Monday, 30 April 2012

Simple Guide to Installing and Using GE2KAP

Hi everyone,
Another geeky post, this one to describe how to use GE2KAP.  GE2KAP is a great utility program which converts whatever you're viewing on Google Earth to a .kap file.  KAP files are charts which can be displayed by the chart plotter software OpenCPN.  GE2KAP is a standalone program, not a "plug-in" to OpenCPN.

This post originally created in April 2012 was updated in August 2013.  Updates in red.

Here's a step by step description of installing, configuring and running GE2KAP...

  1. Download the GE2KAP file on this page.  A .exe file is downloaded.
  2. Run the file (in Windows) which extracts a set of files to a folder you nominate.  Mine is at y:\ge2kap where y: is a shared folder containing all my chart folders and other sailing data folders.
  3. Navigate to y:\ge2kap and check it contains a "Help" folder plus a set of files including "Readme.html" and "GE2KAP.rex".
  4. Double-click on the file "Readme.html" which should open in your browser.  If running on Mac OS X with Windows in a virtual machine, use Finder to open the page in Safari.  y:\ge2kap is /Users/Shared/data/ge2kap on my machine.
  5. The page will show something like "Click here to open the Help file in English and read the Installation section: GE2KAP", with GE2KAP being a link.  Click on the link to load the GE2KAP Help pages.
  6. Click on the Installation => Prerequisites link, and then on the "ooRexx" link to download the oorexx interpreter.  REX is the software language used by GE2KAP.  Follow the rest of the instructions given below this point in the Installation page to install oorexx and Google Earth.
  7. When finished installing all the prerequisites click on the Google Earth link on the left hand side frame in the GE2KAP Help page.  Follow the instructions given there.
  8. When finished click on the Getting Started link on the left hand side frame in the GE2KAP Help page.  Follow the instructions given there.
  9. The GE2KAP Help pages are good, so no need for me to repeat them here.
  10. Recent versions of GE2KAP have included a plugin for OpenCPN (on Windows only).  This is a DLL file which must be manually copied from your GE2KAP folder to your OpenCPN plugins folder.  After copying it run OpenCPN and check it appears in ToolBox => Plugins.
I write all my GE2KAP output files to y:\googleearth.  I suggest creating a new folder to hold your files too, perhaps with sub-folders for geographic regions.

Once installed, using GE2KAP is simply a case of placing what you want in your chart in the Google Earth window, ALT-TAB to the GE2KAP GUI, enter a destination file path/filename and click "Create Chart".  Creation of each chart can take several seconds, so be patient and wait for the GE2KAP GUI transcript to say it completed successfully.

Once you have a couple of charts generated, start OpenCPN and open the ToolBox window.   In the  Settings tab "Enable Chart Quilting" should be ticked.  Click on the Charts tab and in "Available Chart Directories" navigate to y:\googleearth" (or your equivalent) and then click on "Add Directory".  Tick "Force Full Database Rebuild" and click OK.  The chart database will take a few seconds to rebuild.  When complete, pan/zoom to the geographic vicinity of the .kap files you created and you should see a red box for each.  Navigate into the "chart" as normal.  Hey presto!  ;)

Note that you need to either restart OpenCPN or do a Force Full Database Rebuild for new .kap charts to be visible.

The above is a description of how to get started.  I'm no expert and still have plenty to learn!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Katherine Gorge

Hi everyone,
We finished our tour with a day at Katherine, mainly visiting the gorge...

Katherine Gorge

Kakadu National Park

Hi everyone,
This week we spent 3 days or so in Kakadu National Park.  An amazing place.  Geography, wildlife and ancient rock art.  It is the end of the wet, so some areas are still closed.  But those areas which are open are teeming with life and the waterfalls are well and truly gushing.

Sea eagle
Saltwater crocodile
Aboriginal rock art
Kakadu landscape
Beautiful flowers
One of many waterfalls
Water everywhere
Fantastic.  You'll never never know if you never never go!

Litchfield National Park and Corroboree Creek

Hi everyone,
Earlier this week we visited Litchfield National Park, south east of Darwin.  We had our first swim in the Northern Territory (hull scrubbing in the marina aside!).  Fantastic.  That afternoon we visited Corroboree Creek Billabong in Kakadu National Park.

Tour bus
Termite mound
Lots of water

Friday, 20 April 2012

Final Marina Jobs

Hi everyone,
We're making good progress on the final jobs on the to-do-in-the-marina list...
  • Service the outboard
  • Refurbish the quarter berth
  • The big chart sort-out
  • Investigate Google Earth image "charts" for use in OpenCPN
As mentioned in the preceding post, the one problem found during our Easter on Darwin harbour was that the outboard motor was misbehaving.  The motor is a Nissan NS3.5A, purchased new in San Diego in 1997.  On reflection we decided to have a go at fixing the problems rather than rushing off to buy another motor.  So I set to work to dismantle it.

Very dirty carby
Damaged impeller
The carburettor was thoroughly cleaned.  To check the carburetor was functioning OK I ran it in the biggest water container I could find.  That was a bucket!  I didn't want to run it in the marina since the problems being fixed included leaking fuel/oil into the water.

