Sailboat Throws Motor Overboard, Adds Sensor Array

For those not familiar with sailing, it might seem like an obsolete way to get around on the water. This isn’t 1492 anymore, and it’s pretty easy to go out and get a boat with a motor to get where you need to go. Sailboats, however, are still one of the most efficient ways to travel. There are essentially no fuel costs, and maintenance on them is often easier than on a boat with an engine. Not to mention the fun involved in flying a hull on a catamaran. Anyway, if you’re [gwilken], you can bring your sailboat even further into modern times by building your own sensor array for it.

The ultimate goal of this project was to get all gauges and sensors reporting data to an iPad, rather than to random gauge clusters around the ship. This includes environmental conditions, speed, and motor status (most larger sailboats have a motor for getting around the marina). A Raspberry Pi ties it all together, including a GPS antenna for monitoring location. [gwilken] also includes a WiFi antenna and a cell antenna for maintaining a network connection for reporting all of this information. With this connectivity, he can also control some functions of the boat as well.

[gwilken] made the decision to ditch the conventional gas motor for a more energy-efficient electric motor. This also has the perk of being essentially maintenance-free, and can even charge his battery in regen mode while his boat is under sail. The sailboat is now fully equipped for the 21st century, in a similar way to another boat’s gauge cluster that was recently featured.

Crossing The Atlantic In A 42 Inch Boat

In the world of sailing, there are many records to compete over. Speed records, endurance records, size records. The fastest crossing, the longest solo journey, the largest yacht.

But not all records concern superlatives, for example in the size stakes, there are also records for the smallest vessels. The Atlantic crossing has been completed by a succession of ever smaller boats over the years, and the current record from 1993 is held by the 5’4″ (1.626m) boat Father’s Day.

Records are made to be broken, and there is now a challenger to the crown in the form of the impossibly tiny 42″ (1.067m) Undaunted, the creation of [Matt Kent], who intends to sail the boat from the Canary Islands to the USA in around 4 months.

The boat’s design is definitely unusual, with a square aluminium hull of equal beam and length, and a very deep keel that has an emergency drinking water tank as its ballast. The sail is a square rig — imagine picture-book images of Viking ships for a minute — and it has two rudders. We are not nautical engineers here at Hackaday, but reading the descriptions of the boat we understand it to have more in common with a buoy in the way it handles than it does with a sleek racing yacht.

Unfortunately the first sailing attempt suffered a setback due to a design flaw in the way the vessel’s emergency flotation is attached. This was revealed by its interaction with some unusual waves. But [Matt] will be back for another try, and with luck we’ll see him on our TV screens sometime next year as he emerges into the Florida sunshine from his cramped quarters. Meanwhile his unusual boat and its construction makes for a fascinating read that we’re sure you’ll appreciate.

We don’t often cover boat building here at Hackaday. But if unusual ocean crossings are of interest, here’s an autonomous one we looked at back in 2010.

[via Yachting World]

A Green Powered Sailboat

Drones fill the sky raining hellfire on unsuspecting civilians below. Self-driving cars only cause half as many accidents as carbon-based drivers. Autonomous vehicles are the future, no matter how bleak that future is. One thing we haven’t seen much of is autonomous marine vehicles, be they submarines, hovercrafts, or sailboats. That’s exactly what [silvioBi] is building for his entry into the Hackaday Prize: a sailboat that will ply the waters of Italy’s largest lake.

Every boat needs a hull, but this project will need much more, from electronics to solar panels to sensors. Luckily for [silvio], choosing a hull is as simple as heading over to eBay. [silvio] picked up a fiberglass boat hull for about €40 that fill fit both is needs and his workbench.

The electronics are a bit trickier, but the basic plan is to cover the deck with solar panels, and use a few sensors including GPS, IMU, and an anemometer to steer this sailboat around a lake. Building an autonomous vehicle is a hard challenge, and for the electronics, [silvio] has a trick up his sleeve: he’s using redundant electronics. All the sensors are connected via an I2C bus, so why not put two microcontrollers on that bus in a master and slave configuration? It won’t add much mass, and given the problems had by a few of the teams behind robotic sailing competitions, a bit of redundancy isn’t a bad thing to have.

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Better Sailing Computers With Wearable Electronics

Sailing – specifically small boats in regattas – is a hobby that requires a lot of skill. Like any hobby, there are devices and electronics to make the hobby easier. For sailing, its tactical sailing compasses and GPS units. Remember, you probably don’t want to sail in a straight line, and that means offloading decades of experience to electronics. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a sailing computer, [Brook] thought it would be a better idea to build his own robot sailor from a Raspberry Pi and a Pebble smartwatch.

The sensors required for a sailing computer are par for the course – a Ublox GPS unit, a magnetometer, an acceleratometer, and a gyro. Being used on a sailboat also means there’s an anemometer thrown into the mix. These parts are stuffed into a waterproof polycarbonate field box with a USB power bank battery and a Bluetooth USB dongle.

With the hardware in place, it was time to write the software. The UI for this device is a Pebble smartwatch, which means there was a lot of futzing around with C# and Mono. This device is also a sailing data recorder, meaning [Brook] can integrate this project with VisualSail, a desktop application he wrote a few years ago to create 3D replays of sailing races using GPS data.


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Sailing With An Autopilot


After seeing an autopilot for a kayak a few days ago, [Mike] thought he should send in his version of a water-borne autopilot. Compared to something that fits in a one-man kayak, [Mike]’s creation is a monstrous device, able to keep a largeish sailboat on a constant heading.

To keep track of the ship’s bearing, [Mike] is using a very cool digital compass that uses LEDs to keep a steady heading. Also included is an amazingly professional and very expensive 6 axis IMU. To actually steer the ship, [Mike] is using a linear actuator attached to the tiller powered by a huge 60 Amp motor controller. The actuator only draws about 750 mA, but if [Mike] ever needs an autopilot for a container ship or super tanker, the power is right there.

For control, [Mike] ended up using an Arduino, 16-button keypad, and an LCD display. With this, he can put his autopilot into idle, calibration, and run modes, as well as changing the ship’s heading by 1, 10, and 100 degrees port or starboard.

From a day of sailing, [Mike] can safely say his autopilot works very well. It’s able to keep a constant heading going downwind, and even has enough smarts to tack upwind.

Videos below.

Continue reading “Sailing With An Autopilot”

Adding ePaper navigation data to a sailboat

[Mike Holden] has been on the hunt for a display that is easy to read in bright sunlight. He wants to use it to read out navigational data on his sail boat. The best option is an ePaper display. He managed to build a system that will feed updating NMEA 0183 data to a Nook Simple Touch.

NMEA 0183 is a protocol that governs data from marine navigational equipment. The most obvious is GPS, but there are a lot of possibilities like sonar, a gyrocompass, and an autopilot. To get things rolling he wrote an Arduino sketch which generates dummy packets using the standard. This let him develop and test the system without being near any of the real equipment. The heart of the build is a WiFi router. It pulls in the data over a USB port using an RS232 to USB converter cable. A Python script parses the data and generates a webpage which refreshes the data every second. This is loaded using Opera browser on the Nook

Check out the video after the break to see a demo of the system.

Continue reading “Adding ePaper navigation data to a sailboat”