Our new Simrad NSS9 EVO3 chartplotters have very quiet alarms, but they do have an alarm-out signal that can be used for an external alarm. To make sure we hear alarms for things like boats entering the radar guard zone and dangerous vessel on AIS, I built an external alarm using, at it’s core, a little Arduino single-board computer.
Here’s a very short video of the alarm in action…
(Note: the black box that says “Hear It” on the front is not part of the alarm. That’s actually a speaker for the SSB radio that has a built in DSP (Digital Signal Processor) to make voices much easier to hear and understand over the radio. Highly recommended.)
Here are the details in case you want to make your own external alarm (some assembly required ;-)…
The schematic for the circuit…
Since both the LED light and the alarm draw more current than the Arduino can safely supply, I’ve used two 2N2222 NPN transistors to switch them on and off. The external alarm signal from our Simrad EVO3 chartplotters is open-collector so when the alarm is activated, it’s pulled low through the 1K resistor. That resistor is a fairly low value so that the stray EMI from the SSB won’t trigger the alarm.
I used an Arduino Nano but almost any Arduino will work. I picked the Nano because it has a built in voltage regulator and I can supply the alarm with ships 12 volts (which on Legacy, may run as high as 14.8 volts).
I put the extra bits on a perf-board and soldered the Nano on that same board (yes, I know it would have been better to socket the Nano but it turned out to be a tight squeeze to get the parts in the box).
The piezo is from Jaycar – here. It really isn’t quite loud enough and I may replace it with a louder buzzer.
I found the lamp housing at a local marine store. It’s not easy to find one for a boat that’s all-around red. I’ve been on the lookout for something that would work for this application for a while and finally found it at Steve’s Marine in Tauranga, New Zealand.
The lamp I used inside is also from a marine store and is an all-around white LED bulb similar to this one from West Marine: here. A red LED bulb would have been better, but I made do with what I could find locally.
And here’s the code (or sketch as it’s called in Arduino parlance):
There are some notes at the top of the sketch that I hope explain it pretty well. I noted that I should have selected a different digital I/O pin for the alarm in signal. That should be a very easy change.
Just outside the area we named “the Hidden Worlds,” was yet another intriguing area. Along the shoreline a small island, barely separated from the larger land mass, hid two pools just behind it.
As we motored in, the water went from very bright blue to a beautiful green in the pools themselves. In shallow water under the ledges we could see hundreds of bright blue damselfish.
Below, a gallery showing the entry to one of the pools . . .
And then a few photos of the pools themselves . . . (click to enlarge/scroll through any of the galleries in this post.)
The photos above were taken on different days, cloudy days lending it a subtle glow to the water while full sun brought out an almost neon brightness.
After exiting the pools and traveling along the ledges along the shoreline, we had a nice view of our boat behaving herself in the anchorage across the channel. Yet another lovely spot in a lovely place. – Cyndi
Above, a map showing the “Hidden Worlds” area in Vanua Balavu’s Bay of Islands.
We stumbled across this area when we returned to check out an anchorage possibility we’d passed by when we first arrived. Would it be more protected for upcoming winds? Not enough to justify moving (this goes back to when we decided to use our stern anchor and stay put where we were). We did, however, discover a beautiful area behind the anchorage. Below, the intriguing pass that led into this area.
Inside we discovered a large inner pool surrounded by steep-sided cliffs and bushy growth. A tiny rock island sat in the middle, and the surrounding blue-green water had the characteristic brightness of so many of these hidden areas. (Below, a gallery of photos of this pool—you can click to enlarge and scroll though the galleries that follow.)
It was quite beautiful, but even more beautiful was what we found behind a small island that bordered the back end of this pool. There were two passes, one on each side of the island, that led to yet another area. (Below, photos of both passes)
This area’s pool was larger, yet it felt more enclosed and remote, a truly secret hidey-hole. The water glowed green and blue and thick vegetation covered its rock walls. It was an absolutely beautiful spot. –Cyndi
We enjoyed snorkeling at the island by our anchorage, an easy swim from our boat. It didn’t look very exciting from above, but the water below the ledge was filled with interesting fish: many variations of blue damsels and probably hundreds of Picasso triggerfish ranging from inch-long babies to fairly large adults. They actually had burrows that they’d dart into if we got too close. We’re always excited to find even a single Picasso trigger; so seeing so many was pretty exciting, and we’ve never seen the burrow thing.
