Ascension Island to the Azores Day 20 – Refuelling at sea - mission accomplished - and a communications update

Position                    24:52.09 N 024:29.15 W
Date                         2359 (UTC) Friday 10 March 2017
Distance run              in 24hrs 136nm over the ground, 139nm through the water
Passage total             2,701nm over the ground, 2,620nm through the water
Distance to go           974nm      This now represents the updated forecast route that         we are likely to travel to the destination
Planned distance       Ascension to the Azores west around the high 3,666nm
 
During the day we took the opportunity of some straight and level motoring to put the 115 litres of fuel being carried in containers on deck into the main fuel tank, thus topping is up to 550 litres, full is 900 litres.  This job has become much easier since acquiring a 24 volt in line pump to transfer the diesel.  Compared with the pouring into a funnel that occurred whilst rolling at anchor off Kupang, Indonesia, this was a doddle and n'aer a drop was spilt, nor did I end up wearing it.  A definite recommendation, even if you only use it once.  Another time I would also carry a separate pump for transferring water.
 
I have been asked to comment on what we are using for communications.  We maintain a listening watch on VHF channel 16 and this is what we use to communicate with ships that we encounter along the way.  We have HF Single Side Band, SSB, and have used that for yacht to yacht nets when we have been in range of other boats and have a schedule.  I have never been convinced that our installation works as well as it should but as we do not use the SSB for weather or email there has been little enthusiasm to do anything about it.  Another time I think that I would invest in a Pactor Modem and work email over SSB as a stand by system for our main means of communications at sea, the Inmarsat satellite system.. 
 
When we commissioned Caduceus in 2007 we fitted a fixed Iridium station.  This worked well but was slow for email and the pre paid billing regime was inflexible with no carry forward for unused units.  When refitting before leaving in 2010 we upgraded to an Inmarsat 150 system for voice and data.  Inmarsat have subsequently changed their monthly billing rates on an annual basis and it is now much more expensive than when we started off.  However, it works, has proven reliable and works email at a reasonable speed.  Whilst this system could provide internet access, the cost of data prohibits that usage.  A good and relatively fast link for email has proven very important especially since leaving Cape Town as we have seen considerable voice and data traffic as we grapple with various family issues back in the UK in addition to receiving weather and all of the usual traffic involved in keeping the administrative ship afloat.  Cost is about US$12 per megabyte (yes that is per megabyte!) and US$1.00 per minute for voice.
 
The amount of data is kept strictly under control  by the use of a Redbox router from MailASail.  This potentially links all devices on board together and to an internet connection be it Wi-Fi, through a hard wired Wi-Fi booster and antenna, a GSM dongle with local SIM card or BGAN via Inmarsat.  What is important is that the Redbox can be configured easily to limit access to the Internet by device and type of connection.  At sea this has been vital in locking down the PC used for email so that there is no data leakage; i.e. it is very difficult to stop a modern PC from trying to speak to the internet and seek upgrade and updates, even if you think you have turned off every automatic update function.  The Redbox has proved 100% effective and when combined with its inbuilt data compression working to MailASail’s email server and its attachment capturing facilities, has kept our data bills under control.  Well you did ask!
 
Oh sailing, almost forgot.  We have had to motor for half the day through light head winds in order to keep heading east with the expectation of at some stage in the next 48 hours being able to turn north as the North East trade winds re-establish themselves.  The almost full moon is rising at dusk which is providing lovely night sailing, or motoring conditions.