive instrument in place it could fall out if the cabinet were tilted backward. I do love their test equipment, though. Siglent did a better job with their black aluminum rackmount kit, which is currently parked at the bottom of gamma.

echo-dotThe oddity in this zone is the RAM mount next to the scope, supporting this case that I 3D-printed for the Amazon Echo Dot. In this location, it hears me pretty well when I’m seated at the command center, as well as picking up requests from the Galley for timers or calculations. It has also become my primary lighting control, piped to Philips Hue and SmartThings.

This unit is distinguished from the original Echo (down in the Sleep Lab) by a lack of decent internal speakers… but it has line-level out. This is piped over to the MOTU audio system, given a touch of EQ and reverb, then mixed in with my primary sources.

A quick note about that CyberPower outlet strip in the photo… I use four of those including rear-mount variants, and love them. Heavy long cable and solid construction, though I have never had a chance to knowingly test their surge suppression. The gadget that is plugged in is a SmartThings switched outlet that I use for random loads; it’s nice to just say “Computer, turn on console outlet” and have it comply.

I added the ship’s weather station display next to the Rigol power supply… it was a perfect fit and just too tempting:

Console zone γ (gamma)

This is Grand Central Station for ship networking: Peplink Balance One router, UniFi 24-port switch, Cloud Key, hubs, Synology RS815 NAS, servers, gateways, bridges, and all those other blinky goodies that end up becoming central to our lives. With three external units (outdoor Mikrotik Groove for port WiFi, Jetpack for cellular fail-over, and UniFi AP for internal wireless devices), this is the core of all data services on the ship:


The architecture of this deserves its own post, so I won’t go into detail in a general console tour, but this cabinet is densely packed… challenging my cable-management protocols and requiring active cooling.


As I mentioned in the beta section, the signal generator is parked in this cabinet for the moment, and above it is a locking rack drawer for handheld instruments and accessories… multimeter, network and audio cable testers, IR thermometer, AC detector, scope and other instrument probes, clip leads, tube of Tef-Gel for rack screws, and so on. This is currently a bit inconsistent… the tool cabinet at the far end of the console also has an electronics category, as does the large stainless beast that dominates the room, with still more strewn about at the assembly bench up in the pilothouse. This is undergoing refinement and steadily improves as I use it, slowly reducing the time wasted running around trying to find things that just have to be here somewhere… like my favorite red-handled dikes that disappeared a month ago.


Finally, this zone has another one of the CyberPower outlet strips like the one in beta. Because of active airflow through the NAS, switch, and overall cabinet, I periodically take the Shop Vac to gamma and slurp out dust deposits.

Console zone δ (delta) 

This region is devoted to amateur radio equipment. The major part of this is a 6U panel (10.5 inches) that supports four rigs:

  • Icom IC-7300 – HF/50 MHz, SDR, bandscope, digital modes
  • Icom IC-M802 – Marine SSB (both amateur and channelized)
  • Icom ID-5100 – D-Star dual-bander (2m/70cm)
  • Yaesu FT-817 – QRP multimode 160m-70cm “Swiss Army Knife” rig


In addition, this panel has to carry both straight and iambic CW keyers, along with a few random controls and connectors. Above this is a smaller panel that is about to get some additional comms-related gear, but the photo above was done just after the mounting of the four rigs. I had planned on five, including my venerable Icom 706mkIIg, but that really was getting redundant and crowded… so it is going in the pilothouse console as a backup.

hoverpanelBoth the M802 (orange display) and 5100 (awful display) have associated “black boxes” mounted elsewhere, making those units light and installation easy. But the 7300 is too heavy to cantilever off the panel, and the 817 needs support as well. I installed a plywood floor in this cabinet, machined some big brackets for the large radio, added a polycarbonate shelf for the little QRP rig, milled all the holes including two small ones for keyers, added rubber channel edging including messy manual beveling with a knife, and called it done(ish)… at least until I take it all apart to add the little stuff.

gamma-mic-sidecondenser-boom-micThe radios all have hand mics, but that gets messy with multiple rigs. One of the applications for the audio switching system is use of a single quality microphone, routed to any radio. In practice, there are two: dynamic at the console, and condenser on a long boom next to the computer where it extends nicely for video conferencing.

At this writing, I’m working on the blank 4U panel above — this gets packet and PACTOR modems, SWR/power monitor, a small speaker, controls for configuration, DSP audio filter, station clock, stand-alone CW decoder, and other accessories. Antenna configuration is done through a 2U coax patch panel in the delta cabinet, and the OpenSPOT for digital voice modes sits on top for best antenna coverage.

Console zone ε (epsilon)

Finally, the fifth zone of the console, at my left hand while seated at the workstation, is completely devoted to audio. This has a few carefully interfaced connections to the radios next door, but it goes a lot further than that; somewhere around 48 sources and half that many sinks are interconnected through the MOTU tools (see tech discussion here).


pi-cutout-epsilonMechanically, epsilon is a mix of 5 standard units and two custom jobs. The top panel contains a Uniden Home Patrol 2 scanner (installation described here) and a Fusion MS-IP700 marine stereo. The second panel was harder, requiring slots for the right-angle connectors feeding audio in and out of the Tascam PortaStudio as well as a tricky cutout for the 7″ Raspberry Pi touchscreen that will be dedicated to audio streaming and routine display of tools like Zabbix, Unifi, MikroTik, & the ship server.

avb-bezel-motuIn the photo above, you can see the rectangular window for the MOTU AVB Switch. The unit is simply Velcro’d to the 24Ai below, positioned to be coplanar with the back of the panel. To cover the sharp shiny milled edge, I printed a little bezel after a few tries (not just to get the dimensions correct, but I was having some adhesion problems with HIPS plastic on the PEI bed). I’m happy with the results… more blinkies!