On one outing, we swam along the island to the small pass and made our way through to the other side. It wasn’t as prolific with the fish over there, but it was still worth a visit, especially when we spotted a trigger fish we’d never seen.
What did turn out to be really special was the large bombie we’d spotted from the dinghy on previous outings. This thing was huge, the size of a living room, and in contrast to the rocky sides of the islands, it was covered with an amazing array of corals. There were hard corals of all kinds, beautiful soft red corals, and sea fans. It had pinnacles and valleys that were right out of something Disney might create. As for fish, there seemed to be thousands of them, and they weren’t bothered by our presence.
We found the best way to enjoy the bombie was to drift over it, then swim back around it and drift over again. We did this a few times, and it was as good as any snorkeling we’d done to that point. We saw many fish we knew and a few we’d never seen before. I was kicking myself for not bringing the underwater camera, and unfortunately we didn’t get back there before we left. Hopefully we’ll go back someday and it will still be the same. (Sadly we’ve found cyclones can dramatically change coral reefs in shallow waters; something we saw firsthand when we returned to Tonga in 2014.)
These areas weren’t far from our boat, but we had some good snorkeling even closer, a bombie right near us. We first visited it to make sure it was deep enough that Legacy could drift over it safely even at low tide. It was, the top of it about 12 feet under water. What a surprise it was to dive down and find what looked like a simple rock from the surface was home to an impressive array of tropical fish, our own underwater aquarium! Up on the surface, it just looked like a rock again. Thus, I had good incentive to practice free diving and was much improved by the time we left.
At a glance, the Bay of Islands doesn’t look like it would be much for snorkeling as it lacks large areas of coral reef, but every snorkeling outing we made turned out to have things of interest. And of course the big bombie was world class! –Cyndi
During our time in the tropics, we stay comfortable at night by keeping our hatches open. Rain is surprisingly infrequent because cruising season coincides with the dry season, but when the rain does come, it generally starts lightly, giving us a gentle wake-up and time to close up the boat before anything gets wet. Occasionally though, we get a downpour that gives us a rude awakening and gets us scrambling to close the ports before things gets soaked.
In spite of the drama, I like downpours. They’re pretty exciting when they’re heavy, and then soothing when they lighten into a steadier rain. And it’s always a plus for the boat to get a freshwater rinse.
This night we had a downpour, then woke up the next morning to rain and gusty winds. As long as we’re in a safe anchorage I enjoy this sort of weather: it’s a signal to take some time out, enjoy a second cup of coffee, make something more elaborate than cereal for breakfast (today it was eggs and fried potatoes), read, and just watch the world outside. When the rain stops, we relish that wonderful earthy after-rain smell. (You can click to enlarge/scroll through the galleries that follow.)
The rain didn’t last very long, but clouds passed over the rest of the day. The changing light made a color show on the water, an ongoing kaleidoscope of glowing teal greens and blues with passing breezes creating silvery highlights.
Later, we had a tropical-rain night sky, the moon mostly obscured but so light we could see the cloud pattern in the dappled gray sky. The night insects were singing, and we had a light trade-wind breeze as Legacy gently rocked from side to side. The whole scene felt wonderful. Sunny days are great, but rainy days can be extra-special. –Cyndi (Below, a brief video of our anchorage during the cloudy afternoon.)
The Jade Pool was only a stone’s throw from our boat, but a group of motus (rock islands) separated it so completely from our anchorage that it seemed like a separate place.
We had to pass between motus to enter, but inside was a large shallow pool with celadon green water. That combined with the vegetation on the islets made it feel like a magical green world. I’d love to have spent more time there just basking in the color green. We did visit a few times and, sunny or cloudy, it was always beautiful.
Below, some photos showing the motus and the jade pool inside of them. (You can click to enlarge and scroll through galleries that follow.)
