Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ultimate 12 Volt Wireless Yacht Entertainment System

Ultimate 12 Volt Wireless Yacht Entertainment System

I have been trying to design an entertainment system for my boat for some time. The design had to use readily available hardware for audio and video, it had to be wireless, it had to be reasonably priced and mostly plug and play if possible.

I did not want to have to run a bunch of speaker wires and video cables around the boat along with a separate stereo unit which would be out of date in a few years. I was looking for a total wireless solution that would work with the way I listen to music these days.  Nobody drags around CDs or DVDs around anymore. With the advent of mobile devices and tablets almost everyone now carries around all the entertainment they will ever need in the palm of their hands.  

At home I have a wireless network, an Apple TV and a stereo all connected to my flat screen TV.  It allows me to play music, radio and videos from the Internet, computer, iPad or iPhone all to my stereo and TV.  My goal was to build a wireless system like this for my boat.

If your yacht is big enough you will most likely have a generator or inverter that will provide you with 115v service.  To make this work on my smaller boat I needed a 5 volt solution for a WiFi router and a 12 volt solution for my Apple TV and flat screen TV.

WiFi Routers:

The first bit of research I did was to find a portable WiFi router that could be powered by 5 volts from a USB outlet.  It only took a quick search to find a whole slew of them that would work.  I could simply plug these into my computer or a DC power outlet with a 5 volt USB adapter.  It was that quick, my WiFI was up and running. These USB adapters only put out about 1 to 2.1 amps so make sure your router does not require more current than that.

Many of these USB powered routers act as a WiFi router, an Access Point or client. Some of the newest one also act as a 3/4G hotspot and some can operate off of a rechargeable battery.

The TP link router uses a 5 volt micro USB connector which can be powered from a computer, your phone charger or a DC outlet adapter.  The TPLink TL-WR702N is compact wireless N router with 150 mbs.

The TRENDnet  N300 TEW-654TR operates off of a 115V charger or the optional 5 volt, 3mm barrel adapter that plugs into a USB outlet.  This unit is a 300mbs N router so it should handle the heaviest traffic on your onboard network.

While your are away from the dock your on board router will not be connected to the Internet.  The network will still act as your onboard entertainment backbone.

I did have one problem with my iPad when the router was not connected to the Internet.  My iPad
kept trying to connect to the Internet through my router and would not allow me to connect through my iPad's Verizon data plan. 

To correct this I had to create a static IP address in the Wireless settings for the onboard router and leave the Router and DNS setting empty.  This allowed my iPad to connect to the Internet through my Verizon data plan while still being connected to my onboard router.

Apple AirPlay:

If you own an Apple iPhone or iPad you may be familiar with Airplay.  It is one of the coolest features that Apple has created to broadcast and control your media.  Apple designed this wireless protocol for sending data over a WiFi network to Airplay compatible devices. With AirPlay you can wirelessly stream videos, music, and photos from your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to Apple TV and stream music to AirPlay speakers or receivers, including Apples AirPort Express.  There are now dozens of Airplay compatible apps and devices including Pandora, Vevo, YouTube, Netflix, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

On your iPhone or iPad, Airplay can be turned on from the Apple services menu as seen in screen shot to the left. Simply swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone or iPad screen to display the menu. If you have other AirPlay devices on your network they will show up here. I have an Apple TV and an iHome Airplay speaker shown in the menu above. Airplay from your iOS device only allows the selection of one device at a time.  To be able to stream to two Airplay devices at the same time you will have to use the Apple Remote App with iTunes on your computer.

I found an app called Whaale that allows playing music on up to 6 Airplay speakers from your iPhone or iPad.  This app does what the Apple Remote does not. You can play multiple sources to multiple speaker too. The app gives you access to all your music files on your device.

One cool feature of Airplay is that I discovered is that I can play music on my iPad to my iHome Airplay speaker.  I then opened the Apple remote app and I was able to play movies or music from my iPad to my Apple TV at the same time.  So I could listen to music while my wife watched a movie all streamed from one device, simultaneously, Wow, now that is Rocket Science!


