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Technology And The Sea

I realize it’s been a few weeks since my last post and I apologize for that but as you’re about to find out technology at sea can be a bit challenging at times.

Now I was more than prepared for the fact that there would be times and places where Internet simply would not be available. After all, it’s been almost two years since Dan and I met. I have experienced the frustrations of not being able to reach him so I try hard to plan for those times and utilize the net when I have it. Lack of Internet, however, is only part of the tech battle cruisers face. First and foremost there are the elements. Salt corrodes everything and there is water everywhere. You always have to think about how to protect your devices from the elements and unfortunately waterproof cases don’t always live up to their claims. So, as with most things in Waterworld, there are trade offs.

20170530_150304Just two weeks into our journey I faced my first tech disaster. We were doing a bit of dinghy fishing in Calita Partida. Well, let me be more specific. Dan was fishing. I was along to take pictures and videos to share with our readers. I have an underwater camera that works fine but to get the pictures off I have to download them to our computer then upload to our blog. I prefer to use my cell phone when possible and eliminate the download step. So, I take both cameras with me. My phone has a tough case on it but it is not waterproof so I always put it in a Ziploc bag when it’s not in use.

On this particular day I was laying face down on the dinghy tube and had tucked my Cabrilla Dan & Jillphone up near the bow while I used my underwater camera to get some video of the colorful fish swimming under the boat. Then it happened…Dan hooked a fish. I jumped up to be ready to help him with tools, gloves etc… and when I did I put my knee down on my phone. I immediately heard the familiar crunching sound of glass breaking and my heart stopped. Fortunately I had a good screen protector on it so it stayed together and it still works. I just have to look beyond the cracks at the bottom of the screen.

Lesson #1: Never put your tech devices in places where you typically step. Since that mishap I’ve become uber careful about where I set my phone and my iPad.

This brings me to my next technology disaster…my iPad. Let me start by saying this is not intended to be an Apple bashing. Yes, I’ve been a bit frustrated with them as of late but I’m still a huge fan of their products.

One night about ten days ago Dan woke up to find my four-month-old iPad Mini 4 doing all kinds of strange things. It would shut off then come back on with the Apple screen then go to a half black, half white screen. Then it would recycle and go through the same series of screens. He tried a hard shut down but nothing worked. Finally after enough button pushing he got it to stay off.

The next morning he hooked it up to iTunes to see what was going on. iTunes said it needed to be updated or reset to factory default settings. Obviously the default reset was the least attractive option because I would lose about a week’s worth of pictures and blog articles. We tried to update it but it would not allow it so we were left with default reset. This made Jilly a very unhappy sailor. Granted it was only a week’s worth of stuff but in that week we had been to some pretty beautiful places and I had some great pictures. Also I had four blog posts ready to go once I had Internet again. Oh well, as we say in the South, “No use gettin yer’ knickers in a bunch once the cow’s left the barn. Ain’t gonna bring him back.”

The wifi here in Puerto Escondido, like most of Mexico, is not very fast so the reset and download from iCloud was going to take hours. We hopped on the dink and headed to the marina where we hoped the connection would be a bit stronger to speed up the process.

We finally got the reset done and I started to go through the motions of getting my stuff back from the cloud. Well, if you are an Apple user, let me caution you to write your Apple password somewhere. In fact, I highly recommend putting it in multiple places. You do NOT want to lose it! A week or so prior to the crash I was prompted by Apple to change my password that I had used for four years. I did and I did write it down…in the notes section of my iPad. I guess I didn’t think about not ever being able to access it. My bad! Well, I thought, “no big deal. I’ll just reset it like I do any other password when I can’t recall it.” HA! That’s a joke. I went through the Spanish Inquisition trying to get my password reset. First there were the online questions including asking for the credit card information they had on file. Then they sent an email to me where I had to click on a link and answer questions to verify that I was the one requesting the reset. THEN, they sent a verification code to my “trusted” phone. And, guess what? I was then told it could take 2-4 DAYS to get the reset information. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This IS 2017! I mean I can reset my bank password in a matter of minutes. I appreciate security just as much as the next gal but 2-4 days??? Are they operating in the prehistoric days of the Internet over there?

Feeling highly frustrated and completely disgusted with the entire process I decided to put the iPad down and walk away. I fixed a cocktail and went out on the back deck to enjoy the amazing views of Puerto Escondido and the Gigante Mountains. After all, I am in paradise. Should I really get all worked up or should I sit back and enjoy the simpler things in life?

