December 11, 2016

End of year upgrades for the boat... [OR: All I want for Christmas...]

Updated 4-Apr-2017

Donna laments that it seems like the boat is getting all the gifts this holiday season... 

Perhaps she is right... We will soon find out...

As a prelude to this post, I'm reminded of the PS: from our Prologue page written long ago:[... 2014 seems like long ago; as boat-years go anyway...]
Some of our posts are about products and/or services we opt to use or jettison in the moment. None of our choices are motivated by anything other than our objective reasoning [and occasionally rationalization and discount pricing...] at the moment of need [or desire...]

This type of post simply represents a synopsis of how and/or why we arrived at a decision to spend [what little remains of...] our money...

We have been laying in wait for deals on our wishlist items, and have done well so far. We may even take advantage of some post Christmas sales, so stay tuned...

So what is the damage so far?

What new boat jewelry have we adorned her with? 

Wha'd she get?! 
Wha'd she get?!

A new charm: 

Spade S180 Anchor [99 lbs]

This has been on our upgrade list for some time to replace our secondary anchor [60# CQR] on the bow, and become the best bower. [Hey, what's another 40 pounds or so around her neck. After all she already has 550 ft of 

Spade had a one day sail the day after Thanksgiving we couldn't ignore... [25% off and free shipping in the 'lower 48' as we say in Alaska...] Donna's son will be bringing it when he flies up with his family right after Christmas. [What stories he will have to tell...  'Yes, we are spending the holidays with Mom... But boy does she sport some heavy baggage- especially around the holidays...']

Update 4-Jan-2017: This anchor is now installed and in use...

No gift season is complete without at least one appliance: 

[It is difficult not to violate our longstanding agreement that appliances are not gifts when living on a boat...]

Sailrite Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PREMIUM Walking Foot Sewing Machine

Donna now has two Sailrite machines... 


Well, its a temporary state I assure you...  She wanted some upgrades to her existing machine, and with a limited time special from the manufacturer, we were able to purchase a new machine bundle [with table] for about the price of the upgrades to the existing machine... if we sell her original, very low hour machine...

We learned some dear friends have been looking for one, so the outcome is a good deal for everyone.  [Thank you John and Artha!]

We should get some photos of Donna on the dock working two machines before we are back down to one...

Of course, this is more evidence that Donna sports some heavy baggage... Yup, enter faithful son again...

Anything else?

Why, yes... A little electronic love...

A new EPIRB w/ GPS. I was hoping to find one with AIS as well, but while they exist, they are still awaiting FCC approval, so we have to wait a while longer before a US version is available... 

Why a new EPIRB? The usual reason: the old one's batteries expired this year, and the new one only cost about 30% more than it would cost to have the batteries replaced in the retiring EPIRB... 

And the new one has batteries that are certified for 10 years; twice that of most EPIRBS...[Next year we need to also buy a special class of EPIRB rated for colder waters... I have my sights on a meander up the Northwest Passage... I'm hoping to hold out for one which includes AIS as well... ]

We will keep the old one around as a back-up for a few years based upon a battery test I did a while back on a very expired model...  [And we each have a PLB, and a 3rd PLB is vacuum packed in with the life raft...] 

Ocean Signal EPIRB1

This new unit is much smaller than the old one....

...Especially when you compare their mounting brackets...

I guess our guests will have to find something else to bang their heads on now...

What else?

We each carry a DSC VHF Radio on our PFDs... They are emergency radios. 
"Uh, Denali Rose, have you noticed you are one crew lighter?  Please don't let someone else eat my lunch..."  
or the TWEEDLE-TWEEDLE-TWEEDLE... of the electronic DSC hail alarm built into all DSC radios...
The portable radios are in addition to our Person Over Board [POB] AIS beacons, and our PLBs- all of which we have had for ~3 years as of this writing...  
Side note: If we were buying POB AIS devices today, this is the unit we would get because in addition to broadcasting an AIS POB alert, it also has manual DSC POB signaling capability.
Side note to the side note...  Recent firmware upgrades allow us to program our Vesper AIS Transceiver [Watchmate 850] to use the external [i.e., wake the dead] alarm for only specific AIS alarm types. This is compared to it squawking for any AIS alarms as in the past. 
We now have the Vesper programed to use that screeching alarm only in the event of POB and Emergency AIS broadcasts. Perfect. We no longer need to remember to activate that supplemental siren when needed... 
Our requirements for the handheld VHF radios we carry on our person include GPS, DSC, must be truly waterproof [at least IPX8], float/alert when in the water [e.g., turn on, sound an alarm and/or flash a light, etc.], large screen and easy to see display, easy to use, has back-up alkaline battery tray, etc. 

