At one time I would not put a wind generator on Malua but with the technological advances in blade design the noise that the new ones make is quite acceptable so it is now time to install a modern designed wind generator – more on that later.
One item that was missing on the original list is an AIS (Automatic Identification System) Transponder. It has taken a number of years for the technology to mature and the airwaves to be cleared of non-AIS traffic but today there are a number of units that reach my look-at list.
The requirements are simple: a stand alone unit – not connected to a computer (if the computer does not work your AIS wont help you and having seen too many blue screens of death I wont depend on a windows PC).
The second is a transponder. It is all very well to see another vessel but why not put the obligation on them to take action to avoid you. If you don't transmit your position then it is all up to you. Remember COLREGS Rule 5 …..proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means. The last phrase is the key one. Therefore the AIS must broadcast your position and course.
The third criteria was low power usage because it will be on all the time while making a ocean crossing and one doesn't want to drain the battery just for the unit to wait for a passing ship.
The fourth was the features which had to include all the normal CPA (Closest Point of Approach) etc. but more importantly if the vessel will pass ahead or astern of you if you maintain your course. This element is missing in many brands of AIS – why I don't know.
Having studied the market and followed the blogs and discussion groups it came down to two units: the Simrad A150 because all the other electronic equipment on Malua is Simrad. However I rejected this unit because it was 1st generation and their service record for old equipment is very poor.
The display is simple to read and indicates if a vessel will come within your target range. It has an option of excluding a vessel which may be accompanying you on the same path and you don't want it to set off an alarm all the time. This is an issue in a rally and especially annoying with most radars.
It captures weather reports and can send a AIS Mayday message from the transponder which will supplement the DSC distress message. Hope I never have to use this or even receive one.
I also like the USB and RS323 port outputs so you can integrate the system into my current chart plotter or computer tracking systems. I have added a loud alarm which should wake the dead.
I purchased a stand alone GPS receiver unit and an additional ¼ wave length antenna so it will not directly interfere with the other VHF antennas transmissions. Both units will be mounted next to the solar panels on the aft structure.
Now all that is required is Malua and some water.
I installed the device and attached the GPS to the stern stainless steel structure - it also hold the two solar panels. The metal of the GPS is grounded to the stainless steel.
After using the Watchmate three times it would not switch on. Removing it from the bulkhead I could see that a component in the Watchmate had burnt out.
I contacted the Oz agent who put me in touch with the designer who after a few questions analysed the problem. It seems that the GPS should be totally stand alone with no contact with the ships negative. The exchange of emails with Vespermarine was the most impressive service I have ever received from any supplier. Immediate, direct and with the knowledge of their product and how it works on a vessel. They have dispatched a new unit for me and will wait to take mine apart when it finds it's way out of the French postal system - now there is a story.