11/16/2011, Burlington, Ontario
For sailing on Lake Ontario or the Intracoastal Seaway along the United States eastern seaboard, we always felt that Stonefire was reasonably well equipped. In fact, Stonefire had been to Florida twice, courtesy of previous owners. But in order to sail across the northern Atlantic Ocean, we determined that several upgrades and purchases were necessary. Four of the more important refits, equipment and installations are listed below:
1. Communication. A radio with AIS capability was installed. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) is an automated tracking system for identifying and locating vessels, and supplements radar as a collision avoidance mechanism. Information from the AIS equipment, such as identification, position, course and speed of transmitting vessels, is displayed on a small chart-plotter screen in our cabin. It has been comforting for us to be able to identify a Laker and know its course upon leaving Hamilton Harbour (i.e. we can discern whether it is on a collision course with us).
2. Communication. A Pactor Modem was installed by Stand Sure Marine, so that e-mail and weather forecasts can be received using our Single Side Band (SSB) Radio. Pactor is a language for transmitting and receiving text and digital information via radio, while the interface box that connects to a radio and enables it to speak this special language is called a Pactor Modem. Insulators for an antenna on the backstay were removed and the backstay antenna was replaced by a highly recommended halyard antenna. Uwe has sent e-mails to his regular Google account from our SSB, via Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, so we know it works.
3. Navigation. A sextant is a good navigational backup should Stonefire's electrical systems ever get fried. The Captain received a sextant as a birthday gift from our thoughtful and caring adult children. Uwe found a great place under the navigation station desk to store the sextant. We both took the Canadian Power Squadron intensive 1-year course (now offered as a 2-year course) on Celestial Navigation in order to make good use of the sextant.
4. Survival. We purchased immersion suits (modified Mustang Ice Commander suits) to complement our survival gear (such as our life raft). We asked Mustang to provide neoprene cuffs on the sleeves instead of the default bulky gloves because we wanted the option of working on the boat's rigging if we needed to. One rainy cold October day we tested the suits. Because the suits only come in one size, mine felt HUGE. I had trouble climbing the boat emergency ladder because my feet would slip out of the men's size 14 boots. Nonetheless, while we floated in the cold water (see photo of Uwe in his suit), we felt quite warm and dry. Hopefully we will never need to use them in a rescue scenario.
While Stonefire is dry-docked for the winter, there are many projects to keep us very busy. The anticipation of an ocean passage next summer keeps our spirits soaring.