Navigation & Communication

GPS
We consider GPS to be on the critical path to operating our boat. Towards that end, we had several independent GPS systems on the boat. Our primary GPS system is our Garmin 4208 chartplotter with radar overlay. Garmin Bluechart g2 charts of the entire U.S. are included on the plotter and we purchased a west coast Canadian charts chip that will be included in the sale.

Chartplotter features:

  • Sunlight visible 8″ screen
  • Aerial photos of marinas (included with the Garmin Bluechart g2 charts)
  • Connected to depth sounder to display water depth
  • Connected to anemometer to display wind speed and direction
  • Connected to autopilot compass to display heading
  • Anchor alarm
  • Plays video (we’ve actually laid out in the cockpit and watched movies on our chartplotter while at anchor)
  • Works with NMEA0183 or NMEA2000
  • Used in connection with Garmin Bluechart Mobile on an iPad (not included), you can swap routes between your iPad and chartplotter (requires an additional wifi adapter not included with the sale)

We also have a backup Furuno GP-30 GPS that we use as our 2nd GPS. When we cruised, we also ran an iPad (not included) using a BadElf GPS puck (not included) as additional layers of navigation redundancy.

Radar
We were warned about the south west coast of Vancouver Island in August. The locals call that month “Fogust”. Every morning, a thick heavy fog lays over Barkley Sound making navigation tricky at best. We’ve had so many times we’ve been grateful to have the radar system we have. Before leaving on our first cruise, we replaced Hello World‘s original radar system with a Garmin 18HD radome. We liked the higher definition returns, the ability to overlay on our chartplotter and the target tracking features of the Garmin radar domes.

We sailed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge (which by the way, if you’ve never sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on your own keel – put that on your bucket list) on our way south to Mexico. The fog was so heavy that the first time we saw the bridge was when we under it. Pucker factor? 6.5. Whatever boat you buy, radar should be on your short list.

Radar features:

  • Radar overlays on top of charts
  • 36NM range
  • Target tracking will track bearing, course, speed and CPA of painted targets and warn of possible collisions
  • Guard zone alarm will sound an alarm when a radar return happens inside a specified distance

Autopilot
We also consider self-steering to be critical path to operating our boat. In fact, I think we’ve said more than once that we love our autopilot only slightly less than oxygen. With two people on the boat, we always have one person on watch when underway. The autopilot allows the on-watch person to handle sails, scan the horizon, navigate, communicate on the radio and pee over the stern rail now and again. Our autopilot is invaluable to keep the on-watch person alert and able to do all the things you need to do to run the boat. The over-sized hydraulic ram will steer in large following seas (we’ve run the autopilot in steep 12 to 15 foot following seas off the west coast of Baja) and the autopilot never struggled to keep the boat on track. The autopilot can steer to a magnetic course or it can steer to a wind angle like a wind vane.

Autopilot features:

  • Simrad AC20 autopilot computer
  • Simrad AP16 autopilot controller mounted at the helm
  • over-sized hydraulic ram mounted to steering quadrant
  • fine-tuned course adjustments (+/- 1 degree)
  • course-grained course adjustments (+/- 10 degrees)
  • steer to wind angle or magnetic course
  • can be connected to the chartplotter so autopilot will automatically follow the currently plotted course (NOTE: we never did this because we don’t like the chartplotter deciding when the boat should turn)

Communications

We rely heavily on our VHF where we’re out cruising. As we are typically cruising in areas where there is no cell signals (that’s actually why we go to those places), VHF becomes our primary way to communicate to friends or other vessels.

For longer range communications, email and weatherfaxes, we rely on our SEA 235 single side band (SSB) radio, SEA 1635 antenna tuner and accompanying Pactor modem. Using Sailmail, the SSB and our Pactor modem, we’ve been able to get emails from family and friends as we’re sailing out on the ocean. The weatherfax saved our bacon on the passage down the west coast of the US, warning us of a gnarly low pressure system forming off Cape Mendocino. We weathered the teeth of that gale sipping beer in a bar across from the Crescent City, CA public marina instead of out in the Pacific bleary-eyed and throwing up over the stern rail.

A caveat about the single side band radio: when we redid our nav desk area, we pulled the SSB and pactor modem out of it’s original mount in order to make room for some other equipment. We intended to build a shelf above the nav desk and re-install the radio. We ran out of time and never got the shelf built so the SSB is not installed in a permanent spot right now. All the wiring is in place, the ground plane is installed, and the starboard backstay is setup with insulators to use as the antenna. The shelf just needs to be built and all the pieces need to be hooked back up and it should be good to go.