Formerly ohmless and happy, ‘analogue Dave’ is now going digital

‘Urm, that’s 12Ah for 27 quid, 3 quid per amp hour, compared with the 90Ah leisure battery I suggested yesterday at 31 quid, 30p per Ah, only works out 10 times more expensive. Looks to me like you got yourself another great Selby bargain in line with your boat jumble bargaining skills. Additionally, the 90Ah would have provided superior bow ballast, and much better scrap value when it’s finished, but then what do I know? Space in a Sailfish is also a major consideration.’

Watt’s that all about? I put punctuation in to make it look like language, but it still doesn’t make any sense. It’s engineer talk. All I did to prompt this email diatribe was buy a battery – the wrong one, apparently.

For most of my sailing life I’ve been ohmless but happy. In fact, I have an inbuilt resistance to change. That’s because, until I knew better, I thought I’d been getting by OK in my little analogue cocoon, otherwise known as my Sailfish.

It’s got a 9V PP9 battery (£4.99) that powers my antique Seafarer echo-sounder: that’s roughly £1.66666667 per year, consuming 3V per annum to provide an output of 56.666667p per volt-year. But engineers wouldn’t understand that.

For navigation I’ve got things called charts, which older PBO readers may remember. My plotter doesn’t need batteries cos it’s a plastic ruler with a twiddly bit on it. My onboard entertainment system is a thing called ‘a book’, which is interfaced to a head torch held in geo-stationary orbit on top of me bonce with an elastic strap.

My nav lights are another torch (I’m under 7m, so all I need is an all-around white). My autopilot is a bungee. My wind generator is… wind. For ambience and a soft romantic glow I’ve got an oil lamp. Other than that, my VHF is a handheld.

It kinda works for me, but I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of dinosaur, cos I’ve been keeping abreast of latest developments by reading PBO.

And after reading Ben’s very instructive feature on ‘wearable tech’ I realised I’m actually ahead of the game; I’ve had a wristwatch since I was 7.

But according to my Sailfish buddy Mark Berry, a retired automotive development engineer, that’s not good enough. What I need is power, and loads of it, and he’s right cos although I don’t feel the need for electricity for anything to do with sailing, I do for the demands of modern digital mobile equipment.

Basically, I’ve been told to get ‘appy’.

I’m going to be doing Facebook and Twitter, filming on my mobile phone and Garmin VIRB action camera, uploading stuff to the internet and getting to grips with weather and nav apps.

All of this is going to consume more electricity than I’ve got. Basically, analogue Dave
is going digital.

Mark used to work on Chevrolet Corvettes and Lotuses, which have much in common with Sailfishes; they’re made of plastic. Neither is Mark afraid of drilling holes, but I am. My windows, which are going to be replaced at the Southampton Boat Show with the help of Seaglaze, leak enough as it is. I really don’t want any more holes for the time being.

So I pumped Mark for advice, then ignored most of it. For less than £100 all in I bought a compact 12V motorcycle battery and got the rest from my favourite nautical suppliers, Aldi and Lidl, where I bought a solar panel (£14.99), two multi-socket splitters (a fiver a go) for connecting mobile devices, a solar charger for USB mobile devices (£9.99) and a rugged power bank (£9.99), again for USB stuff.

The power bank is actually pretty nautical as it has a built-in LED that flashes the SOS signal. Mark thinks I’ve underspecified. We’ll see.

But all of this gives me something else to maintain and worry about, so I’ve now got a digital voltmeter to monitor my battery. Now I’m thinking I need another gadget to monitor my battery monitor. It’s getting out of control. I’ve even heard that some volt-maniacs even keep ‘amp diaries’, but they make fairly dry reading unless you’re into current affairs.

But the moment you’ve got a battery you start thinking of things you can run off it. Basically, life is getting more complicated. And one of the things I’ve been fixating over is an anchor light.

That was until I came across Sara and Cliff who sailed up to Maldon from Chichester Harbour in Beroe, their Westerly 22. They fashioned an anchor light by placing a torch in an upside down plastic bottle. It works great.

But then I had a ‘light bulb’ moment of my own. I remembered I’ve got something that also does the job. It’s called an oil lamp.