OK, OK, it didn’t happen just like that. There were more than a few four letter words being thrown about, my head felt like exploding and the only reason I went out back is because Dan told me I needed to walk away before I threw the stupid thing overboard and started an artificial reef in the anchorage.

Once my cocktail started to provide its delightfully calming mood altering effects I decided to wait until the following day to call Apple to see about getting my password reset. (Side Note: For you land dwellers who have 24/7 Internet service this may not have been a big deal but we were planning to leave the area and would not have Internet for several days to a week. Not having my password reset meant I could not access my iPad at all during this time. And it’s not like I’m tied to it but I do use it for other things than Facebook, blogging and the Internet.)

So, the following morning I awoke with a much better mindset and after having some coffee I decided to jump on the phone and see what could be done to resolve this debaucle. They will certainly be able to reset it over the phone and I’ll be back in business.

Oh what a simple-minded individual I must truly be. Upon calling Apple I spoke to a very nice gentleman named Chris. Now I’m a former Customer Service Manager who knows great customer service when I see it. Chris was spot on. He knew all the right phrases; he followed his script to the letter and even knew how to commiserate with me without sounding condescending. He is a CSM’s dream employee. The only thing he couldn’t do was fix my problem. Somehow I have some two-part verification thing set on my account and while I have verified everything but the exact time of my conception and resulting birth, he stated it will still take 2-4 days for them to send me the reset link. It is a “set in stone Apple policy and they do not wave that for ANYONE!” It was at this moment that I knew I had to get in a few well-chosen words before hanging up. After all, I know their calls are recorded for “quality assurance” and I let him know this as I began my calm, controlled rant. I even told him I truly hoped someone in their QC department would listen to it and recommended that he alert his manager to my request.

This is when I began to explain to him the fact that a four-month-old iPad malfunctioning was absolutely ludicrous and that just because I had let it go completely dead a few days before, it shouldn’t go crazy Ivan on me. Furthermore this is 2017 and I should not have to wait 2-4 days to get a password reset. The fact that they have this procedure in place is completely outlandish and entirely archaic. I further explained that I was reaching my tolerance level with Apple and would likely just toss the thing in the Sea of Cortez and go back to Microsoft.

Poor Chris. He just got up and went to work that day to do his job and get paid but then came Jilly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I never raised my voice, never used the four letter words that were bouncing around inside of my head just begging to be released. No, I just made it perfectly clear that this is unacceptable. Remember I was in the CS Manager’s shoes for a big part of my career. I’ve been yelled at, cussed out and even once was told the “profits had spoken and I was being damned to hell.” Little did that client know I was already booked on the express train with many of my friends so this was no surprise.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to be the nutcase because I know they don’t get the results they want. We just hang up, laugh at their crazy asses and go on about our day. So I pled my case in a civilized manner and once I had my say, I thanked Chris for his time and told him to have a nice day.

Interestingly enough, just a little over an hour later I had my password reset link in my inbox. Hmmmm. Maybe there is a way around their rock solid procedure.

If this was a fairytale I would be saying, “And we all lived happily ever after.” But, this is real life and it turns out that my Apple is not an apple after all, it’s a lemon!

I spent the better part of two hours and a ton of data from my phone’s data plan downloading my stuff from iCloud to get my iPad back in business. I used it later that evening and even a little the following morning while having coffee. I took a break to get ready for the day. I left it on the table while it was downloading my emails from the previous days. Guess that was the wrong thing to do. I walked out of the head to see it back to doing the crazy Ivan stuff again. “That’s it! I’ve had it. It’s going over board! I don’t care if I ever see another phone or computer again” I spouted off as I picked it up. It was at this point Dan knew he was going to have to take over the issue or the iPad would die in a watery grave in Mexico.

This time I voluntarily stepped to the back deck. Unfortunately it was a bit too early for a cocktail. Dan did his level best to calm me down but the fact is I was finally just over it. I was over the whole technology thing. If I don’t have an iPad or phone, I could care less. Who needs the frustration???

Dan called Apple that morning and they took him through a million steps trying to get it to work. Without going into huge detail they actually had him doing steps to fix his iMac, not my iPad. It wasn’t until the following day that he was able to get someone on the phone who truly understood the issue and told him the only thing he could do was take it to an Apple Store where they would replace it. HA! That’s easier said than done when you live on a boat in Mexico. And you certainly don’t try to ship it to them. It will likely never make it and if it does it surely won’t make it back to you.

