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Ask Slashdot: What Tech For a Sailing Ship? 340

Razgorov Prikazka writes "There is a lot of technology involved in sailing these days. EPIRB, FHV-DSC, GPS, NAVTEX, Inmarsat, fishfinders/depth sounders, different kinds of radar (with MARPA or ATA) — you name it and there are dozens of manufacturers out there willing to provide, all of them with a range of different products. Right now I am planning a 'round-the-world-trip,'' and my ship (an 18-meter Skerry Cruiser sailing yacht) is in its early construction phase, so I need to shop for some hi-tech gear and, basically, I got lost in all the possibilities. What kind of hardware would you recommend as necessary for a trip of this kind? What would you have installed in your ship in order to have a safe trip?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech For a Sailing Ship?

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  • EPIRB (Score:5, Interesting)

    by etnoy ( 664495 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @03:26PM (#41326815) Homepage
    Get an EPIRB. If the ship collides with a floating container and sinks quickly you will have no time to manually send a distress signal before abandoning ship. A free-floating EPIRB will automatically engage in case of sinking and with its encoded distress signal you will get aid within hours. For communications on the oceans I recommend getting a good shortwave radio with a decent grounding and antenna that can communicate further than any VHF-based system. Source: I helped build and design a Swedish 131' sailing yacht.
  • Re:EPIRB (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @03:37PM (#41326963)

    When we run off-shore we have two EPIRBs and a Spot. One ship EPIRB, on personal EPIRB that is always in a zipped pocket on your person when out of the cabin, and a Spot unit for status reports to friends/family.

    Nav instruments are Seatalk/Raymarine (Depth, forward scanning depth, wind, GPS, plotter at helm) with one redundant Garmin plotting GPS at nav station and a handheld Garmin GPS. Fixed VHF with controls at the helm and nav station and a separate handheld VHF, one fixed HF radio with antenna running up the main mast rigging. Finally the boat doesn't go anywhere without the integrated RADAR and AIS systems working with the display at the helm. Lots of freighters and cruise ships barreling around in the fog.

    And most importantly a mast mounted wi-fi range extender for reaching any hotspots on shore while anchored near a town.

  • A real response (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @04:01PM (#41327219)


    EPIRB, properly registered and with a new battery.

    Marine handheld in the ditch bag.

    Get an FCC marine VHF license. Required for international voyages. You need an FCC issued MMSI number for your VHF. The free kind of MMSI is not listed in the international search and rescue database.

    DSC-VHF. Be sure to set up the MMSI number in the VHF. Be sure to connect a GPS to the radio, so that if you hit the red button, it actually works. That red button won't do a thin unless it has an MMSI programmed in and won't do much unless you also have a GPS connected to the radio so that it can send its location when you hit the red distress button.

    I think you'd be nuts to head out without the items listed above. Totally nuts. I'd think long and hard about including the items below, in my kit.

    Satellite phone.

    AIS transponder. Ideally - that way you can see and be seen by the enormous cargo vessels who take 1 mile to stop and which CANNOT turn on a dime.

    AIS receive, minimum. Standard-Horizon's Matrix AIS+ GX2150 radio combines DSC-VHF radio with integrated AIS receive only. Just add GPS & proper MMSI number and you are good to go. You do have backup VHF antennas, right?

    Marine GPS chartplotter, with appropriate charts.

    Paper charts and the knowledge to use them.

    If you know what you are doing, or are willing to invest the (non-trivial) time to get up to speed, marine SSB radio and pactor modem to do email by HF radio.


    If you are going to put a laptop or tablet aboard, keep in mind that saltwater is a hostile environment. Don't assume that your basic consumer grade laptop will hold up aboard a sailboat.

    Gotta say, if you are asking this question on Slashdot, I don't think you are ready to cast off the docklines.

    There are much better places to be asking this question. Places were folks who do lots of long distance sailing are hanging out. Online groups composed of serious, experienced cruisers. If you don't know about those resources, you have a whole lot of work ahead of you before you start buying stuff and definitely a whole lot of work ahead of you before you cast off and set sail.

  • by Fishbulb ( 32296 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @04:11PM (#41327335)

    My parents tool around the Bahamas every year in a Little Harbor 39'.

    They've got at least three different GPS units; one built into the radar so you can match up coastal features with your charts, one built into the map desk, and at least two hand-held units (ala' Garmin Trek). Make sure the units you're looking at have digital sea charts available, as most of the hand-held units don't (or didn't last I checked) come with sea charts built in. The handhelds also have non-slip, brightly colored (yellow/orange) rubber protectors, bought separately.

    You'll want to get into HAM radio, maybe even get a license. Definitely get one for home to try out, even if you buy a different unit for the boat.

    Get eneloop batteries and a good charger or two. Also get a solar charger that you can roll out or pack away easily that will charge two AA's fairly quickly.

    A wind turbine may be a good idea if you're planning to have a lot of tech gear, and almost certainly if you want a fridge with a freezer. However, most of them are noisy and getting a broken line caught in one while in bad weather will only make things worse. Also, if you have the wind to your back (generally speaking, sailing west) they won't generate as much (as if the boat were stationary) since you're traveling with the wind. If you're traveling east, you'll need more fuel to push it through the air (at a much less efficient rate than just running a more powerful generator off your engine).

    An app like Night Sky that will super-impose constellation and astronomy info over a live camera image might be of use. (disc: that's the only app like that I've used and not much - not an endorsement, but it is a cool app)

    If you're not already, become a: carpenter, plumber, electrician, mechanic, and eagle-scout level knot tying master. Practice doing separate skills with each limb while balancing on a see-saw.

    Get used to making really detailed sailing plans and estimating how long it will take and how much gas and fresh water you'll need to get from point A to point B. Then flush those plans down the toilet. Repeat ad nauseam.

    Lastly: have fun, it's great! :)

  • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @04:16PM (#41327403) Homepage

    Read "Confessions of a Long-Distance Sailor" before you go. []

  • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Friday September 14, 2012 @05:11AM (#41332555)
    This is the same kind of comment I got when I asked Slashdot about ... my mission to the moon. All I got was a flamewar over "spacecraft" versus "rocket."

    As a onetime Officer of the Watch on the bridge of a large warship, I say it matters.

    When I saw this headline I was expecting an article on reviving the idea of sailing mechant ships - you know, tankers with computer controlled wingsails, that sort of thing (a bit like the flying cars stories). But what I found was a guy preparing a medium size traditional sailing yacht [OK, sailboat in America] for sea.

    If this guy is calling a sailing yacht [sailboat] a "ship", the first thing he needs before technology is to swot up on some basic seafaring terminology. VERY basic - I would have thought even a layman would know the difference. OTOH, if he is calling his yacht a ship out of some kind of inflated pride, then that is also out of place at sea. It is just idiotic.

    For example, if he needs to radio and says his "ship" is in trouble, the rescue people are not going to be looking for a yacht.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.