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To Choke Or Not To Choke

Most Cruising boats are equipped with a High Frequency (HF) Radios onboard to extend the range of verbal and technical data communications. Participation in radio nets to obtain weather information, downloading GRIB files and email communication are just a few of the different uses for the HF radio. Some HF radios like the ICOM M802 radio are equipped with Digital Select Calling (DSC) and Emergency Broadcast functions. The DSC operates similar to that of the VHF radio, but has a much longer range. The VHF is limited to the immediate line of sight or the horizon. Dazzler is equipped with an ICOM M802 HF radio, an SCS Pactor modem, an ICOM AT140 tuner and a backstay antenna. The grounding system for the radio antenna is a large Dynaplate.

One of the issues that has plagued me for the last several years, eight to be exact, is that when I am underway utilizing the Auto Pilot, F.R.E.D. (Freakin’ Remarkable Electronic Device), and attempting to broadcast on certain frequencies of the HF radio, stray frequencies interrupt F.R.E.D. and cause him to change into standby mode thus resulting in a crazy Ivan. In other words Dazzler turns off course. Initially, it isn’t such a bad thing, but if the sails are up in a strong blow or your navigating through narrow channels the result could be a more urgent issue.

F.R.E.D. is a Simrad AC42 computer and viewed by a B & G Zeus 3 Chart plotter. Dazzler is equipped with a complete host of other Simrad electronics to assist with navigation.

While operating under F.R.E.D.’s capable steering control with my HF radio on, I could hear a consistent tone that pulsed through the radio. I first contacted ICOM USA in an attempt to discover the source of the repeating tone on the radio. I am sure you may already know the result of that conversation. Yep! It’s not our radio equipment. Okay, then I contacted Navico Tech Support in the USA regarding my Simrad electronics. I got the same answer from them; It’s not our equipment. Well it had to be coming from somewhere and the tech support arena was unhelpful.

I began trying to approach the issue from a diagnostic angle. I started removing one IMG_3997piece of Simrad and cable at a time. Additionally, I installed radio ferrite chokes to the cables in an attempt to stop any stray radio frequencies (RF) from the attached equipment. When completed, I had ferrite chokes on every cable. However, I still had the pulsing tone on the HF radio and when attempting to broadcast on certain frequencies in the, 40 meter band, with F.R.E.D. engaged a crazy Ivan would ensue.

I had given up for a year or so and decided that my ghost wasn’t going to get any better and F.R.E.D. and Ivan would continue their boat domination struggle. Recently, while in Santa Rosalia, I was reading a radio article from the Internet that spoke specifically about depth transducers and their propensity to generate stray RF along their cables. Although I had a ferrite attached to the transducer cable near the AC42 auto pilot computer, I did not have a ferrite attached to the cable next to the transducer itself. Where the transducer is located on Dazzler is less than a meter from my HF radio and less than a foot between the antenna cable, power cable and the depth/speed transducer cable. A light went off in my head. Yes, it might have been a dim light but a light nonetheless. While in Santa Rosalia, I removed the depth/speed/temp transducer to clean it. While completing the cleaning of the transducer, I decided to attach a few ferrites to the transducer cable near the transducer and near the connector approximately one meter away.img_4003.jpg

Now for the real world test! Before I closed up the floorboards, I activated the HF radio and F.R.E.D. No more pulsing tone. Now onto test Two! I conducted a series of tests on different frequencies in the 40 meter band with F.R.E.D. engaged. F.R.E.D. remained engaged without shifting to standby mode. Problem solved.

I write this article for all of those who have expressed similar HF/auto pilot issues and I offer this as a possible solution to mitigate your frustration. I chose to Choke!


Captain Dan
SV Dazzler


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What Is “The Good Life”?

When was the last time you gazed upon a starlit sky and saw the Milky Way so clearly that it appeared as a brilliant white path through the sky? When was the last time you sat silently listening to the splashing of the sea as it lapped upon the side of a boat or the wind as it whispered quietly in your ear? When was the last time you felt totally and completely relaxed?

For me that was just last night but I so vividly remember a time in the not so distant past when I could not recall such peaceful moments quite so easily. No, in those days moments like this were extremely rare. In those days my life consisted of strict regiments, time constraints and “forced” relaxation. Yes, in those days I only thought I understood what “the good life” is all about.

