Monday, July 1, 2019

Tinypilot Installed and Working

Sean's Tinypilot is installed and steered from Okinawa, Japan to Southern Taiwan. I had a number of issues wit the rest of my navigation setup, but the tinypilot steered all the way.

My new Octopus hydraulic steering pump
 I mounted the steering pump on the aft bulhead of the engine room below the water-lift muffler. There was a by-pass valve above. I replaced it with the new hoses. The 3rd hose is the vent and runs up to the wheel steering pump in the binnacle. The power wires run to a 30 Amp fuse on the forward bulkhead of the engine room. The control wires run through the bulkhead to the motor controller on the other side, in the dry, clean area.

Sean's large motor controller
The large motor controller mounted on the outside of the aft bulkhead of the engine room where there is little chance of getting splashed with salt water or worse. On the bottom are the 12volt power wires coming in and the 2 wires to the motor. On the top the serial control cable up to the tinypilot in the cockpit. I had to extend the serial line to about 6 meters. The other wire is the home-brew rudder position sensor under the aft berth next to the rudder post.

Rudder position indicator before installation
The rudder position indicator is just a precision potentiometer tied to the rudder post. The pot is wired as a voltage divider across 5 volts giving an output ranging from 0.1 to 1.1v a 10k pot is probably best. My 5k pot needed resistors added to each side to get the range set.

Keyboard and mouse for OpenCPN and Tinypilot
The tinypilot is double sticky taped in position on the front of the dodger. The serial cable and a USB power supply. I intend to add wire clips screwed to the hatch frame, but haven't finished yet.

Tinypilot and it's remote
 A closer view of the tinypilot display and the Raspberry Pi Zero W under neath. It is currently running in the Access Point (AP) mode. So it needs to listen for UDP broadcast packets and forward the GPS and AIS data to the opencpn computer mounted above.

Opencpn and my Garmin 152H GPS

Opencpn and my Garmin 152H GPS are mounted at the top of the dodger enclosure. I thought they would be safe from wave splashes there. They are, but they white paint reflects a lot of light making them difficult to read in the daytime.

Normally opencn runs on an Orange Pi PC 2, an H5 cpu quad core 64bit ARM chip. But it's SD card memory is failing so I have backup Orange Pi PC Plus, (32bit) and also a Raspberry Pi 3B+ that is new.

In the past I've only run opencpn standalone. But with the Tinypilot I am trying openplotter on the RPI, but I don't have an evaluation of it yet.

Monday, June 10, 2019

We have put the boat up for sale. 19 years of a pretend autopilot, and just now I have ordered parts for a real autopilot! Why did I wait so long?

We have hydraulic steering, which made it difficult to choose a servo-pendulum wind vane for steering, but we did choose a Cape Horn. I put a small tiller pilot on the wind sensor for the Cape Horn and let it be the autopilot. It worked ok for most wind conditions across the Pacific, but that was mostly downwind. It does not steer well if the wind is forward of the beam. Also the little tiller pilots only lasted about 15,000 miles each. That means the current one (the third) is due for failure any time now. Also it was very difficult to set and to disengage. Trinda couldn't manage it. One had to get on course, steer straight then tighten 2 ropes to the wind vane, and pull a cable like a manual choke that disengages the wheel, then activate the tiller pilot.

Therefore, I ordered an electric hydraulic steering pump from the the folks that manufacture most of the pumps for the brands of commercial autopilots. It is the Octopus 2.0 liter/minute 12volt pump.And a few other parts for the boat, like shackles and T-bolts, zincs and a new Mic for the radio.

I ordered a new, custom autopilot control system from It has 2 major components, a course computer and a motor controller. The course computer is based on the small ARM computer boards that I have been playing with recently. It has a totally electronic 9-axis inertia motion sensor instead of the old flux-gate type of electronic compass that were so picky about placement. It can be easily integrated with opencpn, my favorite choice for navigation software.

A big reason for choosing pypilot is, since the boat is for sale and most new owners are very choosy about the brand of instruments, pypilot gets me equal or better features, possibilities for enhancement and does not make the choice of integrated system vendor for any potential buyer. It was also very inexpensive compared to the brand name stuff.

Large motor controller

Course computer consists of keypad,remote, display and IMU and Raspberry Pi Zero W

The pump is heavy duty and draws 6 to 8 amps normally but as much as 22 under stress. That meant I must use the large motor controller from pypilot.

The small motor controller is good for up to 3 amps. Several folks are using an old car windshield wiper motor with it's reduction gear to make their own wheel pilots and tiller pilots. If I can find such a motor I may try for a wheel pilot also. It might use less power when sailing in nice conditions. The small motor controller is in a case like the course computer will be in, only 1.5x2x3 inches.

The next problem was finding a hydraulic supply for the hoses and connectors to install the pump. Having no Japanese didn't help, but I did find one, "Only a 20 minute walk.", says Google maps! They must be young kids!

I did get it installed. The course computer needs to know the position of the rudder to keep from trying to turn past the stops and to adjust for currents and in general. I made a custom rudder position indicator from a precision potentiometer.

