GX2200_thumbI installed this radio and had a chance to try it out last week, both in the busy Strait of Juan de Fuca and out to 130 miles offshore.  When I fired it up for the first time it picked up every signal for ten miles.  Wow.  The screen was cluttered with vessel dots.  I turned on the CPA alarm and it went nuts.  A few minutes with the manual and I’d adjusted the filters.  You really need to work out how often you want the alarm to go off.  It’s pretty simple once you’ve done it once or twice.  During the day I set the CPA alarm radius at one mile.  At night in open waters I used the TCPA alarm set to give me plenty of time to get on deck and take a look around.  I imagine this is how most people will use these features; you don’t just set the alarms and them forget them.  Thankully, the screen menus make adjustments pretty simple to do.

The AIS made it easy to see commercial traffic in the Strait, and the heavy fishing traffic in the first forty miles or so off the Washington coast.  In the Strait, two Canadian Navy ships were doing an exercise of some kind near Race Rocks, and they didn’t send a signal.  A U.S. nuclear sub group from Bangor passed me near Dungeness Spit, and none of that contingent sent a signal either.  All the USCG vessels I encountered sent a signal.  The bottom line is that, in busy areas anyway, having an AIS receiver doesn’t mean you can relax your watch.  Not everyone transmits a signal.  They’re not going to let you run into a nuclear sub, but it’s still your job to see them first, transponder signal or not.  The video is of a CPA alarm pointing to a USCG vessel.  It was broad daylight, and I was keeping an active watch, but still I missed it on my visual scans.

I have to admit that the alarm going off all the time drove me nut after a while.  When traffic was the heaviest I sometimes turned  it off and just monitored the screen.  Once I passed Cape Flattery I turned the alarm back on and set it for five miles.  It went off a few times, but otherwise–at least in my little five-mile safe zone–the ocean was a pretty quiet place.

I’m glad I got this set.  It’s pretty easy to use and appears to pick up every AIS signal around.  It cost less than $400.  I left my other VHF in the panel, and each has its own antenna, so I use the new one to monitor channel 16 and AIS signals and the old one to monitor VTS and weather.  That worked out pretty well for me in the high-traffic areas in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

I think the best thing I can say about a piece of gear is that it was easy to install, that it does its job well, and that I didn’t have to think about it again once I’d gotten it configured.  Nice job, Standard Horizon.


April 17, 2014

Shameless plug for Ed Louchard at Zepherwerks in Port  Townsend, WA.  He custom makes all his sheaves on a lathe.  I think they’re reasonably priced, and when you have him rebuild something for you, he doesn’t just pop in new sheaves.  He gets out his calipers and adjusts everything so they spin like crazy.  He’s done four genoa cars, a traveler car, and a backstay adjuster for me.  Now he’s doing four sheaves in my masthead and six in the base.  If you want nice sheaves that don’t wobble or bind, check him out:  www.zephyrwerks.com.


Sheaves. Not the most exciting thing on a boat, but you really want them to work right. Ed’s do.  Check him out.

This is what comes in the box.  Mine doesn't have the external antenna, and it works great.

The Madman AP-WRC2 Wireless Remote.  I bought one without the antenna, and it works great on my 25′ boat.

Why does anyone need an autopilot remote?  Well, my Raymarine ST2000 tiller pilots are controlled by buttons on the drive unit.  Imagine you’re on a spinnaker reach and it’s time to gybe.  The boat is light, so every step you take on deck alters its balance.  The drill on my boat is to get the boat going dead downwind, put it on auto, go forward and move the pole, then go back to the cockpit, put the pilot on standby, complete the gybe, put it back on auto, and trim everything for the new course.  That’s a lot of deck dancing when you’re alone.  With a remote I can gybe from the foredeck.  Now imagine you’re beating toward a mark in a fresh breeze, sitting on the rail to keep the boat as flat as possible, and the wind shifts.  Leaving the rail to go back and adjust the course unbalances the boat, causing it to round up and the keel to stall.  With a remote I don’t have to leave the rail. Okay, now imagine you’re alone at night and you go overboard.  Your tether caught you, but now you’re dragging alongside a rolling hull doing 6 knots, and you can’t get back on.  With a remote I can push the auto-tack buttons and heave the boat to, which may give me better odds of climbing back on.  Lastly, imagine you’re doing a long delivery for a January race in the Pacific Northwest.  There’s little wind and the current is contrary, so you’re motoring, but it’s cold as hell and raining.  Going out to the cockpit just to steer around a kelp bed or a floating log is a PITA.  With a remote you can dodge that obstacle with the push of a button.

