Golden Globe Race 2018 – 50 Year Anniversary


The Golden Globe Race 2018 commemorates the original Sunday Times Golden Globe 1968, a non-stop, single handed round the world yacht race.  It was won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in Suhaili. Nine contestants entered and only Knox-Johnston finished. Bernard Moitessier decided not to finish but go around the world for a second time! (Ref.1). Several fascinating movies were made about this race, one of them being “Deep Water” (Ref.2). This year’s Golden Globe celebrates the technology current around 1968. Contestants have to follow strict guidelines on boat design < 1988 and ensure all devices and instruments are of the 1968 period (Ref.3). Eighteen skippers started the race at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France on July 1st, and now eight remain, presently rounding New Zealand.

Celestial Navigation for Position Determination

In 1968 GPS was still on the drawing board. Electronic navigation systems were expensive and complicated. They consisted of using RDF radio direction finding or hyperbolic coastal navigation systems such as Decca and Loran. For most sailors, the sextant was an indispensable tool. According to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s book “A World of My Own” (Ref. 6) on November 18th: “At midday I set sail again to clear Solander Island, as we had drifted slowly down onto it during the morning”. Let’s work out the basics of what a meridian passage sextant sighting would have looked like for Sir Robin on this date. Figure 1 shows the location of Solander Island on the southern tip of New Zealand as seen from Google Earth.

Figure 1 Google Earth View of Solander Island on Southern Tip New Zealand

Reading off Google Earth or an appropriate chart, we determine the coordinates of the southern tip of Solander Island:

Latitude = 46deg 35′ South

Longitude = 166deg 54′ East

We can use modern software to regenerate the Nautical Almanac page for November 18th_1968 (Ref.4) which is shown in Figure 2. We can double check these values with the The Nautical Almanac for The Year 1968 (Ref.5) which is available on line.  Let’s figure out the sextant angle Hs measured for a meridian passage on this date and for this location. Knowing that the sun travels 15 degrees every hour, we can determine the time difference between Solander Island and Greenwich = 11hrs 7.6minutes [[166+(54/60)]/15 = 11.126667].

Figure 2 Regenerated Nautical Almanac Nov 18th_1968

From Figure 2 we can determine the GMT when the Sun GHA is directly on Suhaili’s meridian of 166deg 54’East or GHA = 360deg – 166deg 54′ = 193deg 6′. At 0hrs GMT the GHA is approx 184deg and at 0100hrs GMT the GHA is approximately 199deg. Interpolation for 193deg 6′ gives GMT = 0hrs 37minutes 33secs [[(9+23/60)/(14+59.8/60)]*60]. The Sun DEC at this time is 19deg 12′ S.

Figure 3 Oblique Spherical Triangle

Now we are in a position to calculate the sextant angle. Figure 3 shows the oblique spherical triangle formed by the position of the observer on Suhaili, the Sun GP and the North Pole at meridian passage. The Zenith Distance Zd = 90deg – Ho. The Zenith Distance is also equal to the arc distance between the Sun GP and the observer latitude since they are directly on the meridian.

Zd = 46deg 35′ – 19deg 12′ = 27deg 23′.

Ho = 90deg – 27deg 23′ = 62deg 37′.

Let’s assume Sir Robin took lower limb sightings, his height of eye above the water was 3m and his Plath sextant had no errors. We can convert our calculated Ho–>Ha–>Hs with the following equations:

Ho = Ha – R + PA +/- SD

Ha = Hs +/- Index Error – Dip

R = Refraction = 0.0167/tan(Ha+7.32/(Ha+4.32)) deg at 10degC/1010mb = 0.5′

Dip = 1.76xsqrt(Heye_m) = 1.76xsqrt(3) = 3′

SD = 16.2′ from Nautical Almanac page Nov 18th_1968

Ha = Ho + 0.5′ – 16.2′ = 62deg 37′ + 0.5′ – 16.2′ = 62deg 21.3′

Hs = Ha + Dip = 62deg 21.3′ + 3′ = 62deg 24.3′


#1 – “Sunday Times Golden Globe Race”

#2 – “Deep Water”

#3 – “GGR Golden Globe Race 1968 Website”

#4 – “The PyAlmanac”, Python Script to Write Nautical Almanac Using PyEphem, Python2.7, TeXLaTeX

#5 – “The Nautical Almanac for The Year 1968”, US Naval Observatory & UK HMSO, Google Digitized Books, University of California Library;view=1up;seq=1

#6 – “A World of My Own: The first ever non-stop solo round the world voyage”, Robin Knox-Johnston, ISBN: 978-0713668995

GNU Radio ATSC_8VSB Transmitter Simulation

Figure 1 CBLFT UHF CH25

In the previous post, I discussed using Splat! to predict the receive level of an RF signal. In particular I considered CBLFT UHF CH25 as received from the CN Tower as shown above in Figure 1. In order to study ATSC_8VSB which is the DTV standard used in North America, GNU Radio can be used to actually simulate a transmitter and receiver.

