Due to mechanical setbacks, the team has decided that GaelForce XL will not be launching for MicroTransat 2013. As a team, we believe this is the best decision so we can create the strongest boat possible. We would have loved to set sail in August, but we are entering a season that will have very volatile weather and high seas, thus we will have a more treacherous trip. And sincerely, we just need more time. We were not able to test as much we wanted and this is a very big project for such a small team. However, we fully intend to compete in the MicroTransat 2014! We will be sure to keep everyone apprised of what is going on with our sailing beauty.

With a new motor coming in soon for our chase boat, we plan on doing more autonomous tests around local Kingston Islands, culminating in a round-trip test to Hamilton in September. With our additional testing time, we believe that we will have a real shot at winning the competition.

Thank you to all our sponsors who have helped us this far!

MicroTransat 2014, here we come!

Current Projects

We hope everyone’s summer is going well. We are all still busy,each working on various aspects of the boat. Kevin has been setting up the back end of satellite transmission software. This is the computer code that takes in the frequent updates from the sailboat, and unscrambles the information and then organizes it so that we know where the sailboat is and what it’s doing. Michelle is in the process of creating the sailboat’s basic artificial intelligence. This involves the sailboat identifying where the next way-point is relative to its current location, and sailing towards it if possible. The boat will change its course if the wind is coming from that direction, or if another boat is detected in the vicinity. Josh has been, as usual, working on the electronics box. This involves replacing a lot of that fragile wiring from before with fewer wires that are soldered to the new printed circuit board. Evan has been sourcing parts for installing the wind turbine, which has taken longer than expected due to stores being out of stock. Another concern of his has been the venting of the battery compartments; recharging lead-acid batteries causes them to off gas hydrogen which must be removed, or else risk exploding. We haven’t been able to test in a while because the motor of our zodiac chase boat is broken. We tried to fix it our selves, but it was beyond our abilities. We hope to buy a new one soon and get testing again!

Our broken motor ūüôĀ
The tidier electronics box with the PCB in the bottom left corner
The hydrogen vent where it will be installed. It features a mechanism inside that prevents any water from entering the boat.

Test Results and Setbacks

Sorry for not updating in a while, our server was down for a few days. Our test last week was informative, if not as successful as we might have hoped. We learned that our software was not properly taking in the wind sensor’s data, and so the basic autonomous program running GaelForce XL was not running properly. ¬†The general sailing went well, we found that the boat handled nicely, and was more responsive than previously thought. More recently, we have realized the sensors used to determine how far out the main sheet is, have been fried. We wanted to order replacements, but they only ship their sensors from California and Sweden, and given our tight schedule, we will try installing different sensors, specifically potentiometers. ¬†Below are some photos of our last test.DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO DCIM100GOPRO

Status update

After getting the boat out to the Kingston Marina on Friday we suffered a setback in the robot’s program. On review, a few mistakes in the code were found and corrected, and since then we have been working on the initial autonomous code. One of the difficulties that we have faced on testing days is that the wires in our electronics box keep falling out. To solve this we are designing a printed circuit board which will eliminate many of the wires that fall out and slow down our testing progress. A final note is that wind turbine hardware is being installed and the turbine should be up by Friday. Below is the current electronics box which gets stuffed into the inspection port each time:elecbox

Thank You Sponsors!

We’d just like to take a second to say thank you to our newest sponsors, Scrivens Insurance, for supporting us in our bid to become the first team to send an unmanned sailboat across the Atlantic! As always, thank you to ALL of our sponsors, without you we couldn’t possibly be making this attempt.

Testing Day 2

Hey Folks, we’re taking our boat out into the lake again today. We’re hoping to have it sail cardinal directions on command; this involves the compass sensor and making sure it was programmed correctly. We are also going to evaluate the weather station, and how it logs its data. That’s all for now, we’ll post some pictures later.

The Sensor Situation

Hi everyone, since our last test we have been working on connecting our “weather station” sensor to our ship-board computer. ¬†It is an impressive piece of technology that can tell us:

  • Wind speed and direction
  • Magnetic compass heading
  • Temperature and humidity
  • Location and velocity with GPS
  • Barometric pressure
  • The pitch and roll of the boat

Decoding what sort of data is being sent and parsing it has been more difficult than expected, but it is nearly accomplished.  It will be mounted to the very top of the mast for best results, and a cable will run inside the mast to carry its data. A second weather station will also be mounted on the boat to provide a back up, should something happen to the primary one.

The weather station mounted to the mast

Testing – Summer 2013


Our first test with GaelForce XL was a great success. We sailed under remote control out of Kingston Marina on Thursday. The wind was quite light, but good for a first sail. The boys all got a bit sun-burnt their first day on the water! We will have to remember sunscreen for our next test: Monday, July 8th. Come join us!

First Meeting 2012

Welcome Class of 2016! A lot of you expressed interest in MAST at EngDay, it was great getting to talk to you all. If you are still interested and want to get some more information, come on out to Room 111 in the ILC on Wednesday Septemeber 12th, at 7 pm. We can always use more hands and we will find valuable ways for everyone to contribute. Can’t wait to work with you all, see you tomorrow!

Welcome Aboard New Recruits!

With the Fall 2012 semester fast approaching, MAST is excited to have the whole team back together and is looking forward to welcoming our new members. As always, everyone is welcome to join. First years, come check us out outside Grant Hall at EngDay on Sunday, September 9th at 4 pm.

It is going to be a busy year for us, as we are aiming to launch our 4m boat from Halifax next summer for a fully autonomous trans-Atlantic crossing. We will be looking for new members for software, hardware and the boat team. For more information, contact us at sailboat@engsoc.queensu.ca and make sure you check the facebook page for meeting updates!