[aprssig] APRS -- Chicago to Mackinac Island sailboat race

Chris Rose kb8uih at sbcglobal.net
Tue Mar 27 18:59:55 EDT 2007

Did we converse in the past like last year about the mini form factor layout of your computer and the automatic nav system?  We may have covered this before.  It sounds very familiar.  You advised me on the computer and sources for getting parts to build one like it.  

If not, someone else has something very similar to you in their boat.

What I was refering to is the Kenwood rigs that don't have to have any hand holding to operate.  I didnt' know or remember from our previous contact that you were running APRS over HF.  I made an assumption that you were running VHF and I was thinking that you were putting much more into this than you needed to.  I just let my D700 or THD7 take GPS data and let them run automatically over VHF.  Apparently you have made very detailed plans.  I didn't mean to make your adventure any more troublesome than it already may be.  

If I can ask one question that you already may have stated in your first post, what are the dates for the Lake races and are you going to make both Chicago to Mack and then the other from Mack to Port Huron(or is it the other way around)?

Midland, MI

----- Original Message ----
From: "WB4GQK at aol.com" <WB4GQK at aol.com>
To: aprssig at lists.tapr.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 10:53:43 AM
Subject: Re: [aprssig] APRS -- Chicago to Mackinac Island sailboat race

Hi Chris

Without going into a lot of race detail let me say I have raced our sailboat 
in five (5) open ocean sailboat races. Twice (2) in the Havana Cup, 1999 and 
2000, and three times in the Isla Mujeres Mexico race. That was in 2002, 2003, 
2005. Isla Mujeres is 20 miles East of Cancun Mexico.  I used APRS in all 5 
races. It was fully automatic. I never lifted a finger to input anything!

First of all my first mate, N4TFP, is not fond of hard sailboat racing, which 
is perfect from my stand point ! I need strong armed grunts to handle the 
sails on my boat. I set up WinAPRS to transmit our position once an hour. It 
required 54 hours to race from the St Peterburg Yacht Club to the entrance buoy of 
the Hemingway Marina just west of Havana. The race from the St Petersburg 
Yacht Club to the entrance buoy of the harbor at Isla Mujeres required 84 hours 
for our best time. The race course is 509 miles.

What is important to understand is the complete setup of the electronic 
devices connected to the computer. I use a MINI-ITX computer equipped with three 
(3) DB9 serial ports and two (2) USB serial ports. The MINI-ITX runs three (3) 
programs SIMULTANEOUSLY! That's correct, the MINI-ITX is a little slow handling 
all that computation but never the less it does handle all 3 programs without 
a problem! Number 1 is the CAP'N navigation program, the second is WEATHERFAX 
2000, and the third is WinAPRS. 

I'm sure you are familiar with the CAP'N navigation program since all it does 
is plot the boat's position on the chart and send correction signals to the 
boat's autopilot system. It keeps the boat within 50 yards of the planned 
course. The Wefax 2000 program is interesting since it is a "sound card" version. 
But in any event it controls a ICOM PCR1000 receiver to capture five (5) USCG 
WeatherFax transmissions every 4 hours. The PCR1000 uses one of the DB9 serial 
ports for control of the receiver, and the output signal goes to the 
MINI-ITX's sound input system. There the weather fax is stored in individual files. I 
can view the latest Fax picture by just clicking on the Wefax symbol at the 
bottom of the screen. And finally the WinAPRS is running and set to transmit the 
boat's LAT, LON once every hour. Now in the Station Settings which you select 
from the top of the main menu I place the Callsign as WB4GQK-5 and I use Y as 
the sailboat Station Icon. In WinAPRS Settings you have to be sure and select 
HF TNC and GPS under the Automatic Input.  Under the Posit Rate Settings 
Moving Position Report I put 60 in the HF block. Now down in the Alt HF Path 1 I 
put WB4GQK-1.  That is the callsign I use on my base station at home. Now the 
point that is important to me is under the TNC Settings the Unproto path I use 
is WB4GQK-1,GATE,WIDE. I want to be sure and contact my home base station and 
my XYL. Finally the Garmin output is sent to one of the USB ports in the 

Basically that is the setup. Obviously the CAP'N navigation program is the 
principle display on the monitor. Now the output of the TNC is connected to my 
Icom M800 marine SSB. I have a number of frequencies stored in the M800 one of 
which is the 30 meter ham frequency 10.151 LSB. So what I do when I am not 
checking in with the race officials I set the M800 on the 30M ham frequency and 
WinAPRS proceeds to transmit my position on the half hour, every hour for the 
entire race. At any time my wife wants to check on how we are doing she walks 
into the radio room here at the house and looks at the display. Now a couple of 
times a plot was not received due to poor propagation conditions. So my XYL 
simply selected NEW Message under Lists and keyed in WB4GQK-5 And queried "How 
are things going?" of course when the base station called the boat station 
obviously I was not available to answer BUT she got a reply that gave her our 
position at that instant. I would not realize she tried to contact us and I would 
go for a couple of hours before I stopped at the nav table and clicked on the 
WinAPRS symbol at the bottom of the screen. 

Actually the 3 other wives would come over to the house in the early evening 
to find out how we were doing. We had a schedule at 6 PM on 40 meters. My crew 
and I discovered the 4 girls were having a party while we were bashing our 
brains out. I have a feeling they were smarter than we were.

That's the story. The Garmin fed the LAT, LON data into the MINI-ITX which 
then took the position data and fed it into WinAPRS which controlled the KAM'98 
which controlled the Icom M800 which transmitted our position on HF once an 
hour without anyone near the Nav table.

If there is something further I can help you with I will be glad to try.
Jim ************************************** AOL now offers free email to 
everyone.  Find out more about what's free from AOL at http://www.aol.com.
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