This cabinet, like delta, requires active cooling since the MOTU boxes run hot. I picked up a quiet AC Infinity cabinet fan, printed a mounting bracket, spot-faced some holes to avoid interference with the steel cabinet top, and put it all together. In this photo, you can also see the arm mount for the iPad, as well as one of the monitor stands that has yet to get properly bolted down. That little blue light peeking out is a Bluetooth receiver piped to a stereo pair in the audio network.


This MOTU system, despite a somewhat daunting learning curve, is amazing. The whole boat is getting stitched into it: soundbar in the cabin, microphones ranging from studio-grade to cheap security bugs, ham rigs, speakers and headphones, media tools, computers, marine radio, streaming tools, and so on. It’s overkill, I know, but there are times when it lets me do things that would otherwise be a major pain with mode switching, stray cables, and special cases. I’ve just started using the tools for live interviews, and am working on a YouTube series about my projects.


Console Integration

Naturally, not everything is tucked neatly in here, so there are cabling challenges… not only from zone-to-zone, but from the console to all corners of the boat (accommodating any cabinet pull-out for service). There are coax runs from antennas, CAT-5 Ethernet going every which way, audio cables, power, N2K, analog video, controls, sensors… it’s a bit of a mess, really, and a challenge to keep up with documentation. Labeling is critical, and when my ten-year-old Brady ID Pal died recently I bought another one that should last a long time. The cost and ongoing effort pays off many times over when you can actually see what goes where.

There is a second desk on the other side of the lab/studio/salon, initially intended to be a simple office space that would keep clutter away from the console’s skinny desktop. But, in true creeping featuritis style, it has become another Zone of Geekery with 3D printer, movie scanner, blazing-fast PC to support film processing and virtual reality, printers, studio lighting, NUC console for ham radio digital modes, and… oh yeah… my office (with 8 beige file drawers and an antique letter opener to give it a retro look despite all the blinkies).

But the console remains the heart of this beast, and now that it is mechanically almost done, I look forward to completing system integration and putting the machines to use.


I’ll leave you with a slow sweep, since it’s hard to get a sense of it from still images. Cheers from Datawake! 


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Microship Hydraulics

These tattered drawings recently turned up in the lab… and it occurs to me that I have never done a proper article about the rather too-elaborate engineering of the hydraulic systems on the Microship for rudder and landing-gear control. Here is a quick overview of this essential subsystem.


The boat’s hydraulic system is made up of 13 cylinders as well as a calibration manifold. First, here is a dockside photo showing landing gear retracted, and the steering controller on the bow:

dockside-r2ak-testThis is one of the forward landing gear assemblies, showing the cylinder that steers the wheel. Its linear motion is coupled by that cable, which is routed around idlers to a collar that is then coupled via the scissor assembly to the steerable part of the strut (allowing suspension compression).


This has two inputs. One is from the steering assembly on the bow, which uses a winch handle plugged into that molded socket to rotate the cam plate. One cylinder has a follower that tracks the curved slot, and another is actuated by a pin at a calculated distance from the rotation axis. The combination implements the Ackerman steering function, where the inside wheel turns more sharply than the outside wheel on a turn (minimizing scrubbing and the resulting stresses). A third cylinder is controlled by a simple slider with locking pin, biasing one side to pigeon-toe the front wheels and keep the boat from rolling down a hill (we never could come up with decent brakes). This is especially useful on launch ramps.


A secondary pair of controls (simply tee’d into the circuit described above) is on two of the four landing gear deployment levers. When the wheels are retracted on launch, they make an approximate 70° rotation as they tuck up under the solar panels… necessary to clear the water. The aft ones are easier, with fewer moving parts: simple bungees pull them into the proper position when they are no longer being held down by the deployment cables. You can see one of these above the Spinfin pedal-drive unit; the perforated arm is one of the levers controlling landing gear position:


With the gear up, the wheels clear well underway and don’t drag in the water:


The rudder system has two parts… steering and retraction. The T-handles mentioned above make for a very comfortable control system, and simply pivot through a fixture in the “decklets” to a hinged cylinder:


The other input to the rudder is responsible for deployment as well as automatic kick-up in the event of grounding; this is done with a pressure-release valve. This is all located on the daggerboard trunk for easy access:


At the rudder end, this all comes together with a pivoting headstock assembly that carries a precise vertical slot and retraction hinge point. It is shown here retracted; underway it is vertical, supported by those cheeks:


The retraction cylinder can only take it to the level shown above; on the road, the ball-detent pin just above the hinge point is pulled and the rudder is flipped over the deck for protection:


Here is the calibration manifold behind the seat. Each of these stopcocks, when opened, shorts one leg of a circuit to a “bus” that is connected to the reservoir. If two are opened corresponding to a single cylinder, then it can move freely… making it very easy to tweak the positional relationship between input and output. This was commonly done to center the T-handles that control the rudder (with separate circuits for both sides, giving tighter control along with a backup if one were to fail). Also, I had a slow leak in the retraction system, and these valves allowed me to quickly re-calibrate.


The fluid I use is simply… fresh water. Originally, after lots of research, I mixed a fluid that was half propylene glycol and half distilled water, wanting something that would not freeze or support biology but would also not be a mess if spilled. Lubricity is not a huge issue, but compatibility with the various materials was (Buna-N rubber, Delrin, stainless, tubing, and the various fittings). In practice, this was a pain, requiring elevating a tank to get some gravity pressure behind the bleeding process, and pragmatism won. Now there is a simple hose fitting, and I just connect to a nearby bib, open the NPT bleeder ports one at a time, calibrate it, and go sailing. Here you can see one of the bow steering cylinders happily burbling:


Finally, on the road! Here she was in 2013, enroute from my lab to the launch (with my friend Paul Elliott, who helped with the haul):


On the water:


And emerging a few months later, very much in need of a bottom job:


For more information about the Microship, here is an article about her construction. There is also a Microship electronics photo essay similar to this one, with lots of pictures and short descriptions. The tale of her 2103 launch after long stasis is in Microship Revival, and there is a rollicking tale of the Puget Sound mini-expedition 15 years ago.

