Sunday, September 23, 2012

Light and Magic

I recently wrote about an unanticipated boat project: the replacement of our hot water heater.  Although that project went much more smoothly than it could have, at the end of the day (and between removing the old heater, driving to and from West Marine, and installing the new heater, it did take nearly a full day), it was a $672, multi-hour project that left us in the exact same position we were in before the old heater broke.  Not very fulfilling.

After completing that task, I started on a new one--a boat project I had been planning to undertake over the weekend.  This project took all of 15 minutes, cost $13, and after it was complete, gave us functionality that we never had before.  Much more fulfilling.

The new project?  Connecting a wireless relay (remote control) to our deck lights.  When we leave the boat at night, we turn on our deck lights (bright lights mounted on the mast that illuminate the deck below) so that we can see where we are stepping and safely get on and off the boat

Forward Deck Light Mounted on Mast
Unfortunately, we've had to leave the lights on until we return, or if we leave when it is light outside and unexpectedly return late, the lights aren't on when we get back at all.

Our cheap and easy solution to the problem was to wire in a wireless relay that allows us to switch the lights on and off remotely.  The relay (which, again, cost only $13) came with two wireless remotes that attach to a keychain and are no bigger than the remote for a car

Deck Light Remote
Now, we can turn the lights off after we get off the boat, and we can turn them before we get back on.  The range, I found, was good enough--the remote works from about 50 feet away from the boat.

Or so I thought.  While I was experimenting with the remote, our neighbor came by.  After I explained what I was doing and he satisfied himself that I am not insane, he gave me a tip for extending the range of wireless remotes.  You can extend the range, he explained, by holding the remote to your chin while activating it.  Something about your jaw acting as an antenna, he said.  I had no doubt in my mind that he was joking--that he was hoping to catch me holding a remote to my chin and looking like a complete moron.  I did not give him the satisfaction.

But later, when nobody was watching, I gave it a try.  I walked further than what I knew the range of the remote to be, I held the remote to my chin, and--it worked.  To confirm, I tried again without holding the remote to my chin--nothing.  I tried again, this time several feet further away, and it worked again.  I doubled the distance, walking over 100 feet away from the boat, and held the remote to my chin.  It still worked.  After more trial and error, I was able to get the remote to work from the gate to the pier, which is 200 or more feet from the boat, thus quadrupling the distance with my chin.

Give it a try with your car remote.  I can't explain it, but it works.    


  1. Nice. Great posts. Gonna get that remote for my dad's Catalina. Also this:

  2. Based on the size of my head (huge), I should be able to extend the range of our remote by two city blocks - haha. When will you be in FL next?

  3. I can only imagine that having radio waves radiate through your head are not good for you.

  4. Jamie, I have no doubt that you are correct! It seems much worse than a cell phone for sure.