Boat Battery Monitor Customer Story

Energy_Hero_SMOne of our long time customers sent me an email this morning with an excerpt from a thread with his boatyard. They are plugging-in his boat from time to time to keep his batteries charged up during the winter months. There was a question about the onboard battery monitoring system:

“…I have a separate cell based “Siren” alarm that shows me the voltage. It was 13.89 yesterday and 13.95 this afternoon, which sounds right if it is charging. If I recall the nominal rate for a float charge is something like 13.0 so it is likely still in the acceptance phase. 

 I just queried it now [from my Siren Sprite] and it shows 12.79 , up from 11.9 before you plugged in the charger so my guess is the batteries are now happily in float charge mode. Thanks for your concern though.”

 “I also realize that I saved a few bucks because without the Siren I probably would have paid the yard for a couple of visits to reset the Xantrex and check the status. Each trip only takes a few minutes but at $95/hr. It adds up.”

Battery is king. You have heard me rant on about this before. You will hear it again. One of the things that I often come back to is the question of functionality, and what should our future products offer. We are always trying to improve, and 2014 will bring out a lot of exciting new features (some long overdue and long awaited…). But, as we grow and learn, and improve, I constantly come back to a central theme: at the foundation of Siren Philosophy, Bilge | Battery | Security  are the things that worry us the most, with position right up there too. But, battery still trumps them all. No matter what the other concerns are, unless you are among the most pure of Corinthian sailors (and there is a special place in my heart for all purist) and have no battery; without it charged and ready, a boat and her owner are at unnecessary risk. If only to have to go back to the car and pull the battery for a jump, a low battery will at the very minimum be an inconvenience, if not the root cause for a much bigger problem.

This customer uses our Sprite year round as a battery monitor to keep a close watch on his battery level. And as we do with many of you, we enjoy hearing your Siren Stories now & then about how our products are being used in your individual scenario. This email exchange just reminded me of how useful our little Pixie or Sprite are, winter, spring, summer or fall. You may want to read my recent post on Why the Battery is Still King. There is still plenty of time to have a Pixie or Sprite installed before your boat goes in for the summer. And, you may find that you need it long before then!  What is the level of your batteries right now?  How about the temperature of you “indoor heated storage” for which you are paying dearly. Is the temperature really about 60 or where they say it will be? If your boat is outside, or especially if it is in the water, how cold is it in the bilge?  It sure is nice to know, and with one of our devices, you can.

Product News – Siren Marine Releases a Brand New Installation Diagram

master wiring diagram

Complete System Wiring Diagram

In an effort to continually understand better our customers, how our products are being used and how we can improve Siren Marine to better meet these goals, a completely new series of wiring diagrams have been developed by Siren Marine. These diagrams are the products of dozens of conversations with you, our customers and our installers. What makes sense, what isn’t clear, how does everything get connected together…

bilge input

Each wire is described in an individual diagram so that any special functionality or wiring to the boat’s systems is crystal clear.

The new full color drawings have several improvements:

  1. There is a complete wiring diagram for each wire, input or output.
  2. Each diagram uses the color of the wire and the wire assignment to clearly illustrate the relationship between the “software” and the hardware or, another way to think about it, is the relationship between the physical connections and the digital connections.
  3. Each diagram describes specific details of that individual input or output as it relates to special functions or capabilities of that wire.
  4. The final diagram of the Installation Diagram Suite illustrates what a complete system could look like.
  5. Many of our customers only need individual parts of the capabilities of our system, and there is a diagram for most of the common setup scenarios, so it is easy to match your specific installation with a diagram identical to your specific needs.
Basic with Bilge

The Individual Diagram: Basic System with Bilge

One of the benefits of the Siren Marine system is that it is dynamic.  The same hardware can be configured with simple text commands to accomplish a wide variety of monitoring-task, position tracking, security functions and systems alerts. The system’s two control output channels also offer the boater the ability to control onboard systems with simple text commands.

These diagrams are design to make the onboard functions easier to connect and buildout the perfect Siren system for your boat. But it is also designed to make the basic installation focused on Bilge, Battery and Position simple to understand. If you perform any of the basic installation and maintenance on your own boat, armed with these new drawings and manual update, you should be able to install the basic Siren System within a few hours yourself.

But if you prefer to have the system professionally installed, just check our dealer locator page to find an installer near you. The diagrams will help you decide what accessories fit your ideal installation.

Bilge, Battery and Position. Bilge tops the polls as primary concern shared by boaters; but battery remains the king.

