Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Waiting days and free upgrades

A couple of good days for heading north have passed while Kinlinla sits, waiting on engine parts. A couple of other days have passed where we were glad to be in a protected bay and double-tied to a mooring ball. If nothing else, this is a life of contrasts and second guesses. All-in-all, waiting these last couple of days has not been too bad.

When we bought Ye ol' Tartan, the GPS at the helm was a Garmin GPSmap 176. We left it that way while on Lake Carlyle for the simple reason that nothing else was required. No kind of GPS was required. If one couldn’t see where one was going on the lake, it was usually a good idea not to go in the first place.

While at Oak Harbor, struggling to get on our way, we decided that keeping a capable GPS mounted at the helm was a good idea. Since I am not a fan of huge screens perched in places that will distract a helmsperson from watching where they are going, a smallish Garmin  GPS 441 was purchased and installed. The original 176 unit was relocated to the nav station since it seemed only right that the “nav” station actually include some kind of nav system. That turned out to be a good idea as the (also new at the time) Standard Horizon VHF - with self-contained AIS capability - isn't as self-contained as advertised.The 176 was pressed into serious service, providing position information the VHF needed for the AIS to function. All of it working well and good for these last 5+ years.

We occasionally talk about upgrading Kintala’s navigation suite. I would dearly love to have RADAR, forward looking SONAR, an auto pilot that will follow a route, and other button pushing goodies reminiscent of my airplane days. All of it integrated with an information back bone where everything is talking to everything else; a veritable "smart boat" with which to play while watching the miles flow under the keel.

But such simply isn’t in the budget. Bottom paint, barrier coats, ship water pumps, engine water pumps, bilge pumps, heat exchangers, bit for this and bolts for that…any boat will chew threw maintenance dollars at an appalling rate. Ours is no exception. It does little good to upgrade a boat that isn’t capable of moving, so that is where the money goes. Only once did the 176 stumble, needing just a touch of cleaning on the contacts to the power switch to get it going again. Otherwise, that chunk of tech has been stone cold reliable, a valuable and deeply appreciated commodity on the good ship Kintala. But it was also old, with utterly outdated and inaccurate charts, and a monochrome screen ever more difficult to see. Some day we were going to have to bite the bullet and get something better in its place. Right now the focus is to try and keep moving. No upgrades in sight.

Yesterday, someone left a Garmin 535, complete with manual, mount, and wiring harness, all neatly wrapped up and left in the “If you can use it, take it” place. A place common where the cruising tribe tends to congregate. Deb found it first and tossed it in the Ding.

There are few things in life better than a free upgrade. For whoever it was that left the Garmin 535 for anyone that could use it…Thank you! The entire refit took only a couple of hours, 3 butt splices, a bit of heat shrink, a few zip ties, and a short tiptoe though the VHF's system menu to reset the BAUD rate to match that of the new(er) GPS. A software update available for both units from Garmin brought them up to speed.  Free AND easy. It doesn't get any better than that.

The 535 now rests at the helm. Yes, the screen is a little bigger than the old, but still small by modern day standards. The 441 took up residence along side the VHF. It now provides the position information for the AIS as well as duplicating - at the nav station - all of the navigational information available at the helm. The old 176 was honorably retired to the "If you can use it, take it" place.

Now, if only I can get the engine running again, we could be on our way to meet Blowin' In the Wind with style; two working GPS units, two independent iPads with multiple chart options, three computers, and two smart phones. And, should it all come a cropper, the sun always sets in the direction of North America. (For where we are sailing anyway.)

But I would still love me some onboard RADAR.

1 comment:

TJ said...

Just a note, Garmin has an extensive list of software updates. A search for the GPSmap 176 for example, came up with this sight: www8.garmin.com/support/download_details.jsp?id=429. I have no idea what it means or if the 176 is still supported in any way. But it is worth looking into if one is nursing an older GPS unit just because funds from the cruising kitty are needed elsewhere.