Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category.

Converting Raymarine FSH files to GPX

Hello regular readers. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted in a long time. I’m now one month into a three month vacation, and part of my plan is to get the blog up to date with both sailing and non-sailing activities.

This is going to be a boring post for most of you, but it’s going to really help someone down the line. The next blog post will be about a big sailing trip that I just returned from. There will be a couple of bike and framebuilding posts after that related to some delayed projects.

Raymarine makes a popular line of electronics for boats. I have a Raymarine e7D chart plotter (fancy name for a GPS) on my sailboat. I just finished a great 4 week sailing trip and thought it would be nice to get the route that we took as an online map. It turns out that Raymarine can only save their routes in an undocumented file format called FSH. A few nice guys have reverse engineered it, but it is hard to find their tools online.

I wanted to document the steps to go from having data on your Raymarine GPS to showing it on a Google Map.  All software involved is free, so you don’t need to spend $50 on Raymarine’s Vogage Planner.   The software is also cross platform and will work on a Mac running OS X, or a PC running Windows or Unix.  This is all command line stuff though, so it’s not very user friendly.

Tools needed:

  • parsefsh – This tool can read the proprietary FSH file format and convert it the OSM format.  Documentation is on a wiki.
  • gpsbabel – This can convert the OSM format to GPX


  • Export your tracks from the Raymarine MFD to a SD card.  This is done under the My Data menu.
  • On the SD card you will find a single file called “archive.fsh”.  This will have all of your tracks.
  • Run “parsefsh < archive.fsh > archive.osm” to convert the FSH to a OSM file.  This also converts the tracks to routes, but we’ll convert them back in the next step.
  • Run “gpsbabel -i osm -f archive.osm -x transform,trk=rte -o gpx -F archive.gpx”.  This produces archive.GPX which contains waypoints, routes, and tracks for everything that was in the FSH.
  • You can now edit the GPX with your normal tools (I used Garmin Basecamp)

And finally, a link to a map that I generated this way.  Sadly the FSH format doesn’t contain point by point times, so you don’t get speeds and can’t where where I was on which day.

If I were buying a new boat GPS I’d give serious consideration to a Garmin instead of a Raymarine.  There is no reason for a manufacturer in 2013 to be using a proprietary format for GPS track data.

Sailing to the FHR

Normally cyclists in Seattle celebrate this weekend by taking the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, riding around it in a loop known as Chilly Hilly, and then coming home.  For the last 7 years I’ve taken part in an alternative event called the FHR with my friends at .83, though I do my own variation by exploring the dirt trails in the middle of the island and then meeting up for the after party.

Close hauled in 20 knots of wind. Photo by Andrew.

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This is a short video (click to view it) with a few snapshots of being on the water. Video by Andrew.

This year I’ve been excited about sailing and decided to sail there instead, arriving in time for the FHR party.  Raz, Andrew, Tatiana, and Theo met me at the marina and we headed out around 9:30am.  Winds were forecast to be high, starting around 20 knots (that’s about 24mph or 38kph) and building up as high as 30 knots.  I haven’t done a lot of sailing in this much wind, especially on my new boat Elena, a Pearson 28-2.  Razi (who has a lot of sailing experience) took the helm as we tacked our way south along Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island.  We got to the party around noon, just in time to discover that there was no more chili, but got to say hi to all of our friends and meet up with another few who sailed there too.

After a beer on the dock and some sailor chat the sailors jumped on their boats and headed back to Shilshole.  This time the wind was at our backs and the trip back was fast and comfortable.  For about half of it we had Jackie, a friend’s Yankee 30 sailboat, just 50′ or so off to starboard.  Close enough that we could shout across to each other and get some fun photos and videos.  I was nervous about docking in this much wind, but slid the boat back into it’s berth nicely.

That's my new boat "Elena", a Pearson 28-2. Sailing out of Eagle Harbor under reduced sail. Photo by Bob.