Each of these scenarios–except the MOB situation, which I hope not to test until the water’s a little warmer–is a regular fact of life for me, so I began looking at Raymarine’s remotes for the ST2000.  The S100 remote is $415 at Defender.  The fancier Smart Controller, which can repeat certain NMEA data fields, is $565.  Both are wireless and rechargeable.  I don’t know much more about them, though, because I came across a story about Madman Marine’s new wireless remote and got really interested.  People seem to like it.  The price is under $200 with shipping from Australia, and Neil Finlayson, its inventor, is a making a go of this as a small business.  I really like the idea of supporting underdogs, so the Raymarine products quickly faded from my radar.

Madman’s wireless remote provides all the functionality of the Raymarine S100, but sells for less than half, and comes with two fobs which run on batteries.  I don’t usually like rechargeable electronics, so this appealed to me.  I keep spare batteries on the boat for my various hand-held things, and it just seems easier to me to pop in new batteries than to be caught unable to use something because it has to recharge.  I haven’t given this a lot of thought; maybe I shouldn’t, but I have a bias against small rechargeable electronics. Whenever a charger or cradle is involved, I seem to lose it.  Anyway, I checked out Madman, and the product seemed ligit, so I pulled the trigger.

I bought the Madman Remote thinking that if for some reason it didn’t work, at least at didn’t cost a fortune.  Shipping was quick, even from Australia to Washington State.  I received nice e-mails from Neil inquiring whether I’d received it, and asking for feedback.  He really seems to care that his customers are happy, which is a nice change from some suppliers.  The bottom line is that it works just as advertised.  It’s simple to install–even for me–and it works just as it’s supposed to.  I have about 150 miles on mine now, and the only problem I’ve had is that I think two of the batteries I put in one of the fobs were DOA.  I put that fob in my toolbox and use the other one, but I’m going to replace those batteries and buy a couple of extra fobs anyway.  They’re relatively inexpensive, and I just can’t see not having spares.

When I said installation was simple, I didn’t mean it was easy.  It’s simple because you have one cable with three leads: two for power and one for NMEA data.  The problem for me was Raymarine’s connector.  Neil’s instructions are crystal clear but that connector is a bitch to work with if you have fat fingers, like I do.  It has metal contact barrels on the back.  You insert your wire and hold it in with a tiny–and I mean TINY–set screw.  Maybe you’re better at this than I am, but I think Raymarine should design a connector with real screws so you can attach everything with ring connectors.  You know what?  Nevermind, Raymarine.  I have a spare connector, so I’m going to do it myself and solder all the connections.  My current installation is protected with all kinds of strain relief, but I don’t want to fall off of a wave someday and have the impact knock one of those wires loose.

This is the Raymarine connector.  Those contacts are TINY!  I'm guessing they're about 4mm deep.  Doesn't seem very secure to me.  I lost two set screws before I have the whole thing properly installed.

This is the Raymarine connector. These contacts are TINY! I’m guessing they’re about 4mm deep. Doesn’t seem very secure to me, so I’m going to come up with something better. I lost two set screws before I had the whole thing properly installed.

Okay, back to the Madman Marine AP-WRC2 Wireless Autopilot Remote.  It seems like a solid unit.  The wireless connection is perfect on my boat.  Neil Finlayson seems like a good guy.  I’ve use it now for about 150 miles, and it does everything it’s supposed to do.  The fobs are like the ones you have for your car keys.  There’s an o-ring sealing the whole thing up, and I can attest that after wearing mine on my PFD for hours, in the rain, it seems waterproof.  What’s not to like?  I waited as long as I did to get a remote because Raymarine’s products are expensive.  Now I don’t know how I ever got along without one.  The Madman remote meets my needs, and I would buy it again in a heartbeat.  I’m not sure, but I believe it also works with other Raymarine autopilots.  Send Neil an email and he’ll get right back to you about any questions you have.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me.

Garmin GPS 78sc Review

August 16, 2013

I’ve owned this GPS for two and a half years, and am happy with it.  It’s relatively easy to learn the basics–even without looking at the manual–and has been reliable.  It offers far more features than I will ever use, but if you want to get that far into this unit prepare to crack open the manual.  The UI is not as intuitive as people have come to expect in the age of smart phones.The Blue Chart mapping is great, but the display is pretty small.  No complaints.  This is a handheld, after all.  When you zoom in to see chart details, which you have to do because there is little detail otherwise, the subject area is pretty small.  For planning it’s still easier to use full-sized charts.  In fact, maybe I’m weird but I still prefer looking at full-size charts.  So what do I use the Garmin for?  Well, it’s great for determining the effects of currents.  I also use it to check my position against my DR plot.  I use the tracking function, which shows your real tacking angles when beating against a current.  I use it at night pretty often for position checks.  I use it in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and whenever else I can’t see a landmark, to compare my track with my compass course.   I’ve only used it once for what I consider to be a critical navigation problem.  We were entering the Port of Edmonds, at night, in horrible weather.  Almost no visibility.  I used the GPS to aim for the harbor entrance and crossed my fingers.  At the last minute the lights showed up, right where the GPS said they would be.  Whew!