Figure 2 ATSC DTV Standard Signal Flow

Figure 2 shows the block diagram of ATSC_8VSB from Ref.1. Video information is compressed by an MPEG-2 video coder and audio is compressed by a Dolby AC-3 coder. These two streams are mixed with Auxiliary & Control data to form a MPEG-2 transport stream of packets. These packets undergo Channel Coding and 8VSB Modulation with modules as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 ATSC Channel Coding & Modulation Modules

Figure 4 shows a GNU Radio simulation of ATSC_8VSB transmission. An MPEG-2 video file is read into the simulation and processed by the channel coding blocks. The signal is then 8VSB modulated to UHF CH25 and the spectrum displayed.

Figure 4 UHF CH25 ATSC_8VSB Simulation with Video & Spectrum


#1 – “A/53 ATSC Digital Television Standard Parts 1 – 6, 2007

#2 – “GNU Radio 3.7.0 Documentation – gnuradio.atsc Signal Blocks”

Splat! RF Signal Propagation, Loss and Terrain Analysis Tool

About Splat!

Splat! is an RF Signal Propagation, Loss, And Terrain analysis tool for the electromagnetic spectrum between 20 MHz and 20 GHz. Splat! software is Copyright © 1997-2018 by John Magliacane KD2BD. Ref.1.

Splat! is free software. It may be redistributed and/or modified under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 2 as published by the Free Software Foundation.

*Terrestrial signal propagation & terrain analysis tool
*Frequency range 20MHz – 20GHz (VHF, UHF, Microwave)
*Antenna height determination
*Fresnel Zone clearance requirements
*Path Loss
*Received signal level
*Longley-Rice or ITM Irregular Terrain Model
*Signal level contour maps for coverage
*Originally developed for 1997 for College ATV repeater
*Longley Rice developed for TV propagation study


Propagation > 30MHz works by various mechanisms: Line of Sight LOS, diffraction over the horizon, atmospheric refraction and atmospheric scatter.

Linux Installation

Download and install Ubuntu 18.04.1 natively or on VMware Workstation Player 14 (Virtual Machine on Windows). Once Ubuntu is installed, ensure everything is updated. The Linux version of Splat is a command line interface Ref.1, documentation is available Ref.2.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install splat

Windows Installation

Download and install Splat with Windows GUI – Beta v1.1.2 from Austin Wright’s web site Ref.3. Don’t install in the C:/Program Files directory, install directly in C:/SPLAT. Note that the Windows version of Splat has a visual interface.

Elevation Data Format

Splat! requires DEM Digital Elevation Data in order to perform the various propagation calculations. The data must be in the form of SDF Splat Data Files .sdf. The digital elevation data may be in several formats depending on the source:

*GeoTIFF (.tif)
*USGS DEM (.dem)
*Floating Point Raster File (.flt)
*ASCII Grid (.txt)
*Comma Separated Values (.csv or .txt)
*SRTM (.hgt)

Splat! has several utilities to convert .dem and .hgt files to the native Splat! .sdf format. If the data is not in this format, there are several Open Source programs that can be used to convert the data to .dem/.hgt such as GDAL Ref.4 & QGIS Ref.5.

Canadian DEM Files

Figure 1

Canadian DEM files are available from Open Canada Data Ref.6. Figure 1 shows an index for Canadian DEM files. They are 1:250,000 scale in GeoTIFF format. They are based on NAD 83, resolution 0.75arc_sec in N-S, 0.75-3arc_sec in W-E.

US DEM Files

DEM files in the US are available from NED National Elevation Data Set Ref.7. The data set is a raster product with seamless matching. The following resolutions are possible:

*1/3arc_sec (10m) for US & Alaska
*1arc_sec (30m) for US, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico
*NAD83 and 1m elevation unit

Earlier DEM files with various formats are available from Earth Explorer Ref.8. Note that 1 minute of arc is defined as 1 Nautical Mile:

*1 minute arc = 1 Nautical Mile = 1852m
*1 second of arc = 1852/60 = 30.87m or approx. 31m

In order to download SRTM data from USGS, which is immediately useful for Splat!, you need to register and setup an account. Once you submit the details a confirmation email will be sent to you. Figure 2 shows Earth Explorer giving details of SRTM data around Toronto. A search box was created around the Toronto area and data type of digital elevation/srtm used.

