Garmin vívoactive® 3 and raceQs sailing tactics app

Garmin vivoactive 3

I purchased a Garmin Vivoactive watch to be able to run the raceQs sailing tactics racing watch app. I’ve actually purchased two of these watches. I purchased the first in early 2020 when I saw it on sale for around $120 on a discount site. I used a little bit with the RaceQs app https://raceqs.com/smart-watch/ before the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down all sailboat racing, and then used the watch more for its built in GPS bike tracking and walk tracking features during the summer. Towards the end of the summer when I was getting back into sailboat racing, I was wearing the watch on my right hand and managed to knock the strap loose while tying fenders to the lifeline. The watch bounced once on the deck before going overboard. It took me a few months before I saw another deal online that convinced me to buy a second watch.

Fitbit Charge 3

I have a long data history with Fitbit, and currently wear a Charge 3. It’s similar to the newer Charge 4, but without the GPS tracking features. I like the smaller profile on my wrist of the fitbit, and have been wearing it or something similar 24 hours a day for the last five years. The larger size of the Garmin makes it harder to convince myself to switch to away from the Fitbit for my general data tracking, when though I’ve learned that when I don’t use the GPS features of the Garmin it has similar battery life to the Fitbit. I like the always on watch face of the Garmin, especially after I picked an analog style watch face.

Garmin Titanium Watch Face

I like using the RaceQs app on the watch while sailing, especially with the more recent editions features of automatically uploading race data to the website. I have some issues, that I mainly believe are because of the touchscreen abilities with the garmin watch. I believe that the app would be much better served on a watch with an array of buttons surrounding the watch face. The pictures of the app on its website appear to show a button centric watch.

The way I use the watch for sailing is that I wait till I’m on the boat, preparing for a start. Then I start the raceQ app on the watch, wait for it to get a GPS fix and go to the timer setting. Then I configure the timer for the appropriate countdown to my start and start the countdown. Then I explicitly press and hold the crown button until I can press the lock icon, locking the touchscreen. I’ve found that if I don’t lock the touchscreen, inadvertent touches will change what’s displayed on the screen, and cause the app to change modes. I do my best not to touch the app until after my race has completed.

Sometimes I notice the app is on a page that asks if I want to exit, with a check (✔) or cross (❌) option. I’ve found that the best option is to not enter anything until after the race has completed.

I wish that the raceq screen displayed GPS time on all screens, including the screen asking if I wanted to exit the app. There are plenty of times that I’ve been hiking on the rail and the skipper wants the exact time recorded for when we’ve crossed the finish line. with the watch locked, there’s no way to get the time on the watch quickly.

The app automatically calculates tacking angles to the mark after one set of windward/leeward marks have been rounded, which seems nice, but in my position on the boat, isn’t as important to me as the start timer, or the real time of finish.

I don’t know if there’s a way of creating screen shots of the watch display similar to what’s on a phone. It would be nice for describing after the fact what was going on, but with the limited storage and buttons on the phone, don’t expect there’s a way of doing so.

B&G Zeus™ 3S 9 Memory Card Update

In my previous post I was not able to use the 32GB memory card, while the 16GB memory card worked.

Lexar 32GB Flash Card Properties

I’m happy to report that after explicitly formatting the card as FAT32, my chartplotter was able to read and write the card correctly.

I don’t know the underlying platform the chartplotter is built on, but with flash card sizes regularly increasing, I’d hope that B&G introduce support for the exFAT filesystem in the future. https://fossbytes.com/linux-5-7-microsofts-exfat-driver-code/ has a nice description of the inclusion of exFAT in Linux.

B&G Zeus™ 3S 9 Vessel Message Alarm

Vessel message from: 541064663

This is a feature that I’m still trying to understand. I believe it is an AIS message, and possibly a distress message, but have not been able to figure out what it means. I get the same result whether I push Show or Close, in that the alarm dialog closes and no cursor is selected.