We are trying to standardize models since they all have a learning curve... [not to mention different batteries and charging docks...]

Two years ago, the ICOM M92D seemed a good choice. But... the screen and fonts are too small to see with our unaided eyes- something that doesn't work well when we are in the water or other conditions when we cannot wear our glasses... ICOM remedied that with the M93D model, but boy are they proud of those... [...and we less so of ICOM, read on...]

Enter the Standard Horizon HX870. It meets all our criteria including a nice extra of having an alkaline battery pack for emergencies when you cannot recharge the lithium battery it comes with. [But at the cost of only 1 watt of transmit power, vs. 6 watts with the lithium battery...]  

You guessed it; on sale and with a $40 rebate, we got one... So far I like it better than the ICOM M92D [And the HX870 is a true Class D DSC radio, unlike the ICOM M92D- EVEN THOUGH ICOM MISLEAD US INTO PURCHASING ONE BY ADVERTISING IT AS A CLASS D INITIALLY... Shame and blame on ICOM...]

Standard Horizon HX870 VHF Radio

So what's not to like- especially when we bought two of these [on sale and with the rebate] for the cost of one ICOM M93D... No contest. Same features, quality, and size...

But wait; there are more electronics...

We use a satellite phone for voice, text, and email communications when we don't have cellular or WiFi access. Our Iridium Extreme phone [model 9575] is very stoutly built, but obviously not designed by Apple... The bases you must plug into it to attach the external antenna and USB cable to the computer are flimsy- but at least they are expensive to replace... 

And there is no convenient way to secure the phone and cables without procuring a dock. Well, until recently the docks have cost almost as much as the phone... [$US900+] So needless to say, we have gotten by using RAM mounts of various types... until now...

The Australian manufacturer of Iridium docks, Beam Communications,  also makes a 'lite' version for the more affordable price of about 1/3rd to 1/4th the price of the other, more fully featured cousins. [Capabilities we don't need on our boat...]

Beam "LiteDOCK" 9575 Extreme
This dock keeps the phone securely mounted and charged. We can grab the phone from the cradle in a snap to take is with us...

It also ties into the computer, external sat phone antenna, phone charger [12 VDC or 110 VAC] and a GPS puck- which is very important to us. Why? because while the phone has built-in GPS for use with the SOS button, it doesn't receive GPS sat signals well below deck. And I don't know of a way to feed the sat phone GPS data from our other sources already onboard. 

Accurate sat phone GPS position reporting is also important to us because the UUplus email service we use with our sat phone has a feature to automatically add your location to emails you send. Those were off 5-10 miles using the phone below deck. Now our automated position reports will be more accurate with the external GPS puck in place.  [Note: We know of no way to use GPS data already available on our N2k network with the Iridium Extreme... Please leave a comment if you do...]

What else could we possibly give her this holiday season?

Well, she likes to accessorize, so we got her a few...

First- because conditions aren't always conducive to easy parallel parking- we got her something that helps... A lot:

The E-Z Docker [No, it doesn't dock the boat for you...]

It is really well made and even fits the mega sized bull-rails we have on our main docks. Excellent!  No more having to put amidships within a foot or so of the dock in windy conditions [or cross-currents...] to step off and land the boat... 

I can see Donna twirling the E-Z Docker over her head like a lasso... 

Good thing I usually handle the dock lines... 

And perhaps it might also be useful for snatching weakened swimmers from the water...

No cleats? How do you tie to bull rails? There are many ways. 

We usually just fix a line to a cleat on deck, go under the bull rail and back to the boat.

That way we can slip our lines from the boat by undoing the last end made fast and tossing it on the dock. Pulling the other end pulls it all under the bull rail without friction... If we had originally gone over the top of the rail and back to the boat, tossing that line on the dock would leave a wrap on the bull rail, making it difficult to retrieve the line from the boat deck...

