|Looking North to Port of MdP|
|Jorge with his Honda|
For most things I didn't mind using the internet facility of Club Nutico next door because the restaurant was warmer and more comfortable than the men's shower room that I had been using here at Club Argentino, with great coffee if it was morning and great house wines if it was late in the day. I could Skype North America in the late afternoon because they are 2-4 hours behind MdP, and Australia at 8 or 9 AM because Western Australia is 11 hours ahead of us. However, I had a special problem which necessitated my Skyping Australia in the middle of the night. A friend and long time neighbor is gravely ill and I wanted to telephone the hospital during their afternoon while her nephew was visiting.
Club Nautico is locked up during the night but I did a test and found that I could get a strong enough router signal from the street, in front of the club. Last night I walked off the boat 2.30 AM, set myself up outside of CN under a tree, but got no signal probably because they turn their router off for the night. I had had enough of this problem and decided not to let things slide.
This morning I sought the assistance of an English-speaking acquaintance who works on the catamaran on the other side of the jetty and we visited the YCA restaurant sort things out. After a lot of discussion and explanation it was established that both the office and the restaurant use a different router, the “office” one, so of course they were oblivious of my problem. When the restaurant tried to use the “restaurant” router mounted on a wall at a corner in the same room they got no service. At least now they know that there is a problem. In the meantime, I've been given the OK to go through the “office” router.
I then saw Jorge at the club and because he wasn't playing tennis due to a strained Achilles tendon and it was such a nice day he took me on a ride on his Honda motorcycle to the south of Mar del Plata, on the road to Miramar. On the way we stopped off at Electronica Naval and I was asked to return at 5 PM. With Jorge acting as translator I got the same message from the technician: there had been a sort of creeping corrosion at play. Jorge told me that the fishing boats have the same problem, particularly in the cold dampness of winter.
The road to the south is very nice. To the left was a very long and spectacular beach with all sorts of restaurants and other facilities along side. I can understand why so many people from Buenos Aires flock to MdP for their summer holiday. Unfortunately, there is very little free public access to the long beach and most of it requires the payment of a fee.
On the way back we rode along the south mole of the harbor and I bought us coffee and “medio lunas” (pastry in the shape of, well, a quarter moon, really, but they call it “half moon”.) While we were there I told Jorge that in my opinion (for what it's worth) the biggest problem of Mar del Plata is the port area. The rest of the city is clean and beautiful, but the puerto is neglected and dirty, with garbage strewn on the sidewalks and dog feces everywhere. In many other cities the port area is turned into an interesting and attractive tourist destination. A good effort along those lines has been made near the fishing fleet, but the rest of the town is a bit of a shambles. Like I told Jorge, it doesn't take a lot of money to be clean.
Jorge dropped me off at CN and I thanked him for showing me a part of the city that I would not have otherwise seen. On the way back to the boat I sat on a bench outside of the YCA office, set up the netbook on my lap, and connected through the office router with no problem.
I plan to try that Skype call from outside of the YCA office in the wee hours of tonight. At least I'll be on the premises not far from the boat. I wasn't particularly comfortable walking alone in the street in the dead of night.
I tend to be over self-critical, analyzing minutiae to see how I could have done it better. But once in a while I make a whopper where I really do deserve a big kick in the rear, and this was the week for one, hopefully the standout winner for the year.
It was to do with the autopilot problem. Today at about 2 PM Daniel showed up with the controller and set to work. We had initial success where the autopilot drove the rudder but then everything went pear shaped, as they say. Every time he connected the a course computer to the Seatalk network the network would fail and the chart plotter would not show position, depth, wind etc data. To me it was a slam dunk: the controller was putting noise into the network. However, Daniel insisted that there was no problem with the autopilot system and got to work with his multimeter.
The poor guy spent hours on the problem and I began to resign myself to the possibility of sailing to Brazil without the autopilot. At about 5 PM he started to look at the Seatalk cabling between the junction box where the data from the course computer joins the data from the depth and wind instruments and then on to the C120 chart plotter. To me this made no sense because if the wind and depth data passed through the junction box successfully to the C120 when the autopilot cable was disconnected the problem must be between the junction box and the autopilot.