Music and Video can also be played from your networked computer with iTunes over Airplay.

Open iTunes and select the Airplay icon on the top of the screen.  A drop down menu will show you the Airplay connected devices and allow you to select single or multiple devices. You can control the volume of each device from iTunes also.  If I had other Airplay speakers connected they could be simultaneously selected so I could play music to all the speakers at the same time.

Apple Remote App:

Apple's Remote Control app adds some additional functionality and control from your iOS mobile device.  Make sure to have iTunes on your computer running and enable Sharing. Add your Apple TV and your iTunes library to the remote. First the Remote app will allow you to remotely control what is being played in your iTunes Library on your PC or Mac. It will allow you to search, select, control and play the movies, music, TV shows or Podcasts that are in your collection.

The remote app can also be used to remotely control your Apple TV and allow you to select Music, Movies and TV shows just like you do with the supplied Apple TV remote control.

Finally, use the remote to control and play iTunes Radio on your PC, Mac or Apple TV.

Select the Airplay icon in the remote app to control what devices you want to stream to. Listen with AirPlay Speakers, computer speakers or Apple TV.

Single or multiple devices can be selected by toggling the Single/Multiple selection in the tip right of the pop up.

Apple TV:

Apple TV is one Airplay device that allows you to connect your mobile devices to your stereo system or onboard TV display. At $99 bucks it is well worth it. The Apple TV can connect wirelessly to your WiFi network or through a wired network cable. It has an HDMI cable to connect to your TV or monitor. 

Connect your mobile device to your onboard WiFi network. Music and Movies can now be played on your mobile device and sent wirelessly to the Apple TV and monitor.  The Mirroring function of AirPlay can also be used to display anything you have on your iPad onto your TV or monitor. This includes any marine charting or instrument display apps.

The problem with Apple TV is that it has a 115 volt AC power supply in the device. You can use a small 12 volt DC to 115 v AC inverter plugged into your power outlet or you can hack the Apple TV and replace the AC power supply with a 12 volt to 3.3 volt DC-DC power supply. There are several videos on YouTube to help you make this conversion. It does involve dismantling the Apple TV and some soldering. This will no doubt void your warranty but that is the price for a mobile Apple TV. I wrote about my 12 Volt Apple TV Conversion on my i-Marine Apps blog.

This teardown article confirms the Apple TV 2nd generation power supply voltage is 3.4 volts at 1.75 amps. Do not attempt this if you are not familiar with electronics.  You can also power the Apple TV with a 5 volt USB cable. This involves replacing the 115 volt power supply with 5v to 3.3v DC step down regulator like this one.

Airplay Speakers:

I used to play music from my iPad to a Bluetooth speaker.  It worked fine but the disadvantage with Bluetooth is that my device could only connect to one speaker at a time.  The sound quality was not as good since the audio was compressed.

I recently purchased some iHome iW3 Airplay speakers. The advantage of Airplay is that it allows multiple speaker to be connected to and selected on the same WiFi network.  Multiple iW3 Airplay speakers can be connected to my WiFi network and can be all played at the same time.

The iW3 is a nice size at 4.6 inches square and 9.3 inches high. It has better than average sound with SRS True Bass. It sits on an 115 AC/12 DC volt charging base. I purchased these on Amazon for $75 each.  The Apple Store has them listed for $199.00  It is rechargeable and comes with a USB connection on the back for charging your iPhone and an auxiliary audio input jack too.

The iHome speakers do come with an app called  iHome Connect to help connect them to the WiFi network and enter the network password if needed. The treble and bass can be set using the app while your device is connected to the speaker.

If money is no object I have heard good things about Sonos WiFi speaker systems.  These are for audio only.  They use a separate proprietary WiFi protocol over your existing WiFi.  Their smallest speaker start at $199 per unit.

I did not cover 12 volt displays or TVs. A search of the Internet will bring up a few options for you to use.

Well, I hope I have given you a few ideas about going wireless for your onboard entertainment system. 12 volts and wireless is the way to go.  So thank me now! This setup will definitely save you from drilling a bunch of holes all over your boat.