It’s basically a good unit, but I can’t stand that the buttons are on top.  Every time I pick it up I orient it upside down, and then fumble with it to get the buttons back on top.  This doesn’t affect the functionality in any way, but it bugs me.  The buttons on phones are on the bottom, and I suspect most people get accustomed to that.  Garmin, hear me!  Put the buttons on the bottom!  The screen is hard to read in daylight without the backlighting.  Also, unless you use lithium batteries it really eats the AAs.   I bought the wiring to mount this one below using 12V power from the house battery.  I guess that defeats the purpose of a handheld, but lately, in good weather, I’ve actually been using my iPhone more anyway.  I want to stress that there is nothing wrong with this GPS.  In bad weather I always use the Garmin because it has–so far–been indestructible.  Also, the backlighting makes the Garmin easier to see in sunlight than the iPhone.  And I don’t use the iPhone for anything I consider to be critical.  Maybe it’s capable, I don’t know.  I just trust the Garmin more.

I give the Garmin three Captain Kev stars.  If it sounds like I don’t like it, well I actually do.  It’s a solid unit, with far more features than I will ever need, and you won’t go wrong buying and using it.  I took off two stars for things that probably only bug me.  Garmin, call me if you want some design feedback for future models.

Backbeat came to me with a mid-80s 4.5 hp Johnson Seahorse.  It was well-suited to the previous owner’s purpose, which was to leave and re-enter his marina for races and daysailing.  I used it for a season around Puget Sound, but the mighty Seahorse wasn’t up to  pushing a 3,000 pound boat through stiff currents and steep chop on 30 to 60 mile deliveries for races.  Yes, I know I could have sailed those deliveries, and a lot of them I did.  Still, when you have to be somewhere by a deadline, and the wind, waves and tide aren’t cooperating, you fire up the outboard and settle in.  Max speed at full throttle with this motor was about 4.5 knots.

I sold the Seahorse and bought a 90s vintage 8 hp Evinrude. It did the trick for a few years, but eventually started showing its age.  I had seized it once when the impeller failed, and though my son–a real-life marine tech–worked it over with new parts and mechanic tricks, it was never the same.  Then the throttle grip broke.  Replacements are about $125, so we used a pick through the end of the cable. Then the carb got fussy.  Then the starter rope broke.  The motor was great while it was, but there was no escaping the fact that it was old and tired.  It was time to stop throwing time and money at it, and time for a new outboard.  Max speed at full throttle with this motor was about 5.25 knots.

I had wanted a nice new Yamaha or Honda 9.9 before I noticed that quite a few boats my size were using the 6 hp Tohatsu Sail Pro.  Everyone seemed to love their motor, so I did some research.  The Tohatsu is a single-cylinder four stroke.  It’s a version that comes with a 25″ shaft, a high-thrust prop, and a 5 amp alternator.  After shopping around and reading reviews I bought one from Ed at Ballard Inflatable Boats  http://www.ballardinflatables.com/  It weighs less than 60 pounds and is about half the price of a new Honda or Yamaha, both of which are over 100 pounds. Half the price?  Half the weight?  It was an easy decision. Anyway, once you get close to hull speed in a sailboat, all the extra 3.9 hp does is spin the prop and waste gas.


You can buy this motor online for $1,530 with no taxes or shipping charges.  I bought it from Ed for $1,530 and paid about $145 in sales tax.  Buying local from someone who had one in stock and immediately available, and who is able to provide warranty service if I need it, was worth the extra money.  Also, it turns out Ed is an avid sailor, a Thunderbird owner, and quite a character in general.  FWIW, I urge readers to look locally before you order one online.  There’s value in supporting small business.

Back to the motor.  I hung it on Thursday afternoon and left Friday at 12:30 am for Victoria.  That’s a 36 nautical mile, middle-of the night Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing.  I followed the break-in procedure, then settled in at about 5.3 knots.  The motor was at about one quarter to one-third throttle.  I opened it up to full power and saw hull speed, which is about 6 knots, but my best cruise turned out to be one quarter to one third throttle and about 5.3 knots.  I got to Victoria on about two gallons of gas.  I’m not kidding!  It comes with a 3 gallon tank, which I was sure would be too small, so I took a 5 gallon can along just in case.  This motor really sips fuel.  The return trip used even less than the delivery!

Except for the two times I forgot to attach the safety lanyard (don’t judge me!), the new motor started on the first or second pull, hot or cold, every time.  It is a lot quieter at cruising speed than either of the previous two-strokes.  Being a musician, I have a sound meter on my phone.  For those of you who care, the interior volume at cruising speed in light chop was 75-80 decibels.  That’s pretty quiet for an outboard.  If you rev it up to full power it gets louder, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to use that much more fuel just to get less than one more knot of boat speed.