Fortunately he and my cousin were planning a quick drive to the states a few days later to pick up parts so we left it at that. He would just take it when they go and all would be well.

20170610_200922Lesson #2: You can’t let it get to you! Technology isn’t perfect, things malfunction. You have to enjoy the life you are living and embrace the fact that you are living in paradise. Having your phone or iPad functioning 24/7 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s something magical about being completely off the grid….complete peace!

So, as you can see technology aboard a cruising vessel can be challenging at best. Sometimes it works flawlessly and other times it doesn’t.

Oh yeah, one last thing. The day after we were told my iPad must be returned to Apple we get into our rental car with my cousins, Dan & Nancy of SV Karvi. Dan is in the backseat and tells me he has a little present for me if I want it. Then he hands me a practically new iPhone 6 Plus. He said, “That’s if you don’t mind having another Apple product in your life.” I was so touched that I literally had tears in my eyes. The funny, and yes I can say it now, funny thing is that when I went to set it up it was requiring that he release it from his account. We tried to do that but it had some crazy email tied to it that he has never had. Guess what…Yep, he has to take that to the Apple Store to get it reset! Yes, I’m laughing because at this point there is nothing left to do! Time to fix a cocktail, step out back and enjoy another amazing Mexican sunset!

Until Next Time…

Jilly

 

 

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On The Move Again

We’ve had a nice time here in La Paz over the past week or so but it’s time to start moving north. Dan finished running the net this morning, we completed our morning chores and are underway. Our first stop is Calita Partida as we make our way up to Laredo. Dan and Nancy of SV Karvi are just ahead of us.

On the way out of La Paz we passed the Sam Simon Sea Shepherd boat anchored just outside of the channel. They are in Mexico to try to help save the Vaquita….a small grey porpoise found in the Sea of Cortez. You can read more about their story here: http://weku.fm/post/mexico-last-ditch-effort-save-vaquita-verge-extinction

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We passed Isla Lobo just a few moments ago. This must be where my friend Syd lives with his seal family and friends. I love watching them but I will tell you that as you approach the island there is a nasty stench hanging in the air. Cute they may be, but stinky too!

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Well, I’m about to lose internet. We will be off grid for a week or so but will check in as soon as we reach civilization again. Hope all our friends in the states have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! A big thanks to the men and women who have fought to preserve our freedoms! And also thanks to their families!

Until next time,

Jilly

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Electronic Equipment Upgrade

Having lived aboard Dazzler for over 14 years, I have gone through a few different electronic equipment upgrades phases along the way. First there was the new to boating boat owner phase, the I think I know what I’m doing now phase and currently the why don’t the pieces work like they are supposed to anymore phase.

Looking back to when Dazzler and I first started living together, boat shows and marine supply stores had to be in bed together in displaying and preying on all of us newbie boat owners. Everything was sooooo shiny and seemed to make sense and needed to be onboard. Sufficiently separating me from my money. I need a new radio. I need a new GPS map display. I need an autopilot upgrade….etc…

As I became more seasoned, I learned that my needs were disguised as my wants. I might want all of those things, but now more importantly I want them to all work together and play nice and have nice talking conversations. Not being an electrical genius, I discovered and learned that electrical equipment that integrates with a IMG_0779common language is important. Like National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 0183 and 2000, or proprietary equipment languages like Raymarine SeaTalk or SimNet. Okay, big words and lots of languages out there. So after evaluating Dazzler’s marine electronics, I realized that I had some decisions to make. I chose Simrad as a base system for equipment integration. Simrad like most major marine electrical manufacturers have options to add NEMA 0183 or 2000 devices through special cables or splices. Having integrated equipment is very cool and in many cases minimizes the amount of dedicated displays you may need. This is a double edged sword. On one hand you have a dedicated piece of equipment that needs a special cable to integrate with your base system or not at all. On the other hand less displays are much kinder in regards to the real estate that is gobbled up by all the displays. If you have a big boat with lots of real estate, have a display for everything. But, in my case on Dazzler, a Union Polaris 36, real estate is a precious commodity and I chose to keep it simple. I decided to go with a multi function display (MFD).

While on the topic of MFDs, I have a few tips for those of you that don’t own a deep well bank account. Avoid buying older models of MFDs. I say this from both sides of the coin. MFDs are like computers. They are constantly being updated and upgraded by the manufacturers with what may be an intent to provide consumers with the latest and greatest product. Constantly checking manufacturers web sites for firmware and software updates will also provide you with information of when your MFD may no longer be made or be supported by the manufacturer.