I’ll close with this shot of the boat being hauled out after a 2015 test sail, when she was considering participation in the Race to Alaska with my friend Nick Wainwright at the helm:


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Video Tour of Datawake by IEEE Spectrum

IEEE Spectrum videographerBack on August 24, I welcomed aboard a delightful visitor named Kristen Clark from IEEE Spectrum, and she spent the afternoon asking good questions… getting me to show her around the boat while the camera rolled. The article just appeared on the IEEE site yesterday, and the video is embedded below… a fun 3-minute snippet of the Datawake project, complete with a cameo by Isabelle! I’m now inspired to do a detailed video walkthrough as soon as the final zone of the console is completed; there has already been lots of progress since this footage was taken:

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The Boat Machine Shop

For the first few months aboard, every attempt to fabricate a part involved clearing a tiny space on the bench, plugging in a funky desk light, and trying to find tools that I had just seen only minutes before. This was demoralizing, so I finally fixed it. This post is a quick look at the Datawake machine shop.

The Datawake machine shop with tool boards

First, to put this in context, there are five tech “workspaces” aboard this 50-foot boat, each optimized for a different class of projects:

  1. I spend most of my time slouched at the Workstation, adjacent to the two console zones that have the most frequently needed controls (Audio and Communications gear). This has all the essentials, including an Aeron chair, foot massager, boom mics for recording, iPad on an arm, and the Mac with Thunderbolt monitor.
  2. A few feet away to port is the Media Desk, which contains the movie scanner, fast PC with Oculus Rift (the ship’s holodeck), LulzBot Mini 3D printer, office equipment, and 8 full-suspension file drawers. This is the place for paperwork, publishing projects, eBay photography, and other things that require an open work surface.
  3. Back to starboard is the Electronics Lab, with rackmount test equipment (oscilloscope, triple bench supply, signal source, and DMM) plus small-instrument drawer and ports to ship networks. The primary tool cabinet is just behind me when I’m seated here, dominating the room. There are lots of photos of the boat lab console in a recent post.
  4. Up in the pilothouse, there is an Assembly Bench with good light — a place for soldering and debugging with a Tektronix 2465A scope, power supply, hot-air rework station, stereo microscope, and so on. Next to this is a wall of parts inventory with over 800 drawers and bins, and it tends to be the messy spot filled with the clutter of work-in-progress, isolated from the tight workspace at the console.
  5. Down in the anteroom to the engine room is the Machine Shop, with a mini mill, power tools, sander/grinder, air compressor, shop vacuum, vise, inventory bins, and tool boards on the walls. This is set up for fabrication and making metal chips.

Milling aboard, thanks to Bryan K7UDR

As is typical in a small machine shop, the mill occupies the central spot. This is a HiTorque Mini Mill 3960 (discontinued, but the newer 3990 is here, which adds an air spring to support the head). I love this contraption, and it’s a perfect fit for my constrained space; I was initially trying to figure out how to cram in the larger and heavier Grizzly G0619 (SX3), but my needs coincided with this machine lying idle at Northwest Digital Radio (maker of the UDRC and UDRX)… and Bryan kindly donated it to the Datawake project! I’m honored to have them as a sponsor.

In its current state, operation is purely manual… like the Bridgeport I just sold but a fraction of the size, though still with the standard R8 collets. I have no real need for CNC capability that would drive the mill under computer control, but definitely plan on adding a DRO system (Digital Readout) from Dropros to get away from tedious hand-wheel free-handing. I’ll report on that when it happens, but for now, let’s take a general look at the shop space.

mill-close-3The first task was to locate the mill on the desk, raise it with a pad to provide clearance, then bolt it down. I moved the vise off to the corner and added a couple of bright LED worklights (including this gooseneck model screwed to the wall, a desk version, and a little one over the vise). It’s actually bright enough to work in there now, which makes a huge difference in both quality and sanity.

Fixturing with a camera tripodThat bench vise is small for my taste, but is all that fits on this work surface; my plan is to build a second bench against the forward bulkhead, then give that my big Wilton as well as a sander/grinder with dust control. But for now this works, and everything in the restricted space of a boat is a compromise… leading to fixturing tricks like using my camera tripod to support the end of the piano drawer while milling recesses for the Kawai feet. As it turns out, the biggest space challenge is cutting equipment cutouts in the 19″ rack panels… not only is the table travel barely enough, but it requires careful planning (and re-fixturing on large holes) to avoid crashing into the wall.

air compressor with retractable hose reelThe space to the right of the bench used to be a fuel tank for the monster Webasto furnace; we pulled that before the sale, leaving a dark cavern that became a collection point for hard-to-access things that were then effectively lost. So that was a prime candidate for another piece of equipment: I opened the little wall with a curved cut to provide access, then installed a Dewalt 6 gallon 165 PSI air compressor and 25-foot retractible hose reel. This works beautifully, without the mess that is the usual pile of coiled air hose (though I do have another 50 feet stowed away if needed). The space around this is now used by tool kits like the Fein, Porter Cable router, Makita angle grinder, Link socket set, and other things that are easy to identify and reach.

Ed Roberts toolboard

My father’s tool board in the old family home

Through all this, the elephant in the room was not the mill, but the tools… creating confusion since there is also a cabinet up in the lab. I was constantly chasing stuff down, and decided that I should identify the subset that are needed when cutting metal, then give them homes on the wall. I have a long history with tool boards… the photo here is the one in my father’s shop when I was a kid, and I can still feel the texture and heft of each.

mini mill aboard Datawake

mill-tools-colletsThis turned out to be a fairly easy and incremental process. I rounded up some scrap plywood (5/8 and 3/4), cut it to shape, and lag-screwed it to the wall through the existing layer of mushy acoustical tile over 3/4 ply… and then simply began mounting the most obvious mill-related tool clusters.