Garmin AIS 300

I have a GARMIN AIS™ 300 Blackbox Receiver connected to my NMEA 2k network, and assume that it generated the message on the local network and the B&G is just displaying it. Because I don’t have an AIS transmitter, I don’t believe it’s a directed message to me. I’m not broadcasting any ID, and my radio isn’t hooked to the GPS, so isn’t configured to be able to broadcast distress signals. (One more item in my to-do-list)

The only annoyance I have with this type of message has been when I left the instruments running while i was away from the boat and returned to find the alarm beeping and a similar message displayed. I don’t like that the beeping may have been annoying my neighbors for days.

B&G Zeus 3s Memory Cards

I recently installed a Zeus™ 3S 9 chartplotter on my sailboat, and am generally happy with it. I’ve been running into a few problems and am still trying to figure out what’s going on. This is probably only the first post that I’ll write about issues I’m having.

The manual says it can read memory cards larger than 32GB if they are formatted NTFS. I found the smallest flash card in my regular collection of cards was a 32GB card. I put it into the chart plotter because I wanted to copy the screen captures to my computer, but it was not recognized.

Today I found a 16GB card that had been used in a raspberry pi project and reformatted it in windows 10, then took both it and the larger card to the boat.

I did a couple of tests and the 16GB card was readable from either slot, while the 32GB card doesn’t show up.

You can see that I put the 32 GB card in the top slot and the 16 GB card in the bottom.

Micro SD Cards Fully Inserted

The second picture shows the memory cards fully inserted. At that point I was able to see the 16GB card in the chartplotter, but the 32GB card does not appear.

Chart Plotter Screenshot

After I returned home I looked at the filesystem properties on each of the cards.

The larger of the two cards had defaulted to the exFAT format, while the smaller was FAT32. I was able to reformat the larger drive as FAT32 and may test if it can be read by the chartplotter in the future. I don’t like buying small memory cards. I have found the fast (Ultra High Speed Class 3 = 30 MBit/second) 128GB cards are the right ones to buy for my drone and camera usage.

As I read through this post you can see that the 16GB card is listed as UHS-3 while the 32GB card is UHS-1. I don’t think that should make a difference in this usage.

New B&G Zeus™ 3S 9

This week I replaced my old Garmin GPSMAP® 740 with a brand new B&G Zeus™ 3S 9 chartplotter with C-MAP cartography. I’m excited about using this because I’ve used older B&G Zeus products on friends boats and this has everything I’m used to with more processor speed.

I had earlier upgraded to communication in my boat to connect the older Raymarine Seatalk instruments to the NMEA 2000 network using a Raymarine SeaTalk1 to SeaTalkng converter kit (Part Number E22158) with a blue DeviceNet adapter connecting to my NMEA 2000 backbone, and a white DeviceNet adapter connecting to my Garmin GPSMap 740. This allowed my garmin to show a few more details and my raspberry pi to capture and log the data from the depth and wind instruments.

I was hoping that beyond the physical changes to my instrument pod with the installation of the new B&G unit, the wiring changes would just require disconnecting the Garmin from the NMEA2000 connection and connecting the B&G to the same connection.

I did that. Then when I powered on the B&G, it asked for confirmation to discover all connected devices, which I had it do. It wasn’t seeing the results from the raymarine devices on the network, though it was getting AIS targets from the Garmin AIS 300 receiver and seeing my new fusion radio, both on the NMEA2000 bus. The communication path to either of those units was via the Seatalk converter, so I was confused as to if the B&G couldn’t see the old instruments, and spent a couple of days looking for possible solutions.

Most of the solutions I seemed to run across made me think that there may be too much power loss on the length of NMEA2000 backbone cable reaching from inside nav station to my outside pedestal. When I’d originally installed the converter kit, I spliced in power in the pedestal. Power was supplied directly to the converter, and it provided power to the NMEA2k backbone. During my installation of the B&G I attempted to do some wiring cleanup. I removed the power to the converter, and provided power to the NMEA2k bus in the nav station.

