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Going full blast from Korsfjorden outside Bergen towards Stavanger last week, spinnaker drawing, some ocean swell unsettling us, but with a nice breeze from behind, the fog set in. Woolen as cotton, cold and wet as rain. I could not see more than two or three boat lengths forward into the heavy ferry and ship infested North Sea. As nightfall set inn, I could even see less.

Boy, was I glad I installed the AIS I won last year in the Shetland Race. I didn’t have any positive expectations. In fact I was rather annoyed for having to install two new antennas and another peace of equipment drawing ever more electricity.

The Simrad AIS 150 sender and transponder really made me feel safe. You can spot ships 32 miles away. That is nice. But even better, you are telling them where Salt is, who she is and her call sign, plus our speed and course.

Even ferryboats reacted to our signal. I have never experienced this before. But with the AIS going I am convinced the ferry-skippers really made an effort not to run us down.

I guess the real secret to this is that the AIS will show up on their screens, alarms go off, and a possible collision will enter the professional electronic logs. Running us down will simply look bad on the officers CV and it will be possible to find out what happened. Using their powerful radar’s they knew we where out there in earlier days too. But as a cynic I must say the AIS makes the trick of being seen and avoided so much more easy and convincing as it makes tangible and lasting electronic records of our existence.

It doesn’t draw much electricity either. Even if it did – it sure is nice to know that commercial freighter skippers know where you are and are heading as their tall sharp bows are towering over you.

The Kaskelot depiction takes you topside

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Salt is up dry. It’s cold outside and I have fire in the fireplace to keep comfortable and warm. However, It’s obvious time for planning of a new season. It’s time to look at general improvements and speed enhancing in particular. We will not no.2 forever!

Seilmakeren

This years first race will be the Seilmakeren (named for Seilmaker Iversen in Bergen) – a shorthanded race from Bergen to Stavanger and back. More than 110 yachts are already registered. We where number 93 to register in November – six months before the start! There is a shorthand craze blowing over Norway. I can think of a few arguments why sailors wants to go short-handed. First of all it is annoying to keep calling to get crew while you sail almost as well without the extra hands, but first of all it is regarded as much thougher which makes participation in short hand races stand out among fellow sailors.

Seilmakeren will start early May – which is way too early and might be very cold indeed. In May the North Sea is still cold. At night it is very hard to keep going and stop shivering. And there is no way we will not have to sail hard upwind for half the race. However, we are ready for the other half. A new 110 Sq.meter asymmetric spinnaker is ordered from Westaway Sailmakers in Devon, England. I am going to mount it on a 80 centimeter long pole at deck level to get as much power at shy reaching as possible. However, the main point is to ease the downwind sailing by making jibing and setting of the spinnaker much easier and safer. By the way – we are ready for the upwind part too. Hopefully we can use the Cape Horn going upwind and keep warm by the diesel burner. I mean -if you have to, you do whatever it takes.

Hysterical competitivenessA long rainy and windy season

Another speed enhancing job is to scrub and wet-sand the under-body. Somehow parts of the paint is not as smooth as it is supposed to be. I am also considering sharpening the aft-edge of the rudder to make it slip the water more easily. I might as well sharpen the front of the keel and epoxy the former through-hole for the sounder too. I have no more use for it and it’s probably just braking by making inharmonious curls in the passing water. I know – it’s a little hysterical. But the boat is up and dry, and as stated – I’m not going to stay no.2 forever. Whatever it takes.

1000-mile race

I am considering taking part in the 1000-mile race from Netherlands to Bergen and further to the Shetlands and back. I admit it is easy to dream on while sitting warm and comfortable by the fireplace. But it sure would be cool, and this time it is possible to take part from Newcastle to Bergen, Shetland and back. It is much closer from Stavanger to Newcastle in England, then to go all the way down to the Netherlands. Besides – we did well last year.