What are you using for an onboard entertainment system? Comment below and share your stories and ideas if you like.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Refinishing the Interior Wood Work

The interior rehab of my 6.9 is slowly taking shape. I try to do something each year to improve the looks of this old piece of classic plastic from the 1980s.  Recently I took some of the wood trim off of the interior of the boat and have been reconditioning those pieces.  The wood was only given a light stain when it was installed almost 30 years ago.

S2 did not use a lot of wood on their production boats.  The pieces that I have been working on include the stairs, bulkheads, lifting keel trim and bunk trim.  These all seem to be made out of teak or teak veneer. 

The process is pretty simple and almost anyone can do it. Simply take the pieces off. Most are held on by a few screws. The bulkheads are fixed so they had to be refinished in place.

I used a vibrating detail sander with 120-180 grit sand paper.  I also used a vacuum attachment to keep the sanding dust to a minimum.

The teak stairs were the first pieces that I tackled.  The stairs are held onto the companionway by 8 screws.

The stairs treads are each held together by 3 screws on each side. Remove these to break down the stairs into the pieces so they can be easily sanded.

Sand them down to remove any stains and water damage.  Wipe the pieces down with some mineral spirits.  I used a tack cloth to remove all dust prior to varnishing the pieces.  I applied 3 coats of varnish with a light sanding between coats.

You can use any type of varnish. I used a satin finish poly urethane from my local building supply store.

I also removed two trim pieces from the aft bunks and the bulk head piece from the lifting keel.

I added some non skid tape made by 3M to the treads of the stairs
Here are the bunk trim pieces back in place
Here are the stairs reassembled and back on the boat. As you can see it turned out very nice 
The lifting keel trip piece back in place

Starboard bulkhead refinished

New LED fixture

Head bulkhead before refinishing

All bulkheads refinished with new lighting

Head bulkhead refinished with new LED light fixture



Friday, May 16, 2014

LED Interior Lighting Replacement

My S2 6.9 sailboat was built in 1985 so all the lighting fixtures both inside and out had regular incandescent light bulbs.  We all know that these old light bulbs are very inefficient and are a better source of heat than light.

The recent development of LED bulbs in every shape and size has made it an easy choice to replace all.  The power saving benefits of LEDs is reason enough to rid your boat of those old power guzzling bulbs. I replaced my navigation running lights with LEDs last year documented in a previous post.

My boat came with a minimal number of lighting fixtures inside the boat. The existing lights were
some tacky plastic wood grain light fixtures.  Each of these had a 10 watt bulb which meant a total of 40 watts if I had all four of them on at once.  This was a draw of over 3.5 amps from my precious 12 volts battery.

I looked around for some new LED fixtures and found some nice interior spot lights on with a polished stainless finish.  I purchased four of these to update the look of the interior and improve the lighting.

The strange thing was if I wanted to buy them with an LED bulb they were twice the price ($19.99) of the same fixture with a halogen bulb. 

I ended up buying the halogen fixture with a G4 base for $9.99 and replaced the existing bulb with an LED G4 bulb for $3.00 buck a piece. 

The LED replacement is the same M16 size with the G4 two pronged base.

The old halogen bulb that came with the fixture were rated at 20 Watts. These were replaced with the 3.5 Watt LED bulb shown on the left.

LED bulbs are more efficient and have a longer life than the halogens or incandescent bulbs.

Most LEDs are rated at 100,000 hours of use. I don't think I will live long enough to see these burn out.

The LED on the left draws 3.5 Watts or .3 amps while the halogen bulb takes 20 Watts or 1.7 amps. Now that is a significant savings.

LED bulbs will run cooler also while putting out the same amount of light. These LEDs are rated at 185 lumen's so they put out a similar amount of light as the halogens.

LED bulbs are made for almost any type of fixture these days. If you like your existing fixture you can just change out the bulbs to a more energy efficient alternative.

Here is the final assembly with the new bulb in place.  Simply pull out the old bulb and snap in the new one, a perfect fit.

