Friday, February 8, 2013

Boat show and other lunacy

I spent yesterday at the Vancouver Boat Show.  I’m never sure why I go to boat or RV shows but I always seem to enjoy myself and I always help support the local economy while I’m at them.  Yesterday I came home with 75 boat diapers and a new radio.  I had no intention of buying either when I left the boat in the morning.

The radio actually made pretty good financial sense (or at least as much financial sense as any boat related purchase ever makes).  When we bought Gray Hawk she came equipped with two very current and capable Standard Horizon (Yaesu) radios.  The one in the cabin had a few more capabilities than the one on the flybridge but most of the features on a 2-way radio are window dressing.  What you really need is transmit power and channel scanning, both of which we had at both helms.  In the marine world however there is also something called an MMSI number.  MMSI stands for Maritime Mobile Service Identity.  Its a 9 digit serial number which is unique worldwide to us and our boat.  In the event of an emergency our radio has a big red button which we can push to transmit a distress message which includes our MMSI number.

MMSI radios are not intended to be sold with the vessel and for that reason the MMSI in the radio can only be programmed once.  In theory you can send the radio back to the factory and get it reset so that you can put in a new number but nobody really knows how to do that and it costs a significant portion of the price of a new radio.  I got lucky and was able to reprogram the MMSI on the flybridge but the one in the main cabin would not take our number so we have been running with George’s number for over 2 years now.  That has always bothered me but never rose to the level of “I need to get that fixed today” so it just continued to bug me. 

Yesterday I saw a clearance radio at the boat show that was virtually identical to the radio we had in the cabin – same radio, newer model.  They only wanted $110 for it and it was brand new so I bought it.  I reasoned that it would cost me $50 or $75 at least to get George’s old MMSI erased.  I figure I can likely sell my old radio for roughly that much so when I’m all done I may not be much out of pocket and I have a properly setup radio complete with my MMSI.  Because it was a Standard Horizon radio that I was taking out to replace with a Standard Horizon radio the swap went very quickly last night and the new one is now installed and working.  At the same time I also hooked up a feed wire from the autopilot so our radio now knows where we are at all times.  That means that in the event of an emergency not only will it transmit our MMSI number but it will also send out our GPS location.  Even $110 seems like a small price to pay for that level of assurance and I think when I’m all done the actual cost will be $50 or less.

I didn’t buy the $6000++ fancy dancy fuel cell generator.  I hope nobody else was stupid enough to buy it but I suppose there is no end to the supply of fools and green fools are as ubiquitous as seagulls out here.  If you can imagine, this outfit is selling 65 watt fuel cells that don’t even run on any normal fuel.  If you were stupid enough to install one you would then need to carry jugs of methanol onboard.  I’m sure you can pick that up at ………. somewhere.  You’d have to carry a lot because even assuming you could find it here in the heart of greendom, I’m sure it is less available as you get further away from British Columbiafornia.  You’d need a lot of fuel because the thing puts out ……………… wait for it …………………… a whopping 65 watts.  Just for reference the power brick that is running my laptop right now puts out 65 watts too.  I listened to the fool selling the fuel cell for a while but I didn’t bother arguing with him when he claimed that his 65 watt generator would let me live my life sans generator.  I think I’ll stick with my 6500 watt generator (that happily sips diesel fuel that I have onboard anyway).

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