All varnished wood that is possible to take of the Salt is home. I have stripped down most of it and I will have it ready for spring. I am also looking at the other sails beside the spinnakers. Is it possible to redo them and make the old Genoa 2 into an overlapping self tacking genoa? And what about the mainsail – could I add much more roach with battens able to cross the backstay? It should be possible…

Adding stuff

And I have to get the AIS working. I won a wonderful AIS receiver and responder at the Shetland Race last year. With the mast down I will be able to add a new VHF-antenna for the AIS. Besides it has its own GPS-antenna. The Tacktic T-150 wireless wind instrument – which worked for 14 days and then closed down – is still not back from repairs. It is unbelievable – but I hope it shows up by spring. How can they do business like this? In sum – lots of stuff added that is not enhancing the speed, just adding up space, weight and new stuff to repair…

Whale with rubber bumperKeel in need of bumper

At last I am considering a rubber bumper for the old whale. A smart Swede has come up with a keel protection device that takes the worst part of grounding away. You can read more about the Keel Pro here. I truly hate grounding. Anything that can help me from ruining a nice day by hitting a submerged rock will be considered.

The rest is just waiting for the ski-season to begin, watching the sun making the days longer and spring closing. Besides sanding varnish in the basement.

The Kaskelot depiction takes you topside

I have to admit it – this has been a good spring-season. And summer has started fine…

Salt became number two in our handicap-group regarding the weekly Wednesday round the can races. Second is not bad when you take into account that we did not attend 3 races. If anyone had taken Salt out one of the missing Wednesdays, we would have won the series.

Two Star

The two-handed race to Shetland – the Visit Shetland Bergen Races – did not go as planned, but worked out fine. On my way to Bergen, the other two-hands (Odd) called in sick. Salt is a lucky ship. New hands turned up in Bergen. Geir-Olav abandoned a Wasa 36 and changed to the Kaskelot. However, Geir-Olav needed to be back in Bergen Sunday to tend to his new career as a non-student. Which meant we had to leave Shetland early.

Anyway, we did well and came in fourth. I am rather proud of that. All the contestants in front of us are far more experienced in short hand ocean racing and just beat us by minutes. The two of us raced the boat well. Just a little bit more will to win, and we would have done even better. I had a low-energy period – listening to the radio and enjoying the sun at the Oseberg platform, instead of trimming and changing sails – and Geir-Olav did not know the capabilities of Salt going hard on a spinnaker-reach.

Practice make good

I don’t know the Cape Horn well enough to use it during racing yet. That is – it’s fast to get it work incredibly well on a hard upwind leg. But it takes to long to set it for a reach or downwind conditions. More correct – to get it to work is fast, but to get it to work properly and fairly accurate one has to trim the boat as neutral as possible – and that takes some time.

However, Cape Horn took the helm at Bressay – just outside Lerwick, Shetland – and kept us going due East with minimal adjustments for 200 miles to Marsteinen, the lighthouse at the inlet to Hardanger and Bergen. Very impressive boat handling and very relaxing – going fast at 6-7 knots in a nice breeze, waves, but non really heavy, with Genoa 2 a few points off hard on the wind.

AIS for free

Finishing fourth is fine – and next year we will do better! Besides – today I received a gift from the race sponsors. I won an AIS-transponder to the tune of 12.000 kroner (2000 Dlrs). Isn’t that something! Just out of the blue I received equipment I never ever would have gotten money to buy as there is always something speed enhancing equipment more necessary than an AIS-transponder.

One long miserable night

Last weekend we took part in the Ryfylke Rundt race. A long miserable night, with heavy rain and rarely any wind. 2007 was the first time for short-hand-racing in this old and traditional race. It’s hard work as we change directions in and out among the islands and the fjords. I am sure I had the spinnaker up at least 7 times and repacked the wet monster as many times. All sorts of sail combinations were tried out until my fingers and hands were all sore and my back broken by all the hoisting. Well – it paid off, we won our class.

The Kaskelot takes you topside

If you are looking for a cheap and simple AIS receiver for your PC chart plotter the NASA AIS Engine might be a good alternative.

I am going to order it and check it out. But as far as I understand from the bloggosphere and Google it seems to do the trick. It receives on both A and B-AIS-channels by switching – simultaneous would have been better, as a ship might sneak up while the NASA engine is busy listening on the other channel. It also seems to work well with the PC-navigators. And the price is more or less 100 – 120 Pounds in the UK.

I talked with the designer and owner of the Norwegian Tiki Navigator, who is certain the software – the navigator with AIS-integration – will be commercial available within march.
This link is a blogger who seems to have tested the NASA AIS Engine as thorough as can be expected. It ia well worth checking out.

This is a link to Practical Boatowner – who looks at radar plotting – that is AIS and Marpa.