Figure 2

Splat! Data Utilities

Splat! requires DEM data in the native Splat! Data Format .sdf. There are two utilities that can be used to convert SRTM .hgt format to the .sdf format.

srtm2sdf.exe         converts 3arc_sec .hgt files to .sdf
srtm2sdf-hd.exe   converts 1arc_sec .hgt files to .sdf

Newer SRTM data from Earth Explorer is now in GeoTIFF format, so another intermediate Utility GDAL is required to convert the GeoTIFF .tif to .hgt first.

Splat! QTH Files

In order to study the propagation between two locations in the VHF, UHF and Microwave frequency bands, we have to consider the influence of terrain between the transmitter and the receiver. To do this, we first need to know the location and height of the Tx/Rx antennas. In Splat! we do this by creating QTH files. Care must be taken entering Latitude and Longitude. Antenna height is specified in feet (default) or in meters if ‘meters’ is added. Note Longitude entry is opposite to Google Earth.

*Latitude    = + (0/90)deg for North Latitude
*Latitude    = – (0/90)deg for South Latitude
*Longitude = + (0/360)deg for West Latitude
*Longitude = – (0/360)deg for East Longitude

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows a QTH file for the CBLFT transmitter located in the CN Tower Toronto. A similar file is constructed for the receive location VE3PKC.

Figure 4

Figure 4 shows the path 7.56Km between the CBLFT UHF CH25 transmitter located in the CN Tower to the VE3PKC location. The figure shows the terrain immediately under the path, antenna heights and 100% 1st Fresnel zone clearance. The Fresnel Zone Ref.9 is an ellipsoid of revolution about the direct line joining the Tx/Rx antennas. For good signal strength, this regions should be at least 60% free of any obstacles. The nth Fresnel zone is defined as the locus of points in space such that the two segment path reflection off the surface is (n/2) x wavelength longer than the direct path. This results in wave cancellation when the two waves add.

Propagation Calculation CBLFT to VE3PKC

We can use the Friis formula Ref. 10 to estimate the receive signal level of CBC French TV station CBLFT transmitting from the CN Tower to the VE3PKC location. Figure 5 shows the results.

ERP = 106.2KW ERP (Tx Power + Tx Ant Gain)
Rx = Receive Signal Power in dBm
Tx = Transmit Power in dBm = +80.26dbm
Gtx, Grx = Antenna Gains in dBi = +2.2dB
Lrx = Receive transmission Line Loss dB = 2.6dB
FSPL = Free Space Path Loss = 32.44 + 20log10(d_Km) + 20log10(f_MHz) = 104.6dB
Rx = Tx + Gtx -FSPL -Lrx + Grx = -22.5dBm

Figure 5

Assuming an ERP of 106.2KW (EIRP = +2.2dB), the receive power at VE3PKC is -22.5dBm with a receive antenna gain of 2.2dBi & receiver feeder loss of 2.6dB (half wave dipole cut 536.6MHz). Figure 6 shows a 6MHz receive channel power of -35.8dBm. This corresponds to an extra 13.3dB of attenuation. Several factors have to be considered here. The full antenna EIRP may not be directed at the VE3PKC location and thirdly, although no objects are in the Fresnel zone under the path, we can see that the signal path goes through a tunnel of buildings either side of the path, which may be in the Fresnel zone(s).

Figure 6

Splat! Propagation Calculation CBLFT to VE3PKC

We can use Splat! to calculate the propagation loss also taking into account any Fresnel zone loses. In order to do this we need to create an .lrp file for the CN Tower transmitter location. Figure 7 shows the entry menu. The Splat! manual Ref.2/p3 can be used to help filling in these values. Transmitter power ERP is the last field.

Figure 7

The Splat! results are the same as the Friis calculations. Free space attenuation is 104.6dB and receive power is -22.1dBm before Rx antenna gain or feeder loss giving -22.5dBm at the receiver input after antenna/feeder.

Figure 8


#1 – Splat Home Page

#2 – Splat Documentation

#3 – Splat with Windows GUI Version – Beta 1.1.2, Austin Wright

#4 – GDAL Geospatial Data Abstraction Layer

#5 – QGIS Open Source Geographic Information System

#6 – Canadian Elevation Data

#7 – NED National Elevation Data Set

#8 – Earth Explorer

#9 – Fresnel Zone

#10 – Friis Transmission Equation

#11 – “Splat!: An RF Signal Propagation, Loss and Terrain Analysis Tool”, John A. Magliacane KD2BD, Bill Walker W5GFE, QEX Magazine, July/August 2009

Create Any Waveform on Your Function Generator

Function Generators typically produce Sine, Square, Triangle, Saw Tooth and DC signals. Many modern instruments include an AWG or Arbitrary Waveform Generator signal as an additional selection. This allows you to construct your own custom waveform to meet your testing needs. Typical examples might be a dual/multi tone audio signal to test intermodulation distortion in an audio amplifier or a complex modulated signal to test an RF demodulator.