I got lazy on the R8 collet holder, ordering one on Amazon before noticing that I could have printed an equivalent one from a design on Thingiverse. Just above that is a holder for the chuck, made out of a Sea Dog 290904 hinged rail tee and a stray flange base… a satisfyingly robust solution. The wrenches just below those are the ones in constant use when changing tooling. And that heavy Tripp-Lite outlet box is excellent.

The clamping kit and box of end mills were easy enough, and I epoxy-coated a stray piece of steel perforated angle to provide a substrate for the 1-2-3 blocks and parallel bars. That plastic tray left over from something or other ended up being a perfect spot for little things I always want to put my hands on, and some clothes pegs seemed made for hacksaws.


The bowl of random mills needed something a little more custom; I fixed a piece of scrap wood in the vise, sorted them by shank size, and free-handed a holder…


You can see the general tools in that photo – in all cases, they were just hung with whatever simple screws or brackets would do the job, but please note that most of those are not ready to go bounding across heavy seas. I’ll probably add a few screw-eyes for bungees, or at least pile the loose stuff in a drawer before getting off the dock… but that is not an immediate issue.

drill-stands-makitaOver on the other side, to the right of the mill, it is pretty much the same story. This region is mostly devoted to drilling, and it didn’t take me long to tire of opening the cobalt and brad point drill index boxes… I ordered stands that are supported on that aluminum angle and screwed to the board. My beloved Makita LXT drill is in a sweet holster that has a magnetic surface for bits, and the somewhat less frequently used impact driver is supported by a hanger bracket… with the charger for both just beyond on a shelf. The transfer punch set plastic box is wimpy; I’ll 3D print one and mount it properly to the wall. And my all-time favorite screwdriver, the Megapro 151SS, is right there at hand (next to the dial caliper, just peeking in from the right edge).

As I mentioned above, I still want to add a better place to wail on heavy things in a proper vise, but that is going to require another layer of cleanup and fabrication. The only added features after completion of the tool boards are a hanger for a somewhat wimpy hand vacuum and a wonderful dispenser for folding paper towels, which I have come to prefer over rolls:


The most recent milling jobs included a 4U panel to wrap up console zone Epsilon (holding the Tascam PortaStudio, Raspberry Pi 7″ touchscreen, and MOTU AVB switch), along with the 6U and 4U panels for the ham radio console (four rigs along with associated tools like DSP filter, TNC, SWR/power monitor, and so on).

And now, off to cut some more metal! Here’s a gorgeous piece done for me in .25-inch stainless about 25 years ago at a friend’s shop in Chicago… using Wire EDM:

nrl-wire-edm-whitestFor another take on mobile workspace design, please see my post about the Polaris mobile lab… built into a 24-foot cargo trailer.

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Datawake Scanner Installation

Keeping my ear to the ground…

by Steven K. Roberts

One of the central themes aboard this geeky ship is expanding the sensorium. I’ve always been fascinated by data collection in all its forms… not just sensors that reveal system health or the state of the environment, but real-time information that shifts my awareness into a much larger space than this little boat-lab. Video cameras inside and out, microphones, ship tracking and aircraft positions, telemetry, ROV for exploring underwater, various flavors of radio comms, and a scanner:


Uniden Home Patrol 2 aboard Datawake (click photo for Amazon page, which is where I bought mine)

The feed is rich. Public safety, utilities, work crews, airplanes, ham repeaters, boats… even the comings and goings of the ferries that connect our island to the mainland… all contribute to an overall sense of having my finger on the pulse. I don’t often need this, but I like it… which is justification enough. And during weather emergencies, it provides essential information that is more of a pain to extract with just a marine VHF.

Choosing the Scanner

bc125atFor the past couple of years, I’ve had the inexpensive little handheld Uniden BC125AT with added Diamond RH77CA antenna… quite adequate in the analog-only environment of these islands. It’s not exactly intuitive, but works well… and has “service search” that allows it to scan groups of frequencies even if you haven’t set up locally relevant channels. (This was particularly fun when I took Amtrak down the coast last May to visit Google… I monitored railroad channels for much of the time, and got familiar enough with the train and yard operations that the cabin steward asked me for updates when we got stuck at a bridge malfunction in Portland.) This is the scanner that got me hooked, and it is now mounted over my bed.

But for the Datawake consoleI wanted something built-in… one of the primary design goals here is to eliminate loose fiddly gadgets with random cables and battery management quirks. The project calls for an embedded scanner that interfaces well, is easy to use, handles digital trunking, and is more or less future-proof (at least for my casual needs… I’m not a hard-core hobbyist like the folks who live over in the excellent RadioReference forums).

My default plan for a long time was the BCD536HP, which is pretty much the flagship of Uniden’s scanner line. This would panel-mount well (DIN standard) and has the maximum feature set, but the user interface is deep and complex. I preferred something easy to use, pretty, and readable at a glance.

The Uniden Home Patrol 2 is the beast I chose, and I’m very happy with it. There are a few features missing compared to the 536 (no service search, close call mode, or priority scanning), but it makes up for that with an added “Extreme Upgrade” that offers a suite of geeky tools. The user interface is a color touchscreen, it records to an SD card, and it can accept GPS input to automatically scan the local subset of the entire built-in (and updatable) RadioReference database as you travel. My initial learning curve on the associated Sentinel software gobbled an evening, but it’s now running on the NUC and everything works well. So let’s install it in the boat!

Panel-Mounting the Home Patrol 2

The first thing that struck me when I received this is that sticking it on the panel was going to be even uglier than I had anticipated. My usual heavy-duty Velcro method would be sloppy, depending too much on the stability of the battery compartment cover, and I worried that it would wobble enough to be irritating when I pushed on the top-panel controls for power and volume.

But a little bit of research turned up the BCKHP1 mounting bracket, pricey for a simple piece of plastic (and yes, I looked first on Thingiverse to see if anybody had already published an STL file that I could print on the LulzBot). OK, fine, given the amount of time this saves… and boom, problem solved!

