When we left off in the last update, we had arrived in SXM aka Saint Martin (France) or Sint Marteen (Netherlands) on Valentine’s Day. We anchored for the night on the south side in Simpson Bay (Red on map) and then headed inside to the large “Great Pond” lagoon through the Bridge on the Dutch side, then over through the Causeway Bridge to where we have been anchored ever since.
We are anchored about equidistant from the dinghy docks on the French side to the North and the Dutch side to the south so our location has worked out well and we’ve spent time eXploring SXM by foot and pretty much circumnavigating this fascinating island by rental car.
SXM is home to many super yachts as well as being a popular tourist destination so we have been enjoying the largest supply of groceries, marine supplies, postal services we’ve had since arriving on this side of the Atlantic. There is even a Costco-like Cost U Less which was a bit overwhelming for us but we recovered long enough to stock up on wine, meat and groceries.
And as if that wasn’t enough, next door was a very large French based Carrefour store as well so Möbius is now very well stocked up.
On our drive around the island we eXplored some of the smaller town that dot most of the coastal roads.
Up on the North side we found this spot right on the water and
enjoyed a good BBQ lunch in the soft trade wind breezes while watching the boats anchored out in front.
Starlink Internet has arrived on Möbius!
As you can see from the smile, the BIG news aboard Möbius is that we have now joined the Starlink community! Christine spent a LOT of time figuring out the rather complex logistics of just how and where to get this satellite based internet solution registered and sent to us and SXM was her choice and it arrived without too much complication on Friday.
For those who may not know, Starlink is a relatively new way of getting a pretty fast internet connection via a constellation of Low Earth Orbit LEO satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. This enables us to now have a solid internet connection from pretty much anywhere we wander and anchor in this awemazing world of ours. For nomadic people like us, this is an eXtremely BIG deal!
You might think that such an advanced new solution would be very complex, but you’d be wrong. There are really just two parts, the dish itself, apparently officially called “Dishy”, that goes outside on the supplied mounting stand and then a wireless router which goes inside.
Only two wires required to complete the setup, one being the power to the router which for now we are using 240V AC but will change to 24V DC in the future. And then a second cable to connect Dishy to the router.
Dishy has a set of motors which automatically move the rectangular dish for the best direction to capture the most satellites streaming in the sky above which is mostly North in our current location. The aluminium stand nicely jammed itself between the handrail and the triangular walls of the front of the Salon roof so I have set Dishy up there for now.
We will bring him inside when we are on passages until I decide how and where to mount him more permanently. Given that Möbius will sometimes be at all 360 degrees of the compass, I will be doing a “hack” that will remove or disconnect the alignment motors and allow me to mount the dish flat and solid most likely up on the front of the SkyBridge roof. This solid flat mount should be much more robust mount and long lasting.
It turns out that with more and more satellites being launched and with so many nomads like us in RV’s and boats, some bright minds have figured out that because the phase array antennae inside Dishy can pick up satellites in about a 100 degree wide cone above, the dish will work very well when permanently mounted flat. Seems too good to be true but there are enough other nomadic Starlink users who have done this and kindly shared their setup on blogs and YouTube videos, I’m quite sure this will work fine for us.
Starlink has also done an eXcellent job of creating an app that allows you to setup your system in a matter of minutes which was also very impressive. Once I had Dishy mounted and temporarily ran the cable back inside the boat to the router, it took less than 5 minutes to have it all working and record this quick speed test that is built into the app. We’ve now been using this new internet connection for the past three days and so far we are both very pleased. The app also has a full set of stats that it records and we can see that there have been some brief outages but so far nothing that we have notices performance wise when using the connection for streaming, Email, web searching, etc. I will track and update our performance, use and modifications to our new Starlink setup and share them in future posts so stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, back in Wayne’s World….