Here are several links to discussion that suggest power across the length of the backbone may be my problem:

I took video of the status led blinking on the converter, and it never was reporting low voltage. It was definitely reporting something with data, but I wasn’t sure if it was the first or second from the list.

I wasn’t excited about cutting and splicing my pedestal power connection again to provide power directly to the converter, and while playing around and power cycling everything, I realized that if I power cycled the converter/nmea2k bus, and brought up the B&G and just looked at the instruments, the converter was visible in the B&G!

If I selected it, I could see all the data it was publishing from the instruments on the NMEA2k bus.

That seemed like success! (The Sea Temperature reading has been whacky since I’ve bought the boat, and I can’t seem to figure out how to get it to read the correct temperature on the original ST60+ Tridata either.) So I told the B&G to auto select it’s data sources again.

After doing that, the Seatalk converter no longer was visible in the list of devices, or the data it was publishing. I also figured out that my Raspberry Pi stopped logging the data from the instruments when this happened. (I’m pretty sure my raspberry pi is the device at the top of the device list with — under both Model ID and Serial No. Fixing that is a low priority task for me. If you know how to properly configure the Pi please leave a comment pointing out what I should do. This is the platform I’m running.)

After several tests, I figured out that my Raymarine instruments continue working and putting data on the NMEA2k bus as long as I don’t have the B&G auto discover sources. I manually went through and configured the sources in the B&G settings, and was able to get things configured as I want.

I’m not 100% satisfied because I don’t think I should be able to take the converter offline with whatever commands the B&G is sending over the NMEA2k bus, but I’m happy that I didn’t have to splice more cables this week.

First Multi-Day Trip on Sola

My first multi day trip on Sola was over Memorial Day weekend 2021. I wasn’t good at planning, with every boater in the area also trying to take advantage of the perfect weather, but things worked out well and it was a good learning experience.

I loaded all of what I thought I’d need on my boat, returned my car to my apartment, and walked the two miles back to the boat. That meant that I didn’t pull away from my slip until close to noon on Friday. I then went to the fuel dock in Shilshole and added 14 gallons of diesel to my tank. I learned that the price of ice at the fuel dock is almost exactly the same as the nearest QFC. It was a little past 1:30 by the time I was away from the fuel dock.

After clearing the breakwater, I as able to engage the autopilot and stow all my fenders and docking lines. The wind was nice enough for sailing, so I raised the main sail and unfurled the head sail and sailed downwind towards Blake Island.

I passed the western shore of Blake Island about 4pm, and all of the mooring balls were already in use, with several additional boats anchored. Because I was moving nicely under sail power and the sunset is close to 9pm, I continued down Colvos Passage towards Gig Harbor.

I was able to sail all the way to the entrance of Gig Harbor, arriving about 7pm. After motoring into Gig Harbor and passing through a fleet of anchored boats I picked a spot and dropped my anchor with about 30 feet of water below me.

After my 80 foot chain, plus some of the rode, was off the boat, I was hailed by a large motor yacht to the south of me, with them saying that I was probably over their anchor, and that they had about 200 feet of chain out. I sat there for about 5 minutes, then pulled my anchor back up and moved north to another open area and dropped the anchor a second time. That location I stayed the night.

I’d previously taken the boat to Gig Harbor and anchored when I was racing the South Sound Series #4 on Mata Hari on March 20th. That trip I motored down Friday night, anchored, was picked up from my boat to race Saturday morning, returned to the boat Saturday night, and raised the anchor and motored home Sunday. I had the assistance returning to the dock in Shilshole, which was hugely beneficial. This trip I was planning to be alone the entire time.

I planned my departure from Gig Harbor to ride the tidal currents through the Tacoma Narrows south past Fox Island. I had the anchor up by 6:30am, but that wasn’t too much of an issue since the sun is now up before 5:30am.

