Boat Gadgets And Gizmos
08 April 2018
"If you can't repair it, maybe it shouldn't be on board." - Lin and Larry Pardey
One concern I've always had was to make my boat so complicated as to cause excessive system failures or to take away from the experience of sailing. There are, however, some gadgets and gizmos out there that I think can be helpful. All have their strengths and downfalls and need to be used appropriately. Here's a list of recent "upgrades" (complications?) that I have chosen to install:
Lifetag Unit (Raymarine) -
This is a man overboard (MOB) alarm system that I have installed for peace of mind. Since Chelsea and I will likely be taking many watches alone while the other is napping, I wanted to minimize the likelihood of one of us waking up to an empty boat with the other person nowhere in sight.
This unit comes with a small transponder about the size of a wristwatch to be worn by the person on-watch, and a hardwired in base unit mounted down below on the boat. The transponder has a range of about 40', which is within the base unit's receiving area when the wearer is anywhere on the boat.
As long as the base unit is receiving the signal from the transponder, it is happy. Should the on watch person fall overboard, the base unit would stop receiving this signal and it becomes unhappy. The base unit then emits a very loud siren down below to express it's unhappiness, which wakes the off-watch crewmember up.
I tested this unit by walking down the dock away from the boat to simulate a MOB situation and let's just say that the alarm is LOUD!! I think it's important to note that having this system does not relieve the on-watch person from properly tethering in. And this system does put the chartplotter into MOB mode, indicating where the alarm was triggered, but does not actively tell you the exact current position of the MOB, like an AIS unit would. We will still carry satellite personal locator beacons.
Engine Exhaust Temp Alarm (Aqualarm) -
Marine diesel engines typically operate around 180-degrees Fahrenheit, however, in the event of an engine overheat situation (due to an impeller failure or blocked open water system), the engine's temperature can quickly rise causing serious damage. The engine exhaust alarm is an early warning system that activates an audible alarm once the engine reaches 200-degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to take action.
High Water Bilge Alarm (Aqualarm) -
It's normal for small amounts of water to enter the bilge, mainly via the stuffing box, which serves to keep the prop shaft cool while motoring. These small amounts are no big deal. The bilge pump's float switch activates the bilge pump when the water reaches a certain level, and this water is pumped overboard every so often.
However, in the event of a hose or thru hull failure, water can rapidly enter the boat, overwhelming the two pumps. So I installed a high water alarm, which would sound early on, allowing for me to work toward fixing the problem before the boat took on too much water.
Dual Bilge Counter (Aqualarm) -
As I mentioned earlier, it's normal for a small amount of water to enter the bilge every so often, causing the float switch to trigger the bilge pump, however, it's possible for something to fail, causing an increased demand on the bilge pump. It's possible for the bilge pump to work overtime without you realizing that a problem exists.
This device simply counts the number of bilge activations. If you suddenly notice a much higher number of activations over a given period of time, it can alert you to a problem before it becomes an emergency and the high water alarm is activated.
Last Watch II (Aqualarm) -
COLREGS rule #5 dictates that every ship shall maintain a proper lookout at all times. This is great until the on-watch person needs to use the head or a sailor is sailing singlehanded. There may be a time, away from land and shipping routes, where we'll need to go below for a bit to wash up, cook, etc.
This device works similar to the snooze function on an alarm clock. It can be set from one minute to an hour and a half and silently counts down until it reaches zero. If the reset button hasn't been pressed, the audible alarm sounds, reminding the on-watch person that a good scan needs to be made.
None of these gizmos alleviate a sailor from proper seamanship and maintaining a proper maintenance schedule, but will hopefully serve as early warnings of problems.