A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Interesting things about US TV's and radios.

One thing Silverton didn't skimp on when building our 453MY was entertainment. The boat came with 5 TV's - one in each of the three staterooms, one in the saloon and one on the sundeck. All but the one on the sundeck had a DVD player, and two of those included VCR recorders as well. The salon TV was connected to a Bose surround sound system (which also contained a DVD/CD player and AM/FM radio, and their were another 2 stereo AM/FM radios....one on the flybridge and one in the master stateroom (which also had a CD stacker). All the TV's were analogue units and all but one were Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) type. However, in the time between our purchase of Loopy Kiwi and the start of the Loop, the USA had gone to digital broadcasting of TV, so they would only work when connected to a cable network (which many of the marinas did not provide). We solved this issue by purchasing a digital to analogue convertor box from Walmart for around $50 and generally could access "free to air" TV broadcasts in most towns and many anchorages. The most I recall we got was 48 around the Chicago area, but also remember distinctly getting 16 channels at Cumberland Towhead anchorage, which seemed to be the middle of nowhere! Unless we were at a marina with cable, it limited us to only using the TV in the salon, but was better than nothing.

Fast forward to Loopy Kiwi arriving in New Zealand and let's start with the radios first.

When we reached Auckland I noticed that none of the radios could find any more than 2 stations...88.3 and 107.3... and, believe me, there are a  lot more radio stations in Auckland than that! On top of that, the Bose surround system would not respond in any way to its wireless remote control, and without it, you can do nothing. I replaced the batteries several times to no avail and poured through the Bose manuals but found no reason why it would work in the US and not New Zealand. Finally, I contacted a Bose dealer for advice, who tested the remote and found it was simply dead. Despite the fact that the model of remote was obsolete and also peculiar to the Americas, Bose Australia had 3 of them in stock and $98 and three days later we were back in business.

By this time, I had been trying to find why the radios could not find any stations. If I manually tuned them, I could find my favourite station "Sound FM" (93.8Mhz), but only as 93.7 or 93.9, where they were audible, but obviously "off station". What I realized was that the radios were changing in 0.2 increments and since they started with odd numbers, they were only ever going to get odd numbers. Most of the stations in Auckland (and probably New Zealand) are even numbers in their frequencies...ie 89.4, 97.4, 93.8 etc. Again I consulted the manuals and could find no obvious way of changing this, and began to think that the radios were only suitable for operation in the USA - which is strange as they are both Sony from Japan. Finally I found a reference in the specification that stated the frequency range was switchable between 200kHz and 50kHz, but nothing under the installation or operating instructions on how to do it. On about the 20th re-reading of the manual I noticed a reference on the front panel diagram to a "frequency band switch....not shown" which was located on the bottom of the case and required removal of the radio to change. This was duly done and, after resetting the radio, we had frequencies that changed in 0.05 increments, and I had my radio stations. The Bose suffered from the same disease, but with the new remote control it was a simple programming change to make it get the right frequencies.

Next were the TV's and Videos.

The USA TV system is NTSC. The New Zealand system is PAL. The two are not compatible - you cannot watch a PAL broadcast on an NTSC receiver and vice versa. Some PAL VCR's will have an NTSC playback, but none of those on Loopy Kiwi have a PAL playback, except the Bose system - and I shall come back to that. New Zealand is presently still broadcasting an analogue signal, but that changes to digital on the 1st December this year. I had hoped the converter from Walmart would be able to use the NZ digital signal and supply the salon TV....but nope, not a show. I thought "well, I can replace the salon TV with one surplus from our home and the rest will be OK, at least as DVD players". So we took some DVD's from home and tried them in the players - including the Bose with the PAL playback. "Incorrect Zone" was the message on the screen, so the DVD players will only play Zone 1 DVD's (we are zone 4) and we only have 6 zone 1 DVD's that we bought in the USA. This makes all the TV's, DVD and VCR players on the boat totally useless. The other issue is that, while we have 230V shore power, when we are at sea all power is 115V, off the inverter or genset. So any replacement equipment need to be 115V. Fortunately, the leftover TV I was contemplating using was a 110-240V 50-60Hz model with a flat screen. I also discovered I had a spare DVD player that was also this voltage range, and furthermore most of the converters here (known as "freeview boxes" - we still need one for this TV) are the dual voltage as well. So, armed with all the above, plus cables and fittings galore we set up the boat with this system which works fine. Once tested, I decided to install it properly, which  meant removing the old 30" CRT unit.
After a struggle to get it out of the cabinet (it weighed a ton!), I managed to get it up through the saloon door but realized that it wasn't going to fit through the sundeck door to the dock. It could be taken via the flybridge to the forward deck and over the side, but that would be a two man job and very difficult. In the end I got out the tools and pulled it to bits, removing all the case and PCB's to take it down to the bare cathode ray tube. This fitted through the back door with 5mm (1/4") to spare.

