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Monday, September 22, 2014


It's possible to come upon an unmanned surface vessel (USV) navigating anywhere in the world. Right now, fifteen student/professor engineering entries from five countries have sixteen foot WAM-V articulating catamarans that they are adding propulsion to for the upcoming Maritime RobotX Challenge in Singapore. There is a foundation dedicated to unmanned motorized water, air and land craft www.auvsifoundation.org. The US Navy is involved in some sponsorship via www.onr.navy.mil . But there is more to USV’s than science projects for University students.

The technology to manufacture unmanned sophisticated USV’s or water drones has existed for some time. It’s not a kids toy notion ... but rather a really useful tool for military and coast guard surveillance and intercept & attack capabilities - without risking human lives. Imagine the applications – patrolling for pirates off Somalia, intercepting unauthorized boats entering coastal waters with contraband, sending a USV into battle to attack specified targets, monitoring the coasts and inland waterways for environmental infractions, gathering research data in the oceans, on water rescue services in conditions that would otherwise endanger human lives ... and the list goes on.

With efficient electric propulsion systems and new battery technology combined with solar charging, moving a water drone long distances from A to B is a peace of cake. The vessels can be built virtually unsinkable and just like some of the new cars, they can know when they risk bumping into something and they have their own radar. GPS auto pilot satellite links can insure navigation to any part of the world including the ability to skirt bad weather systems. Constant downloading of intelligence data can come from both on-board systems and via satellite from remote human operators. Cameras provide a constant 360 degree view of the waterscape around the drone. The trickiest part of the technology is how to water proof a plethora of electronics travelling in variable conditions cruising very close to the water surface or under the water. Salt water, and the requirement for electronics cooling, compounds the problem. Does the whole thing sound far fetched? Experts say it’s already happening on the water and below the water.

Recently Aviation Week published an article on Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) confirming that the underwater drone technology is well established. The LDUUV is large and highly autonomous, carrying out missions at long distances for months. It acts as a mother ship, deploying and operating static and mobile sensors for surveillance in coastal waters. Soon they are likely to be armed. The LDUUV has a large payload making it capable of releasing sensors, communication buoys and smaller USV’s. The Navy’s emphasis is on persistent surveillance “over the horizon” however its most significant impact is in mine warfare, both offensive and defensive. Want more info on Naval drones click HERE

At some point it is not unreasonable to imagine a high speed drone responding to a May Day call targeting by EPIRB, AIS or reported position. So don’t be surprised that in the next five years or so you might be cruising along and you get a “sail past” by a drone checking you out. Kind of spooky isn’t it?

Posted by at 10:54 AM
Edited on: Wednesday, July 06, 2016 10:56 AM

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I came upon this on a boaters forum. “Personal comfort level is the range of differences between camping in a tent and staying in a Class A motor home. Ergonomics is also essential. The buyers must face the reality of their physical constraints as they age. Some boats are a gymnastic challenge to get on and off at different dock configurations or move around to handle lines. … They need to be able to dock and undock solo, without dockside assistance. Aesthetics plays a part but should not dictate folks’ choice of a trawler. Pragmatism ultimately generates a much greater and enduring owner satisfaction.”

Sage advice from someone who has obviously spent so time on boats long distance cruising. The discussion was all about buying off brand manufactured boats and mass produced production boats that were shall we say ... are less than well thought out. If your boat is just a place to sleep at the marina, then it’s sea worthiness and sea friendliness is not all that important. But if you plan to be cruising over the long run, everything changes.

Shortcuts and compromises on a boat only lead to grief for folks spending a lot of time on a boat that is cruising. In fact choosing the wrong boat for a serious cruise can ruin ones interest in boating to the point that exiting the lifestyle becomes attractive to many that simply get feed up with things that don’t work and aren’t the way they are supposed to be on boat. It’s not obvious, especially for novice boaters, how badly and problematic some boats are designed.

