Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

How-to articles

Panel-Mounting the Home Patrol Scanner

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…

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Building a Feline Outhouse

Take it Outside, Kitty… Building a Boat Cat Litter Box by Steven K. Roberts, aboard Datawake OK, so I admit it… I love this cat. Isabelle lives aboard with me, and her tubby cuddly awesomeness increases the quality of life in lots of ways. But even a quirky Russian Blue who pushes all the right feline buttons but…

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The Datawake ADS-B PiAware Receiver

One of my obsessions over the years has been collecting data, probing the radio spectrum, sensing outside my limited visual and hearing range, and deploying probes to expand my awareness of the environment. This leads to recognition of patterns, better understanding of how things work, and the voyeuristic thrill of peeking behind the curtains of technology or human activity. Tracking…

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Sisal wrapped two-by-four

Cat Scratching Posts for Boats

I can’t imagine living aboard without a cat, and Isabelle moved with me to Datawake after three years aboard Nomadness. She’s a constant joy, but there are still feline realities that have to be considered: dining, elimination, and scratching. All are challenging on a boat, given space constraints and the need to handle dynamic conditions. Telling a cat…

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Piano Drawer on Datawake

Building a Heavy-Duty Piano Drawer

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs A key requirement for my floating lab/studio was to have a digital piano aboard, but limited space dictates a deployment system that lets it stow away when not in use. I designed the console around this, and built a piano drawer that can handle a quarter-ton. It was important that it not…

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The Shacktopus Portable Power Beast

These are the voyages of the hand truck, Shacktopus. Her continuing mission… to seek out new loads and strange environments… to boldly blink where no one has blinked before. On a voyaging sailboat, stable power goes with the territory: a huge battery bank charged by isolated shore cable and solar panels, diesel genset with a…

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The Little Cod Boat Wood Stove

The season is turning, that’s obvious. We’re pinned down in Deer Harbor with a frontal system coming through… 30-40 knots tomorrow, a brief respite on Sunday, another blast on Monday. We parked here to rendezvous with Andrew of Navigator Stove Works and get the black-enameled Little Cod wood stove installed. The timing couldn’t be better.…

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Mounting the FT-817 Transceiver in an Embedded Application

During the first “Shacktopus” project in 2005 (not the new one), I was integrating a variety of communication, data collection, and audio devices into a backpackable substrate. I put the project on hold to go shut down the old family home, then never got back to it… and now we have smartphones that do almost…

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Gonzo Engineering

This is a peek into the passion that drives makers, hackers, and other victims of gizmological obsession. Versions of this have been widely quoted over the years and it becomes cyclically relevant as I dive into new projects, so I decided to add it to my archives. It is available in hardcopy as part of my Reaching Escape…

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Balance your Boat with a Center of Gravity Database

I wrote this how-to piece after spending quite a bit of time designing an automated solution to a messy problem: distributing tonnage on a boat in such a way that she remains balanced in longitudinal, transverse, and vertical axes. Marine architects made this issue abundantly clear when I was first designing the Microship, so my…

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