There are four cables that had to be routed through the panel, plus an earphone connector that I’ve left available if I want to skip the ship’s audio network. This called for a bushing at each end, tucked out of sight behind the rig thanks to the space provided by the bracket. Let’s define these interconnects.

scanner-mounted-leftSMA connector for antenna input…
 a bit of a pain as it has to make the leap from that delicate connector to the stiff “pipe” that is my LMR-400 feed line. This coax will forever annoy me whenever I pull the Epsilon cabinet out for service, and the solution was to fabricate a little bracket for the N connector, mounted on the back side of the panel behind the scanner (photo above).

2.5 mm Line-level audio output… requiring transition to the more useful 3.5 mm via a jumper cable, which then connects to a transformer-based isolator since the scanner has a completely different concept of “ground” than the audio gear that will be receiving the signal.

scanner-mounted-rightMini-USB for data and power… piped to the Anker 13-port aluminum hub hanging off the Intel NUC that runs all the ship’s Windows-based comm apps (including SDR, Icom front-end, tools for radio programming, digital modes, and of course Uniden’s Sentinel). When starting the scanner, it asks if we will be using the USB connection just for power, or as a data source from the PC.

GPS input (USB Mini 4-Pin)… an odd connector, acquired by hacking a “Rosewill” cable that will lose its other end, then make its way over to a terminal block carrying the NMEA0183 feed from a Garmin puck GPS mounted on the upper deck (also used by other radios, APRS, and the iKommunicate gateway).

In the photos above, you can peek under the body of the scanner where the cables pass through the 19″ aluminum panel. I used Heyco split snap bushings that let me get away with pre-terminated cable, calling for .5-inch holes.

fusion-cutoutYou see that photo above with the scanner mounted next to the Fusion MS-IP700 marine stereo? That thing owns a serious bundle of cabling, which is already integrated into the system and nicely tied down. I kept putting off this installation job, dreading the process of taking it all apart and having to put it together again.

It thus became a bit of an obsession to do the project in situ, and the only tricky bit would be those two half-inch holes. Wailing on it with Makita and twist drill would be sloppy and throw conductive chips everywhere, so the solution was a Unibit #4 Step Drill (along with a paper chute to keep metal out of the MOTU and a shop-vac to make sure). I put blue painter’s tape over the panel, laid out the holes, fixtured the cabinet to keep it from wandering off on its Delrin runners, and had the job done in about 20 minutes:


OK, with that all done and the rig mounted, let’s get a skyhook up and run some cable!

The OmniX Scanner Antenna

All along, I’ve been assuming that I’d install a discone (the venerable Diamond D130NJ). These work from 25-1300 MHz, though being broadband there is certainly no gain to speak of. Also, aesthetically, they scream “SCANNER!”  I was having trouble getting excited about one of these, and kept delaying an order as I prowled for a better alternative.

In some forum I read glowing comments about the DPD OmniX, reportedly an excellent multiband performer and well-made to boot. OK, why not? Let’s try one.

omnix-portThis is an interesting design, with three dipoles… the two X-element pairs of different lengths and the fat vertical body that provides the mounting structure. The coverage is 118-137, 148-175 & 225-900 MHz. I happened to have an obsolete wind sensor mounted on the starboard spreader of my radar mast, so this presented an obvious mounting location. It went up without much difficulty… using concentric split PVC sleeves of two lengths to straddle a step in the post diameter while giving the brackets something that could handle clamping pressure. TV-antenna-style clamps and a chunk of old PVC are not exactly beautiful from a nautical perspective, but it was expedient and I find I’m not embarrassed at all.

rail-base-feedthrough-lmr400The OmniX has a female N connector at the end of a pigtail, which terminates under a blob of white self-vulcanizing Rescue Tape zip-tied to the spreader. From there, it’s the 50-foot hunk of LMR400 that I mentioned… stiff and perhaps not the best choice, but low-loss for the frequency range of interest. This found its way down the mast, under one of the bridgedeck seat structures to parallel the feed line for the radio-check system, then through the upper console to a spot where it could penetrate the pilothouse roof without introducing water. The photo shows my little trick for getting it through that vertical surface… 7/8″ stainless rail bases, with a hole drilled behind at a matching angle. The bottom one is another run of the same stuff to the dual-band J-pole antenna owned by my Icom ID-5100.

magnet-wall-spottingThe only other trick of note was using a pair of .75″ diameter N52 Neodymium magnets to locate the perfect spot to drill through the cabin wall, as it is easy to measure incorrectly and poke a hole where oops damn it you didn’t mean to… but all you do is tape a magnet in place, slap another onto the opposite side of the wall, draw a circle, and go from there.

At the console, cable management gets tricky… the bundles are thick enough that haphazard spill over the back of the desk is causing problems. I built a “cable trellis” out of stainless rail, with a long horizontal member spanning the full 8-foot length of the console. Each of the five cabinets has a lacing bar for cable exit on the back near the top, and between those and the trellis are big lazy loops that allow pulling each enclosure out for service.

The Scanner in Use

I’ve had this buttoned up for a few weeks now, and love it… I scan about 70 channels, and can lock any out if they get annoying (or hold on one if it is particularly interesting). It contributes greatly to my sense of connection with the nearby scene; I’ve listened to the drama around a plane crash (everybody OK), marine rescues, medical emergencies, routine operations on the waterfront, and general aviation. It’s nice to have some information feeds besides Facebook… and the interface with my audio network means I can pipe this to the cabin or mix it in with recorded commentary. And when there is a wailing siren or a stray news helicopter hovering about, it’s good to know what’s going on!



The scanner’s output is not referenced to external ground, so I used that little ground-loop isolator to connect it into the MOTU audio system (described in more detail here). I’ll close with a photo of console zone Epsilon, which is entirely devoted to audio management (with remote web access); zooming out even further, there is a post about the entire console with 60U of rackspace on an 8-foot desk.

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No Pressure – the Maiden Voyage

News from No Pressure (formerly Nomadness)

Saturday, Nov 12 – 3:00 PM
Friday Harbor to San Diego transit complete!


