I love working on projects - I usually have 10 or so in process at any given time both on the boat, and at home. Many of these projects turn into reviews of various products or technology, which I also enjoy. Almost all of the projects are driven to make our lives on the boat and elsewhere more comfortable or safe, and are cataloged here.

Replacing the head – the crew’s favorite upgrade

By Steve Mitchell | Oct 12, 2017

One of the most hated bits of the boat is the head. Every boat I have owned has had a unique set of steps required to make sure things “work out” for everyone involved, mainly the captain. Many guests forget half the steps, or stick things down there that should never be there. Others follow the process, but treat it like it is some sort of strength contest, and end up causing damage. No one ever says “boy I sure love the head and how much I have to do when using it”. After having completed my Power System Upgrade last year, and seeing a third year of patterns for how we use Grace, I made the decision to replace the 15 year old head with an electric one that should make the crew far happier.

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Haul out, chart plotters, and a sail cover

By Steve Mitchell | Aug 10, 2017

Grace became part of our family in 2015 and had decent bottom paint on her during the survey. At the time, I was told she had just been painted, so I waited until this year to have her pulled again and to do some maintenance. In about a week, I leave for a 2 week stint around the San Juan Islands, so having a clean bottom and prop should help give me a speed boost for the longer trip. I also had a couple of smaller projects to complete before the trip.

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Grace's electronics as of June 2017

Grace’s updated network for 2017

By Steve Mitchell | Jun 13, 2017

I originally posted a fairly lengthy article outlining Grace’s integrated network about a year ago, but it is a work in progress and constantly changing. There have been some updates that I wanted to cover which will help the network continue to grow and expand, as well as fixes for problems I found.

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Proper VHF ends are easier than you think

By Steve Mitchell | May 25, 2017

My soldering skills are marginal at best, and as a result I have used crimp-on VHF ends for the last 10+ years. While not wanting to admit this, I finally was chatting with some radio-savvy friends of mine, and they were aghast that I had even considered using one of these abominations. So I set out to learn a better alternative without having to be a world-class solderer, or have someone do it for me.

I’ve learned from years of using VHF radios that the whole system has to be in good condition for the thing to work well. You can have a really fancy radio, but a crap antenna, and be frustrated that performance or quality suffers. Same goes for the cabling from the radio to the antenna itself.

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USB power solutions are simple to add to your boat

By Steve Mitchell | May 10, 2017

USB devices are as prevalent on the boat as at home – guests bring devices that require it, I have a ton that need it, and not just your cell phone or tablet. There’s an Amazon Echo which handles all of our music, a Garmin inReach to keep us safe, and a Raspberry Pi that does a ton of random computer things just to name a few. Finding power for all of these devices is easy if you’re plugged in at the dock, if not a bit inefficient with wall warts and adapters. I decided to make this more elegant, and it was a simple project to do with three different and inexpensive products.

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Weather on the boat via weeWX and Ambient

By Steve Mitchell | Apr 15, 2017

I have been an avid weather geek since 1996 when I got my first crappy weather station with a mediocre outdoor sensor which ate batteries constantly, had a lame indoor LCD panel that showed a few metrics, but no long term history. Over the years, I’ve tried a bunch of different hardware and software combos. The most reliable have been Linux-based software packages with the Davis Vantage Pro series of stations. Recently, I had the chance to visit Steve @ Datawake and he had an Ambient Weather station he was setting up – I found some interesting new information about what used to be a $500+ hobby, and ways to leverage it on the boat.

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3D printing for the boat

By Steve Mitchell | Jan 31, 2017

A while back I bought a Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printer with the goal of creating and selling a boat-specific product online. I’m still working on that design, but in the meantime, I’ve been able to print a number of useful items for the boat, and some random trinkets just for fun. I see a lot of other uses for the printer in both home and sailboat, and can’t wait to see what other people produce with their design brains as well.

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Grace’s redundant Internet setup

By Steve Mitchell | Jan 29, 2017

I have spent most of my professional life working on and fixing ethernet and other types of networks, and always want my personal network to be as reliable, speedy, and full of features as possible. My boats are no exception, and while I’ve written about Grace’s network before, I’ve never focused on the Internet/WiFi portion of it in detail. It’s obvious that boaters are interested in varying approaches to this, given the popularity of my recent article on Marina WiFi being hard to implement. So, without further ado, here is a deep dive on my network, and the things I like / dislike about it.

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Top projects from 2016

By Steve Mitchell | Jan 19, 2017

2016 was a year of major projects on Grace, one which will not likely be repeated in terms of the depth and complexity. That is mainly because she was brand new to us in 2015-2016, and had some gaps in major systems we needed while out on the water. I wanted to recap three of those projects that made the biggest difference through the year, and provide an update on each.

Those projects were Replacing cockpit hatch boards with Zarcor doors, Installing a Wallas heater, and the Power System Upgrade. There were plenty of other projects that I completed last year, but these had the biggest impact.

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