Day 18 Pleasant sailing .... and radio talk about RF noise

Friday 12th November 2010

Another lovely day's sailing in settled weather - the kind of sailing everyone dreams about! Good wind, sunshine, small, fluffy, lined-up,'Trade wind' clouds - turning pinky-grey against a vivid blue sky as the sun began to set. Surfing downwind again, as occasional bigger swell came along - but not quite so much as yesterday since swell size down somewhat.

Under poled-out genoa for most of day until genoa was taken off pole and brought over to starboard just before sunset - the wind had veered enough to bring us closer to a beam reach so the genoa was being backed occasionally. I left the pole in place, ready for expected use again over the next few days - we're likely to be on port tack for quite a time.

I spent quite a time both over the day and this evening, simply standing in the companionway, gazing around, relaxing and enjoying the view - it felt so very good - sailing in the sunshine of daytime or under the stars and moonshine (nearly half moon tonight) of this evening.

This afternoon, I checked in as usual around 3pm PST with the US Maritime Mobile Net on 14.300 MHz. The Net Control couldn't copy me too well, so Art, K7WAH, acted as relay, as he often has. The other station who has relayed several times is Rex, KC5AGO. The Net is open 24 hrs a day and can be contacted at any time - there's always someone listening out, willing to help in an emergency, on either the Atlantic or Pacific side. At 3.30pm PST, I went to 14.305 MHz for a 'Nereida' Net - suggested by Dave, KF7HDA, of the Great Northern Boaters Net, so that I could chat to anyone who wanted to contact me. In fact, several people came on frequency and the discussion ended up being centred on radio noise. I'd hoped to have resolved all my RF noise problems with major radio re-wiring and use of ferrites, and with a noise suppressor put in place beside the autopilot hydraulic pump motor, while in Port Townsend over September/October - but not so.

George, WA6RIK, (who is very involved with the Pacific Seafarers Net) arranged for Gordon West, WV6NOA, to come on frequency to discuss a similar problem on another boat he'd been asked to help with (Gordon is a well-known Ham radio specialist). The conclusion seemed to be that the Raymarine course computer, which is connected to all the instruments and controls the autopilot, was the source of the problem. It seems frequently (i.e. on lots of boats!) to be giving out RF noise which normal methods of dealing with fail to overcome - a problem with the central processor and its associated circuitry, it seems. Modern electronics are so complicated these days that resolving problems like this is no longer so straightforward and it needs the manufacturer to sort the problem out at source with the design of their electronics. I'll be asking for their comments and advice, since for the noise to be generated specifically at 14.300 MHz, which is a safety/emergency frequency, is most unfortunate, to say the least!

Propagation was again good later in the evening for my check-in at 0330 UTC (1930 PST) with the Pacific Seafarers Net, again on 14.300 MHz - with windsteering in use and instruments turned off, I had no problem at all talking to people in New Zealand and in Australia, as well as in the USA.

We're at 25N, 123W - just over 600 mls W of Bahia Magdalena in the Baja peninsula of Mexico - a place to where whales migrate to calve each year and from where I had a spectacular dawn exit after a night at anchor early in 2005 - being surrounded by whales in all directions - an amazing sight and one of those special memories!

Written by : Mike

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