Saturday, Nov 12 – 12:45 PM – Arriving San Diego


Saturday, Nov 12 – 10:30 AM

Final approach to San Diego…


Friday, Nov 11 – 9:00 PM

They only stayed in Santa Barbara long enough to acquire fluids and then pressed on… making for San Diego with an ETA of 3:00 PM Saturday.


Friday, Nov 11 – noon

In the harbor in Santa Barbara…


Friday, Nov 11 – 9:30 AM

Woke this morning to see them homing in on Santa Barbara… looking forward to the story! (There is a sail tear 2/3 of the way up from a big jibe, and some issue with pedestal steering pump losing fluid… as well as a need for engine oil… so fingers are crossed that the marina has a spot, as they don’t take reservations.)


Thursday, Nov 10 – 8:00 PM

The crew has a few repairs to make and fluids to acquire, and is making for Santa Barbara. Steady progress and good conditions…


Wednesday, Nov 9 – 11:30 PM

They are well past Monterey Bay and sailing all night… planning to use the wonderful 5-15 knot northwesterly breeze that should persist all through tomorrow. They need to stop and get more engine oil, and might do that in Santa Barbara.


Wednesday, Nov 9 – 2:30 PM

Just spoke with Eric and passed along the very benign weather prediction (perfect tailwind today and tomorrow, then light westerlies or southerlies on Friday). He sent three photos… including one from just now with the boat sailing downwind, wing and wing:


And two of the skipper:

11052 11057

Wednesday morning, Nov 9

Looks like they are bypassing San Francisco… here is the overnight track via AIS:


Tuesday evening, Nov 8 — midnight
update from Dick via text message

Today was a much more relaxed day. The seas were relatively calm — mainly 8-10 ft swells and not much wind driven waves. Of course that meant there wasn’t much wind and what there was was on our nose. We did raise the sails as we motored along so it at least looked like we were sailing ?. We did see two whales today. They surfaced a few hundred yards away, took several breaths and then dove. We also saw another pod of dolphins. Several of them came right up to the boat and swam along with is. Of course we were much too slow for them so they eventually took off. It was also an unusual but normally typical day in that we had three meals! We all had breakfast, ate cheese, crackers, sausage and fruit for lunch and made chili for dinner. Anything but normal for us lately. 

The engine abruptly stopped running today when we were motor-sailing. Turned out it had air in the fuel line which we solved by using the fuel transfer pump to bleed the system. The generator has had a problem in that it did not stop when the stop button was pushed. We traced the problem to a defective stop solenoid that normally cuts off the fuel when the stop button is pushed. We solved the problem (temporarily) by tying a line to the lever which we can pull to stop it. 

watermakerThe water maker was not working since we used it the first day.  That turned out to be air in the line also. To celebrate solving the three problems, I took a shower in the water the water maker made and heated by the power the generator created, which I sorely needed after working on the hot engine and bleeding the fuel lines. It’s the simple things that make the difference ??

Due to the necessary stopovers in Astoria and Crescent City we are not sure we can make it to San Diego by Saturday. No major problem for those of us that are retired but difficult for the one of is that is still employed. For a perfect ending to a nice day, I saw three meteors on my 7-11 watch.


Tuesday evening, Nov 8 — 5:00 PM

There were some problems today with fuel delivery or air in the system, and for a couple of hours they were sailing without being able to get the engine going, but around 3:30 Dick reported: “I have no idea exactly why it stopped in the first place, but we got it going again by using the fuel transfer pump to bleed the system. Probably introduced when I changed all the fuel filters (that looked pretty clean). Anyway, we are back in business.”

The Iridium tracker was out of commission for about 6 hours, which explains that straight line from Cape Mendocino down to that spot west of Rockport. If you are watching the tracker and they seem to have stopped, experience tells us that it is most likely the satellite phone, not anything bad. It has needed to be restarted a few times…


Monday night, Nov 7, 11:00 PM
Posted by Dick via text message

portlight-closeWhen we left Astoria, the wind conditions were still right on the nose — possible to sail, but the sea conditions made it difficult so motored the next 62 hours.  We arrived for a rest and dryout in Crescent City at 11:00 PM on Saturday.  The 2½ days getting there were not what we really wanted to do.  Heavy, mixed up seas with winds to 30 knots — on the nose of course. And our porthole tightening and caulking only partly worked… which is mainly why we stopped in CC.  We found one of the forward ports had not been completely sealed around the mounting ring, similar to the one above the aft berth.

The engine started running roughly unless it was throttled way down. Investigation revealed dirty fuel filters. So I changed them while underway. Engine purrs like a kitten now (well maybe roars like a lion is more like it, but it runs smoothly now). Other than having the boat get very wet inside from the leaky portholes, and the occupants getting beat around a bit, the 2½ days from Astoria to Crescent City was invigorating!  At night we had the frequent “ghost birds” flying along with us.  Saturday morning a pod of dolphins followed us for about an hour. Probably about 20 individuals of all sizes. It was really neat to see how effortlessly they swam all around the boat. Going ahead, behind and crossing our path.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-11-13-52-pmOn Sunday in Crescent City we spread things out on the dock to dry (at least until it started to drizzle). We also found the leak in the forward porthole and caulked it, and it seems to have worked. We also ran some caulking “rope” around the base of the”doghouse” where it was coming in. During the trip to CC a particularly large wave knocked Al against the dining table, which promptly detached from the floor.  Turned out it wasn’t particularly well attached to the floor. While stopped in CC we bolted it down! Not going anywhere now.

Today we left Crescent City, and finally had conditions that were conducive to sailing! Of course, the wind was still on our nose, but the sea conditions were much calmer so we sailed for a few hours until the wind died down too low to sail and make any reasonable headway. As you can see from our path, we couldn’t sail directly into the wind so we did what is known in sailing as tacking. Sail as close to straight into the wind as possible and then sail upwind with the wind on the other side of the boat. That is why our path zig-zags, not because we had a party to celebrate the good sailing conditions and drank all our wine at once! Alas, by about 3:00 the wind died and we had to resort to our trusty diesel once again. But the few hours of real sailing almost made all the pounding and putting up with the leaks worthwhile.  The weather is supposed to be even better for sailing in the next few days! 

