Saturday, 23 September 2017

Marine or Ham MF/HF radio?

I posted this on the Facebook forum Offshore SSB Radio and Email
and I thought it might be worth posting here as well

If you need an HF/MF radio for safety because of the area where you cruise, specifically sea areas A2-A4 (out of VHF range), you need it to be DSC equipped, which basically means an (Icom) M801 or M802 at the moment. The reason is that you can call for help to ships outside VHF range and they keep a continuous automatic watch on DSC MF/HF. If you have that need, and hence get the marine radio, you can use the same radio on ham frequencies if you have an amateur license. They are not quite as good as a ham radio as they are more awkward to use for spinning the tuning knob to find some one transmitting, but they will do. There is loads you can do with a ham radio (or a marine radio on ham frequencies). Ham nets, Winlink mail, sailldocs, loads of different ways of position reporting like robust packed APRS and WSPR. You can talk to random hams around the world and they will think its cool to be talking to someone "Maritime Mobile". Of course some of this definitely contributes to safety as well as fun. For those thinking of taking their ham license it is well worth it if only that you understand radio including propagation and fault fixing much better than a typical course for a Long Range Certificate that qualifies you to operate a marine MF/HF radio (even when this qualification is very serious, like in the UK, with a long practical test by the CG, mainly on distress procedures and a written exam). There are also email services (sailmail) and nets for cruisers on marine HF frequencies. I think this is where cruisers are tempted to, often illegally, use a ham radio only not a marine one. It is usually possible to open them to transmit on these bands. A slight word of caution that the performance might not be the same as on ham bands for which the radio was optimised. Also if you had a ham radio on board it would be a wise precaution to open it to marine (and aviation) MF/HF bands just in case. But these days there are very few places where anyone maintains a listening watch on marine MF/HF voice frequencies. You may well be better off shouting for help on a popular ham frequency and asking them to relay it to a MRCC by telephone in that situation.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Whitby - there be Whales!

When we were in Hull for repairs Specksioneer, a large motor sailor ketch was waiting to be hauled out. We met her skipper Brian who runs Whitby Whale  Watching. He explained first week of September is the peak in the season for seeing minke whales off Whitby...and so we hatched a plan. It had been a busy summer with Sarah's choir tour in Cost  Rica, and conferences in San Diego and Copenhagen. None of which we sailed to. So it was nice to get a bit of time on Tui as well.

We had an 8 hour run to Scarborough. Literally a  run with the Genoa poled out. We were pleasantly surprised that with care we can get in to Scarborough at low water neaps. I thought it was much less accessible.

Whitby was only three hours further up the coast and as usual the bridge keeper, the harbour master and the marina all work together to make sure you know where you are going.

We noticed that the river Esk above the viaduct looks suddenly very rural so we took the dinghy up stream and were rewarded with the sight of fiver herons, and egret and a king fisher catching a fish.

We could see from Maine Traffic that Specksioneer tended to go about 7.5 nm off shore for both morning and evening tours. We decided to do the same and as we passed Specksioneer in the harbour Brian said to call on VHF ch 8 when we were both out there. We learnt that the herring spawn at this time of year and everyone is out to eat them! We saw minke whales surface  a few times as well as seals and lots of sea birds. It was a great day for wild life watching - and a bad day to be a herring!
The poster for Whitby Whale watching

When the wind turned we headed back, stopping again at Scarborough where we saw a harbour porpoise.

With a beam or close reach, and the tide against us more than with us it took 9 hours back to Grimsby timed nicely with the lock on free flow. Unfortunately one mile of the Fish Dock our engine suddenly stopped. We had 40 gallons of fuel so I knew it wasn't that.  Cranking the engine to try to restart melted the cable terminal on the starer motor solenoid. We called the CG to tell them of the situation before it developed in to anything dangerous, put up the mizzen and unfurled some genoa so we could heave to. A friendly wind cat Eden Rose kept station with us and could not tow us to Fish Dock as they were too wide, but offered to tow us to Victoria Dock. We could have sailed to anchorage like spurn point. But no guarantee I could fix the engine at anchor.  The CG called Clethorpes Inshore life boat who came very quickly. We sailed closer to the lock then they towed us in to moor on the fuelling jetty at HCA. A nice piece of towing with a small inflatable and a 40hp outboard. Once there the problem was found to be a fuel blockage in the primary filter (as well as the burnt out cable on the starter)
The crew of the Cleethorpes RNLI D-class lifeboat James Burgess II

Saturday, 1 July 2017


Our Simpson Lawrence  Horizon 1500 anchor windlass has been a pain since I got Tui. It has an annoying habit of letting the anchor go when its part way up. I had it serviced before leaving Conwy but that seemed to make it worse.  Richard at Kildale Marine in Hull was tremendously helpful. I thought I would need a new one. "No" he said "Built like s brick shit house. You should just fix it". He and Chris looked up an original manual and explained the exploded diagram. First they explained some twit had greased the conical clutch...and how to degrease it. I tested it with a bucket of water on the anchor chain as a load as Chris suggested. It slipped still so they explained how to get the ratchet palls. These were stuck I just needed to free them and oil them lightly. Works fine now.