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Friday, June 29, 2012

WiFi using Alfa APA-L2414 Panel Antenna with AWUS036H adapter and R36 Router

For our on board WiFi we have, for several years, used the Alfa AWUS036H  1 watt Long Range USB adapter with 9dBi  antenna connected via a 5 to 10 meter long USB2.0 booster cable to our Laptop PC
 Hung in the rigging inside a plastic bag inside a waterproof bag, this has proved to be reasonably good for enhancing weak WiFi signals
 With the acquistion of an IPad, however, another solution had to be found as there is no USB 2 connection on the IPad. As is usual these days, if one Googles the problem, one will find that somebody somewhere will have had the same problem and most likely somebody will have produced a solution. In this case , the solution came in the form of the Alfa R36 3G Mobile Router (white box in below photo).
 The USB cable from the AWUS036H connects to the base of the R36 and the R36 retransmits the received but amplified WiFi signal as one's own WiFi network which can be received by any WiFi device. Instead of connecting the USB AWUS36H , one can connect a 3G modem and also create one's own WiFi network.
Also, one can connect the R36 directly to a PC via an Ethernet cable for quicker data trasnsfer speeds.

The WiFi signal we were receiving in Las Palmas Marina was very weak and unreliable. So I investigated a better WiFi antena and came up with the ALFA  APA-L2414 directional Panel Antenna - shown below hanging in the rigging
 The ALFA  APA-L2414 antenna connects to the AWUS 036H adapter using the same connection as the 9dBi antenna. For weather proofing, I have installed this in a plastic junction box. The AWUS 36H is connected to the R36 as before.
 Below , the ALFA  APA-L2414 antenna / AWUS 36H adapter combination in suspended in the rigging
Suspended in another position when the WiFi transmiter was more from the stern of the boat
 So far, as long as the boat is not swinging eg. at anchor, the ALFA  APA-L2414 antenna / AWUS 36H adapter combination has proved to be far superior to the AWUS 36H adapter with just the 9dBi antenna. In Las Palmas marina we manged to finally have very acceptable WiFi - we managed to pick up the LPGC signal instead of the Marina WiFi , which proved to be very good.

All the above equipment is available in Las Palmas at VIRATEL which is located at Juan Rejón, 49 




Hike Santa Maria PR5 28 June 2012

14.30hrs 28 June left the boat for our first hike this year in the Azores. Since we were last here, a new hike (PR5) has been marked starting from the bottom of the town of Vila do Porto on the hill overlooking the harbour. We had been introduced to the first part of the hike by Cheila from the marina on our first visit to Santa Maria in 2010 (http://dutchlink.blogspot.pt/2010/07/santa-maria-walks-30-june-to-3-july.html).

The lower red line shows the route of the hike, 6.8 kms long, basically following the coast from Vila do Porto eastwards to Praia Formosa,
 Looking back towards the marina

 The town of Vila do Porto
 Yes, we are back in the land of cows
 of all colours
 The route took us past an old lime kiln
 which used to be feed with limestone from these mines 
 one of the mine roof supports
 Checking the route
and, of course , a bit of Yoga
 A few of these birds of prey were circling over the sea close to the cliffs.
We think they were the Milhafre (Buteo Buteo Rothschildi or Goshawk in English). Some historians consider the island group is named after this bird which is also known as Acor in Portuguese and is very commonly seen on the islands here and is to be seen on the Azorian Flag.
 Past a  new house with a commanding view over the bay
The house is just visible upper right of the below photo
 View towards Praia Formosa


 Admiring the views


 Fishermen on the rocks below the cliff
 one of whom proudly showed us his catch
 After a steep descent, made it to the rocks at the base of the clifs

 A very red rock caught our eye
 After 3 1/2 hours, made it to our destination, Praia Formosa, which has the best sandy beaches on the island
 J could not resist a quick refreshing dip
Had planned to return by the 18.30 bus only to find that the bus service only starts 1st July . 3 days wait was a bit too long so rang for a taxi, and 15 minutes later were on our way back to Vila do Porto - cost 10 Euros - very nice to have reasonably priced taxis

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sail Las Palmas to Azores 21 to 26 June 2012

 Mike's recovery from his Hernia operation 5 weeks ago seemed to be pretty well complete so we had been keeping an eye on the Grib files for the last week or so. Friday 22nd June was looking more and more like a good time to start our planned 750 nautical mile trip from Las Palmas in Gran Canaria to the Azores. However, the Grib files downloaded on Thursday mornng showed that there would be a big advantage if we could set off that afternoon as we could clear the NE point of Tenerife before the northerlies strengthened too much.

