What Works And What Doesn't

We're still sitting in Boot Key Harbor waiting for the winds to lay down so we can move north to Key Biscayne. That will be our staging point to cross over to Bimini in the Bahamas. While waiting, I thought it might be a good idea to comment on what equipment has been working well and what has not performed for us, since this part of the trip was to be a shakedown for all of the new equipment we have installed. Some has done extremely well, some has done okay and some has just been miserable. The really important stuff has worked as advertised and we're very pleased.

What Has Worked.
Where to start? Our new Next Generation 3.5 KW generator has over 100 hours on it already. It has been wonderful and easily handles all of our power needs while at anchor. We haven't had the need to run the air conditioner much at all, but the one time we did, the generator handled it with no problem. We haven't tested it yet with the air conditioner and other appliances running at the same time so don't know yet what the maximum is that it can handle. I'm sure we will have the opportunity soon since temps here have consistently been in the 80s for over a week now.

The Garmin GHP 10 autopilot has proven itself to be an invaluable crew member. It can steer a straighter course than we can especially in less than comfortable conditions. It's surprising how well it handles following seas and bouncy windwaves. If we have one complaint, it's the homing mechanism that directs it toward a fish trap float if there is one within 100 yards of the boat. Then we have to hand steer for a short period until well clear. What a difference since we made our long trek down from the Chesapeake without one.

We installed an Aqualarm raw water flow alarm at the intake before the raw water pump. This triggers a light and alarm should the raw water flow stop at any time. The installation was very easy - it's just a matter of cutting the raw water intake hose after the strainer and installing the sensor. A pair of wires need to be run to the engine panel area, connected to the LED light and the small alarm mounted nearby. We wired it into the ignition switch for power, and when the key is turned on, the alarm is activated. It sounds and the light comes on until the engine is started and the water flow begins. The sensor is adjustable for water flow of different engines. The idea is that we will know immediately if the raw water flow to the engine stops and be able to shut down before the engine overheats. I hope we never need to get to a final test, but it's good to know it's there.

Our new Hard-To-Top hardtop is holding up very well and we're happy with our decision to replace the fabric bimini. The more we see the boat at anchor, the more we like the look, and the weather and sun protection is perfect. We suspect that about halfway through this cruise, we will know for sure whether we want side curtains or not on the flybridge.

Our Wifi system is performing in a stellar manor. I'm using it at this very minute to post this to the blog. We're still able to find open wifi (using our standard precautions) in most places. Here in Marathon has been the exception, since almost everyone in and near Boot Key Harbor has their wifi password protected against the boaters. The City Marina does not have wifi for the boaters on the moorings. You must bring your computer to the office.

Our outboard motor lift has proven to be a major back saver. We are still amazed at how easy it is to wrestle the outboard off the stern bracket, onto the dinghy, and back again. One of us (Susan) just hauls it up with the lift and then lowers it in place. It still takes two people because someone needs to maneuver into place on the dinghy or bracket (Chuck).

The Icom 802 SSB/Ham radio is working well and we are always looking for ways to tweak it to make both reception and broadcasting better. If any Hams are out there, you can contact KG4SFP on the Waterway Cruisers Net on 7.268 most mornings. We will probably also be on the SSB nets like Cruiseheimers, etc. over the next few months.

And, of course, our faithful Ford Lehman 120 engine gets an honorable mention. The extra work we did during our preparation stage has paid off and the annoyances are now gone. That doesn't mean new ones won't spring up, but we feel better knowing the previous work should prolong any serious issues.

What Hasn't Worked.
One of our purchases for use in the Bahamas was a USB wifi stick so we could use the Batelco data plans via a prepaid simcard. To give the unit a good test while still in the U.S we purchased a T-Mobile simcard to use on those rare occasions when open wifi or marina wifi was not available. The USB stick has worked just fine but the T-Mobile service just plain sucks. We have used it now on land from Naples, Florida to Maryland and back. We have used it on the water from Naples to Marathon and around the Keys. Despite the commercials with the pretty girl on a motorcycle and in a helicopter and their claims of high speed service, the prepaid data plan we have has been only slightly better than nothing. Even in areas where we have strong signals (such as staring at a cell tower), the wifi is painfully slow and it claims to be 4G capable. We do understand that 4G is not available in many areas, but this service has been terrible. Getting to anyone at customer service or using the website is a model of frustration. We certainly wouldn't recommend T-Mobile to anyone considering this kind of service.

Our new Class B AIS system is working, but we have yet to get it working the way it's supposed to. There may be other factors here besides the equipment, but from past experiences, I have not had these problems installing an AIS. Doug Miller at Milltech Marine has been working with us via email to try and resolve the problem. We are able to receive other AIS signals and we are broadcasting our own AIS signal, but we are not broadcasting the static boat information, which is our boat name and call sign. Our MMSI, course and speed are broadcasting just fine and being received by other AIS units. Doug seems to think there may be a cable or connection problem and we are working on that. I hope to have either an answer or resolution this week.

That's really about the only problems we have had so far. The time and effort researching equipment before we purchase and install it seems to have paid off. All things can change over time and we will be sure and do updates from time to time to let everyone know how things are holding up, including the crew. Now if we could only control the weather...  


  1. Hi guys! Just wanted to drop a note to mention that we too got a back saver little motor crane shortly after you installed yours. It has saved my husbands back and he now does not use as many four letter words since it was installed.

    Fair wind and calm seas enjoy the Bahamas!
    Jim and Dale

    1. Thanks for the well wishes and good to hear it has worked for you too. I know that we will find many uses for the Little Crane as we're out cruising, like lifting fuel and water jugs from the dinghy to the deck. Chuck and Susan

  2. Excited to be "riding" along. Fingers are crossed for a perfect weather window.
    Are your references here, arranged by preference. Anyone of these items you could do without (Lehman excluded :)

    1. No special preferences. But we just had a big surprise today that might change things just a bit, so stay tuned. Chuck

  3. Greetings and thanks for the content on what works. Can you give me more details on the wifi magic? We are in the gulf approaching key west on our trawler and new to being on the road. We are currently using our iPad for a hot spot when not in a marina. Any help with how to boost the free wifi would be great. Erbenrenewal erben42@gmail.com

    1. I can't speak for getting a boost on the iPad but for all of the information on our wifi set up progression, you can find all of the information here, http://trawler-beach-house.blogspot.com/search/label/WiFi . You can do a copy and paste of the URL to our browser if this doesn't work as a hot link. Chuck


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