South of Fox Island, I attempted to sail for a while, but after a couple of hours I wasn’t making much progress. I was slightly worried about finding a place to stay the night since I’d never been in the south sound to stay before. I powered up and passed Eagle Island between Anderson Island and McNeil Island and saw at least one mooring ball I could have used, and will probably revisit in the future.

I continued on, turning north and finally arrived at McMicken Island. There were two mooring balls on the south side of the island as I approached, one occupied. I was tired from not having slept well the previous night, and took possession of the empty mooring ball, and once the boat was secure took a nap.

I made hot coffee in the morning, but ran out of propane as I was preparing eggs in the afternoon. No more hot food for me. I had plenty of food that didn’t require cooking and it was hot during the day so I didn’t feel the need to heated food.

I spent two nights in the same place, on the same mooring ball. It was very relaxing, and mostly quiet. The south sound reminds me much more of a lake than the waters near Shilshole. I remembered that I had my drone on board, but hadn’t freshly charged the batteries, so each of my three batteries was only at 60%. I was still able to get some nice views of the area.

I was able to take time looking around and comparing what I could see to what the charts were showing.

The most important thing I figured out was that I wanted my dinghy so I could explore the park. I was reminded of the US Navy recruiting phrase: “Join the Navy, See the world.” and the army joke that went with it: “We own the part you can walk on.”

After two nights on the south side of McMicken Island, I motored to the south side to see what was available there. There were more mooring balls, and plenty of protected anchorage, but there was also a lot more boats in that area. My solitude on the south side had been nice while there was very little wind or weather.

I’d decided I wanted to explore Jerrell Cove State Park and then stay at Tolmie State Park on Monday. I had some nice south wind and was able to sail for a while going north in Case Inlet and around the northern point of Harstine Island, then dump the sail into the sailbag and motor into Jarrell Cove and back, then raise the sail and sail southwards again. I only sailed about 7 miles total, but it was certainly nice to not have the diesel running for a few hours.

I ran out of wind as I got a little farther south than I’d started the day. While it was now Monday of the long weekend, I wasn’t certain about where I was staying the night, and preferred to arrive and use a mooring ball instead of dropping anchor. I needn’t have worried, as there were three empty mooring balls when I arrived, and one boat anchored nearby. The location was exactly what I was hoping for. Quiet and flat, and an easy location to start back home from. There was 40 feet showing on my depth finder when I connected to the mooring ball. The views of Mt Rainier were incredible, and the water was glasslike in the morning.

While waiting for the currents to turn to the north, I flew my drone.

I timed the currents northwards and after leaving Tolmie State Park a bit past ten in the morning, I was able to be back in my slip in Shilshole just past four pm. I had about a knot of push during most of the trip, with as much as four knots at times.

Mustang Survival EP 38 Inflatable Ocean Racing Vest

After 16 years of faithful service, I decided it was time to replace my SOSpenders inflatable PFD. I’d bought it back when I was going through all of the classes offered by Windworks Sailing for US Sailing Certifications, and while it is still fully functional, the opening style was not as comfortable as the newer Mustang PFDs.

I’d gone into the store hoping to find a good price on a traditional shaped Mustang PFD, with the clasp in the front and double D rings to secure a tether. While I found those PFDs, I also came across this new PFD from Mustang that I’d not seen before. It had been introduced in October 2016, and I’d not done much sailing after early November, completing Round the County on Different Drummer.

The EP 38 was visually appealing, but also a step up in cost compared to the PFDs I went in prepared to buy.  It included built in crotch straps, something that I’d had to add to my old PFD to satisfy regulations on many of the races I’ve been interested in. I tried the EP38 on, finding that my head did fit through the opening and it was comfortable while wearing a t-shirt. I ended up leaving the store without buying anything since I had something new to think about.

After arriving in Victoria BC for the Swiftsure Yacht Race, there was a booth selling Mustang gear at a race discount. I’d watched online videos of the proper method of donning this PFD with heavy gear on, and knew it would be snug for me.