I bought my first new MFD, that shortly thereafter became fossilized even though it worked with my existing Autopilot. As new versions of electronic charts became available they didn’t seem to work in the older formatted equipment. A friend of mine was doing a major electronics upgrade and offered me a used newer model of MFD that was newer than mine, a Simrad NSS8. It integrated better with my existing equipment and electronic charts. I thought I was out of the woods for a while. Little things started to become a little too quirky, so I decided to do another upgrade to a B and G Zeus3. All of the base equipment was supposed to integrate without difficulty. Ha ha ha!

Recently I was in the SanDiego area and obtained the necessary hardware and equipment to install the new Zeus 3. Fast forward to work day one….

There we were swinging on the hook in El Mogote anchorage of La Paz, Mexico B.C.S. it was a beautiful day to start the project after coffee. The previous day I had installed a new VHF radio that went without too many hitches. I first had to remove the old equipment from the Navpod and then modify the Navpod for the new foot print of the Zeus 3. Fast forward to the electrical connections. The Zeus 3 and the Simrad NSS8 had the same electrical connections on the back and the Zeus 3 even had a few more. I plugged everything into the correct ports and was now giddy with anticipation of turning on the power switch for the first time. Ding, ding, ding! The panel flashed, the B and G logo lit up across the screen and it was going through initial set up mode. Then it came to a screen that indicated that the radar, autopilot and autopilot control head had software updates pending. From my limited knowledge of computers the first thing one should do is update the software or firmware of your equipment. Man did this start me down a road to the path of destruction.

I went to the manufacturers website and downloaded the file it suggested that I use to upgrade the radar software. I copied it to a micro SD card, placed into the slot of the Zeus 3, I followed the manufactures install instructions step by step and received a message, “Upgrade Completed.”

Great let me see how the radar display looks…okay guys? Where is my radar equipment? Why isn’t my Radar equipment even recognized? I know, I’ll call Navico tech support for assistance. I have to say all of the personnel at Navico tech support was friendly. But, they didn’t want to even talk about the issue with the software upgrade. Instead they started me down the path of, Your equipment must be bad. So, over the next three days with the guidance of Navico tech support, I tore the interior apart to access all wiring, I had checked the voltage of the wiring before and after equipment and connection points, checked the continuity of cables and Ethernet cables from the Navpod to the scanner on the mast. All of the wiring was in great working order. During This whole time of being told that it has to be bad equipment, I had a nagging suspicion that the software upgrade caused this issue.

My last call to Navico reporting all the testing and progress I had completed looking for a bad wire, which resulted in none, I was told that I had a bad scanner. I explained how it was working last week before I attempted this MFD upgrade and the technician told me that I must have a ghost onboard. Seriously a ghost. Is that a technical term?

Four days of digging around with my multimeter and several trips up and down the mast to the scanner, I was done!

I decided to leave the radar as is for now and attempt to do the autopilot software upgrades. So I went to the manufactures website to download the appropriate files needed for the update. With the files loaded onto an SD micro chip I plugged it into the Zeus 3. After starting the download a status bar started counting off the percentage of completion. When it got to 99%, it cycled back to 95% and started counting upward again then repeated itself three more times. Then the message that everyone loves to see….Upgrade Failed! What? IMG_0770 I went to my device list and now my autopilot was missing. What the H E double hokey sticks is going on? All of a sudden the light bulb came on! What if the radar experienced the same fate while I somehow wasn’t paying attention?

Back to the manufacturers website…I first downloaded the radar file again, copied it to an SD card, plugged it into the Zeus 3 and ding ding ding, winner winner chicken dinner! My MFD radar display was now available for use. And ALL the previous days of diagnostics was for not. Being one for one now, I decided to go after the autopilot software upgrade also. After downloading the same file three times and attempting to install it into the Zeus 3, three times, I finally got the upgrades installed and all equipment was working again

IMG_0769That brings me to the last category, why don’t the pieces work like they are supposed to anymore? Well, it’s not always the easiest way that will be the culprit, but it might be a bad file copy or some minute switch or other insignificant thing that causes you the grief. But, with years of experience now you can diagnose with the best of them. Maybe even better than the, “We’re here to help you technicians.”

Good luck out there! Remember nothing is free or easy in Water World.

Captain Dan
SV Dazzler

PS. The shiny things still attract me, but it’s not so easy for them to get my money these days. Ha Ha Ha!