Of the 575 boaters that took our on-line poll, 231, or 40% said that bilge pump activity was what concerned them most when away from their boat. Security at 36% was second followed by Battery Level at 16% and “Other” at 8%. Temperature and Shore Power were the predominant “Other” choices.

 

What most boaters are concerned about when away from their boat.

What most boaters are concerned about when away from their boat.

This gives us a lot of confidence at Siren Marine that our devices are focused on the right stuff! As a life long boating enthusiast, I worry about taking on water the most, followed only slightly by battery. And, actually, these two cannot really be separated. If batteries had unlimited power and a minor leak developed, the bilge pump would probably keep up. Batteries however, do not.  And even multiple bilge pumps cannot keep up with many common water intrusion issues. “Keep in mind that a 1″ hole two feet bellow the water line lets in 27.8 Gallons Per Minute. That’s 1668 gallons per hour! Even a 2500 GPH ‘Rule type’ bilge pump will barely pump 400 to 700 gallons per hour when hose restrictions and head pressure are taken into account.”(quoted from link) Water intrusion is bad.

Daniel Harper's First Cruiser.

Daniel Harper’s First Cruiser.

This brings up two other primary concerns from my perspective:

  1. If the bilge pump is keeping up with a minor leak, it may take much longer to detect that there is a problem.
  2. Time, is a factor that everything on your boat is directly related to, and should be our real #1 concern.

On the subject of not discovering a minor leak, the longer this goes undetected, the higher the probability that the minor problem could become a major problem. I think that we all agree upon and understand this point. A minor leak is a bad thing no matter how we look at it. Not knowing is also a bad thing. On the issue of time, this is one of the central theme songs at Siren Marine that is central to our passion and mission: to monitor and protect in a proactive manner, to help ensure boating experiences are spent on the water, not “in the bilge.”

Because we all work hard to maintain and spend time on our boats, mitigating the chances of problems increases the chances of spending more time boating and less time fixing.

To wrap up, I will leave you with two great links to threads for more specific information on water intrusion, thru-hull fittings and preventative maintenance – “Why Boats Sink at the Dock” and this thought: While water intrusion, security, theft, freezing temperatures and dragging anchor are all serious concerns, the battery really is king of all systems. Weather you have a 16’ Boston Whaler, a 25’ center console or a cruising sailboat or trawler, without a good battery, you can’t crank the motor, your bilge pump will not work, your GPS will not show you the way, nor will the radar alert you to the barge in the fog on a collision course on Block Island Sound. You will not have music playing in the cockpit nor will your beer in the fridge be cold. Battery, is still king of systems.

Capt. Daniel A. Harper

monitor | track | control

Great links for more information on thru-hull issues and maintenance:

http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com/printthread.php?t=103468

http://www.boatus.com/foundation/guide/boat_7.html

Power or Sail?

Some things keep us up at night. Only because we care. Head over to the Siren Marine Facebook page and let your voice be heard by replying in the comments.

Siren-Marine-Quiz-Question

Dead Reckoning. Reflections from the Sea

Dead Reckoning.  Essential for navigation. Critical for life.

dead reckoning

As we approach the end of another year, and the beginning of the next; it is a personal habit to slip away, alone, and reflect. To dedicate some time to consider the year in my wake. To evaluate the route that I had planned, the storms and sunsets I encountered along the way, the horizon I had as a final waypoint. All now plotted neatly on the chart. Connecting lines of list and calendars, times spent with colleagues, friends and family. Ventures new and habits old. Relationships ended, suspended, blossoming and born out of chance. Wins and loses. These fixes, if you will, plot the journey of the past 12 months, the watches I have stood to sail life from where I was, to where I am. And, if in-fact, the place to which I have arrived, is actually the place for which I was steering.

So often, as I raise the coast of this destination, the landfall named Late December two thousand and something, and I pull down a final sight to fix my position, the end-of-year review, when the lines cross on the chart, they do not fall neatly on the place that I had predicted. I am not, in-fact, where I thought that I would be. The course that I steered did not deliver me to the place I intended.

One of the ancillary aspects of sailing, which so appeals to me, are the many beautiful analogies to life. Dead Reckoning (DR), perhaps, is one of the most profound. Dead Reckoning is, according to Bowditch:

“the determination of position by advancing a known position for courses and distances.” Time, distance and speed.

In proper navigation, a good DR is the foundation for efficient, safe, informed sailing and decision making along the way. In traditional navigation, dead reckoning was absolutely essential to navigate at all. In life, it is exactly the same case. The end-of-year review, however, is historical and hindsight. The practice of DR, weather on a cruise or weaving through life’s eddies, is progressive and forward thinking.