Test environment!

Amazingly the motor started on the second pull.  After the first I attached the HT lead to the spark plug!  Huzzah.  With the carby OK I ordered new impellers from the US.  It appears there are no suppliers in Australia.  Perhaps Nissan outboards were never sold here.

The quarter berth refurbishment has been going on for some time.  I stripped off the old, discoloured foam-backed vinyl and removed the headliner.  The vinyl was stained and the headliner was robbing us of a huge volume of "sitting head room".  It was a long job scrubbing off the contact cement used to secure the vinyl.  This week I finished that job with a final sand, then started painting.  We decided to apply only undercoat for its matt finish.

Refurbished quarterberth
I've had the signal flag set for over 25 years.  At last it has found a home, and it hides the unfaired hull from view.  Interco Uniform Whisky ready to hoist. ;)

The big chart sort-out took about 12 solid hours (in sessions).  We have about 150 charts, most bought recently from Bellingham Chart Printers in the US.  The charts were provided as a number of folios for geographical areas.  They are now all folded in "eighths" which works well on our small chart table; ordered and stowed to suit our route through SE Asia and beyond; and specified in a spreadsheet.

The Google Earth image "chart" library is a very cool idea supported by the OpenCPN PC chart plotter software.  With a plug-in and the GE2KAP software OpenCPN can accurately overlay the images on normal charts.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Back in the Marina

Hi everyone,
We're back in Tipperary Waters Marina after a wonderful Easter out on Darwin harbour.  We spent Sunday morning at Woods Inlet then had a great sail on the harbour before anchoring off Stokes Hill Wharf.

At anchor in Woods Inlet
Great sail on the harbour
Sunset over Stokes Hill wharf
Re-entering the marina
All in all, a great holiday weekend.  All the new gear worked very well.  The only addition to the to-do list was to investigate replacing the outboard.  It's a 1990's 2-stroke which is becoming increasingly leaky and difficult to start.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Test Sail on Darwin Harbour

Hi everyone,
We're having a great Easter cruising around Darwin harbour.  On Friday afternoon we locked-out of the marina and motored around to anchor off Cullen Bay.  We took the opportunity to do a speed trial of the engine...
  • 2000rpm => 5.4knots
  • 2200rpm => 6.0knots
  • 2500rpm => 6.5knots
  • 2700rpm => 6.8knots, stern digging in and some black smoke
That's a full knot faster than before the recent service work.

We had a great evening enjoying being at anchor rather than in a pen.  The boat felt alive!  We tested the HF radio and connected to Winlink Sydney, Winlink Melbourne, Sailmail Sydney and Sailmail Brunei.

At anchor in Cullen Bay
Sunset in Cullen Bay
This morning we tested the West Marine windscoop (works great) and had an otherwise lazy time.  This afternoon we went for a great sail in the harbour.  The No 2 jib (which we had cut-down from an old No 1) looks good.  The new staysail is great.  The new deck gear, and particularly the Andersen winches, are fantastic.

Moonrise at Woods Inlet
We're now at anchor in Woods Inlet.  Very nice spot on the western shore of Darwin harbour (just south of Mandorah).  Thanks Fiona for the tip.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 5 April 2012


We've been busy over the last couple of weeks.  The big news is that the engine is back in one piece and is much improved.  The work done on the engine since we've been in Darwin now includes:
  • Oil change
  • New starter motor
  • New raw water pump
  • New injectors
  • New mixing elbow
  • Cleaned exhaust pipe and exhaust manifold
  • Checked heat exchanger
  • Checked anodes
  • Adjusted tappets
  • Purchased spare oil, coolant, fuel filters; oil filters, impellers, anodes etc
The engine test after re-assembly of the exhaust and fitting of the new injectors went very well.  Where before we could only get 2500rpm maximum, now the engine runs up to the specified 3500rpm.  We then ran the engine up in gear and reached 3500rpm there too.  We should now have a lot more power and better fuel consumption.  It's also likely we avoided major engine damage which wasn't far off based on the state of the exhaust system.  Thanks to Darwin Ship Stores for doing a great job!

In addition to the engine work we have also:
  • Attended First Aid course
  • Replaced the TMC electric toilet/macerator assembly with a new unit (keeping the old as spare)
  • Replaced toilet switch
  • Plumbed the new saloon electric bilge pump to the head drain sea-cock
  • Serviced the winches
  • Printed and laminated emergency stowage and procedures sheets
  • Fitted 12Vdc outlets in the pedestal for charging camera/iPhone/iPad batteries
  • Fitted switch for compass light
  • Refitted danbouy/lifering and lifesling to pushpit
  • Refitted Aries vane gear to transom
  • Hoisted and furled #2 headsail and staysail
  • Purchased Garmin BlueChart g2 electronic chart packages for SE Asia
We plan to escape the marina over Easter and we're ready!  A few days outside will allow us to try out all the new deck gear, test engine performance, give the outboard a run, and (hopefully) remember how to sail.  'Twill be fun!  :)