Category Archives: Cruising Life

Starlink Final Phase

With enough testing under the belt I figured it was time to make the installation more permanent. I measured the outside of the KVH dome and the diagonal length of the Starlink dish and base. The only question was how thick the dome was to determine if the Starlink dish would fit inside the KVH dome. Time to do some climbing.

The first thing to do was climb the mast remove the screws and take the dome cover off the KVH base. As it turned out the dome is super lightweight and only about 5-6mm thick. This is the first time I have removed the dome myself and was a little unsure how it would work. Very easy is my answer.

Fortunately there are only four bolts to remove the old hardware. Access required turning the old dish to remove. Once the dish was unbolted I removed the rescue tape from the coax connections and unplugged the communication/power cable.

The base of the old KVH dome had a slight taper and some ridges. I cut about 10mm off each leg of the Starlink dish support and wrapped with rescue tape to make the legs a little grippy. I reinstalled the four bolts that held the KVH dish and used them to zip tie the legs of the Starlink stand. This may be unnecessary but we have been in some rough water and more support is better than less.

When I removed the old cables I pulled some cordage through the pipe and left one extra just in case. I connected the cable back to Starlink and tested to make sure all was well. Then it was time to clean up the old dome and put in place.

I was paying $145 per month for Direct TV in standard definition via the KVH TracVision dome on the starboard side of the mast. Now I have full internet, wifi calling and streaming via Chromecast plus Google TV for $135 per month. Seems like a great deal to me.

I have heard that a Starlink dish inside a dome may create excess heat and send a warning. I have the snow melt heaters disabled and will check when the weather gets hot. It will be easy to install vents if necessary. At anchor if Starlink loses connection as we pivot I may need to disable the motors so that the dish looks straight up. Because Roxia doesn’t “sail” too much at anchor this may not be necessary. Both of these issues are easy to correct if they become a problem. For now I will test in the current configuration. In the dome with Starlink looking North in the direction of my mast Starlink shows no obstructions. So far so good!

Anyone need an old KVH Mini V-Sat system? Have I got a deal for you…

Dinghy Update

I was finally able to get multiple days of testing and made decisions on the prop. In the end 10.7/8″ x 12″ was the best prop. I added a fin on the ventilation plate to get on plane quicker with the boat loaded. We have had 6 adults, two children and two dogs on the boat and it planed easily and was able to cruise at 22-25 mph. I think this kind of power is more important than top end speed with one person onboard.

The big test came when we were in Port Gamble for an extended Father’s Day weekend. This coincided with the largest tidal swing in 20 years. The swing when we went ashore for the Mountain Bike Festival was 12′. We carry an anchor buddy to keep the dinghy in deep water on a falling tide. You drop the anchor (we use a box anchor) with the anchor buddy attached and then stretch it all the way ashore. After taking a line to a beach stake or rock you allow the stretch to take the boat back out to deep water. Needless to say we needed more stretch.

A beached Whaly is almost as bad as a beached whale.

The great thing about this boat is that when you pickup and drop people off on the beach, you can step onto the drop-front without getting your feet wet. Also, because the Whaly is roto-molded plastic we were able to slide it down the beach. We place 3″ rounds of driftwood at the keel to keep it from digging in. Four of us easily slid “On-the-Rox” all the way into the water. Nobody got their feet wet and no Whaly’s were harmed in the process.

Starlink RV in the house…er boat

I have been following posts on the Nordhavn Owners Group for quite awhile now.

Background: When we purchase Roxia in Australia in 2017 two KVH domes were installed. One was for TV the other for Phone. We never paid for service for the phone/internet because it was cost prohibitive on our budget. For the most basic service that would work for us we were looking at $800 to $5,000 per month. When we got back to North America the TV would no longer work because the satellite inside the dome was using a DNB for Australia. We replaced that and with DirecTV were able to watch standard (not HD) TV and movies. We were able to stream Netflix etc from my iPad if the cell coverage was good enough. This service cost $143 per month because it required a commercial account on a boat. There are ways to reduce this amount but this is what we had. To be honest we hardly ever watch TV and used this service for more than two years for some news and a few Seahawks games.