— posted by Dick while underway off Eureka, California


Monday, a little after noon

They are on the move, and looks like upwind sailing! No stories from the skipper about the second leg yet, but we spoke and texted yesterday during the Crescent City layover… a few repairs (a port left unsealed by the yard in Tacoma, salon table got loose from my too-short screws, some puzzles about charging and power management). I’ll pass along more as I get news… I’m assuming the next stop is San Francisco.


Sunday, Nov 6


Midnight Saturday, Nov 5

No Pressure is safe at the dock in Crescent City, California! This leg from Astoria included some adventures… more to follow when I’ve received an update from Dick. For now, here are images of the trek down the coast as well as a close-up of their location in the harbor:



Noon Saturday, Nov 5

Happy to report that they are south of Cape Blanco after a challenging night… more when I get an update. Here is their track:


Brief note from Dick, approximately midnight Nov 4

Well, that was invigorating! Twenty-five knot winds on the nose, unsettled seas and ghost birds playing tag with the boat. Off watch and time for a little sleep. More later.


8:00 PM, Friday, Nov 4 — Pixel spotted!

coos-pixelHere in quiet Friday Harbor aboard Datawake, I have been keeping tabs open for both trackers, weather data, and webcams. I found a view out the Coos Bay bar entrance that updates every 10 minutes, and hoped they would cross during daylight. Alas, that didn’t happen, but I did catch their port navigation light! Here’s No Pressure in her element… click to see full-size (with context below).

Just outside the Coos Bay bar (which is not nearly as fun as it sounds). They are averaging about 4.5 knots into a stiff headwind.

coosbaFriday evening, Nov 4, about sunset… this is what the bar at Coos Bay looks like at the moment. I am hoping there will be enough light when they pass to catch a glimpse on this Coast Guard webcam that updates every 10 minutes or so. The bar is currently closed to recreational vessels, so they will be pressing on (probably with intent to pull into Crescent City tomorrow mid-day, roughly 100 nautical miles to the south).

No Pressure at 5:00 on Friday Evening, Nov 4

No Pressure at 5:00 on Friday Evening, Nov 4

Weather report, posted Friday evening

Oregon Coast – 10:45 AM Friday, Nov 4
Update from Dick via text message

No Pressure off Oregon Coast

Overnight track as seen Friday morning, November 4. Click for live AIS tracker.

Friday morning report:  Still motoring along at ~6 kn.  More wind this morning – 15 kn.  Still on our nose.  Amazon still handling the environment without a problem. The autopilot continues to work well despite the erratic compass.  More clouds than yesterday but still a sunny day.  Haven’t seen any marine life except for lots of birds everywhere.  Fascinating to watch them fly along inches from the surface, following the waves as the surface moves up and down as much as 20 ft.  We have seen some substantial logs.  Makes one glad that No Pressure has a steel hull!  Some of the crew are having a bit of unexpected seasickness.  I guess this a bit rougher out here than they have been in before. Maybe spoke to soon about the sun.  Getting overcast now.  And the solar panel was putting out some power.  Running the generator to recharge the batteries after running all night with the radar and autopilot on.  All for now.


Had to add oil to both engines as we have run them a good bit.  Especially the main engine.  Thank goodness for the oil transfer pump and the four gallons of oil we added to the oil storage tank.  Sun has come out again and the solar panel is putting out about 50 watts.  If the sun was higher in the sky we would get more but we will have to wait for more Southern latitudes.


Oregon Coast — 11:30 PM Thursday, Nov 3
Update from Dick via text message

Today was clear and sunny. Beautiful day to sail, but with the wind on our nose we would have had to tack and make slower forward progress. So we are motoring to help make up for the three days in Astoria. The really good news is that the boat is completely dry so our porthole tightening worked!

I forgot to comment on the birds on the way out of Juan de Fuca. We would be sailing along and out or our peripheral vision would see something white. It would be one or more gulls gliding along, keeping pace with the boat, looking like ghosts over the water.

When we left Astoria this morning we saw two Coast Guard ships “playing” in the river bar — tipping almost 90°. One of them came over to us to see what we were doing as the bar was closed to anything under 40′. They also warned us that the waves were up to 17′. We told them that we knew, and we had already been on worse coming into Astoria!

The Amazon 44 handles well out here. Stable (at least as stable as one can be in waves this large), easy to control with no pounding. Just cuts through the waves, and we feel completely safe and in control.

We are using a program called Navionics Boating HD running on my Samsung tablet for our navigating and routing.  It works really well inside or out, where it is enclosed in a watertight cover.  Only a minor problem when the weather was so bad coming into Astoria — the waves would sometimes “press” the screen, changing the view!

Thursday night, about 11:30 PM

Thursday night, about 11:30 PM. Click the image for live AIS tracker page

The Second Leg begins!

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-11-04-50-amOn the move this morning, with launch about 10:00. Click link in title for the track log; I’ll post maplets periodically as they continue south. They have weather-routing consultation from a friend who has traversed that coast a few times in a boat of similar scale, and as before, we’re in contact via cellular (sporadic) and Iridium satellite to pass along changes or address issues. Stay tuned!

Friday Harbor to Astoria
(posted Wednesday evening by Dick Tasker)

We left Friday Harbor Saturday afternoon and motored most of the way out of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  Finally put the sails up as we rounded the bend at Cape Flattery.  Sailed until late Sunday until the winds ended up pretty much on our nose.  We then motored all the way down to Astoria, Oregon.  Seas were pretty reasonable until Sunday night when they picked up.  The rest of the way to Astoria was pretty rough.

As we crossed the shipping lanes that go into Grays Harbor there was a bit of excitement. It was night and there was a trawler that seemed to be circling within the lanes!  We managed to avoid him but we certainly had to pay attention for a while.