To quote from Bowditch, Vol.1 the 1984 edition of the American Practical Navigator, Nathaniel sums up the practice of Marine Navigation thus:

“The most important element of navigation cannot be acquired from this book- nor from any book or instructor. The science of navigation can be taught, but the art of navigation must be acquired. Modern navigation is a blending of the two – a scientific art. The truly successful navigator is one who supplements his knowledge with judgment, utilizing every opportunity to improve his judgment through experience. Even with Knowledge and judgment, the navigator cannot expect to be fully reliable unless he is alert, constantly evaluating the situation as it develops, avoiding dangerous situations before they arise, or recognizing them if they do occur, and always keeping “ahead of the vessel.” The elements of successful navigation, then, are knowledge, judgment, and alertness.”

Dead Reckoning for Life

Employing these elements of successful navigation, are arguably the same key elements to getting through a year in life, and having the best chance of arriving at the place that we set out to gain. But there are some far deeper implications of the practice of keeping up a good life DR. One of those is that we do not always find ourselves at the place that we thought we would, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. For, sometimes, the place we find ourselves, though not where we expected, offers new and exciting opportunities we did not at first see.

Dead Reckoning for Sailing

In sailing, and especially cruising and racing, the important realization of taking a fix and comparing it to a DR, is that they may, or they may not fall one on top of the other. And generally, we are a bit surprised if they do fall exactly on top of each other. As we learn our boats and cruising grounds better, we improve our ability to predict leeway, set and drift with more accuracy. We learn to compensate for various states of chop, to plot our course to arrive on the more favorable side of an island for the final reach home. From past experience, we are able to plan better and more accurately to get where we are going. Our fix, falls more and more often right on top of the DR. Navigating our way through life, should be no different.

Dead Reckoning for Life and Sailing

However – what about when we find ourselves far and away off from our DR once we plot a fix. That because of one of life’s storms, or a twist that we did not see coming, maybe a person that we met has introduced a new avenue or our eyes have been opened to a new way of looking at something, that we have ventured in a direction that we had not planned?

Sometimes there is an overcast sky or storm that obscures the stars and heavenly bodies, our signpost, which, if we were navigating by celestial means alone, would preclude an opportunity to fix our position at all. DR would be our only means of predicting where we are, or, at least, where we should be.

We know that the sun eventually comes out again, and we will have an opportunity to pull down a sight and plot our position, accurately, once more. Many times, these circumstances can last for long periods of time. Sometimes we only have a fleeting moment in-between breaking clouds to pull down the sun or a single star, giving us a chance to capture it with the sextant, hope that we guessed its identity correctly and then use it to improve our DR: where we think we should be.

In life, we often run from appointment to deadline for so long and so fast, that we do not have time to take a proper fix and determine if we are in-fact on course, or getting carried away by a phantom current. The overcast of life can sometimes leave us without a proper position running before a gale, only to get far off course before we have an opportunity to get a good plot on the chart once again. At times, we need to remember that it can be best, to simply heave-to. Our DR helps us identify weather we are on course, or not; if we should stay the course, alter it, or tack over all together.

Maybe the course we have been sailing is no longer possible to continue? There has been a wind shift or maybe a gear failure, and we are forced to change heading or deal with a new set of circumstances. In the case of a gear failure, maybe we have to contemplate turning around, or finding an alternate landfall? We may find that we have to plot an alternate course for an entirely new destination, because of new and unforeseen events. But again, this is not necessarily a terrible thing. What it is; is reality. What we make of it, is an entirely new voyage.

The Final Stretch Home

Once we have raised our destination and arrival is in sight, piloting takes over. It is a shift from cruising along offshore, where the course is steady and there are few hazards we have to avoid, to inshore, shallow water where the hazards are many, and the need for a more frequent position is required. Bowditch phrases it like this:

“In the vicinity of shoal waters, frequent and continuous positional information is usually essential for the safety of the vessel. No other form of navigation requires the continuous alertness needed in piloting. At no other time is navigational experience and judgment so valuable. The ability to work rapidly and to correctly interpret all available information, always keeping “ahead of the vessel,” may mean the difference between safety and disaster.”

The methodical daily routine of ocean navigation as we track along full-and-by, to more frequent fixing of the position as we near our destination, is again, the same for life. As we begin and end big projects or new business or relationships, the need for more frequent planning and knowing our precise position is great. Once we are under way and we are logging miles towards our destination, we can be more relaxed and concentrate on keeping up momentum, maintenance of the ship and our average daily-run. As we approach the final waypoint, we begin to shift back to a higher frequency of plotting our fix, advancing our DR and planning for the next maneuver, always keeping “ahead of the vessel.”