Fig 1 HP Laptop & PicoScope 3205 Scope/Spec/FGn

In order to use the AWG, you have to create your waveform using a special editor or a math program. Essentially your are creating the digital samples that paint the actual waveform that you want. The quality of the waveform is limited by the hardware sample limitation of the instrument.

Fig 2 AWG Editor

The AWG editor allows you to customize various waveforms, draw them, record them from a scope and modify them, or import CSV text files from a math program that was used to construct them. A CSV file is a text file consisting of a series of floating point numbers separated by commas, representing the signal sample values taken at a particular sampling rate Fs and lying between a minimum voltage of -1.0V and +1.0V.

Figure 3 shows a Scilab program to generate a waveform consisting of two sine waves at 400Hz, 1KHz and with Fs sampling frequency 44.10KHz. The resulting samples are written to a column using the function csvWrite. The common period for 400Hz = 2.5msec  & 1000Hz = 1msec, is 5msec. Samples are collected for this period. Then the CSV file is read into the AWG, and the samples are written and repeated every 5msec or 200Hz. Figure 4 shows the AWG output taken over 2 periods or 10msecs. Figure 5 shows the AWG output spectrum clearly showing the two tones of 400Hz and 1KHz.

Fig 3 Scilab Program Dual Tone to CSV

Fig 4 AVG Output over 10msec

Fig 5 AVG Output 400Hz & 1KHz Tones

Maiden – Whitbread Round The World Race 1989

Just saw Alex Holmes’ s documentary “Maiden” at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s about Tracy Edwards all female crew that sailed around the world in the Whtibread 1989 race. It follows Tracy’s early life and the various steps leading up to the race. An incredible study of courage, persistence and bravery in the face of incredible opposition, problems and of course mother nature. Any one interested in sailing or adventure this is for you.  A testament to the optimism of youth.

Norfolk to Lord Howe Islands Great Circle Distance

On March 31st 1931, Sir Francis Chichester left the Northern Tip of New Zealand on an East to West flight across the Tasman sea. He stopped to refuel at Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. Let’s determine the great circle distance and bearings that his Gypsy Moth float plane Madam Elijah ZK-AKK had to fly between these two points using the Spherical Haversine law.


The great circle distance using the Spherical Haversine law is:


GCD = 895.3Km (483.4Nmiles), Bearing of Lord Howe Island = 249.9deg. This agrees with the Google Earth plot.

Balcony ATSC HD Television

For some time I have wanted to see how many television channels I could receive from the CN Tower in Toronto. I can clearly see the TV antenna at the top of the tower from my apartment balcony, although it is boxed in on both sides by buildings. The 7.6Km Google Earth path is shown below.

I used a simple Yagi antenna and mounted it on a wooden dowel combination to easily allow it be rotated and temporarily but securely attached to the apartment balcony railing.


I placed my TV in scan mode to see what it would pickup. I was amazed to find that I detected 24 channels listed in the spread sheet below:


I also scanned from 400MHz to 800MHz with my spectrum analyzer to see what I would detect:

A close up on the strongest signal at 536.3MHz shows the following spectrum with carrier level at -60dBm and spectrum at -73dBm:

RTL-SDR for Weather Radio


A simple RTL-SDR receiver can be used to receive marine weather forecasts. The unit is small and inexpensive (approx. $25). It can be controlled by using the software program SDR# or other similar programs. The picture above shows my unit plugged into the usb port on the left side of my laptop, the display shows Weather Radio Canada station XMJ-225 on 162.4MHz.  The picture below show a simple whip antenna on my apartment balcony.


Intercept at Trillium Park Lat = 43.6296degN Long = 79.4095degW


“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;” from Sea Fever by John Masefield

Currently I am calibrating my 3 sextants from several known locations in Toronto. One requires a water horizon and the other 2 have bubble horizons. Trillium Park is gorgeous, it’s like looking out over the Pacific ocean! I am also reading Ian Strathcarron’s biography of Sir Francis Chichester “Never Fear”. I love Chichester’s cure for mental & physical scurvy: Scotch Whiskey + Lemon!!