July/August 2010 Sailing Trip — Day 19

More work on the electronics today. (I’m beginning to understand why our buddy and caretaker Earle cautioned us about too many toys…they break and have to be fixed.)

I checked on the Raymarine site and discovered a new response. Most of it reiterated things for me to check. One thing they said, though, was to remind me that the SeatalkHS cable *must* be a Raymarine cable, not an ordinary Cat5e cable…and the Ethernet cable I carry around is, of course, an ordinary Cat5e cable.

So Barbara and I opened up the NavPod at the helm, removed the E80, and brought it down below to the nav station, where we removed the E120 and replaced it with the E80. Lo and behold…the E80 worked perfectly. That cinched it — the problem had to be the cable. So, off to West Marine to buy a new SeatalkHS cable of an appropriate length; after visiting three West Marine stores and feeling the pain of $140 plus taxes, we got back to the boat with a brand new Seatalk HS cable, installed it, and everything works now!

I have to acknowledge the rapidity and thoroughness of the help that Raymarine has given me on this issue (and earlier ones as well). Maybe the computer industry (in which I work) has trained me to have very low expectations of service people, but Raymarine has really done well by me.

Another problem I’m dealing with is that our autopilot compass seemingly cannot be aligned properly. If I get it aligned at, say, a 0° heading, it’s no longer aligned when my ship’s compass indicated, say, 120º, 180º, etc. I haven’t been able to determine a pattern (e.g., always off to the north, always off to starboard). I filed a request for help with Raymarine shortly after my last trip to the boat, where I’d tried very hard to get this problem sorted out. I’m not completely positive, but it seems to me that the problem started some time last year when I installed a Raymarine Smart Heading Sensor to augment the autopilot’s other input data. (The SHS should give rate-of-turn information to the autopilot as well as much faster updates of actual heading, thus allowing the autopilot to operate more smoothly and wander around less.)

Raymarine’s response to the problem was to give me a very thorough list of steps to take, mostly rewiring the connections between various components. Their response said that they think my current fluxgate compass isn’t providing correct information and they told me that the autopilot and the SHS have to have independent compass input (why, they didn’t say), so they sent me (without charge!!) two new fluxgate compasses for me to use during the rewiring.

I’d intended to do all that on this trip, but I decided to do something a bit simpler first — take the SHS out of the system entirely to see if the problem would resolve itself. That took a couple of hours (and that was the simple alternative!). I guess we’ll go through the steps to realign the fluxgate compass the next time we go sailing.

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