One time we came here to swim and snorkel. I was happy just swimming, but Rich told me to get my mask and head over towards him. There, he’d found some colorful small fish, exotic and beautiful. We continued on around some of the motus finding baby Picasso triggerfish and lots of damselfish. It seems our Jade Pool was a nursery for a variety of fish species.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the underwater camera, but below are some photos showing the Jade Pool under a cloudy sky and in bright sunlight. –Cyndi
OK, that last post I wrote took a long time to finish. It’s not easy sorting through thousands of Vanuatu photos for a few I felt represented it (or at least represented why we found it so appealing), but now that it’s done, I’ll be picking up where I left off in Fiji’s Vanua Balavu, 2013. (Much to Rich’s relief, I wrote many of the upcoming posts on our long ocean passage and he’s already done the photo editing. And so, here they come . . .) –Cyndi
We’ve had continuing problems with the mixing elbow on our Yanmar 3YM30 engine: we’re on our forth now and it’s rusted away to the point that it’s leaking. I was shopping for a new one online this morning when I found this stainless steel after-market replacement from HDI Marine.
I ordered one immediately and it’s on it’s way. The price was unbeatable at $275 US for the entire assembly. I don’t really need the lower part (that attaches to the engine), and they sell the mixing elbow alone, but it wasn’t too much more for the entire assembly. I’ll update this post as I gather experience with it. -Rich
As I write this, it’s late in December (2017) and we’re sailing south to arrive in New Zealand after Christmas. Yes, it’s late in the season, but this year’s La Nina conditions have made it much harder to find a suitable weather window for the trip.
Ironically, this cruising period began with another unusually late departure: August 2016 from Opua, New Zealand. Since then we’ve traveled to New Caledonia, Australia and Tasmania, then back to New Caledonia, up to Vanuatu, and once again back to New Caledonia, all pretty much without a break. I’ve written some posts commenting on all of these places except Vanuatu; so here’s a brief Vanuatu overview . I actually started this post awhile ago and will leave it as is, title and all. Here it is:
Two Cindys! (In reality, “Cindi” and “Cyndi”)
We on Legacy have made it a policy not to “buddy-boat,” which to us means traveling in tandem with at least one other boat for an extended period of time. We do sometimes travel for shorter periods with another boat (we’ve had lots of wonderful travels with our friends on Bright Angel, for example) but we tend to roll our eyes at some cruising boats who just can’t go anywhere without each other, traveling in twos, threes, or–don’t get me started–rallies.
And so when we met up with our friends Adam and Cindi on Bravo at Aneityum Island, Vanuatu, it was meant to be a nice reunion. As it turned out, though, we were headed north at the same time and planned to do many of the same things. And so began our season of “not buddy boating” with Bravo in Vanuatu.
We didn’t plan to do so much of the island chain together; it just sort of happened. Because we weren’t tied at the hip, we became a great team, often able to scout things out and book each other into activities (dive trips, cultural shows, restaurants, kava drinking, nice people to meet and other boaters to look out for–Mr. Anchor On Top of Everyone, you know who you are!–etc.) We shared things we learned, commiserated on inevitable boat snafus, and of course spent a lot of social time together having meals, sundowners, etc.
I have no doubt that other boats saw us as buddy boating. When I explained to a mutual friend that we weren’t buddy boating per se but more traveling alongside each other, he asked what the difference was. I thought about it for a second and realized the answer: If one boat felt like going off to do something completely different on a whim, while we’d certainly inform each other, there wouldn’t need to be a summit meeting about it. Feel like leaving tomorrow and going in a completely different direction? Cool, let us know what you find out there! No one was on a leash (if ever there were two boats who would not tolerate a leash, it would be Bravo and Legacy). In fact, we actually made our travel decisions independently, only to get together and find out we’d made the same decisions. Good thing we get along very well!
One of the things I really enjoyed was going ashore as a foursome and introducing ourselves to the locals. We’d say our names: Adam, Rich, Cindi and Cyndi, and we’d always get the same response: a surprised and amazed look and the phrase, “two Cindys!” said with a sort of awe, much like if one heard about the discovery of a live Tasmanian Tiger (most likely extinct since 1936), and not just one but two. Imagine how you’d say Two Tasmanian Tigers! That’s how people would say it: “Two Cindys!”
