Leaving Saturday for Hampton? All systems “GO”.

It’s Thursday morning and I am pretty much ready to head to Hampton to hook up with the other boats heading south in the Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally.   We have loads of boats in the rally, about 80 with some 50 heading to Antigua, 20 to the Bahamas and the rest to other locations along the way.

It’s been a wild ride getting ready to head south.   Nothing new there based on past experience but with all systems on Pandora “go” I think that I am about set for departure.

Provisions are stowed, fuel is topped up, bow thruster “go”, fridge “go” and dings in keel fixed.  And I have even been able to get my new Iridium Go and Predict Wind accounts up and running or should I say “GOing”.

Speaking of my new Iridium Go system, I have to say that this unit has been a bit of  head scratcher to learn how to use it.  To that point, it seems to me that this is one of the most confusing setups I have ever encountered.  The “getting started” book is way to thick and they have online video tutorials that run some 2 hours long telling you how to set up things.

The list of “must do” items to make the GO ready to go includes getting an Iridium satellite phone number, an Iridium email address, downloading the Iridium Go and Predict Wind apps on my iPad and phone along with software to my laptop.  I also had to install an external antenna on the boat and rig up a spot to mount the “GO” unit itself.

After all this, I was still completely flummoxed by the whole deal and ended up contacting the Iridium folks.   Well, that didn’t work so I contacted the folks at Predict Wind.   A very nice person,  Keryn, in Auckland, NZ,where the company is located, agreed to walk me through the setup.  We had a bit of a tough time connecting due to the 12 hour time difference, but we ultimately we worked it out and last night she patiently walked me through the process of setting things up.

Keryn, the same person in the videos, really knows her stuff .  She took quite a long time to walk through the steps in setting up the apps.  For some reason, my laptop wasn’t able to run the app properly but the iPad worked fine so that’s what I will use.

There are literally hours of video tutorials to teach you how to use the system.  Have an hour?  Check out this one, the first of many and I do mean MANY. Watch them all and you’ll know the program inside-out but you might not have any time to go sailing.

Any  email you want to send over the system will have to be done via smart phone or tablet, not on the PC.  As a side note, I enjoy writing blog posts most days on passage and I do so in email, send them to Brenda who puts them on my blog, this blog.  The GO does not support email on the laptop app so I will have to type them on my iPad.   I HATE pecking away on my iPad for email so I ordered a keyboard, one that was recommended by the NY Times.

I have to say that the keyboard really works well and was very easy to set up, literally a few clicks of a button and it worked.

I wish that setting up the GO and Predict Wind was that easy but at least they have great customer service through Keryn.   As an added bonus, she has a very nice “Aussie” accent so all is better now.

The GO unit and Predict Wind will set you back more than a boat dollar but it’s way cool and if you love tech, you will love this system.

Perhaps the neatest part is the routing.  You put in some rudimentary polars, including your speed hard on the wind, on a reach and when heading down-wind and the computer does the rest.  Then you put in your departure and arrival points, download the gribs from multiple models, and the system calculates the likely route, one each for the various models you have chosen.

First put in the departure and arrival points.  The system has “land avoidance” so it will route you around any “hard stuff”. Then you choose which grib models you want to view.  In this case, I did all of them.  Then it calculates your assumed route and as you move the slider the boat moves down the course.  However, the route assumption in this case, doesn’t wait for a good “window” and assumed tthat I was planning to leave immediately, regardless of the weather that is forecast to be in my path.

As you can see from this, the wind is pretty stiff by day two of the trip.  Hard on the wind with apparent winds in the high 20s.  Not pleasant at all.

If I were to wait another day or two, say Saturday, the winds are a lot more pleasant.  But I haven’t figured out how to delay the start given the GRIBS that I downloaded.  I expect that can be done.  Details to come on that point. 

There is a blizzard of data available in the app, and I won’t even begin to try an explain all that you get but it’s overwhelming in a sort of cool way.   Highest wind speeds to be expected, time sailing verses motoring, percent of time hard on the wind, reaching and down wind sailing.  Me?  I’d nix the “hard on the wind” stuff. 

And, that’s where a weather routing guy like Chris Parker comes in.  The cold calculations of a computer and GRIB files does not take into account what might happen in the days following the 5 days that you have on file at any given time .  And anyone who has been offshore knows that things change.

Working with Chris will allow him to work with you to “put something in the bank” in case things change, which they surely will.

As they say “gentlemen do not go to weather” and while Predict Wind doesn’t know about that, Chris does.  Chris might have a different take on that saying, perhaps “if you want your crew to be happy, don’t go to weather”, except when you have no other choice.

And speaking of Chris, I plan to talk to him today to see if he still thinks that Saturday will be a good day to head out.

One more thing.  You can track me at this link as I make my way to Hampton at this link.   And, once the rally heads out, on November 1st or thereabouts, there will be a group tracking page with everyone listed so you can follow along.

Wish me luck.  At least I can say that with Pandora, all systems are “Go”, Predict Wind too and all the stuff that always seems to need attention on a boat.

At least I have a new toy to play with.  Hope I can remember all the buttons to push.

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