by Gordon West

Long-time SAIL contributor Gordon West is a nationally recognized expert and educator specializing in radio communications

Ask Sail: MMSI Numbers

by Gordon West, Posted January 21, 2014
I just purchased an ocean-going sailboat at a foreclosure sale and will soon install an SSB radio and an AIS transponder. The existing VHF radio is tied into the GPS receiver, and there is an existing maritime mobile ship identity (MMSI) number that comes up on the VHF display when I turn it on.

Ask SAIL: Stereo Trouble

by Gordon West, Posted November 7, 2013
I just installed an Aquatic AV AM/FM/MP3 receiver and was careful to keep the stereo speakers from affecting my steering compass. The stereo system works great when we play the FM radio or when the kids play their devices through it, but I can’t pick up my ballgames on the AM radio. I can hear them fine with a portable radio up on deck. Any ideas
I heard the Coast Guard will no longer be monitoring distress frequencies for marine SSB radios. How can we get help when beyond VHF range?
What’s the latest on LED lighting strips? I’ve noticed a boat in our marina that has a pair of strips mounted in its cockpit, and they look pretty cool!
Every time I transmit on my marine SSB radio, my autopilot goes whacko. The installer says my radio is fine, and I should just “live with it.” Is it time to deep-six the radio and get a satellite phone?

Fix a Misleading Sonar

by Gordon West, Posted July 1, 2013
We just returned from cruising the Bahamas and were intrigued to see that our new Si-Tex CBS-128 color sounder/sonar unit regularly showed a thin orange blanket of fish hanging above a sandy bottom about 50 feet down. My kids kept trying, but couldn’t catch a thing! This happened regularly throughout our trip.
My docked vessel has lately been attracting dead fish! I seem to be the only one around who has this smelly problem. I recently had my corrosion-control system refurbished. Could this be the cause?

Ask Sail: Zinc-Air Batteries

by Gordon West, Posted February 14, 2013
I am racing an ultralight sailboat in a three-day regatta. I am counting every ounce that comes on board, and a conventional wet-cell or AGM battery will put me over my weight limit. Is there any new battery technology I can use?
It looks like I can save some money by buying an EPIRB without a built-in GPS receiver. How important is GPS capability for 406-MHz EPIRB signaling?

Ask Sail: So Many Numbers

by Gordon West, Posted December 13, 2012
I recently purchased a used Hunter with VHF and SSB radios installed, both with MMSI numbers pre-memorized. To prepare for a bluewater cruise I am now installing an AIS transponder, and the technician has asked for another MMSI number. What should I do?
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