Bob short tacking out of Eagle Harbor on his Yankee 30 "Jackie". Photo by Andrew

It’s probably obvious to most of my blog readers that I haven’t had much cycling content recently.  I’m still really interested in cycling and building bicycles, but the reality is that in the last year I’ve spent a lot more time sailing and working on boats.  Today’s sailing instead of cycling reinforced that.  I have big plans for this summer involving sailing (and some cycling), and do expect something of a shift back towards cycling and building bicycles on this blog in the fall.

In the meantime stay tuned for a little bit of sailing and a little bit of cycling and not much framebuilding.

Sailing around Bainbridge Island

There is a bike picture at the end, I promise.

Sailing Trip

Christine and I took our new sailboat “Lutra” out for it’s first overnight cruise this weekend.  It was also our first time taking the boat onto Puget Sound, normally we just sail on Lake Union and Lake Washington.  Getting out to the sound requires going through the Ballard Locks.

On Saturday morning (way too early in the morning according to Christine) we left from Lake Union, went through the Ballard Locks, and crossed over to Bainbridge Island.  We went in circles for a little bit trying to decide which direction to head around the island, and finally decided to head north.  One of Christine’s highlights was seeing a small pod of harbor porpoise in this area.  We anchored for a lazy lunch at Port Madison on the north end of the island and waited about 90 minutes for the currents to change, then headed south with a tailwind through Agate Passage (against a small current).  The winds were highly variable on the west side of Bainbridge Island and after about 30 minutes of calm turned to come from the south.  We tacked down the passage between Bainbridge and the mainland and found some much stronger and gustier winds near Bremerton.  From there we turned north again up the small Dyes Passage and set anchor in Phinney Bay for the night.

The night was pretty good, but we learned how much an anchored sailboat can move around in a moderate wind.   In early morning I woke up and moved us to the better sheltered Ostrich Bay and we slept there for another few hours.  I actually slept until 9am, which is way beyond my normal rising time.  The boat is pretty comfortable once situated.

On Sunday we awoke to grey skies, cooler temps, and higher winds.  We started to tack back down Dyes Passage, but progress was slow and gusts were high and coming from different directions so we gave up and used the motor for a little bit.  We sailed the rest of the way from Bremerton, through Rich Passage, up around Bainbridge Island, and back to the locks.   From Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island back to the locks was one long leg with the wind across our beam and no needs to trim the sails.  It was very pleasant, and we saw a few large groups of harbor seals too!  Just as we approached Seattle the sky turned blue and we had a warm and easy motor back through the locks and to our berth.

This isn’t an actual GPS track, but I made a rough map of our route on gmap-pedometer.

Our lunch spot in Port Madison

The foredeck of the boat makes a nice place to be lazy.

Coming through Agate Passage. We were going wing and wing (meaning jib on one side, main on the other, with the wind behind us), as were most of the other boats behind us. Wind was light, so we made slow but steady progress against the 1.5 knot current.

Christine minding the helm as we were heading south along Agate Passage

This is where I'm holding up the mast of the boat

There was a strong current coming out of Rich Passage as we passed by it on Saturday night. The smart boat sailed up the side, away from the current. The other was driving up the middle.

Sunset from our anchoring point in Phinney Bay

Any kitchen that allows me to make an omelette and coffee feels like home.

Heading back towards Seattle. The skies and seas were a bit darker most of Sunday. The wind was nice though, and the ride home was pretty pleasant.

Passing through the Ballard Locks back towards Lake Union

Back in Seattle to our home port of Lake Union. Seaplanes are constantly taking off and landing near us.

Bike News

I bought a new to me mountain bike.  I wasn’t looking for one, but this came up on Craigslist and just called out to me.  It is a S&S coupled titanium Seven Verve that was purpose designed for the Rohloff Speedhub.  The seller was using it as a commuter/city bike, so it came with slick tires and a rigid carbon fork.  I moved over the tires and suspension fork from my old mountain bike and got some new Shimano XT hydraulic disk brakes for it.  My old mountain bike frame went to John Speare, it fits him a lot better than the Salsa Ala Carte that he was riding.  His Salsa is now my loaner MTB and has many of my spare parts on it.  More on that bike later.