All of these things will vary from time to time, and with weather, navigational features and familiarity. In life, it is primarily the people, events, the calendar, projects and ‘acts of nature’ that are our chart and ocean. When we are mid project or things are reaching along, we can rest a little easier letting the autopilot do the steering. When events unexpected occur, or an opportunity presents itself to us, or maybe a door closes, it is at these times that we need to tune-up our life compass and plot a fix. At these times, having a reliable DR pays dividends, both in peace of mind and the likely success of the decisions that will be made.

Just as in sailing, the inherent leeway of life needs to be constantly checked and adjusted for. All of these situations can have positive, neutral and/or negative effects. The importance of keeping up a good life DR, is that it allows us to recognizing these outside influences, identify them, measure them, and then decide how to best deal with them. Are we on course? Are we being set by an invisible current or maybe an eddy that we did not even know existed? Is our decision to go inshore instead of the rhumb line paying off?

Sometimes we need to make a slight course correction. Sometimes we need to tack. And yet at others, we need to simply stay the course. Sometimes, a stray current will lead us to a magical destination that was not even on our radar screen. Sometimes, we find that we are getting carried along in just the right direction. We only know this, however, if we are keeping up a good DR.

So… now it’s your turn. As we round out the year, please feel free to share your own boating course correction stories of 2012.

Blown Fuse on Bilge Pump System Found and Fixed!

Bilge-Pump-System-Fuse

A typical 15amp ANL fuse. Blown.
Absolutely nothing at all unusual or special about this fuse. Or the fact that it is blown.
EXCEPT:
It is the fuse for the automatic bilge pump system.

While installing a basic Pixie on a new customer’s boat last week, along with the yard’s head technician of 25 years, we came across a problem. No power at the 24/7 power bus. As most boats have, this boat had a circuit that powered things like the stereo’s internal clock, memory on the electronics, the CO2 detection system and… the automatic bilge pump system.

Why the Bilge Pump System is “King”

All boats have unique electrical systems, and for that matter, every boat, unless it is one of the strict one-design racing classes, are different even among the same year, make and model. However – one thing most boats have in common, is a power source that is in-line before the main battery on/off switch. Commonly called a 24/7 circuit. This source is intended primarily for critical systems that should never be without power, and the automatic bilge pump system is king of all of these systems.  Being able to monitor the performance of you bilge pump is critical.

With the exception of burning, sinking is probably the worst thing that can happen to a boat, and its owner. Sinking, however, is far more common. It is in-fact, a worry that most boaters have at one time or the other when they are away from their boat, even if briefly, when the weather turns bad or there has been something “not quite right” going on. When we have not been to our boat in a few weeks, or maybe longer, which happens more than most of us like [that working thing constantly seems to get in the way of our boating time…], we tend to worry about our boats a lot more.

It is the automatic bilge pump system that gives us the most comfort while we are away from our boats. Sinking, the most common catastrophic threat that most boaters will ever have to deal with, is supposed to be protected against by the automatic bilge pump system. Even if your boat starts taking on water, the float switch should come on and pump out the water. At least for a while, while the battery holds up; but if, and only if, the fuse between the battery and the bilge pump system is good.

The boat that I was installing the Siren Marine system aboard, was a very expensive, top shelf manufacturer’s boat. The boat was owned by a life-long yachtsman with thousands of sea miles and days on the water. However – this boat had a blown automatic bilge pump fuse, and no one knew it. And who knows how long it had been that way. The boat was in the 40’ range and was heavily built with a lot of systems, and was generally a dry boat. No one had noticed that the pump had not cycled and there is no good reason why they would have, even with a good fuse, the pump didn’t cycle often. But that is just the scenario when things go bad and boats have serious problems. None of us expect to have a burst raw water hose on the engine, a cracked seacock, a loose hose-clamp on a sink drain or maybe someone just forgot to put the plug in at spring launch…

This is why we recommend that our Siren Marine units be connected to the same fuse protected 24/7 circuit that your automatic bilge pump system is connected to. And – that checking that this circuit in fact, has a good fuse, be part of your regular boating routine.

The benefits of having our system installed in this way are as follows:

  1. Our systems run on their own internal battery. The external power connection does two things:
    1. Charge the internal battery
    2. Measure the voltage of the boat’s battery system
  2. If power from your boats battery is lost, our units continue to work – monitoring your boat.
  3. If the boat’s battery gets low, if the boats battery goes flat or the fuse protecting the bilge pump system blows, you would get an alert.
  4. You would know that either you boats batteries were dead or the fuse had blown, and you would still be monitoring your boat’s status on the Siren Marine system running on the internal battery. If your boat was taking on water and sinking, our high water alert would still let you know with a text message.