We also see a lot of people use something like a Douglass Hitch:

What if there are willing line handlers on the dock? We toss them a breast line [and only a midship line...] That way they can't pull the bow or stern in more than we need as we finish maneuvering... Once the breast line is secured [under the bull-rail and back to the boat] we secure bow and stern lines. After that we replace the breast line with spring lines. And if we expect weather, or will be leaving the boat unattended for any period, all lines are doubled-up...

We were running out of gift ideas by this point... But since our boat is also into muscle [a fetish we cannot always satisfy] we decided to look for bionic winch handles and found her a rechargeable deck gorilla; The Ultimate Cranker

Ultimate Cranker

This makes all of our winches electric, and is a back-up if our windlass ever goes on strike... [Our windlass has a kedging socket on top that achieves over 10,000 lbs pull with a winch handle.... I think we can pull the boat up a tree with the Cranker in the kedging socket of the windlass- let alone a crew member in a bosuns chair from a halyard winch. [

The Ultimate Cranker [AKA Arm Breaker...] is a very heavy duty drill motor [1081 inch-pounds of torque; for perspective that is 90 foot-pounds. Can you grind on your wench consistently with 90 lbs of force?] In place of the chuck is a stainless steel Cranker bit:

But wait; haven't I seen another device dedicated to grinding winches? 

Yes, for about 50% more money you get dedicated purpose device with about 10% less power, no drill chuck, and built-in batteries so you cannot have spares ready to go... ["Do you mind sitting halfway up the mast for a few hours while I recharge the unit...?"] 

Since the Ultimate Cranker still comes with the original drill motor chuck, you can use it to drill holes in things too! [Like the boat...]

What about inside the boat?

Well, we are spending some time at the dock this winter working on some projects... [between boating junkets] Therefore we are also concentrating on the galley. 

We have a nice Force 10 propane stove, broiler and oven combo, and a table top, one burner butane stove for back-up. We also have a 10kw generator we run as needed, so I bought an induction cooktop and cookware to go with it. We will use it almost exclusively while at the dock, and, when out cruising, we can use it as back-up to the propane stove when our generator is running.

Wow, is this thing sweet! We had a very nice ceramic top electric range in our home, but this heats up induction compatible cookware [more below...] almost instantly, and has precision temperature control. Talk about searing proteins! This thing is hot and fast. And cooking temperatures change as fast as you can press the buttons- like with a gas stove... [I'm sure those of you with induction cooking experience are getting a good chuckle out of this...]

When cooking on the propane stove I usually do prep work as I'm doing preliminary cooking. [e.g., browning onions, etc.] This thing is so quick and efficient I have not time to do anything else while, for instance, browning onions, because they are done in a couple of minutes...

To have a place for the induction cooktop, I closed the top cover of the propane stove. [It matches the rest of the countertop...] This keeps the cooking in the same place, and under the galley ventilation hatch.

NuWave™ Pro 1800-Watt Next-Generation Induction Cook Station

...and my very well traveled tea kettle from my very first boat in the early 70s...

And speaking of induction compatible cookware, [i.e., magnetic bottoms- including some stainless steel, like my umpteen year old teapot in the photo above...] when we bought our Magma nesting cookware ~3 years ago, we didn't buy the induction ready set. [In fact, it may not have been available then...] The Magma cookware is excellent, heavy duty, and nests very well. [Always a trade-off...]

Backtrack to our 2 week trip from Fairbanks to Wrangell in our camper this fall where were were wishing we had a better cook set in the camper... [This after I melted the excellent straining lids by cooking things that didn't require water... Enough said...]

So I went and bought another Magma nesting cookware set- this one induction compatible and with ceramic non-stick. 

And since I needed a good omelette and sauté pan, [and since Denali Rose likes to accessorize...] I completed the set with two needed additions that also nest into the main set:

Magma Gourmet Nesting Stainless Steel Induction Sauté/Omelette Pan with Ceramica Non-Stick

...and last but not least; the Magma Colander...

Oh yeah, my 25 year old pressure cooker was showing its age, so I upgraded that to a modern design [i.e., not a jiggle-top...] and induction capable as well:

Fagor Futuro 6 Quart Pressure Cooker 
Fagor also makes 4 and 10 qt versions, as well as an intriguing set with 2 pots; 4 and 6 qt pots, 1 pressure and 1 glass lid.

