To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Radio Upgrade, Plus Bimini Issues

Next up: radio replacement. The old radios both work nicely. However.

The radio that's accessible from the helm is inside the aft cabin. That means that the aft cabin hatch cover must be left open. What do you do when it rains? It also means that anyone off watch who's trying to sleep in the aft cabin has to endure the radio traffic.

Also. We had no hand-held VHF. That makes dinghy excursions inconvenient.


Back on 2009, I wrang my hands over the chart plotter. This lead me to investigate radios in spite of the fact that Red Ranger's radios worked.

Modern radios (like the Standard Horizon Matrix AIS+ GX2150) can receive the AIS position messages from commercial ships (and large private yachts). It integrates with the Standard Horizon chart plotter to show the ships and compute the point of closest approach (PCA) and time of closest approach (TCA). It can use the Global Positioning System (GPS) data from the chart plotter to broadcast COB (Crew Overboard) messages with Digital Selective Calling (DSC).

Plus, we can add a Standard Horizon RAM3 microphone in the cockpit. This repurposes the aft cabin radio into a hot-standby spare.


The old iCom radio has a nice teak "escutcheon" to fill the big old hole in the nav station cabinet. A little work with a fine coping saw reshaped the faceplate to fit the slightly larger Standard Horizon. However.

The nav station panel is way, way thicker than the Standard Horizon brackets can handle.

This creates the annoying step of trimming away some interior of the nav station woodwork. Wood rasp. Dremel. Chisel. Finish carpentry. My nemesis.

Once the cabinetry has been chiseled and Dremeled to a sensible thickness, the new radio can be screwed down solidly. The antenna splitter was (badly) hacked into the antenna power leads. This is easily fixed with a stack of ring terminals, a two-circuit bus bar and some crimping.


Remote Microphone

The big upgrade, however, is the helm microphone.

It's a pretty simple job to feed the line down the binnacle, through the engine room, under the hanging locker, under the cabin sole, behind the trash bin and up into the nav station.

Once connected, we can hang the little Standard Horizon exit plate and bracket on the binnacle somewhere.

Having failed to fully understand what's included in the RAM-3 package (i.e., 23' of remote connection cable) I foolishly bought the "CT-100", which is 23' of additional remote connection cable. Also, I ran this unneeded extra cable before I even opened the RAM-3 box to discover it was not needed.

I could have pulled out the superfluous CT-100 cable (and sold it on eBay or something.) Instead, I coiled up the excess in the engine room and cable-tied it to a bulkhead.

Bimini Failure

Recently, the bimini started to collapse: the seams started ripping apart. This isn't just failed stitching, either. The fabric was finally rotting.

CA carefully dismantled the bimini cover, measured it, and purchased several yards of the Sunbrella Oyster fabric. Yes, she's Red Ranger. Red dyes tend to fade quickly through brick to pink to arrive at a pinkish-gray yuck. A blue will last longer, but is hot. We had a kind of tan, but prefer the Oyster.

Our bimini is delightfully simple. There are just two short darts in the aft corners to provide some shaping around the steel structure.

CA brought the sewing machine to the marina so that we could stretch the fabric, locate the zippers properly, and sew up most (but not all) of the bimini.

The original design had a pair of long zippers at the aft edge. One zipper simply went around the steel framework. The other zipper appeared to be part of some kind of isinglass curtain that may have been part of a more complete enclosure. We had some isinglass with zippers, but we couldn't get it attached to the bimini in any useful way; we ditched it.

As a simplification, she's going to try and use webbing loops around the steel frame instead of a long zipper.

However the First Rule of Boat Projects applies: You Never Have All The Materials. In this case, she's short about a yard of Sunbrella Oyster.

She did, however, experiment with the Phifertex vinyl mesh. It allows a breeze to come through; offers pretty good visibility, but cuts down on the blazing heat from direct sun. It seems to be a great way to build an enclosure that can keep us cool in the tropics. A little binding on the Phifertex and some Common Sense Twist-Lock fasteners and we should have a breezy enclosure.