Archive for the 'Electronics' Category

Splash Panel for Engine Room Electronics

I (Jon) finished these jobs variously Dec. 23rd, Jan. 10th and March 17th.

I made a splash panel to cover all of the electronics for our power generation. Water had been dripping onto the solar regulator, which is bad, so I covered the wind gen, solar, and tow gen regulators and shunts with a clear acrylic cover.

There is a perfect hole cut in the panel for the wind generator switch which allows you to apply the brake to the wind generator. There is a less then perfect slot cut in the panel allowing access to the switch to turn on and off the solar panels. I didn’t want to put the switch on the outside of the panel as then if you wanted to take off the panel, it would be more of a pain in the ass. The solar switch is mounted to a wood block and screwed to the wall.


Repaired SSB (all Pete)

Our SSB starting acting strange, and then stopped working entirely.  I was disgusted and tired to death of working on the boat, so I was extremely unmotivated to delve into it.  And extremely skeptical that the problem was anything we could fix–I’ve dismantled plenty of electronics before in an attempt to find the culprit component and replace it, and very few of those attempts were successful.  Usually when a component goes, it takes too much else with it.  Pete, who happened to be on board with us at that time, was fresh and motivated and excited to dismantle the radio.  Thank goodness Pete was around, because I never would have gone to the extent that he did to attempt a repair.

We suspected that it was the volume circuit, because of the way it was behaving during failure.  Pete took the case apart and we painstakingly searched for any signs of a failure.  Luckily, we spotted one.  It’s hard to see from the pictures, but there was an area of the circuit board in the corner that was messed up by a blown capacitor–the capacitor itself had blackened the board, and a gooey dielectric had oozed out and ruined a couple of traces.  Even after we found the problem, I still thought it only 10% likely that we’d be able to repair it.  Undaunted, Pete dismantled it, went and bought a capacitor and painstakingly reconstructed the necessary connections.

Remarkably, it worked.  And it worked fantastically for us all the way across the pacific.  We never had another problem with it.  Between our radio, and our updated/reconstructed ground plane, we had one of the most powerful, longest distance radios out there.  So bottoms up to Pete, who did a fantastic job with this one.

Installed new (to us) radar

(pictures will be added when I have time to sit down for more than a minute)

I bought a three year-old basic radar set (dome, display, and cable) from a nice guy named Tom off the valiant owners group for $500, a great deal for a $1300 radar.  After wavering about whether to put it on the mast (it came with a mast mount) or on top of the radar arch where we had already prepared a place, I weighed the difficulty and time required to do it each way and ended up going with the mast.  It would have been easier to put the radar on the arch on the stern, but then it would have been much more complicated to install all the other things that needed to go around and on top of the radar dome (AIS antenna, gps antenna, wifi access point, wifi antenna).  I was most worried about the difficulty of snaking the cable down through the mast, but with the help of a snake we borrowed from Jim Hassberger, it ended up being pretty easy (the snake was crucial).

Jon was visiting for a weekend and did the mast installation.

The cable had been cut in order to remove it from the previous installation; Pete graciously took on the task of splicing it back together.  The one fat cable has about 10 different small wires inside of it, one of which is a tiny little mini coax, and the whole fat thing is a coax cable as well, and if the splicing of the shielding isn’t done correctly, the video signal won’t come through.  Anyway, Pete did it well and did it quickly, and we mounted the screen above the ready rail and it looks great.

Fabricated electronics control tower for radar arch

Originally we were going to have the radar mounted on the radar arch (go figure), but when we got the new radar it came with a mast mount and we decided to use it.  So that freed up the starboard side of the arch on the stern for mounting our various electronics.  The items mounted on this control tower include:
AIS gps antenna (the mushroom shape)
AIS vhf antenna
WIFI access point (the elongated box)
WIFI omni-directional 8db gain antenna (the tall white stick)
WIFI directional 15db gain antenna (the square thing)

I used a pvc pipe and fittings to mount the various components, then through bolted the gray PVC pipe to the stern pole.  Ran the wires into a hole in the pvc, down through the pole, out the bottom, and into the hull through a cable clam.  I used spiral wrap on the wires where they went through the hole and out the bottom of the pipe, to prevent chafing against the edges.  I used dielectric grease on all connections, periodically refreshed, and periodically sprayed the whole shabang with T-9 to discourage corrosion.

It worked really well.  Eventually I ditched the square antenna because it was too directional to be useful with the WIFI setup; the omni-directional antenna worked fine.

Replaced stereo & speakers

The old speakers were blown out (two in cockpit, two in cabin) and the old stereo had no auxiliary input for the ipod/computer.  After tolerating a noisy tape-adaptor system for four months we elected to spring for new stuff. We bought a bottom dollar “marine” stereo (only marine thing about it was a piece of plastic across the top of it, sealing off a couple screw holes), two 6.5″ speakers for the cockpit, and two mounted box-like speakers for the cabin. We ran fresh Ancor tinned marine-grade speaker wire for all of them. I did it by the book in splicing, soldering, and heat shrinking the dozen wires out the back of the stereo, and mounted a little beautiful 1/8″ headphone jack in the bulkhead for the ipod hookup.

Mounting the speakers in the cockpit proved far more of a job than I anticipated. I had hoped that the new speakers would just screw into the old mounting holes, but of course that wasn’t the case. So we had to cut out a new ring of plywood. While we were at it we went ahead and replaced the sealing beckson port that houses the speaker.
inside view cockpit speakeroutside view cockpit speaker coveroutside view cockpit speakercabin speaker