So don't pay more for your fixtures than you have to.  If the halogen type is cheaper buy that and simply replace the bulb.

Now I can light up my boat for a whole lot less energy drain on my battery.  Make the move go with LEDs!

I recently ran across some LED light strips for sale at my local big box lumber store.  I picked them up and found the perfect spot for them on boar my S2 6.9 sailboat. They had a 115volt to 12 volt power supply which I did not have to use.  I wired them directly to the boats 12 volt power system with a spare dc power adapter that I had.

The strips plug into a junction box which fit behind the keel bulkhead board. The unit also has an infrared receiver that picks up the signal from the remote. I mounted this at the bottom of the keel board and drilled a small hole between the two bottom screws and installed it there.  I ran the power wires up from the bottom and back to the DC fuse panel. I connected them to the Interior lights switch.

Three of the strips were plugged into each other and mounted with the provided clips on the port side of the keel board. The other two were mounted on the starboard side. Each strip needs about 3 Watts of power so 15 watts in all for the five strips.  The red color selection is best for night vision.

Box of 5 - 3 Watt multicolored LED strips with remote control

I mounted 3 of the strips on the port side of the keel bulkhead board - Red selection shown here.

Same strip shown with green lights

Infrared Remote control for the light strips

I mounted the other 2 light strips on the starboard side of the keep bulkhead

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

12 Volt DC Outlet

Most boats in the US have 12 volt electrical systems. The wondrous 12 volt systems power everything from lights, refrigeration, instruments, radios, stereos, blenders(Margaritas) and chart plotters.

To power all these devices cruisers have resorted to more complicated systems including diesel generators, wind chargers and solar panels. My boat is mainly sailed on a lake so I do not spend many nights at anchor.  This makes my 12 volt needs much less than if I were living on it full time.

My boat is pretty basic in it's electrical system.  The S2 6.9 came wired from the factory for running lights and a few interior light, that was it.  Since I purchased the boat I added a deep cycle marine battery and wired in some Raymarine ST40 instruments for speed and depth. I covered that installation in this post. I had a spare fused switch on my panel listed a accessories so I used that to power my instruments.

I have been using my iPhone and iPad on the boat for navigation, entertainment and weather.  The addition of a Bluetooth speaker makes it easy to listen to music and movies while on the boat.  To charge my iPhone and iPad I thought it would be handy to add a 12 volt power outlet.  I thought about  
adding it near the switch panel on the starboard side but this was too far from the cockpit.

I often use my iPhone and iPad in the cockpit so it made sense to mount an outlet inside the boat but near the companion way. That way the charging cord would reach into the cockpit from there.

I had already mounted a power terminal strip behind the companion way stairs to power the Raymarine instruments.  I use this same circuit to power my DC outlet.

I drilled a hole and mounted it inside on the starboard side near the main DC power switch.  I installed a conventional power outlet. That way if I wanted to a power a search light or small inverter I would have that option.

I could have installed a USB outlet shown at the left. Blue Seas makes these for handy USB connections. If I installed one of these I would have been unable to plug any other devices into the outlet.  I bought a USB power insert with USB plugins. I use this when I want to charge or power my iPhone or iPad.  That way I don't have to install 2 outlets. I can use it as a regular power outlet and with the insert charge any of my 5V USB devices.

Check out all the Blue Seas DC Outlets

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Summer Sailing Video

A little video I put together from some of the sailing I did last summer. I tried to capture the subtle sound and images aboard the boat.


Monday, September 16, 2013

LED Running Lights

I have been doing quite a bit of night sailing this summer.  The nice warm summer nights have been so inviting.  I usually go out before sunset to witness the end of another perfect day. During my nightly cruises I was noticing the big drawn down of my battery due to the standard bulbs in my running lights. 

The original bulbs were rated at 8 watt at 12 volts.  There are two  bulbs in the bow for the red and green navigation lights. Another one for the white stern light.  If I ran the masthead light too, that was a total of 32 watts or about 2.67 amps.