I couldn’t see a way to lock the steering straight ahead, but the steering friction lock held the motor straight the entire trip.  The 25″ shaft kept the prop submerged, even with my 280 pounds on the foredeck.  There was little wind on the return trip until I was a few miles off Point Wilson.  It picked up then to about 11 knots true and a little too close to maintain my course under sail alone, so I set the sails and motorsailed.  The sails bumped my boatspeed to about 6 knots, but more than that they kept the boat settled when the Point Wilson rip developed.  If you’re unfamiliar with the area, the Point Wilson rip is the 800 pound gorilla of tide rips.  This one was not as bad as I’ve seen, but the waves were still five or six feet tall, steep, and breaking.  I lowered the outboard bracket to keep the prop wet and settled in.

Just then a USCG RIB came out of nowhere.  I could see I was going to get boarded, so I went forward to drop the headsail.  Here’s the point of all this:  In the steep waves of the Point Wilson rip, with my fat arse on the bow, the extra-long shaft kept the new Tohatsu biting solid water the whole time!  It turns out the USCG just wanted me to alter course to stay out of the path of a nuclear sub–which seemed perfectly reasonable to me–so I bore off about 30 degrees until the little armada passed.

I’m really happy with my new outboard.  I now have about 80 nautical miles on it.  I’d guess that’s about 15 hours. It’s quiet, reliable, sips fuel, stays in the water when it’s supposed to, steers straight, and pushes my boat comfortably at about 5.3 knots at about one-third throttle. The gear lever is on the front, which is nice.  Reverse thrust isn’t spectacular, but it’s more than enough for maneuvering in really tight spaces.  The 12v alternator also charges the battery, though I probably won’t get the full 5 amps at one-third throttle.  There is no way either the Yamaha or Honda 9.9s will do anything for my particular boat that justifies the hefty price and weight premiums.  The Tohatsu came with a five-year warranty.  Ed set up the motor, did a pre-delivery inspection, and activated the warranty.

I give this motor 4.5 Captain Kev stars.  I held back a half star because you need to buy an extra fitting to flush the motor, and because I’m still in that brand-new love phase. If nothing at all changes in the next year of use, I’d give it a 100% thumbs up rating.  If you have a relatively slippery boat in the same weight range as my Capri 25 , you can’t go wrong with this motor.

UPDATE 6/25/13:  Check out these bad pics.  Boat speed at 5.4 knots, throttle at about 30%!  Another 70 miles this weekend and still used less than four gallons.  I love this motor!

photo (1)







photo (2)








UPDATE 7/14/14:  Okay, by now I have hundreds of miles on this motor. Yes, hundreds.  I still love it.  I recently sailed from Port Townsend to San Francisco.  At one point after leaving Newport, Oregon, there was no wind at all. I had a full five gallon jug in addition to the full three gallon regular tank, so I ran the motor at about 25% throttle until the three gallon tank was empty.  The mighty Sail Pro ran for 11.5 hours before it sputtered to a stop, pushing my boat at 5.2 knots the whole time.

Yep, that’s right, 11.5 hours!  There was a slight current, but there was no wind pushing me along.  I have a fast, light boat, and I had just put on some magic, go-fast bottom paint, but still . . . 11.5 hours!  At one point the oil light came on.  I checked the dipstick and found the oil pretty low, so I topped it up.  To tell the truth, after 11.5 hours I was ready to enjoy a little quiet, so I drifted around until the wind came in.  That gave me time to think about what I’d write if I ever updated this review.  Here’s the long-term user scoop.  I have one complaint and one observation to offer anyone considering this motor.

My one complaint is that the steering friction lock doesn’t provide enough grip to keep the motor straight in waves over a long period of time.  In these conditions it will wander.  I tie mine off to keep it straight.  Yes, you can buy a bracket that will fix it straight ahead, but I like steering with both the rudder and the motor when I’m in tight spaces.  Using the two together, I can pirouette my boat.  My wish list for the next model is for some kind of handy latch that will fix the motor straight ahead, but which could be easily disengaged for precision steering when you want it.  Okay Tohatsu, make it happen.  Until then I’ll keep tying it off. It’s not a big deal for me, but I figured I had to find something to complain about or people won’t consider this a fair review.

The one observation is that I don’t get much more than about .75 charging amps from my motor when I run it at the speeds that suit me.  That’s not a big deal for me because I have 120 watts of solar and 300 amp hours of deep cycle juice storage.  If you’re looking for the full rated output from this motor, I don’t know what to tell you.  Maybe check with other users to see whether they’ve had better results. Again, this is not a big deal for me.

All in all, I love this motor and would buy it again in a heartbeat.  Tohatsu engineers, please get to work on that latch.