In the blazing sun of the inner harbor I took my heavy gear to the booth and tried on the PFD. I really wanted to see how it felt with the hood still folded into the collar of my foul weather gear. The videos explaining the procedure for donning the PFD explicitly suggest putting up the hood and securing the storm flap across your face before putting the PFD over your head. With some assistance tugging on my collar, I was able to get the PFD in place without raising the hood. While slightly snug around my neck, I decided that it was something I could get used to and bought the PFD.

After using the PFD during the 23 hour race, I’m mostly happy with it, but there are a few things I really wish Mustang had designed better.

  • The chest strap tightening system regularly loosened up on me, and I was often re-cinching it. A bigger issue is that to tighten it, you must pull the straps towards the rear. It would be much easier to tighten it if the cinch points were near the back of the harness and the loose ends pulled forward to tighten.
  • The crotch straps should be a few inches longer. I’m 6’2″ and more overweight than I’d like to be. At full extension these straps barely connect. I know that there are plenty of sailors that are taller than me. The straps are already adjustable to shorten the length, making them a few inches longer would make them so much more usable.
  • The velcro patches securing the spray hood and crotch straps in the back should be larger vertically, to make them easier to secure. I regularly hike outside the upper lifeline, and coming back through the lifeline was knocking the velcro loose.
  • Pulling the life vest on over my head I was regularly rubbing my sunburned nose on the front of the collar. This was something I got better about during the course of the race, so is less of an issue than I thought when initially trying it on.

After listing what was wrong with the vest, I’ll say I like it much more than any vest I’ve used in the past. there are several points that I can’t emphasize enough.

20170531_172119625_iOS

Pulling the vest on over the head and securing the straps is so much faster than having to buckle a traditional vest. At 3am when sleeping below on the sails without my foul weather gear or PFD on, this was intuitive and almost as quick as throwing a t-shirt over my head when I needed to assist with a spinnaker jibe. I can’t emphasize how much the speed of putting it on made spending the money on good safety equipment seem a worthwhile expense.

The front of the PFD seems lower profile than my old PFD, and it’s nice to not have metal D rings in the front.

The hydro-static automatic inflation technology is supposed to be better than the old chalk ring technology.  It may cost more when I need to replace it, but it’s nice to have the maintenance dates visible through the clear plastic in front.

The back of the collar is less likely to get caught on the lifelines, though I’m watching the velcro pocket on the back.

Being all black, there’s not a good visible location two write my name in normal use. I have put my name on the label that’s visible when it’s inflated, but am still working on the best way to label the outside. I have access to a sewing machine that can sew patterns of letters, so I’m thinking of having my name stitched into the webbing using a bright thread.

GoPro Battery BacPac

I purchased a GoPro Battery BacPack recently because I realized that I’d rather have extended shooting than have two seperate batteries that needed to be charged. I had already purchased a second standard battery for the GoPro, but I didn’t have a way to charge it when it was not in the camera, so found it less useful than I was hoping.

The fact that I am most often using my GoPro in harsh conditions means that I’d rather not open the case any more frequently than I need to. When I’m skiing, if I go into the lodge to change the battery, the very first thing I notice is that the cold GoPro case is suddenly steamed over by the indoor humidity. 

When I’ve been doing my stop motion photography at a picture every two seconds, generally the standard battery lasts just under two hours. My first test with the BacPac attached started at 8:47am and the last picture was at 12:40, so it looks like It gets me to just under 4 hours total.

It created 6999 files in that time frame. I’ve not figured out if the GoPro uses any less battery when taking sequential still photos vs when it’s taking movies. 

Saturday’s race on Different Drummer wasn’t fully captured in the time allotted because we went out early and did some practice work flying the spinnaker.

Hopefully I’ll get around to writing more about what comes with the BacPac in the next couple of days. I was mostly interested in sharing the extension of the recording time.