The Kaskelot takes you topside

Particularly not when it comes to electronics and navigation. For a while there I thought I could buy a CSB200 Class B AIS Transponder, combine it with Tiki Navigator through an old laptop and using the existing VHF and GPS antenna. By connecting it all I could get a modern AIS system combined with an up to date navigational system – and use my old laptop.

Sounds good?

Too good, of course. I mailed to Dolphin Maritime Software Ltd check out if this would work out nicely. If nothing else, I could at least get the transponder cheaper. However, Dolphin says; “We would advise that the CSB200 really needs both a dedicated VHF antenna and a dedicated GPS antenna.This is because as a Transponder it must synchronise transmissions with other AIS units in the area, using GPS time, so it needs to listen all the time for AIS transmissions.Also you could posibly damage your VHF-radio or your CSB200 if you connect them to the same VHF antenna.”

Pluss, pluss…

Besides – Tiki is not AIS ready yet, and the Dolphin Maritime software to get a good AIS picture on the laptop costs extra 140Gbp. The extra cost of a new external GPS and VHF antenna I don’t know yet.

The good news is

that the total price of the CSB200 Class B AIS Transponder delivered in Norway by Dolphin will be 560Gbp, which amounts to 6720Kr. + vat 25%, a total of 8400Kr. which is still below what I have to pay at Skagerak Maritime.

So much for making it easy!

The Kaskelot depiction takes you topside

Up yours Skagerak-ripoff-guys !

I just talked to Fred W. Jenssen about his Tiki Navigator software. Jenssen is a Norwegian softwareprogrammer, navigator, designer and sole owner of Tiki. I e-mailed him about the possible combination of pc-navigation and AIS. And a couple of days later he called back and said he would incorporate AIS in an updated version of Tiki during spring of 2007. Besides – he thought I could buy an AIS receiver – I am not sure that he ment a combined AIS transponder and receiver – but at least a receiver, for more or less 2000 n.kr.

1/2 price

The complete software from Tiki, chart and GPS-antenna cost less than 2500 n.kr. Even if you add the AIS-receiver – you are far off the AIS transponder and Receiver from Skagerak Marine Electronics AS. In fact the complete sett costs less than half the price of the Skagerak Marine Electronics AS AIS-equipment.

30 years of sailing

Finally something unexpensive and smart for yachts. And I trust Mr. Jenssen, he’s been around sailboats the last 30-years. When he says his Navigator and PC performed nicely through a gale in Biscay aboard his Sweden something yacht, I know it’s more than good enough for me.

I hope you see this blog you Skagerak Marine guys!

The Kaskelot depiction takes you topside

 

Would you believe it? An AIS Class B transponder from Skagerak Marine Electronics AS (Comar Systems in English)costs close to 12.000 kroners ( a little less than 2000 dlrs.) including antenna! That is more or less what I have to pay for a complete small radar.

Why do everybody have to overcharge so much?

A small transponder can’t cost that much to manufacture – not even in Norway.

What?

And what is AIS? AIS is short for Automatic identification systems, which are designed to provide information to other ships with receivers/transponders and to the coast guard – and you if you have one. In short – at sea you can check your chart-plotter or PC and find the name, destination, size, speed, course and other interesting stuff of all larger ships around.

Better deal

If I have to pay a few more kroners for a complete radar, as far as I understand – a radar still has to be a much better deal. The radar is able to warn me of ships coming close, as does the AIS. The radar can’t tell me the name of the ship, but I don’t need to know that to avoid it. Besides, I can use the radar in fog and darkness to feel my way back home.

To compete AIS transponders should be relatively cheap and easy to combine with a computer and chart program. At least they should not cost more than 4-times the price of the best Norwegian chart-program for yachts, complete with GPS antenna and charts.

AIS in Norway

If you are as ignorant of AIS-technology as I am – check out this AIS showcase-connection. It will show you AIS in realtime from Stavanger. You can check out ships with transponders as far a way as south of Eigersund, you can check the ships in Oslofjord and as far north as Haugesund and Kårstø. That is really something!

Yeah – and if you insists on checking out your homeport – check this zite – but it might cost you money after a while.

I you are still thirsty for inforamtion – her’s facts about the AIS from the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Help me out

Does anybody have any experience with AIS transponders?

I’d like to combine an AIS transponder with a PC-chart software – any experience with that?

Come on – help me out! Give me a clue!

The Kaskelot depiction takes you topside

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