So, we speeded up our preparations, checked out of the marina and at 1605hrs Thursday 21June we left our berth and motored over to the fuel dock. At 1623hrs, we were on our way out of the marina.

 and wending our way past the many anchored ships awaiting a berth in Las Palmas harbour
 As expected, the first part of the trip was pleasant motoring against a light northerly wind with very little swell or waves. There was no point in trying to sail as with such a light wind plus a half knot SWesterly going Canaries Current, we would have made no headway.
 By 2100 hrs, Mt Teide on Tenerife was clearly visible
 In the early hours of Friday morning, the wind gradually started to build. By 0930hrs we were well to the north of Tenerife and started  sailing in a ENE 4/5 Bft at 70 degrees to the apparent wind making 5 to 6 knots with two reefs in the main and full Yankee. Very pleasant.
By 1230 the wind had increased to a good ENE 6 Bft and progress was very good - making around 7 knots  for much of the time
 During the next two days the wind direction stayed in the ENE /NE strength varying between force 4 and 6 with gusts up to 28 kts. The seas became a bit choppy and sailing for many hours heeled over on a fine reach gets a bit tiring .

The only incident that happened was that one of the gymbals from which the gas oven is suspended broke requiring an hour's repair work - luckily we could effect a permanent repair replacing the gymbal with a bolt and could then continue to use the oven.
 During the trip AIS again proved its worth warning us of the close encounters with two ships. On calling the first, the M/V Lilac, on Ch 16 , it was agreed that we would both hold our courses and MV Lilac passed our bows one mile ahead of us.
 
 The second close encounter, Bulk Carrier MV Cape Elise actually called us up for a chat - she was carrying coal from Columbia to Portugal and , when asked why he was only making 9 knots (ships of this size usually are making around 15 knots) the skipper told us this was his economical speed - maybe the high current oil price is having an impact. The M/V Cape Elise passed us two miles astern.

 Omninous dark clouds on the horizon after sunset
 By midnight of 24th June the  wind started to ease off to a 4Bft and the seas became calmer
 As predicted by the Grib files (we download them every day or so using our Iridium Satelite phone ) by the afternoon of the 25th June we entered the centre of the ridge of high pressure extending to the SW of the  Azores High and the wind dropped to a whisper and we started motoring at 1410hrs.


Motoring into the sunset on a smooth ocean swell on 25th June
Please click on arrow to view video clip
video


video
Just after sunrise of 26th June, we reached the west side of the ridge of High Pressure and picked up a nice SSWesterly 4Bft breeze enabling us to have a pleasant broad reach sail for a few hours - a very pleasant change to the sound of the faithful diesel engine


At 1350hrs our progress was suddenly halted by a very abrupt wind shift with the wind shifting over 90 degrees in a matter of minutes and coming from the WNW  - more or less dead on the nose. So Engine once more on for the last 15 miles.

Land Ahoy - Santa Maria, the most SEasterly of the Azorian Islands comes into view on the afternoon of the 26th June - a very welcome sight after days at sea.

 At  1635 on Tuesday 26th June we were welcomed and helped to moor in Vila do Porto marina on Santa Maria by Armando Soares, our very friendly Harbour Master who we know since our first visit 2010

 Dutch Link safely moored in Vila do Porto marina
Statistics:  Total Distance 731 nautical miles in 5 days and 27 minutes
Average speed 6.06 knots
Hours motored 41.6 hours

Thanks to Chris, the plot of the whole route and current location can be seen by clicking on the below link