Before I knew it we were tracking cables from the chart plotter forward, which had me fuming because it meant a lot of trouble such as removing the Trimble GPS to get to an access panel, emptying some of the contents in the port storage locker, cutting plastic ties with which I had so carefully bundled cables, etc , and in general turning Pachuca's cabin into a mess. Fortunately I held my counsel and cooperated, but doing a slow burn at what I thought was a dead end investigation.
We looked at the path of the flux gate compass, the depth sounder, and the wind instrument cables. I got out the documentation which showed how analogue data is passed down from the wind and depth transducers to their respective displays where it is converted to Seatalk. From the displays the data got to the C120 OK so all that had to be OK with those instruments. Daniel seemed to agree.
At about 6 PM - after dark - Daniel asked me where one of the Seatalk wires went to. When he disconnected it from the junction box everything worked – including the autopilot - and all of the required data was being displayed on the chart plotter. I couldn't understand how a Seatalk wire could be disconnected yet the C120 had all of the required data. We had a couple of tries at tracking the cable but the results didn't make much sense. I suggested that Daniel go home and leave me to tracking the cable in the morning but then I changed my mind, figuring that tracking down a black cable among many black cables was easier done with two people. I asked him if we could have one last try and to his credit he agreed – the guy never gives up.
We did very careful work, leapfrogging each other making absolutely sure that we hung on to the cable until the next stage, and it passed across to the forward switch panel, which didn't make sense to me because that panel contains 12V switches for the mast lights and sound system. I suggested that I remove the lower switch panel to find out where the cable was going and when I craned my neck to look at the front of the panel I saw a 3-letter label that hit me like a ton of bricks and told me what the problem probably was: “MOB”, representing “Man Overboard”. I had totally forgotten about the MOB system because it has been irrelevant to my life for literally years since I've been sailing alone. Arnold and I had installed the Raymarine “Lifetag” man overboard system in either Australia or New Zealand, a system where we wore bracelets and if we fell overboard a loud alarm would go off in the boat and a MOB waypoint would be put on the chart plotter. One of the quirks of the system, which Arnold understands better than me, is that two switches on the panel must be thrown together. I think that one is for 12V power and one is for data. Arnold had put a rubber band around the two switches to ensure that they were thrown together, but over time the rubber band must have dropped off. On this “Whopper of the Year” day I saw that one switch was up and one was down. I told Daniel that I thought I knew what the problem was and asked him to connect up the entire Seatalk system, including the MOB Seatalk cable, and I would put both MOB switches down. We did that and everything worked beautifully. Then when I flipped the one switch to the state where I had encountered it the Seatalk network died. The interesting thing was that even if I flipped both MOB switches On together the Seatalk network still died, so I will have to investigate this. I told Daniel that being a Lone Sailor again means that the MOB system is irrelevant and I'll just leave both switches off and worry about it later. Daniel asked if he could take the Lifetag documentation with him for study and I agreed.
Daniel thinks that there was not a problem with the autopilot controller to start with. I had turned on the system to test it, not knowing that one of the MOB switches was on, found the Seatalk network down, and assumed that the autopilot controller had failed again and contacted Carlos for help.
Daniel asked me to leave everything as is and he will return tomorrow morning to help me button everything up and make sure that the electronic systems are working correctly.
Carlos and I had had a gentle tussle about payment when I first saw him. He indicated that they would fix the controller gratis and I insisted that I would pay for their time. We agreed to discuss it after the work was done. Well, that's settled now. This one was definitely on me. I've apologized to Daniel and told him that I would be calling Carlos to wear the cost of Daniel's time. Carlos probably will have a chuckle and not think that I deserve a kick in the ass, but I think that there will be a very brief discussion about payment.
I'm salving my ego with a bit of red wine … hic ….