Red light, Green light
20 March 2009 | Las Hadas, Colima, MX
In my luggage on the flight back from Los Angeles to Manzanillo was 80' of electric cable, two computers, a fluxgate compass, a control head, a tiller pilot ram, two high gain antennas, assorted software, 144 tea bags and 10 bars of chocolate. All for our personal boat use, but highly suspicious to a vigilant security guard or worse customs officer.
The customs procedure in Mexico is a simple lottery. You present your forms, press the button and if it's red you lose, if it's green it's "Bienvenidos a Mexico". Mustering the steady hand of a surgeon I pushed the button, scored green and high tailed back to the Barra lagoon to find my two girls, Mandy and Virginia.
Most of the contraband was the new Raymarine SPX-5 Tiller pilot. We have been using, with decreasing efficacy a 30 year old Autohelm 1000, spec'ed for a boat under 6,000 lbs and therefore always struggling with Mandy's 14,000 lbs and huge transom hung unbalanced rudder.
The new Raymarine is spec'ed for up to 13,500 lbs so we are still at the outer reaches of its intended use, but anything bigger was way too costly. As it is the step up has come with a significant increase in complexity. Whilst the old tiller pilot was a self contained unit, this version has four components, all requiring their own cabling and bulkhead installations.
Three days and two more holes in the boat later, installation complete, it was time to calibrate, so we upped anchor and proceeded to proscribe the required two 360˨ two minute circles inside the Barra lagoon to calibrate the fluxgate compass. Wave goodbye to new found friends, but no matter, we'll be back in two minutes. With the system apparently functioning we motored out of the lagoon and mostly sailed the twenty-five miles to Las Hadas with the tiller pilot doing all the work. A big relief.
The new wireless system, assembled for less than $100, was recommended by our friend Ewout Mante of Bravado, now on their way to the Marquesas. It consists of an Alpha Wi-Fi transceiver, connected to either a Hawking 15 dBi corner antenna for when the boat is reasonably stationary or an Airlink 101 omni directional antenna for when it is rolly or the boat is swinging at anchor.
This has proved really effective and we have pulled in a usable signal from more than two miles away. Three cheers for Ewout.