I have used this cooker several times now on the induction cook top, and boy does it take the care and fuss out of cooking with a jiggle top pressure cooker on a gas stove. [Soups, roasts, curries, corned beast, bread, deserts, etc.] I have had Lorna Sass' pressure cooker books for ages, and just keep buying the updated volumes every few years. You can't go wrong with her recipes and pressure cooking tips as starting points...

Did you remember to get her some stocking stuffers?

Of course!

Mostly upgraded LED bulbs for various outside lights- including navigation fixtures. We also got her some bling for her cabins; more LED light strips for hidden, direct lighting in obscure areas. 

There are also a couple of [what are hoped to be] surprises, but in case she reads this post, those will have to wait for a follow-up.

There must be runners-up?

Now that you mention it... Still on the list, but awaiting more research and deals good enough to entice action, are the following notables:
  • ATN BinoX 4-16 Smart Binocular [The jury is still out, but the concept is intriguing...]
  • Zeus2 9 or 12 inch MFD to supplement our ZeusT8 [Shipped 4-Apr-2017]
  • B&G/Navico Forward Scanning Sonar [Shipped 4-Apr-2017; to be installed during haul-out mid Apr-2017]
  • B&G Wind, depth, etc. instruments and displays [Shipped 4-Apr-2017]
  • Etc... Etc... Etc...
Now we don't have to think twice if asked, "Whats in your wallet?..." 

Update 4-Apr-2017: 
Following are some of those follow-up posts about those gift items that were not included in this original posting...

  • Marriage Saver headsets
  • Zeus2 12 inch MFD to supplement our ZeusT8 [Shipped 4-Apr-2017]
  • B&G/Navico Forward Scanning Sonar [Shipped 4-Apr-2017; to be installed during haul-out mid Apr-2017]
  • B&G Wind, depth, etc. instruments and displays [Shipped 4-Apr-2017]


  1. Wow - you sure know how to treat your boat right! How are you going to fit all of that under the tree :-)

    Donna should have no problem selling her other Sailrite. Used ones get snapped up so fast.

    I think we'd like to see picture of Donna using the EZ Docker as a lasso :-)

    1. Hi Ellen,

      I think we will keep the anchor out of the main cabin- even if it is Christmas...

      You are right about the Sailrite machine; some very close friends spoke up right away when Donna probed on some of her forums. Since they live in Alaska, and will be staying with us on the boat after Christmas, that was a no brainer...

      I'll keep the [telephoto] camera at the ready [and my distance...] in case Donna decides to lasso a bull [rail...]

      Cheers! Bill

  2. An extensive and exciting list! I am afraid to be jealous of that sailrite sewing machine. Mostly because should I ever get one of those, I'd have to use it. And that means I'd have to give up any excuse of NOT being able to sew canvas stuff, which I kind of enjoy not doing. I'm really on the fence about all of that. Donna does such a good job with her upholstery. Why not come sit next to us in the marina and I'll let her do ours when it needs it? Then there is the little Fagor cooker. I ordered that exact one and I decided to keep it because..wait for it... it was too adorable to return. The shape is stunning, the stainless so high quality. I have used it once. Hmmm. When we move aboard I guess i better get busy learning how to use this and seeing it will actually work for the way I cook, which is minimally and simply. Just ordered my new thermal cooker like yours, too. Except for the sewing machine, Donna and I could be twins.

    1. Haha twins, I've always wanted a sister!

    2. Hi Melissa, A pressure cooker is great for carnivores and those who consume lots of beans and legumes.

      For carnivores, it lets us process cuts of meat we wouldn't normally consider (tough and cheap- like me...) into delectable meals.

      I used a pressure cooker for years and then discovered Lorna Sass' books on the topic. Get her latest and it will be all you ever need. Loaded with hints and techniques, and recipes for wonderful soups, stews, roasts, ribs, bread, deserts, etc...

    3. PS: The thermal cooker is fabulous for a transient lifestyle. It is great when entertaining not to have to be cooking when our guests arrive. I get more visiting time... It takes the effort out of making yoghurt too... [And we make 'cheese' from the yoghurt- it is really just strained yoghurt, not unlike the thickest 'greek' varieties...] This is handy when dairy isn't readily available. Nido powdered milk [which you will find on the store shelves when you get to Mexico...] reconstitutes into palatable milk, and makes great yoghurt as well... Have fun with it!

  3. i just bought the Kindle version of 20th anniversary edition of "Cooking under pressure" by Loma Sass for $0.99 on Amazon. Thanks for reference!


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