A fellow boatie from the marina is moving his boat up to the Philippines soon. Apparently there they work on the same system and voltages as the USA, so I will be donating the rest of the equipment to him, rather than throw it all in the rubbish skip.

One other interesting thing is that the USA zone 1 DVD's all work on the NZ zone 4 player that is now in the boat - so we don't have to throw away the 6 DVD's we bought in the USA!

Last weekend was Labour weekend here and we went for an extended cruise with Lyn and Lois, who would have joined us on the Loop earlier this year had things gone according to plan. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera, so I am waiting for Lyn to send me her pix of the trip so I can do a posting for it.

Until then, take care y'all

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Moving right along.

The time to move house and downsize to an apartment finally caught up with us. Anyone who has done this knows the trauma of attempting to fit a houseful of 40 years of hoarding into a space around one third of the size.

It doesn't compute!

However, come 20th September, the new owners of our house paid up the money and expected to move in, so we had to be gone. However our apartment, although completed, was not legally ours so we were not allowed to live in it. Fortunately, however, we were allowed to move our possessions in and we had good old Loopy Kiwi to live on until final settlement took place. For the week prior to our moving out of our old house, our son from Australia arrived with his family of three to celebrate his 40th birthday so we had (along with some of his friends from Taupo) 9 people staying on the boat for a while.

2 days after the house sale while we were still living aboard Loopy Kiwi at the marina, an easterly gale arrived with wind speeds up to 80 knots and coincided with a spring high tide of 3.2 metres (11ft) at 10.30 at night. The low barometric pressure and the easterly wind lifted the tide even higher so the marinas rock breakwater was completely under water and we had 2-3ft waves rolling down the marina. The tide was so high that on some slips, the floating rings that hold the bow lines for the boats came right off the top of the poles and the boats became adrift. Loopy Kiwi came within 1ft of this happening, but I managed to get a line from the bow back to the dock to secure her if it did. It made for an interesting night, until the tide dropped. The docks were bucking like a bronco in the waves making it hard to walk up and down the piers. Woody was NOT amused.

Charlie and Pauline had come to help us move out of the old place and they also shifted to a smaller home in Kerikeri the following weekend. We went up and gave them a hand which provided a welcome distraction by having someone else's STUFF to cart around instead of our own.

On 2nd of October we finally got to move into the apartment, albeit buried in boxes and boxes of STUFF! It actually felt quite weird as Loopy Kiwi felt so much more like home than the new place. It still feels a bit like we are staying in a hotel and should go back to the boat soon, but I'm sure we'll get over that. We don't have the same sea view as we did in our old place but we have a lovely bush outlook and their are many native birds inhabiting it - Kereru (Wood Pigeons), Tuis, Pukekos, Piwakawaka (fantails) etc, plus a few imports like Doves and Rosellas

The Nukumea creek runs right by the apartment and, while it is narrower and shallower, it reminds us a lot of some of the anchorages that we stayed in while coming down the river system to the Gulf of Mexico - Lick Creek in particular.

Another pleasant coincidence occurred on our third day at the apartment we ran into a resident walking a Swedish Vallhund. Its name was Basil and he was 10 years old, but the owner told us that their Grand daughter also owned a Val named Sophie, who was three years old. This was later found to be an incorrect recollection of Sophies age, and it has turned out to that she came from the same litter as Woody. So nearby lives Woody's sister, Vallarity Lady Madonna (AKA Sophie)!!

A more unpleasant occurrence was the absence of hot water when we moved in. The circuit breaker on the switchboard was open and when we closed it there was a loud bang and all the power went off. After a two hour wait the maintenance electrician arrived and reset the downstairs breakers and declared the water heater to be faulty. As this would be a warranty job, he could not fix it for us and the installer would have to be notified. This was Thursday afternoon and we were told that a serviceman would come first thing in the morning. By midday Friday no-one had shown and, despite many chasings-up during the afternoon, it was beginning to look like we would be without hot water for the weekend. At this stage, for those of you that don't know, I should mention that I was in the hot water industry for 30 years before departing off on the Great Loop, so I was aware how difficult it was to get service people out late on a Friday afternoon. Ironically, the water heater was manufactured by what had been my major opposition back then, but I knew the CEO well and did mention during some of my afternoon discussions that I may give him a call and discuss his after sales service personnel. This resulted in  a tech turning up at 6.00pm and deducing that the element had failed. This immediately triggered the alarm bells, as a common reason for such a failure is for power to be applied to the element before the heater is filled with water. This is a very common occurrence, particularly in apartments, where often two different tradesmen undertake the plumbing and electrical connections. Sure enough, after draining the heater and removing the element, this is what we found
Small wonder it didn't heat the water!! By 8pm the new element was fitted and we were able to have showers by the next morning.
Summer is coming and Labour weekend is nearly upon us. It is our intention to go away in  Loopy Kiwi for that weekend and the apartment will hopefully look less like a jumble sale than it does now.