Much less exciting update is that I continue to make progress on getting Möbius more and more seaworthy and working my way through the always growing job list. Our Bosch washing machine stopped working part way through its latest cycle and I spent several hours trying to figure out why without much success so far. Unfortunately and like most modern washing machines it seems, they are all now “smart appliances” with everything run by LED touch screens and automated sensors that shut things down as soon as they detect a problem.
All well and good except that once they turn off they won’t turn on again until the problem has been corrected so you can’t do anymore diagnosis. Real smart! Grrrrrrrrrrrr
I’ll take another run at it by removing it from the cabinet which takes time but I suspect this will need to wait till we get to a larger country where I can have better choices and options for assistance.
I spent time this past two weeks working on getting our Maretron N2K View monitoring system reporting more and more info on our main monitors at each helm as well as on our phones and tablets.
This past week I was finally able to get some of the key engine data from Mr. Gee converted and sent to our N2K View Maretron system so that we can have things like engine RPM, loads, EGT, oil & water temperature, oil pressure, etc. now configured as new virtual gauges on any screen on the boat. This screen is from another boat but will give you an idea of the kinds of gauges I am creating with the N2K View program.
It is slow and tedious work, in part because I’m needing to figure out how this process all works and getting all the senders and gauges in synch and talking nicely to each other so I spend a LOT of time staring at fun screens like this, but I am making progress however slowly and should have all of Mr. Gee’s data on these screens by next week.
Solar Panel Roof Update
As many of you know we mounted 8 of our 14 320Wh solar panels on top of the aluminium frame of the SkyBridge roof which has worked out very well. This shot a few minutes ago in the late afternoon so there is some shading on the rear panels from the overhead arch with the Radar and other antennae on it which reduces the output, but we have much more solar power production than we need so very happy with the overall performance.
Here is the graph of solar performance for the past 7 days. The solar output is regulated by the MPPT charge controllers as the batteries charge and tapers off till they are fully charged and then stops charging so there is much more solar capacity than we use each 24 hour day and typically our batteries are back to 100% by noon.
Looking up from inside the SkyBridge you can see how the solar panels have been attached directly to the AL frames using adhesive/sealant to form the roof itself. The white undersides with a bit of light coming through keeps things very bright but shaded.
Unfortunately the sealant/adhesive that was used was not the correct UV resistant required along the ridge line which is fully exposed to the sun and was starting to break down and we had two small leaks inside the SkyBridge in heavy rains. The ridge is the only point of attachment that is exposed to UV as all the other surfaces are between the bottom of the AL frames of each solar panel and the 200mm wide AL roof frames underneath so the majority of the seal was fine.
Using a putty knife and box cutter blade I was able to remove all the old sealant along the ridge line joints, clean them all with acetone and then mask them off.
I purchased some 3M 5200 which has eXcellent UV resistance in my past experience with it and was able to inject it deep into the crevice running along the ridge where the two solar panel frames butted at a slight angle. Just for added insurance, I masked off the glass about 5mm past the AL frames to add an extra layer of sealant so I think this should now be fully sealed for many years to come.
St. Thomas here we come!
My Weather Wonderwoman aka Captain Christine tells me that there is an eXcellent weather window on Tuesday March 7th and so if the forecasts hold we will pull up the anchor and head out through the French side bridge to the north of us, Green on the map here.
This should be a relatively short passage of about 110 nautical miles, 200km/125 miles, and we’ll make this a night passage so that we arrive in St. Thomas with good light the next morning for navigating and anchoring.
As you can see from this larger scale map of the whole Caribbean, we will now be turning Westward for the next few passages as we make our way over to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and then likely continue NW to eXplore the Bahama islands.
Kling a ling a ling
Most excitingly though, we are heading for St. Thomas because our 7 year old Grandson Liam is flying there along with his Mom & Dad aka Tim & Ashley on March 22nd for their first time aboard Möbius!
We will have a few weeks to get well setup probably around the East end of St. Thomas and figure out how everything works there so we can maximize the precious time we have with our family.
I will bring you the details of our passage over to St. Thomas in the next update and thanks so much for taking the time to join us once again here as our adventures continue.