Not so long ago I was certain I was happy and my life was amazing. Sure there were some areas that could have been better but I had a great job, close family and friends, a perfect home on the water and I lived in paradise on the west coast of Florida. Of course, my job was pretty stressful and consumed most of my life and I spent much of my “free time” doing chores, running errands and getting on with the business of mainstream life but, I was living “the good life”, right?

Oh how naive I was back then. Yep, I spent my entire adult life trying to get the better job hurry-2119711_1920and make more money so I could buy more stuff and take relaxing vacations. You know, I was chasing the proverbial carrot. After all, if I got that promotion and the salary that went with it then I’d be able to live in an even nicer place, drive a nicer car and take even better vacations. I would be truly successful and fulfilled. Sure, it might be a bit more stressful and consume more of my free time but it would be worth it, right? Isn’t that what life is all about? Isn’t that what everyone wants?

It wasn’t until I moved onto Dazzler that I realized I was one of “those” people. You know the ones, always trying for something more. Always thinking there had to be something better down the road. Always questioning why I didn’t have more no matter how hard I frog-1339904_1920.jpgworked. That was me alright. I worked and worked but it was never enough. The funny thing about it is that I always saw myself as a very down to earth, simple gal. I mean, I lived a pretty low key life without all the frills but somewhere inside I always thought I had to do more, have more, be more. I never really felt like I met my full potential in work or in life; but all that changed when I met Dan and moved aboard Dazzler. That’s when I really learned how life is meant to be lived and what it means to be truly fulfilled. Yes, Dan taught me how to live “the good life.”

As I said when we started this blog in May, giving up everything you own is a very daunting experience. When you have to reduce 49 years of life down to a few duffel bags, you truly get a sense of what matters, at least when it comes to material things. But, it’s not until I started actually living a more simple life that I realized how much I gained in the process. Sure, I gave up “things” but today I’m happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been in my entire life! I’m not happier because I’m not working a full time, stressful job and living the mainstream life. I’m happier because living here has taught me what it means to truly stop, take it all in and appreciate the beauty of each day. Even when we are in all out project mode we stop and take it all in. And, I know what you’re thinking, “that’s easy when you are retired and living on a boat in paradise”, but you’d be surprised. Sometimes even here it’s hard to be stress free unless you make enjoying life a priority; then it makes all the difference. We really don’t sweat the small stuff!

I think as humans we’ve become so accustomed to fretting over each and every tiny detail that we’ve forgotten the pure joy and excitement that comes with the unknown and the unplanned. We’ve forgotten what it means to improvise, to think on our feet, to accept others for who they are, to do without and most importantly, to take care of our neighbors whether we know them or not. When you live like we do, you just don’t forget those things because you are forced to do them every single day and before long they become part of who you are as a person even if you weren’t that way when you got here.

After all, when you are making an overnight passage and your regulator stops functioning and you’re not generating power, you don’t have anyone else to depend upon but yourselves so you improvise, think on your feet and fix it. You do what has to be done with the limited resources at hand. We know. We’ve been there.

If a fellow boater is in distress it doesn’t matter whether they are Democrat or Republican, black, white or fuchsia pink; you stop and help even if you don’t know them. It’s what you do because we depend on each other out here, it’s the right thing to do and quite frankly it’s what we all used to do anyway, isn’t it?

You see, I have found that living with less makes people more grateful, more resourceful, more caring and far more relaxed. When you need less you have more time to enjoy what you do have and truly love. You don’t have to make time or try to find time because you aren’t spending every second working and saving for the dreams of tomorrow. You are actually living them, right now in this moment because, well, you can!

I’m not sure who said this but I recently read a quote that went something like this… “Don’t live the same year 75 years in a row and call it a life.” Hmmm. How many of us have been living the same day, week, month or year over and over like some bad scene out of Groundhog Day? How long are you willing to live the same day over and over just hoping and dreaming that one day it will be different? One day you’ll be retired and get to live “the good life”.

My advice…Don’t wait and definitely don’t let your daily routine rob you of the true joy of life. Life is far too short! Just figure out what truly makes you happy and do it! Go for it! Yes, there will be necessary sacrifices but it will be worth it. I promise! It won’t be long before you start to forget the sacrifices because you’ll be so happy and you will feel so incredibly amazing and fulfilled!

IMG_5960I hope you find whatever it is that truly makes you happy and you make it your priority sooner rather than later. As for me…I found “the good life” is the simple life here with Dan on Dazzler.
Until next time,