That may not seem like a lot, but my boat does not have an alternator on my outboard motor, so I like to conserve as much battery as I can between charges.  The only other major electrical load is my Raymarine ST40 Bidata  Speed/Depth instrument display.   This is very efficient and only draws about 100 mAs.

LED light are the rage right now not only for general lighting but for colorful accent lighting too.  They are so popular because they are so energy efficient. Many marine manufacturer will sell you LED running lights for a premium price.  Prices have come down in recent years but they are still very expensive.  As you know, I am very thrifty, not cheap, but thrifty, there is a difference.  Thrifty is wisely allocating your assets. Cheap is not buying roses for your wife for her birthday.  So, I thought they must make LED lights that would fit my existing running lights so I would not have to fork out the big bucks for new running lights.  Attwood has a set below that will set you back $50 bucks.  This set only draws 2.4 Watts.

The existing Perko running lights on the S2 6.9 use what is called a festoon bulb. They look like a barrel with the connections on each end.  These existing 8 watt bulbs are about 1.25 inches long.  Make sure you get the right size.  You can go to any auto parts store and buy a pair for about $6-7 bucks.

I wanted to replace mine with LED lights so I went to my trusted source  I do all my shopping there.  Sure enough, I came across some 1.25 inch (31mm) festoon LED dome light bulbs.  These were even cheaper than the standard bulbs that I saw at the auto parts store. I purchased the four pack for $6.49 plus free shipping, what a deal!  They have 12 LEDs so they very bright.

They were simple to replace and they fit perfectly into the existing fixture without any modifications. Project done, and think of the amps I will be saving every time I go night sailing.

I could not find a wattage rating on the package so I do not know for sure how much energy they draw. It is probably in the range of a few watts a piece, significantly less than the 32 watts I was using. They are not marine rated so saltwater or moisture may affect them after a few years. At that price, I really don't care. They should last a very long time and save me many amp hours of battery use.

Pick some up yourself and get out and do some night sailing!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lewmar D1 vs Spinlock XAS Rope Clutch

One of the thing on my list of upgrade for my S2 was to replace the Shaeffer jammers for the lifting keel and the main and jib halyard.  I had read all the literature and blogs about the two most popular types. Lewmar makes a D1 and Spinlock makes the XAS model which are the best for my small 22 footer.  I have replaced the lifting keel line and the halyards with Sta Set 5/16 inch line.

Many people swear by the Spinlock brand and say that they hold better than any other rope clutch out there.  Spinlock uses a cam mechanism to clamp down on the rope.  This clamping mechanism does wear the rope point of contact because of the sharp teeth of the cam.  They provide replacement parts for this cam mechanism and are easily serviced. 

I purchased one of these and used it for about a month before I had problems.  I use a 5/16 line for my lifting keel. I went to clamp down on the line and the plastic housing holding the main pin in the handle cracked.  See picture at left.  I am not sure if this is a design error or a point of failure but I was not impressed. The other side of the housing had a crack on top also.  I think you can buy the two sides of the replacement housing for about $25-30.

Safe working load for the XAS is 990lbs. A single Spinlock XAS will cost you about $75 dollars.

One drawback of the Spinlock XAS is that you cannot open or release it under load. You have to use a winch to unload the clutch before you can open it. You can however winch a rope through the clutch while it is closed.

The Lewmar D1 used a domino style device that clamps down on several spots on the line so there is less wear and tear on your lines. They open easily and seem to be sturdier than the Spinlock XAS model. There is virtually no load on the opening mechanism. I think it is a much better design.

The Lewmar D1 can be opened under load and you can winch a line through the clutch while it is closed. The price for a single D1 clutch will cost you $60-65.

The Lewmar D1 has a safe working load of 1100 lbs.  Both clutches have the same bolt whole pattern so they are easily interchangeable.

Here is a picture of the Lewmar D1 that I recently installed on my retractable keel.  Keel weight is about 430 lbs.

I would recommend the Lewmar D1 and I will be buying a double Lewmar D1 to replace the double jammers for my main and jib halyard on the port side.

Has anyone else had any failures of the Spinlock clutches?

Sail On