FOB to Finland, Class B & Spot onboard!


Sometimes you-know-who works in mysterious ways. On Saturday afternoon I watched a long-time friend, Tom Amory, set sail for Finland with his daughter and her friend, but without the Simrad AI50 Class B AIS transponder he’d tried so hard to obtain. I was excited for him, but also yet further ripped at the FCC. Tom ordered the unit from a Canadian distributor who agreed to ship it to the U.S. for use in international waters, but insisted on putting its true identity on the customs form. It got turned back at the border! Then Tom employed an alternative importation technique, which didn’t work in time. Note to the FCC commissioners: What the hell are you doing, making an upright citizen smuggle in a U.S. Coast Guard approved safety tool that he can legally use about 3,988 miles of his 4,000 mile voyage?!?!

The heavenly intervention part: on Sunday Tom realized that his Lifeline AGM batteries weren’t coming out of their winter sleep and needed a desulphating hot charge he couldn’t do offshore. That’s him above early this afternoon back in Camden with his new Class B on board, though not yet installed. Which is going to happen underway as Flash of Beauty (aka FOB), Tom’s much modified J35, is literally making tracks as I write. Virtually too, as I finally thought to pass him the test SPOT both as a backup safety and comms device, and so all of us can see if Spot’s North Atlantic satellite coverage is as good as the latest coverage map indicates. FOB’s SPOT share page is here. FOB, by the way, is also equipped with an OCEN’s Iridium phone, email, weather, and SailBlog package, and thus we can hopefully learn more about the trip here
All this is not to say that Tom needs a slew of gadgets to cross the ocean safely. He’s a very experienced sailor, including two Bermuda One–Twos on FOB, and experience breeds judgment, and both trump gadgets. I was reminded of what hundreds of thousands of miles of serious saltwater can do for a guy when the amazing Loïck Peyron sailed into Boston early Saturday morning, less than 13 days out of Plymouth by himself in an Open 60 with over 3,000 square feet of possible upwind sail area. The NYT article says he plans to sail back to France this week, again solo, and is looking forward to catching up on his sleep along the way!  Maybe Tom will see the AIS target of a trés suave Frenchman go by.

PS. 6/2: Pretty freakin amazing: FOB actually saw and spoke with Peyron yesterday, as he loafed by at 16 knots.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

15 Responses

  1. Russ says:

    But wait, if Tom’s “alternate importation method” didn’t work in time, how is he holding it in his hands?
    In any case, shame on the brain dead and incompetent FCC and fair winds and safe passage to Tom et al.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Russ, He left without it on Saturday, came back on Monday, then left with it today.
    Small world of Panbo department: I’m pretty sure that’s FOB under sail in the lower left of Panbo’s header photograph. Right now it’s behind the “B” of “Class B” in this entry’s title. I’m telling you, there are mysterious powers at work here 😉
    Oh, and the lower picture is Flash a couple of summers ago. Tom sails her a lot.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    FOB is more than half way to Cape Sable this morning, as shown on its SPOT share page. Tom’s plan is to leave Sable Island and ice concerns to port, and then either go north of Scotland, perhaps with an R&R stop, or possibly take a more southern route via the Azores. He has charts and pilot books for all. A flexible plan sounds like a smart plan to me!

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Some great detail on Peyron and the transat from Kimball Livingston over at sailmag:
    It never ceases to amaze me how little interest Americans take in this sport. But then again I got a completely accidental leg up when I managed to witness the finish of Eric Tabarly’s 2nd transat win in Newport at dawn on June morning in 1976. (During my first honeymoon…long story.)
    He’d shut his radio down a week earlier so hardly anyone but a few diligent French press, and me, were at the dock to greet him. When he immediately hit the pay phone, one of his countrymen explained that he always called his mom first thing.
    Then I followed the reporters aboard his 73′ aluminum ketch. I can still remember the big pottery crocks of butter and jam. The diminutive Tabarly, minus a couple of finger tips, appeared to made of spring steel. For months afterwards I would randomly shout “ERIC!”

  5. Don Magnus says:

    Hat’s off to Panbo for turning me on to SPOT in time for my “Circumnavigation of the U.P. 2008”. My crew and I took my 1977 Pearson 323 from Bayfield, WI to Menominee, MI in 5 days starting last Thursday at noon. My SPOT shared page was a huge success among family and friends of the crew and the downloaded KML file is fantastic to look at on Google Earth. Also, my Raymarine suite of instruments, C-80 MFD, ST-60 Speed, Depth and Wind and the ST 4000 Mk II Autopilot all worked flawlessly to guide us through the whole trip. The only fly in the ointment was that we had to motor 90% of the time because of lack of wind. I have never seen Lake Superior so glassy.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Don; sounds like a great trip.
    But does it mean that you can call yourself a “Yooper”?

  7. Michael says:

    Hi Ben, I was fortunate enough to be surfing the Panbo blog and saw the free Spot page with FOB’s share page so was watching it over night and we were seeing up to 60 or 61 reported positions, but today, when we woke up, we saw just 52 with the last report some 7 hours old. How come the positions have been deleted and no new ones shown, is all ok ?, Mike

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Two factors, Mike:
    1. Spot share pages is in Beta testing and they’re dropping data once its 24 hours old to keep things more manageable. I’m told that will be extended. Up to 30 days of data, though, is stored in the Spot owners account and can be viewed like this or saved to other formats, like Don (above) did.
    2. Spot Tracking works for 24 hours and then you have to start it again. I’m about 99% sure that Tom forgot to restart it. Heck, I just gave it to him about an hour before he left; he has other things going. But his wife likes it a lot and when he calls, she’ll hopefully remind him to get in a Spot turn on daily routine.
    By the way, that unit still has the same two Lithium AAs in that Spot shipped it with in November. Those puppies last. But I had just ordered four more, about $12, and gave them to Tom.
    Hopefully, Mike, FOB will pop up on the share page soon.

  9. Don Magnus says:

    Ya, doncha no. We call it Da Souper Douper Youper Louper, eh

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Ah, Don, I got a good giggle out of that. Thanks!
    Ya got pics of da Louper and crew?
    Also happy to report that FOB is tracking again:

  11. Captain John says:

    Now when will SPOT data, epirb signals, weather alerts… be visible on my AIS or GMDSS screen?

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Happy to report that FOB is spot tracking again, and is at 45N 45W.
    Meanwhile, yours truly is suddenly in NYC tending to my suddenly hospitalized mom. Hence the lack of new entries. I may be here a while, but have lots of good entry material with me, just need some time.

  13. norse says:

    “Spot share pages is in Beta testing and they’re dropping data once its 24 hours old to keep things more manageable.”
    Showing the last 24 hours of received data would be better, at least until its old, say a month or two old.

  14. rxc says:

    Regarding holes in the SPOT coverage, I can confirm that there is a hole between Bermuda and Horta, around 36N-41W. I just completed this leg of a transatlantic passage, and am reprovisioning in the Azores. The SPOT worked fine, except for a 22 hour period when no messages got through. We were religious about “pushing the button” every change of the watch, and friends and family really appreciate this. When nothing came thru for 22 hours, they started to call the Coast Guard, request SSB broadcasts, and even call the SPOT people to find out what was going on.
    We finally came out of the “blind spot” (no pun intended), and are looking forward to having SPOT on board as we make our way to France.

  15. Shad Dusseau says:

    Ben, I’m departing the States next spring for Iceland and then on to the UK. Could you share with me in a private e-mail Tom Amory’s alternative importation method of getting a Simrad A150 AIS? Thanks, Shad.

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