Now Cindy is not a common name in Vanuatu, but we’d sometimes get this reaction even from the Aussies. It was funny to us, but I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it until we had gone our separate ways. Bravo was going to Australia and had less time in Vanuatu, opting to do the northeast islands while we headed to the far north Banks Islands before doing the same.
Traveling without them, I immediately noticed the difference when we introduced ourselves to locals. I was just Cyndi again, no longer part of the magical “Two Cindys” phenomenon. It felt sad, like I was once a unicorn but now was just a regular horse.
And so, now solo, we traveled down the east side of Vanuatu, completing a kind of circle back to Port Vila before heading to New Caledonia. The Vanuatu verdict? We loved it, but I had one big problem with it.
For me, Vanuatu is a beautiful and dramatic place, definitely going up there into the favorites category. For Rich it’s more: he’s found his locational equivalent of a soulmate. Thus, he’s dreaming about getting a little place there someday and is anxious to get back for more visits. I love it and am looking forward to returning, but there are many other places I want to go. Meanwhile, if not for the summer heat and cyclones, I might have trouble getting Rich out of there at all. Below, a few photos to show how Vanuatu ticks all the boxes:
Dramatic Natural Phenomena
Dugongs and Turtles
Rich Cultural Traditions
Adventurous River Rides
World-Class Snorkeling and Diving
Now, I worried about our next destination: New Caledonia. We have loved it there, but our previous visit was spent recovering from travel burnout, and Vanuatu is a very hard act to follow. Thankfully, New Caledonia didn’t fall under Vanuatu’s shadow. We returned, and it felt great to be back. New Caledonia and Vanuatu are so different that you can’t really compare one to the other–it’s the apples-and-oranges thing. And even though we’d come to the end of a long cruising season, we felt pretty energetic and managed to visit some of the places we’d yet to see in New Caledonia’s lagoon.
And for some reason, even with so many people around us anxious to get a weather window to New Zealand, we didn’t feel the same pressure. We, too, we were waiting for a window, but when they’d end up not being satisfactory; we’d happily go out to do some local cruising. We were waiting on the arrival of our new chartplotters from Simrad, and the weather was (with the exception of a couple of days) comfortably warm and not too hot. With nice weather, so many places yet to see, such great food, both eatery-wise and market wise, why would we want to leave? Well, cyclone season was arriving, but it was still early enough we didn’t feel too pressured.
Finally we did get our weather window, but even as we passed Amedee Island by one of the passes out of New Caledonia’s lagoon, I found myself wishing it were May and we were just arriving instead of leaving. It’s surprising to feel this way after such a long season–it seems somewhere along the way my tired soul revived. Rich was feeling good, but he was (and is) very ready to take a break from boating for a few months. New Zealand, hopefully, will provide this break.
Now, weeks later as I finish this post, we celebrated Christmas at sea and spent New Year’s eve in Opua. Champagne glasses filled, we made a toast to 2017 and felt a moment of silence filled with gratitude and wonder at the gifts this year brought, including mainland Australia and Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Middleton Reef, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, New Caledonia yet again, and finally New Zealand. What an amazing year it has been, a standout year in a series of pretty good years. We can only hope that 2018 can be even partly as special.
For now, it will be a relaxed start as we are taking a few months off from cruising. We’ll be working on boat projects, work protects, and some personal care projects such as going to a gym. For the next few months we’ll be living “apartment life.” Now, as I finally finish the post, it’s nearing the end of January. We bought a car, go to the gym three times a week, have reconnected with old friends, completed a few boat projects, gotten our eye exams, and feel settled in. We even have a plant! (OK, it’s just one of those living herb plants they sell at the supermarket—I needed chives and this was the only way I could have them—but still, it’s symbolic.)
The best part is not constantly having to be on top of the weather forecast. Did you hear that wind pick up last night? Impressive! Wow, there’s some thunder; let’s unplug the computer. Torrential rain? Good thing we have new windshield wipers on the car! Heat? The gym has air conditioning—let’s get some exercise. Remnants of a tropical low are due next week; hope the weekly Gourmet Night in the park doesn’t get canceled. Yes, there are plenty of other things worry about, but for the time being, it’s nice to put aside weather concerns. –Cyndi