Update: A week or so ago I ordered Starlink and was put on a waiting list until sometime in 2023. Within a day I received an email that Starlink RV was available with no waiting. The hardware is the same, the cost is the same as residential with portability, $135 per month. I changed to RV and the Dish arrived 5 days later. The problem was the box was crushed and the dish was cracked which would have allowed water intrusion. I didn’t think this would be good in the rain or on a boat. I email Starlink that night but thought I would have a problem. The next morning (less than 12 hours) I received multiple emails with apologies, return label, instructions to return, confirmation of a new dish sent, one month free service and expedited shipping. Ok that’s customer service. IBM used to say you don’t have a true customer until you have a problem and solve it. I am a true Starlink customer.

Installation: I am fairly technical but not that great. This had to be the easiest install ever. I did set it up in a temporary format and will explain permanent solution later. There are four items in the box. The dish with 75′ of cable attached, a one piece base, a router and short power cord. Installation is as follows: 1) snap the arm of the dish into the base. 2) set the base down. 3) plug the dish cable into the router. 4) plug the power cable in router. 5) plug the power cable into an outlet.

No matter how you look at it this is an easy installation. It took less than ten minutes including carrying the dish to the top of the pilothouse. After the dish was plugged in I used my iPhone to name the router and set a password. The satellites were found and I was online in less than five minutes. I received a message that the speed may be reduced because of the high traffic area at Port of Everett Marina. It was still fast.

After going online I logged into my smart tv and logged into all our streaming channels. Now everything is HD on the TV. The best thing about Starlink is since we don’t really watch TV the price includes the internet and phone through WiFi calling. This is a game changer in the industry. By the way the Dish was $599 including shipping. If I were KVH or Intellian I would be nervous.

Final thoughts: Where to mount the dish? I just happened to have a pair of 24″ domes that are unused. I can take the guts out of one or both and mount the Starlink dish inside. Is it a coincidence that the Starlink dish measures 23 ¼” diagonally? I think Elon had an idea. The dome will offer protection and already has bird detractors installed.

Starlink fits inside KVH Dome

Take Care of the Davit so it Let’s you Down Easy

For the last four years I have enjoyed a great davit to lift the dinghy without a hitch. It has been pieced together using different fittings without complaint. It was time to give some love to the giant shiny boom on the front of the boat. The biggest challenge I thought would be figuring out the rusty and corroded cartridge on the boom. I learned the cartridge is for load handling keeping the boom from dropping too fast when loaded. This is what the block looked like when I started.

Over time leaking or broken hard lines were replaced. The top left line looks like steel brake line and the top right was replaced with a hose and non-stainless fittings. I was afraid to remove the cartridge so I removed and capped the entire assembly. I worked with Matt at Maximum Performance Hydraulics in Seattle, WA to figure out what to do. My original idea was to replace the cartridge and hard lines using the same block. Matt was patient when explaining the difference between a load handling cartridge and one that only allows the boom to drop slowly. The load holding valve or counterbalance insures that the boom stays in place when you need the boom to stay in one position. It is also a positive stop in case a line bursts or fitting comes loose. You don’t want to be in your dinghy up in the air when a line breaks and the davit drops unexpectedly. The old design slowed the motion with a spring cartridge but did not provide a positive stop. Matt determined this by the old block design. A true load holding cartridge requires ”pilot pressure” in order to open or move at all. This could have been done by piecing “off the shelf” parts together but I wanted it to look nice also. Fortunately, Maximum Performance Hydraulics has a full machine shop and talented machinists. Matt made CAD drawings and I had some suggestions on how I wanted to install it on the davit. Matt made the modifications and here is the result.