The guy who wrote the quote above from the forum is quite right. You are going to be on fixed docks and floating docks when you are cruising and because you will end up in any number of dock elevations ... therefore your boat should have more than one elevation option to enter or exit the boat from the dock. As you get older playing acrobat is out of the question. Do you think at some point you might have to get to the bow in storm to anchor or secure a dock line? – hell yes! So why would you buy a boat that has no easy and safe passage from the helm to the bow. Some boat manufacturers don’t even provide strategic hand holds ... so you are left in a very dangerous situation. What kind of sheer does the boat have from the bow towards the stern and what kind of cockpit drainage - so when the boats taking water over the bow, how quickly does it shed. Flat forward decks are for pontoon boats not for serious cruisers. And what happens when the first mate is ill sometime – can you get the boat back on a dock by yourself if you had to? Are the cleats backed up with plates or just bolted through? Are the rails built with stainless tubing so skinny that the first time someone grabs the rail when you are docking it turns to spaghetti? Can you get reasonable access to the mechanicals for service? Are your thru hulls just gates or ball valves? The list goes on forever. No question cost is factor. Quality costs money. You might be better buying a well maintained ten year old quality built boat with a pedigree, than a two year old boat that will be junk in ten years ... even though they are in the same price range.

There is much to consider but one observation when I walk around marinas is, a very high percentage of boats for sale are compromises. Do you think that might have something to do with the fact they are for sale? Probably in many cases. Either the owner got feed up or he/she has gained the experience to know they should be shopping for a higher quality cruise friendly boat. When you are shopping for a boat take your time, and remember it is not all about space and gizmos. It’s about quality and functionality. It seems to me, the more boats are tarted up by manufacturers for showroom “pop” the less likely they are to be functional. Buyer beware.

Posted by at 12:23 PM

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I think I want to go back to school. Power & Motoryacht University is offering courses to improve seamanship on Saturday 13th. For $150 you get full day courses, continental breakfast. working lunch, cocktail reception and graduation ceremony ... and a free admission to the Newport International Boat Show. Now that’s my kind of University!! Cocktails and graduation all in the same day. Sign me up for the Masters program. Did I mention the campus is the Hyatt Regency in Newport Rhode Island?

Here is the course outline:

9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Getting the Most out of your Electronics for Fishing and Beyond, presented by Navico

Daren Cole, Global Brand Director for Lowrance, will discuss the ins and outs of using such capabilities as photo-like StructureScan images, using the BSM2 Sounder Module to process CHIRP technology sounder signals including reading bottom composition and at-speed depth readings, Trackback sounder-history recording, creating your own charts and sharing them through Insight Genesis, and more.

10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. Yacht Design Insights

Doug Zurn, of Zurn Yacht Design, discusses the challenges of yacht design and how to come up with a design to meet the needs laid out in a design brief. Plus, what you need to know when working with a yacht designer.

10:45 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. Break and meet-and-greet with Power & MotoryachtUniversity sponsors and vendors

11:15 a.m. - 12:00 noon Planning Your Boat's Maintenance Schedule, presented by VesselVanguard

Learn to keep your boat in tip-top condition with the experts from Hinckley Yachts who offer advice on setting up a maintenance schedule covering preseason, midseason, and end-of-season tasks. Presenters will also answer audience troubleshooting questions and offer advice for quick fixes of underway problems.

12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m. Lunch with VesselVanguard

Have lunch and learn about VesselVanguard, a cloud-based maintenance/management program.

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. LED Lighting: Features and Benefits Explained

Mike Moriarty, lighting engineer for IMTRA, will discuss the benefits of LED and share tips and details on refitting with marine LED lighting.

2:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Today's Technology Takes Cruising to the Next Level, presented by Navico

Daren Cole, Global Brand Director for Lowrance, will discuss the capabilities of the latest systems from Navico brands Simrad, Lowrance, and B&G, including powerful charting and sounder capabilities, low-emission 4G Broadband HD radar, and the upcoming ForwardScan forward-looking sonar.

2:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Break and meet-and-greet with Power & MotoryachtUniversity sponsors and vendors

3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Refitting a Dyer 29

Avid boater and small business owner Grant Tankoos has refit three Dyer 29s, the latest being a diesel-powered trunk cabin that he's excited to cruise. He'll take you through the steps in the projects, and share some stories.

3:45 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Marine Weather: Assessing Your Self-Reliant Skills

Lee Chesneau is a senior marine meteorologist with a distinguished and extensive career with the U.S. Navy, the National Weather Service, and as a commercial weather router. He discusses the National Weather Service marine program advisory and warning system, reviews weather maps, and discusses the development of self-reliance weather skills.

4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Refresh, visit with sponsors and vendors

Oh My Lord ... do you think I can pass this course and make something of myself – finally? It’s missing a few courses like ... how to mix cocktails in a rough anchorage and ... how to get female cruisers to shed their bikini tops in the name of equality for all! Seriously though it sounds like a fun weekend doesn’t it?

Posted by at 10:54 AM
Edited on: Wednesday, July 06, 2016 10:55 AM