Sunday night through Monday when we arrived in Astoria (up the Columbia River) the seas steadily increased until they were up to 20 ft.  The worst  part was that they were very irregular.  We took water over the bow a good number of times.  The boat handled very well and we felt perfectly safe

The only really annoying part of the trip was that some of the portholes leaked, despite the fact that they were all tightened before we left!  We decided to stop in Astoria for a few days since the wave action was rather uncomfortable 🙂 and the winds were on our nose — with rough seas, difficult to sail and would be motoring into major head winds… and also because the boat was pretty saturated inside due to the leaky portholes.

We found a spot in the West End Marina in Astoria with a hotel right next to it.  The last two days we have spent drying the boat and our clothes, and working to eliminate the porthole leaks.  We found that one of the original portholes had never been correctly sealed around the hull and was leaking like a sieve.  The rest just needed to be tightened a bit more.  We tested them all by spraying them point blank with a hose!

Dick modeling one of the two immersion suits included with the boat... like most of the safety equipment, something we hope is never needed!

Dick modeling one of the two immersion suits included with the boat… like most of the safety equipment, something we hope is never needed!

We discovered when we left Friday Harbor that the knot meter was not working so we did not know our speed through the water.  We did know the speed over the water since we have GPS for navigation.  I had cleaned the one knot meter that we knew was there, but it turned out that there were two on the boat — one for the main instruments and one for a small display in the aft cabin.  The one I cleaned was the aft one.  We found the second, took it out, removed the barnacles and other marine life… and now it works!

The Webasto diesel heater was not working the days before we left Friday Harbor and we diagnosed it to a defective fuel pump that was replaced.  It worked for a few days but has stopped working again and seems to need a flame sensor. Fortunately, we really don’t need it so it is not a big deal.

We plan to leave Astoria tomorrow (Thursday).  The seas have calmed down some and the winds aren’t completely on our nose, so we hope to actually sail South.

October 31, approximately noon (posted by Steve)

No Pressure is safe at the dock in Astoria, after a long trek down the Washington coast all day Sunday and overnight. They crossed the Columbia bar late this morning, about an hour after slack-to-flood, and proceeded to port in anticipation of rising southerlies that will make continuing difficult for the next couple of days (current wind simulation here, with their location the small circle). When I hear directly from the crew, I will update this report.

No Pressure in Astoria

11:30 PM on Oct 30

No Pressure - Moclips

5:00 PM on Oct 30

Happy to report a position update via Iridium! The map will looks like they cut across that point of land, but we’ve been hours without data so it just connected the last two dots. The dot shows their current location just west of Destruction Island, in light winds, motoring to speed things up (and charge batteries):

No Pressure - Destruction Island

3:00 PM (Pacific Time) on Oct 30

Just had text exchange with Dick – sorry for lack of current track images! Turns out the Iridium unit is mounted inside where its view of GPS satellites is compromised by the boat heeling to starboard (they are sailing in nice easterly winds). That has prevented any map updates for the past few hours… but he just moved it outside so we should get one in the next hour (which I will post immediately). Here is their full track as of 10:45 AM; we spoke on the phone around noon and they were sailing very well, with text message follow up at 3 PM.

No Pressure Neah Bay

Right now they are getting perfect easterly winds, which are moving them south at a steady clip of 7+ knots. The wind will start coming from dead ahead in a few hours and they may have to resume motoring. This animation shows current conditions (updated every three hours).

23:00 on Saturday night (10/29)

She is cruising! About halfway out the Strait of Juan de Fuca (all maplets clickable for more detail):

No Pressure halfway thru Strait

No Pressure is now south of Victoria, BC (about 7PM Pacific time):

No Pressure south of Victoria

Departure from Friday Harbor:

No Pressure departing Friday Harbor

They are on their way! More soon as I have a chance to report, and I’ll start posting updates from Dick as they arrive. This page will be modified soon so the most recent information is at the top…


Over the past year, while I have been getting settled into Datawake, my previous boat has been getting lots of excellent attention. She has new opening ports and pilothouse windows, extensive repairs, a fresh dodger, new standing and running rigging, a watermaker, electric heads, a life raft, and a meticulous new owner whose engineering career led him to this boat. Around the end of October, with the help of stalwart crew, he will be heading down the Pacific Coast for a layover in San Diego, then continuing through the Panama Canal with the intent of bringing No Pressure to her new home port on the East Coast.

I’ve offered to host a page where his brief updates via satellite can be visible to friends, and this is it. I will update this any time there is new information to pass along (and will do another page with a photo essay of the extensive upgrades referenced above). In this photo, taken as they returned from an easy test sail on January 24, that’s Dick at the helm and Eric on the bow, doubtless thinking: “Put down that damn camera and catch our lines!”

No Pressure returning to dock

Notes from Dick Tasker

October 16, 2016:

We will be leaving from Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, WA on a sailing trip to San Diego, CA on the first leg of our trip to Venice, Florida via the Panama Canal on our new boat No Pressure, an Amazon 44 pilot house cutter. We plan to leave around the end of October (exact date depends on weather) with a crew of four intrepid sailors: Myself, Eric Lewis (my brother-in-law), Rick Butterworth (a long time friend) and Alfred Poirier (a sailing friend of Eric’s).

October 24, 2016:

Location at the dock in Friday Harbor, working on the final projects before departure….


October 28, 2016

(posted by Steve Roberts) Looks like departure is set for Saturday morning, Oct 29. The boat is looking gorgeous, everything is fixed and fine-tuned, and the crew is stalwart and enthusiastic. First stop will be the fuel dock at the Port, where the 90 gallon aft tank will be filled (two 70 gallon tanks are already full), then off they go… either through Cattle Pass and into the Strait, or over the top of San Juan Island and down Haro Strait. I’ll be watching their track and weather closely, and will re-arrange this page so the newest updates are at the top. Stay tuned!


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