Instead of a combination of fittings the new design is clean and all stainless, including the fittings. The Sun Cartridge is not stainless because it was ten times more expensive and not available for at least six months.

The rest of the davit work was simply removing the ram covers cleaning off the old white paint inside, prime and paint the inside then polish the outside.

The last item on the list is to remove the six old hydraulic lines make new ones and reinstall. I used six colors of shrink tube cut in rings to mark which hose goes on each fitting. I will wait until the snow clears a bit to remove the hoses. So in the words of Billy Currington ”…if I fall, can you let me down easy”. Another project in the books.

A barnacle can be good if it’s a BRNKL

For a couple of years I have been looking for an easy way to make sure the shore power was connected and charging the batteries on Roxia. If you are a boat owner you know what I mean. Even if your boat is nearby and it gets stormy the shore power connection can be lost. If charging stops you could run your house bank of batteries below 50%. This is the critical number on a lead-acid battery like flooded cell or AGM. A battery or bank of batteries can operate through thousands of cycles if treated properly but may last less than a dozen if allowed to discharge below 50%.

Our house bank consists of twelve 8D Lifeline AGM batteries wired series/parallel giving us 1,530Ah at 24 volts. We have stacked inverters so we can get 240 volt AC to run anything but not everything on the boat. With two small SubZero refrigerators and one SubZero freezer running all the time I worry that if the power goes off when I’m not on the boat we could discharge the batteries in a matter of days.

After the great NAPS2021 Rendezvous in Poulsbo, WA I became acquainted with the people at BRNKL (pronounced barnacle) Systems. Sean Battistoni walked me through the system in a Zoom call and I realized how easy it is to install. Two keys to the system for me are: 1) All connections happen behind my main electrical panel. There is no need to run wires all over the boat. 2) The monitoring happens through a cell card that works anywhere there is cell service on the globe. Here are some photos of the install and a few screen shots from my cell phone.

I sensed the shorepower after the final breaker in my panel so I can tell if the breaker has tripped. This gives me the added ability to see if I have loaded my generator or shorepower too much with cooking and air conditioning. I can also tell if I forgot to select shorepower or generator…which I have also done.

All in all I am very happy with the installation and the ability to monitor at anytime that I am on the boat or off. The system comes with a camera which I have not yet installed. I am not sure where I want it to point. Some people point it at the main entrance or there shorepower panel. Alerts can trigger a picture taking as well. I can add more in the future.

I’m Exhausted

The Lugger 1276A on Roxia has 4,200 hours. I think the muffler is original and I noticed some soot on the ceiling of the engine room. This is not what you want to see in your engine room. I took the insulation off the dry exhaust and found a large hole in the muffler. I called my go-to exhaust man Scott Conahan at National Marine Exhaust. We measure the muffler 16” diameter with 5” in and out attached to 6” exhaust and 10” by 8 bolt flange. One manufacturer was 8-10 weeks lead time and the other was 3-4 weeks. We choose the latter.

The muffler arrived while we were cruising so I planned to remove on June 28th knowing we would not have the boat put back together for July 4th. I was at Scott’s shop first thing on Tuesday June 29th so he could build a fixture and weld up the flanges for the exhaust system. Thursday morning Scott sent me pictures of the new exhaust welded up and ready. I drove to his shop and picked up the muffler and they had even installed the insulation on the muffler to save me time. Eight hours later the exhaust was back together and we went cruising on July 2nd!

Can’t say enough about the work done by National Marine Exhaust.

The pictures below tell the whole story. The hole was pretty large and I patched it with stainless steel mesh and marinetex so I could use Roxia while the muffler was ordered and shipped. When I told Scott I hope it holds he said “It’s probably better than it was before…”. It didn’t last that long and by the time I removed the muffler it was almost completely gone.

With the boat finished we were able to catch some fireworks. I started the project at 10am Monday morning and finished 8pm Thursday night thanks to the great work by Scott Conahan and his crew at National Marine Exhaust in Marysville Washington.

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