Boat ownership is a tremendously rewarding activity, no matter if you are a weekend family boater, an avid racing sailor, fisherman, rental operator, cruiser or live-aboard. We invest untold resources and time into our boats, and they often become considered part of the family. Regardless of our diligence and efforts to maintain and keep our boats in top condition and looking good, the marine environment is a harsh place for electronics, mechanical pumps, motors and wiring to exist. We all know the constant challenge it is to stay ahead of the maintenance curve. With a Siren Marine unit installed, you are several steps closer to staying ahead of that curve. And you have taken perhaps the most proactive step available today to ensure that your boat is safe, and ready to use the next time that you head down to the marina or out to the mooring for a day on the water.

Our systems are developed and manufactured by boaters, for boaters. We are boaters too, and we are proud to offer our systems to help make boating better. Even in the event of a blown fuse, Siren Marine helps keep you boating, and not worrying.

Visit Siren Marine at the New Orleans International Work Boat Show

We are very pleased to be exhibiting with Gencorp Insurance Group this year at the New Orleans Work Boat Show! Turnout this year has been terrific, and you can see our team at booth 3653.

Having Randy Carnahan from Gencorp Insurance Group with us has also been exciting. Gencorp provides first class Business and Personal Insurance, as well as Financial Services and Employee Benefits. Randy is here educating boat owners on the necessity of insuring their boat, and can point to us as the next generation in boat protection.

Many of our customers know firsthand the insurance benefits that come from installing our product. Having Siren Marine onboard provides advance notice of the most common problems that result in major insurance claims. Whether the batteries on your boat are dead and bilge pumps left without power, someone has entered onto your boat with the intention of stealing it or your electronics, or water is accumulating in the bilge, Siren Marine let’s you know before a small problem develops into something major.

Our customers typically receive 5-15% off on their boat insurance, depending on their boating history, the age and model of their boat, and the type of insurance they have. Ask your boat insurance provider about discounts for marine safety/security equipment, or come by booth 3653 in New Orleans and learn more about insurance discounts directly from our team.

Siren Marine on Watch and Monitoring Gizmo

Ben Ellison, the editor of the Marine Electronics blog Panbo, recently left his Maine based trawler Gizmo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the winter. Untended.

Now that his boat is docked in Osprey Marina, he is relying on one of our Pixies to provide status updates and peace of mind while he is up North. Check out his recent blog from November 27th;

Thanks to a Siren Marine Pixie, I know she’s exactly where I docked her, the main battery is floating at 12.7v, and the temperature in the engine room is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I hope to add more sensors when I go down for a work session in a couple of weeks.

Thank you Ben for the update. We look forward to following you on your trip back to Maine, and also to hearing about future applications of our device on Gizmo.

Image: Gizmo in Port Jefferson on her Trip South

 

Daniel Harper Speaking at FMIU

We are very humbled and grateful that the President of Siren Marine, Captain Daniel Harper, has been invited to speak at this fall’s Florida Marine Intelligence Unit (FMIU) annual meeting (taking place Nov. 13-15, 2012).

FMIU is a Florida based organization consisting of both law enforcement and civilians focused on marine law enforcement and related issues.

Dan will be discussing a number of items specific to remote boat monitoring and practical tracking technologies, including the utilization of our Siren Sprite and Siren Pixie boat monitoring units. He will also address how technology is playing an ever increasing role in boat security and maintenance.

It promises to be a very interesting few days, and everyone here at Siren Marine is looking forward to building on the knowledge gained during the seminar. We look forward to furthering our shared goal of protecting marine assets through the utilization of advanced remote boat monitoring technology.

Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show – Siren Marine Is Here!

We are very pleased to have a booth at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show – this is one of the events that we look forward to every year! You can visit our team on the exhibitor floor in Booth 1232.

In part we love this event because of the amazing people we get to meet – the Florida boat scene is a very special place considering the massive amounts of coastline that cover the state. And while there are boaters from across the globe at this boat show, we really do love the passion and enthusiasm that Floridians bring to boating.

If you have any questions about our boat monitoring products, features or service plans we’d love to hear form you – when it comes to monitoring your boat we’d like to think we offer a solution rivaled by none!

We are also very pleased to be sharing our booth with Jonathan Allison of MazOcean. He is one of our dealer/installers from Fort Lauderdale and if you are looking for help with your Siren Marine installation and are docked in the Ft. Lauderdale area Jonathan is an amazing resource.

Also, if you are an existing customer we’d love for you to swing by and say hello – it is always great to connect with our customers in person.

you deserve peace of mind