The whole gang on A-Dock was there and everyone wanted to just sit on the dock and enjoy what could be some of the last great days of our boating season. Our marina was putting on an "OctoberFest" event on Saturday night and everyone was looking forward to it.
Everyone headed up to the big tent at 6 PM, but we elected to have dinner on board instead. Frances cooked fish and one of our favorite vegetable concoctions and we had a fine time. After dinner, yours truly elected to hit the sack and read a book. Frances joined our dock neighbors and had quite a good time dancing, we understand. We also heard that she eventually joined the band to play the bongos.
On Sunday morning, we decided to take a walk up the Yantic River to the falls, also known as "Indian Leap." It's a long walk but the City of Norwich maintains a beautiful walking path along the river and it is well worth doing, especially at this time of year. You can walk north as far as the falls (pictured above). The history of that odd name is described on a sign just as you near the falls. Hopefully, you'll be able to read it here.
We haven't visited the falls in several years but every time we do, we marvel at how beautiful it is, all right within the confines of the City of Norwich.
Our Navigation Table
For some time, we've wanted to augment our marginally effective Standard Horizon chartplotter with computer-based navigation. We have a small Acer Aspire Netbook that we bought several years ago for less than $200 (thanks for Frances for always finding the best deal on anything). It doesn't have a hell of a lot of computing power but is it small and light. Frances has used one with an air card as her home PC on the boat for least two summers without any issues.
The problem was, where would be put a small computer like this on our bridge? Our helm has no room for anything more than what is there now. Even our chartplotter is mounted on the side of the helm on a bracket we made. To mount our radar display, we had to use a helm seat mount. We know it looks odd but it gives us a great view of the radar whether we are standing or seated.
We began to think about making the plywood base under the radar display big enough to also hold the Netbook computer. That would work but it would also be nice if the computer platform was removable. After more than a few measurements and sketches, we designed an extension that would nest against and mount to the 3/4" plywood base under the radar display.
Here's what we came up with: The supports are 1/4" aluminum bar stock that we had on hand. The ends are shaped to fit up against the spider on the radar mount. The table itself is made out of 3/4" plywood and treated with CPES and several coats of black paint. Since had everything in our garage, our cost for this was zero.
We put two 1/4-20 bolts through the bottom of the radar base. The new platform (also 3/4" plywood) is attached to them using two wing nuts.
The Acer Netbook only weights 1 lb. so the new platform handles the weight easily.
We considered adding edges to keep the computer from sliding off but Frances came up with some of that plastic matting that keeps the computer from moving anywhere.
We didn't want to trust the Acer to run on its own battery. It came with a cigarette lighter power cable so we cut that end off and wired it into the boat's DC electrical system. We also added a switch so we could turn that power on and off.
The computer also needed a GPS signal and we used a small USB puck antenna (made in China, unfortunately) that plugs in and is recognized immediately. I think we paid $15 for it. It seems to give us better accuracy than the external marine GPS antenna used by the Standard Horizon chartplotter.
The only drawback to our little GPS puck is that it has a magnet on the back meaning that it has to be kept away from the compass. We slipped it out under our bridge enclosure and it worked perfectly without affecting the compass.
Here's the computer showing us at the marina in Norwich, exactly where we should be.
The software running on the Acer is Polar View from Polar Navy. Google it if you are interested in this type of application or just cruise planning (polarnavy.com). It is far ahead of our Standard Horizon chartplotter and unlike Standard Horizon, it doesn't boot with a message warning me that our charts are outdated and that we need to buy new ones from them. Of course, there's no way to update the charts without getting them on a SIM card from them.
With Polar Navy, you buy the Polar View software (around $50 if I remember correctly) and then from within Polar View, download any and all the charts you need. No extra charges apply for the charts. You even get three seats (installations) so you can plan at home and on your boat.
Polar View knits the charts together perfectly and you can turn on or off as much chart information as you like. Even on the little Acer Netbook, it allows very fast scrolling and changes of scale.
To use this for navigation underway, you load Polar Com, which is included. Polar Com handles the communications between the GPS receiver and the software and it even comes with a neat little dashboard that shows data such as COG, SOG and heading.
Thanks to Jeffery Siegal and his wife Karen from Active Captain for the tip on Polar Navy. Jeff is one of the most knowledgeable marine software developers on the planet and to make it even better, he lives on and runs a trawler with his wife Karen and his two dogs.
We wondered how visible the charts would be in bright sunlight and we tested at several times of day. We could see the charts quite easily although when we were taking pictures, we did get some annoying screen reflections. We don't think that will be a problem when we are underway.