2010 July – Weather Station

2010 JULY – Weather Station

Weather monitor - wind indicator

Weather monitor - wind indicator

I have a West Marine model Weather Base 20 which works perfectly well and tells the temperature, humidity, time, and most important to me as a sailor, it tells the wind speed and wind direction.  That is, it did until one of the 3 cups on the external wind indicator broke off.  With only 2 cups left they balanced each other out and the monitor no longer spun/rotated in the wind – so I no longer got the wind speed.

I thought I would be able to dismantle the wind indicator, remove the offending piece, and replace it with a new piece with the requisite 3 cups.  The weather base is made by West Marine so off I went to WM to buy a replacement part.  I entered the WM store and headed straight for an assistant at the counter.

I explained my problem and the assistant looked dubious.  He said he thought that WM sold the entire base as one unit and that spare parts were not available.

At this time the gentleman standing next to me piped up helpfully.  Why not just stick a bottle cap in the place of the missing cup and it will work just fine, he offered.  And Coca Cola caps work perfectly, he added.

The mere thought of an ugly Coke cap glued onto any part of  my beautiful boat was about as attractive as a boil on a baby’s bottom.  I turned and gave the man a withering “You stay out of this!” glare.  He shrugged.

The attendant and I went thru the WM catalog.  Turns out that WM no longer makes that particular model, however, for just $549 I can buy a whole new latest-and-greatest weather base.  Excluding the cost of an electrician to remove the old weather station and fit the newest contraption, of course..

There are a lot of things I need for the boat right now, and a new weather base is not one of them, so I left the store.

Once I got back to the boat I studied the non-spinning wind indicator and pondered the problem.  The more I thought about the man’s suggestion of a Coke bottle cap, the more it made sense.  Eventually I decided it was worth a try, especially since the stupid indicator was not working anyway…  And there are no spare parts for it…  And I didn’t feel like buying a new one.

So off I went to the store and bought a 6-pack of Cokes.  I noticed that the bottle caps are a bright red so I decided to paint them black.  I picked up a cheap bottle of nail polish – black nail polish like people use on Halloween to enhance their witch costumes.

Then back to the boat.  Over the weekend I drank the cokes and kept the lids which I painted black.  Then I mixed up a batch of marine glue, climbed up on the roof of the dodger, leaned over the davits precariously, and glued a now-black cup in the spot of the missing cup.  I waited expectantly for the indicator to start spinning happily in the 10-knot wind but it just sat there.

Its the little fella below the big wind generator

Its the little fella below the big wind generator

I sat and watched the movement of the indicator – or non.movement in this case – and it seemed that since the other 2 cups were on extended arms and my Coke cup was glued straight to the mounting base, it was preventing a rotation from starting.  If I knocked it with my hand then it spun away and continued to spin, but once I stopped it again, it couldn’t restart its spin.  Obviously I must have slept thru the lesson about wind dynamics in school.

So I thought if I glued another 2 cups to the mounting then the new 3 cups would generate the start speed needed to get it spinning.  So I did that.  Now I had 5 cups on the indicator – 3 Coke caps (painted Halloween black) glued directly to the monitor, and 2 originals on their extended arms.

By this time the wind had picked up so I sat back waiting for the vroooom that would indicate my monitor was spinning wildly – but it didn’t move.  All I had done was counter balance the stupid thing again.  As I watched, the wind would catch the cup on the extended arm and shove it clockwise.  Then the wind would catch the other extended cup and shove it anti-clockwise.  So the indicator wobbled back and forth, but did not fully rotate.

Okay, it says zero now - but the wind wasnt blowing when I took this pic

Obviously I needed to replace a-cup-on-an-extended-arm like the one that broke off.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t have second guessed the original designer – but who knew 5 cups would not do the trick?!

Back to the drawing board….  I cut up an expired credit card into thin strips to use as the arm extension and glued the strips together to get rigidity.  And painted it black.  Then I glued the (4th) cup to the extension, and glued the extension in the missing place on the indicator.

The thing started spinning madly – at last.  I bolted downstairs and my weather base showed the wind at 15 knots.  Oh joy!


So now instead of a neat wind indicator on my davit with 3 neat cups on extensions, now I have the thing bristling with Coke bottle caps – all painted Halloween black.

The next time someone comes up with a simple fix to an expensive problem, I hope I have the good sense to ask some in-depth questions instead of dishing out a snotty look.  To the man in WM that received The Look, I humbly apologize.

Cost to replace:                    Newest weather base $549         + handyman electrician at $65 p/hr

Cost to fix:

6-pack of Cokes           $2.99

1 black nail polish      $1.99

TOTAL =       $5 (I already had the marine glue)

The weather station on my Navigation station

The weather station on my Navigation station

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