I took the Seven out to Fort Ebey State Park with a few friends last weekend and had a blast.  It’s a great riding bike.  Here are a few photos of the bike, plus one cell phone photo that John took of me at Ebey.

My new Seven

Disk Rohloff, Shimano XT hydraulics, XTR cranks

Head shot, with the Reba fork. I love that fork, it is very plush and easy to adjust.

Me riding down the Braveheart Trail in Fort Ebey on the Seven


sailing "wing and wing" in our new boat

The blog’s been quiet recently because I’ve been busy with my new hobby: sailing (I’ve also been busy at work).

About 6 weeks ago Christine and I bought a 1984 Catalina 25 sailboat.  Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time down at the dock doing repairs, cleaning (which seemed to be neglected for the last few years), upgrades, and of course, sailing.

1984 Catalina 25 with a tall mast and fin keel. We've named her "Lutra". The boat isn't a brown as it looks in this photo, it was just taken close to dusk.

I’ve always been intrigued by sailing since having a few day introduction to it in high school from a family friend.  I’m excited about the possibilities for slow and low impact travel (like cycling and kayaking), but with a bit more of the creature comforts of home.  We hope to take it up to the San Juans this summer, and farther north the following summer.  We both started with close to zero experience, so before buying a boat we took sailing classes at The Center for Wooden Boats.  Our instructor was great, the boats that they teach on were great, and the setting (Lake Union in downtown Seattle), was also great.

Christine completing her checkout sail at The Center for Wooden Boats. That's on a 20' Blanchard Knockabout, not our boat.

We picked this boat because it’s small enough for us to handle comfortably, but large enough for us to sleep on.  The interior has a main cabin with a little dinette and galley (kitchen), a tiny little head (bathroom), and then a front vee-berth that we can both fit in comfortably.  There is another second 1.5 person bed in the back called the quarterberth that we use for storage.  The cabin isn’t big (headroom is around 5′6″), but it’s cozy and much larger than any tent that we’ve camped in.  We liked this particular boat because it was in good condition (although dirty), the right price, has a reasonably good reputation, there is great support for it, and it was affordable.  There were about 6000 of this model made, an online store that specializes in parts for it (so I could get a replacement rudder in a week instead of making a custom one), and a great online forum with lots of helpful archives and members.  It’s not big, fast, or fancy (I think of it as the Ford Focus of sailboats), but it seems like it’ll suit our needs well.

Our boat's cockpit. I've refinished a good chunk of the teak, but there is a bit left to go.

Looking down into the interior of the boat from the cockpit. We had replacement cushions made.

The dinette (which reminds me of a fast food restaurant booth), the galley, and the quarterberth area that we use for storage (my folding bike even fits back there). The dinette turns into another small bed when the table is lowered.

The galley has a sink (we need to clean out the water tank though), and a little two burner alcohol stove, and a built in cooler in the corner of the counter. We also have a grill that sets up on the back of the boat.

Our cozy little "vee berth". It's about the size of a double bed with the front corners cut off.

We keep it on a small private marina that is on the northeast side of Lake Union. There are only about 15 boats kept here, but everyone that we've met there has been great.

We’ve named her Lutra after Christine’s favorite water critter, the otter.  We haven’t put the name on the boat yet.  She was previously named the great surprise, and before that appears to have been named Lwellyn.  Once we’re done cleaning it up well enough to remove the old names we’ll put on the new one.


Travel Gifford on a "Gravel Grinder" group ride. Those are the awesome Compass 26x1.75" tires and I think the bags are from Epic Designs.

For those who have no interest in boats, but come here for bikes, here is a minor update on the Travel Gifford.  It’s been painted pumpkin orange (an homage to the Bridgestone XO-1 and because I’ve never had an orange bike) and my friend Scott has taken it to Australia for a couple of weeks.  He’s putting it to great use and has been hanging out with the crowd from “Commuter Cycles” in Melbourne.  This bike is going to be very well travelled.

Scott and the Travel Gifford, in Melbourne Australia