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Project Log:  Saturday, October 4, 2014

As close as the boat was to being "complete", whatever that actually means, there was still a long laundry list of woodworking tasks, from the cabin sole to various final bits of trim.  While I was anxious to get going on these, lest they languish longer, it wasn't a good time to make dust in the shop, with a painting project underway in the next bay.  So wood would have to wait.

Choosing a couple straightforward chores on my punch list, I started with the battery switch, which, with its exposed innards in one of the cabinets, required some sort of cover to prevent accidental shorting across the terminals.  From clear acrylic, I made a 6" square panel that more than covered the back of the switch.  Keeping things simple, I secured it over the back of the switch with the same fixing screws used to secure the switch from behind.  Check.


When I purchased the Vetus hatches for the deck long before, one of the small hatches for the saloon had come not only with a broken internal handle, but also missing its top-opening handle (the second one featured this convenience).  At the time, I'd contacted my supplier, who promptly sourced for me a complete new operating works for the damaged hatch.  While I'd immediately replaced the broken interior handle, I'd ignored the top handle till now; it seemed a good time to change out the blank for a top-opening handle to match the starboard side.

This proved to be a simple task, and in only a few minutes the deed was done.


One problem with a long-term project and numerous complicated installations, exacerbated by unplanned delays that stretched completion far beyond what I'd originally anticipated, was that details of certain installations became fuzzy with the passage of time.  And so it was with the electronics suite, basic commissioning of which I tackled next since I thought it would be fun to do, and was also necessary in any event.

When I purchased my system long ago (wow, that was 2011?), I'd set up, in the comfort of my office, the Simrad display and GPS antenna so I could play around a bit with the controls and charts and get used to things.  But that was long ago, and I'd never turned the system on since I'd installed all its various components and networks.  So who knew what surprises might await?  As it turned out, I'd anticipated this, and had made good notations and so forth in my manuals and elsewhere, but I didn't know this till I got into the process.

One thing I knew was that I needed to hook up the radome before powering up the system, thoroughly integrated as all the components were.  The instructions had made this clear, and originally I figured I'd have to wait till the boat was launched and rigged.  But now, I saw no reason why I couldn't temporarily hook up the radome in the shop, which would be the final piece of the puzzle required for a test-firing of the system.

To that end, I unboxed the radome and its network cable, and, after connecting the dome end of the cable, placed the dome atop the pilothouse.  The other end of the cable featured four bare wires and an Ethernet plug, and required some final assembly of the bare wires to a supplied plastic terminal that would later plug into the radar's network interface, which I'd previously installed in the engine room, and to which I'd already led the required network and Ethernet cables from the Simrad system.


I temporarily connected the two plugs to the network interface in the engine room, simply leading the cable through the pilothouse door for now.


As far as I knew, that was all I really needed to do to complete the network.  But before I could power up, I had to complete some wiring that I'd intentionally left disconnected for this very reason:  to prevent powering up before I had all components connected.  During initial wiring stages, I'd left disconnected one wire from the network interface, though I installed the required terminal on its end, and also left out the 5 amp fuse in the common power lead for the whole system.  So in the console behind the service panel, I made these final connections:  a brown wire to the left-hand side of the lowermost terminal on the electronics fuse block, and a new fuse in the holder next door.

Turning on the applicable breakers and the main battery switch, I powered up the system.  Nothing exploded, and generally things seemed more or less OK.  But there were a few little things to deal with.\

Here are a few screen shots showing the most salient features.  I was pleased to find that even inside the shop, the GPS antenna had found enough satellites for a fix.

Left to right:  Chart and position; radar; sounder

Satellite strength display

When I turned the radar from standby to transmit, after several seconds I got a message on screen that read "No Spoke Data", which then changed to "Radar Timeout" or some such, after which the unit went back to standby.  As of this writing, I'd not yet determined was was causing this error.

Turning on the nearby autopilot, which had its own standalone control as well as its integration with the main display unit, I discovered an error message reading "No Autopilot Computer".  At first, I could understand what could be wrong there, and was a little worried about troubleshooting.

Reviewing the manual, I found a notation that I'd highlighted during my original installation of the AC12 autopilot computer.  The system shipped with its fuse disconnected, and featured a built-in polarity indicator to ensure that the power was wired correctly before the fuse was installed.  I'd installed the wires, but without ship's power at the time, had never had the system powered up.  Of course I'd installed this well over a year earlier, so I'd not immediately remembered.

With the power on, I looked in on the AC12.  At the lower left was the fuse, stored temporarily with only one prong attached.  Right next door was the polarity indicator, as well as the polarity warning instructions printed right on the case.  The light glowed green, which meant that the wiring was hooked up correctly.  Since it was hard to see with a flash photo, I took one with no flash to clearly show the green light.


I placed the fuse in its proper and final position.

This corrected the autopilot fault, though there were still several additional initialization steps that would have to wait till later, when I had completed commissioning of the hydraulic steering system.  For now, I was happy enough to see the integrated display on the plotter, seen here in the lower left quadrant.

Other than the vexing radar error, for which I'd likely have to contact Simrad for an explanation, I was pleased with the initial startup sequence.  I played around with the display for a while, getting re-used to the controls and various menus and screens.  I was rather bemused to discover that I kept wanting to touch the screen to make things happen.  In 2011, I'd not yet entered the world of touch-screen phones and computers, never being one of the first to leap at new technology (I got my first smart phone sometime in 2012, long after they'd become well-accepted and commonplace). 

But in the three years hence, screen-touching had obviously become second nature enough for me that I just tried it naturally and without thinking, though the NSE 8 was not a touch screen device, with most of the interface working through the rotary knob at the top right.  Still a good interface--just surprising how one's expectations change with a remarkably short passage of time.

Total Time Today:  3.25 hours

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