Smuttynose and Weather

Map borrowed from Wikipedia; Isles of Shoals is actually part of Kittery, Maine

We spent a couple nights aboard Fayaway at the Isles of Shoals last week, for our first time away from Newburyport since splashdown only a few weeks before. We had been out day sailing, and had participated in several club races this year, but really didn’t shake out the overnight bugs. We wanted to further check out the new solar power and watermaker systems under a heavy load while underway – ie. refrigeration, autopilot, radar and full array of sailing instruments.

Our solar power continued to work flawlessly, and continues to easily keep our batteries topped-off, even while running heavy loads – by day, and by night (recharging batteries upon rising sun). (see previous post for details). More recently we added a battery temperature sensor to further optimize the charge, as well as a flush-mount digital solar charge monitor (to stare at something else for a little while 🙂

While we learned that these and other updates worked well, we decided against the watermaker shakedown at this time. Typical for any membrane-based watermaker, once you use it, it must be frequently used from that point on, to keep the membrane in working condition, unless a special procedure is followed, called pickling.

We turned our attention on the second day toward visiting one of the islands. At nearly low tide, we putted over to a small cove between Malaga and Smuttynose Islands. (map above) We had no specific plans – other than to simply wander around, and to witness the namesake for New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewery. I had read somewhere a while back that the island was named by some early explorers due to the distant appearance of ragged seaweed there looked like the smutty nose of a lurking sea monster. Hmmm… Perhaps the contrasting white hotel built on Star Island has altered that appearance.

On Smuttynose looking SW with Fayaway in distance.

Among the various Internet-based references about Isles of Shoals, two stories stand out. One more common is about axe murders (there’s a book written, and movie with Sean Penn on this topic). However, I think the other one about Spanish Sailors is more interesting. SeacoastNH.com has an online article that describes varying stories relating to the photo below of an epitaph to Spanish sailors shipwrecked and killed during a winter storm back in 1813. The article cites that the number (14, 15, 16?) of sailors and the actual name of the wrecked ship (Sagunto or Concepcion?) remains controversial to this day. Imagine how tough these people were, sailing around more than two hundred years ago – in January! I know one thing for sure… you won’t catch Kelly and me around these islands on a snowy day in January!

Epitaph of Spanish sailors who died on Smuttynose

The island is obviously a popular rookery for breeding seagulls. We had to dodge many swooping parent gulls as they anxiously berated us for snooping around near their children. Sorry! (actually we were only following a well-cleared path made for visitors like us). Don’t mind the acrid smell either!

Later after returning back to Fayaway, between dinner and adult beverage, following another glorious sunset, we turned our attention toward testing our satelite communication system. While I hadn’t installed the external antenna yet, we hoped to receive decent reception away from mainland, and so started to play with receiving weather data, texts, phone calls (to/from). Everything worked as well as expected. For anyone curious, here’s a bit about our system:

Iridium Go! basic system

We purchased the Iridium Go! system back in May, assuming we’d need a month (recommended by retailer) to set up and figure out how the system worked. I set up the accounts for email and tracking shortly thereafter at our apartment, but found the buildings around us seemed to interfere with reception. (due to impending delays with launching Fayaway, we shelved the satelite system for a later time.) Now that we’ve been in the water a few weeks, it was time to fire it all back up and see how it worked.

The above base unit (about the size of a large bar of soap), is a combined satelite receiver and wifi hotspot. Simply connect a wireless device, such as a smart phone (for calls and texts), or ipad or laptop for grib/weather files. We set up our system with android phones, Ipad and PC, and it functions as expected from our point 12 miles away from mainland. The system is really neat and simple to use. But it is painfully slow.

To use for weather info, we’d need to download data in the form of grib files. The means to interpret grib files requires additional software. After some research and having used PredictWind‘s standard weather prediction system (requires high-speed Internet) for the last year, we decided to add the “Offshore” application to work with our Iridium Go! system for worldwide weather prediction coverage.

The above image is from the phone app, but it looks similar on other devices I’ve mentioned. The process starts by firing up the Iridium Go! unit, connecting to it’s wifi hotspot, running the app, and downloading the routing or prediction pieces of the weather maps. The software not only gives you the weather prediction for several days, but will interpret the best days to set sail by showing how much time would be spent going at which point of sail.

In the above map-view screenshot, I’ve entered that I want to travel from RI to Cape May, NJ, and asked it to give me the conditions for the leaving in the next five days, in 24hr increments. Screens can be animated/sorted by date and time to show the expected conditions based on upcoming expected weather. Several other tabular or graphical breakdowns are available for analysis, such as wind direction and points of sail. Assumptions are entered to help the analysis beforehand, such as Fayaway’s motoring and sailing capabilities. Common sense in how one uses this information is required in any case. It’s a fascinating modern world we live in. Very cool!

screenshot of various graphical tools based on set of grib files provided by Predictwind

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We hope you are enjoying these postings. Please drop us a note anytime to ask questions about our voyage, and we’ll try to incorporate into a future posting. We love to hear from you! Thanks for reading!

Lastly, an update on our leaving port: We have made good progress on the lingering installation projects remaining. Our current target at this time for heading south is Saturday, the 14th of September. Look also for satelite tracking on this blog (will be a separate page). You’ll be able to see exactly where we are at any time.

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