Going Places

Northern States

Southern States

The Bahamas

After the storm

Lindsay McRory
November 14, 1995

For the past few days, there has been much dock talk about the November 11th storm. Estimates on wind speeds varied from 55 to 75 mph. Regardless of what the actual wind speed was, its force was awesome. It was windy enough for Hakuna Matata to pull out a piling. Windy enough for a few boats to lose their dodgers. It was especially impressive when--after changing directions--it blew so much water out of the harbor that the water depth dropped two feet. Belhaven normally has no tides at all, and some boats that were tied snugly to dock were now stuck on the bottom. It was late the next day before the water returned to lift these boats, allowing them to leave.

We hung at Belhaven, North Carolina, for a few days. It was a good chance to get caught up on some office work, and soothe some of Hakuna Matata's wounds.

The desktop computer system has been feeling the effects of a waterborne existence. A brand spanking new system only two months old is down a keyboard and a mouse. My NEC MultiSync monitor died today as well. I suspect that the humidity, condensation, and thermal shock are all contributing factors. On the other hand, the laptop and the palmtop remain unscathed and function perfectly.

I am still planning on using MSAT satellite communications as my primary data communication system. My base station is paid for, but service that was supposed to start July 1 is now scheduled for December 15. I'm not sure why a business would schedule anything for December 15. Really, when you promise December 15, you mean January 7. Anyway, that has left me at the mercy of cellular links to send data. Not a pretty situation.

Along the Intercoastal Waterway, cellular signal strength has not been a problem. I have had difficulty with service providers and antennas. In areas where I have no roaming privileges the providers want a credit card each and every time a call is placed out, and they will allow no calls in. Expensive? It costs $1.99 per minute to dial a 1-800 number. And it's a patching network of service providers, with a new one about every 20 miles or so.

We've been experimenting with different antennas to send data over cell-phone networks. It has been pretty revealing. The Motorola three-watt transceiver came with a straight 6-inch coax, and it works well for voice. I added a 9dB antenna ($200) to improve signal strength. It's the pits. Although it does get a higher signal strength than the stock antenna, it won't maintain a connection for any period of time.

As part of the experiment, I purchased a zero-dB Shakespeare antenna ($35) with a 12-foot cable. For data communications I plug it into the cell and run the cable up the hatch, through the dodger, and tie the antenna to the jack stays. It works great but looks like a hack job. With only 20 percent signal strength it will maintain a 4,800 bps link. I don't mind running the antenna when I want to use it. I only need this setup for data and I only use it for an hour or so at night while at dock or at anchor. I can just imagine some of my radio-oriented friends drawing MIBTT (mine is better than theirs) pictures outlining why the expensive antenna should work better.

We're off to the Orient tomorrow (actually, Oriental, North Carolina).

Copyright © 1996 Starwave Corporation.