I hope to give more progress reports as I finish.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

We are getting old!

Sold !
The Katie Lee is for sale!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Miyakojima Visit

It was a short visit in miyMiyakoj. We really only stopped because of the weather. And the only picture I took is not that much, no view.
Me returning with the laundry

We did have a good time. We met a very helpful Mr. Tomari who is chairman of the miyako Yacht Club. He helped us tie up, let me use his washing machine to catch up and laundry and gave us a ride to town. He even threw a BBQ on hisbohis for us. Trinda has had the flu the whole time here so didn't go. Salad, grilled steak, chicken legs and onions. Very nice.

 The yacht club dock is over 2 miles from town with no transportation except taxis.  We tried to get a taxi to the store but a cruise ship came in and reserved all the taxis for the whole day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sailed to Ishigaki

After only 2 years we left Taiwan for Japan. We planned to leave at 7am, but ....

I had started the engine the day before and let it run for 30 minutes to be sure all was ok. But this morning I got no cooling water out of the back! Back to the dock. I thought it might be the impeller in the raw water pump so I took it out to check. About 30 minutes and equivalent bloody scratches and cuts! No problem found. Ok must be the intake hose or through hull valve.

I took off the hose and blew through it. Yes, I was rewarded with a face of cold salt water. I put the hose back to the sea strainer and we took off. Made it to the next dock before it over heated again. Down to look in the engine room. More water in my face. I had not tightened the radiator hose enough. It had slipped off. Easy fix, just put it back and refill the radiator.

Off to catch up with Heinz who had been sailing in circles waiting for us.

Sailing was great the first 8 hours or so. 7.5 to 8 knots by the GPS. We had found the north bound current and a nice breeze on the beam.

But then the wind shifted, the waves got bigger and the current changed. Very slow, uncomfortable trip, hand steering cause the autopilot didn't like the wind angle and bouncing off the walls from the waves.

The engine kept over heating at much above an idle but we made it.

Side tied to Heinz in Ishigaki

I had missed a little when I was putting the engine back together in Taiwan. I used a silicone liquid gasket for the heat exchanger/exhaust manifold and didn't get it on one side enough. It leaked exhaust gas pressure into the radiator. Be so an easy enough fix. I pulled off the flange, cleaned it and re-did it again. Works fine again.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Eating Out in Taiwan

The last few days we have been eating out to much. First at a friend's steak and pizza place, Doju's a couple nights in a row. They are nice kids, Way and Emilie. And several of our friends/acquaintances go there too.
Steak and salad

Then today we went back to the Rock Garden Campground. We had been there several times last year. Nathan makes some nice pizza. Trinda has a J-Boo pizza. Sausage, pepperoni, bacon and ham with lots of cheese. 

Because this is a 4-day weekend they have live bands playing most of the nights. Most of the younger people either rent tents or bring their own and spend the weekend eating, drinking beer and listening to the music. Lots of them also play some instrument.

Also a guy from up island, Hualien, Tw,  brings pulled pork and smoked brisket. We got one each to go, as we are too old to sleep on the ground in a tent. We plan to eat them back home on the boat.

BBQ Brisket on the left and Pulled Pork on the right

On the way back I stopped to take a few pictures of the valley and some dragon fruit plants. They look a lot like cactus.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Katie Lee Gets New Batteries

The house bank of batteries that we bought in the Philippines is failing, so we ordered new 6 volt deep cycle lead acid batteries.

I have not had good luck with batteries. I thought they are supposed to last 5 or 6 years. But I keep having accidents with them. Except this last set. The first one to fail had a shorted cell at only 6 months. A one year warranty replaced it, but then we left the Philippines. No warranty out of the country. At about 14 months 2 more have a shorted cell. Using just using 6 out of the 8 for the past year. Now 2 more have a shorted cell. No accident on this set, they are not good batteries.

Looking back through the log book this is what I found about buying batteries:

May 5, 2006 - ?brand X? - San Carlos, Mx (Tucson, Az) - $65 ea
over discharged several times
Feb 1, 2008 - ?brand X? - Kona, Hawaii - ?? (Had a green label I think)
charger/inverter problems - charged at too high current to much
??? -  US Battery US2200 - (this is what I took out in Johor Bahru)
forgot to fill water as I had stopped using water recovery caps
Mar 5, 2013 - US Battery US2200 - Johor Bahru, My - RM480 ea. -$120 ea
left boat and caretaker put in wrong water
Oct 10, 2016 - Motorlite Golfmaster - Danao, Ph -$100 ea
just defective
Dec 29, 2018 - US Battery US2200 - Hengchun, Tw - NT5468 - $181 ea
I hope they last longer
My battery boxes are under the salon settees, 4 on each side to distribute the weight evenly. After all they weigh around 65 pounds each. Moving 8 batteries out and 8 more in is just less than a 1000 pounds for this old tired body. I haven't got them all up to the edge of the dock yet!

The old batteries in the boxes: Port  and Starboard


Port Settee Starboard Settee

After a week they are doing well.