My dad has been an avid small boat sailor his whole life and has shared his passion with me by taking me sailing many times. Being a tinkerer, he continually improves his boat, changing cables, removing winches, adding lines, etc. to make sailing easier (and faster). He recently sold his Coronado 15 and purchased a Holder 20, and as you might expect, many new alterations needed to be made from the get go.
|A Holder 20 (not my dad's)|
There are existing systems that will transmit wind speed and direction data to a screen mounted in the cockpit of the boat. However, you've got to be prepared to fork out the cash. This entry level system from Tacktick (http://www.tacktick.com/products/145) costs £459.99... that's over $900 American! ...and cost prohibitive for many small boat sailors.
Enter the Arduino micro-controller solution. I proposed that a practical solution was feasible using an Arduino to detect wind direction and display it in the cockpit for a fraction of the cost of existing products. With my interested father as a corporate backer, I've set out to design and build said instrument.
The R&D for this project will be broken up into a couple stages. First, an appropriate sensor needs to be found that will output angular position over 360 degrees. The sensor shaft also needs to be able to continuously rotate so as not to provide faulty data after reaching an end stop (as would be the case with most potentiometers). After some online research, I found this device (http://www.usdigital.com/products/ma3/) from US Digital that should fit the bill. The sensor must then be mounted to the mast with an appropriate wind vane.
Second, the sensor must be connected to the Arduino (by a small cable through the mast) and a suitable program written to collect the incoming analog data and process it into a usable information. (Note: I imagine some form of averaging needs to be performed to reduce jitter and provide a more stable readout)
Lastly, a display needs to be made to make the wind direction information easily viewable. Ideally, I'll have an LCD screen showing wind direction relative to boat position, but as a simpler prototype I could create a ring of LEDs indicating wind direction.
Once a working system has been developed, further improvements could be made such as: wireless transmitting from wind vane to Arduino, powering the device via solar panel, adding a hot-wire anemometer, temperature gauge, or solid state magnetometer for additional nautical data.
I'd like be able to build the project for under $100 (nearly 1/10 the cost of the TackTick), but knowing how project costs quickly add up (see this blog entry), I think I'll double that and hope for the best. Either way, it should be a great solution! Stay tuned...