Saint Jean de Losne: Wanderlust’s Satellite Internet Dish Goes en Vacances

Wanderlust in Verdun-sur-Doubs

At the end of the 2016 cruising season Wanderlust’s satellite Internet dish finally gave up the ghost.

The dish is built to self-acquire a satellite signal allowing us to connect to the Internet no matter where we are in Europe. At first it worked well. But after a couple of months of service a problem started to develop. Periodically the dish would search a perfectly clear sky without locking onto a signal. Eventually, after twenty minutes or so, the dish would give up and retract into its off position.

The fruitless searching happened often enough that Becky and I had a code name for the phenomenon; the dish was looking for extraterrestrial life. Perhaps our dish did have a part time job of looking for space aliens. Or maybe it just needed to take a break and chill out every now and then. Either way the dish did not work reliably.

The dish in operation

Eventually the dish failed completely. The reason for the failure, and the instability of the dish that we’d seen earlier, was now clear. A fastening screw was loose. Ultimately the screw pulled completely free leaving a dish with no aiming stability. After consulting with the dish’s vender it was decided that professional attention was needed. The problem was not something we could fix by remote input from the vendor in the UK.

Wanderlust’s Oyster satellite dish was made by a German company ten Haaft and purchased in the U.K. In between, where Wanderlust was moored, is France. Though a service visit was possible in the UK or in Germany, there was no one in France that could come out to service the dish. I’m gathering that the French don’t do satellite Internet dishes. Perhaps the French wisely don’t feel the need to check in on the Internet everywhere they travel. Either that or they aren’t much concerned about having a satellite dish that independently decides that it needs to search for space aliens.

The dish, retracted for cruising.

After several rounds over the phone with UK phone support, it was decided that our only option was to send the rather heavy and awkward mechanism back to Conrad Anderson in Birmingham UK. Thus after procuring a discarded bike box, the 50 lbs dish mechanism was removed from Wanderlust’ deck, carefully packed in the box, and wheeled over to La Poste, the French post office, in St. Jean de Losne. After the usual awkward exchange in French at La Poste the package was on its way to Birmingham, or so we thought.

Several days after we shipped the dish we contacted Conrad Anderson. Oddly, the dish had not arrived. We heard that the French postal system can be slow, but this was far slower than seemed possible.

Commercials also use satellite dishes but they look much smaller on their decks.

Three weeks later there was still no word from Conrad Andersion. Then without warning the box appeared at the mailboxes at St. Jean de Losne’s port de plaisance. It was a surprise. I expected that the usually communicative person at Conrad Anderson would have let us know the repaired dish was on its way back to us. At the very least, I’d think that Conrad Anderson would have contacted us for a payment.

So I looked back at the box. Written in English on the top with a marker pen was “Missent to Myanmar”. It seems that our dish mechanism had been to the country formally know as Burma. According to the label attached to the box, our dish also had a stayover in Bangkok.

The box, returned to Saint Jean de Losne.

Bangkok? Now I was suspicious. Had our dish had gone on vacation, or as the French say, “en vacances” to Southeast Asia? Perhaps the stress of Becky’s downloading every dog picture on the Internet had been too much. Maybe such a sophisticated mechanism as a satellite Internet just needed a change of scenery. So perhaps it wasn’t searching for space aliens after all. Maybe the dish was searching Google for a satellite dish spa in Yangon.

I fully expected that if I opened the box I’d find that our dish arrived back in France with a difficult to explain suntan. But I chose to be discrete; I did not open the box. Instead I took the bulky package directly to La Poste, the French post office.

Feeling a bit lazy, and having rented a car, I thought I might as well drive the heavy box to the nearby French post office. It’s a short five-minute walk from the port in St. Jean de Losne to La Poste but the box was awkward, heavy, and difficult to move. So instead of walking I squeezed the box into the backseat of the small car in the process inadvertently squashing our confused canine Gigi into a tiny spot between the box and car door on the other side. Gigi sensibly quickly relocated to the driver’s seat. It took a moment to remind her that she could not drive and had to be in the passenger seat. Once a human-canine understanding was reached we headed the 400 meters to La Poste.

Bangkok: Did the dish go on a vacation?

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the post office. Even small French towns can have a warren of narrow, one-way streets.   The seemingly obvious direct route on foot was not quite as obvious in a car. It didn’t help that the two GPS devices in car disavowed any knowledge of the whereabouts of La Poste in Saint Jean de Losne. Indeed the GPS’s seemed to have only a casual familiarity with the roads in the commune at best and were indifferent to any coaching I tried to offer.

Once at La Poste’s office the big box was the crisis of the day. The first essential step was to explain to the staff where Myanmar is located. In English, explaining that Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is between India and Thailand didn’t help. “Près de Bangladesh” only confused matters further. Many people don’t know where Bangladesh is located, after all. Eventually I pulled out the iPhone and showed where Myanmar is on the map. There were nods. Myanmar is in Inde. Well, not quite, but close enough. I wasn’t going to try to debate the fine points of Myanmar’s geographical situation in French.

Now the process of filling out the forms started. The office couldn’t directly refund postage. We’d have to fill out a form and a check would be sent sometime in the next few months to an address that we may or may not be at. The form was in French. The person behind the counter kindly filled it out for us. Thirty minutes later, the fifteen entries on the form were carefully completed and the refund envelope was ready for the mail. Now we could get back to mailing the large box again. An hour after I arrived at La Poste, the postal crisis of the day was resolved. The box was on its way to Birmingham, I hoped.

Reception in the winter

So how did the box end up in Burma in the first place? Fox News will undoubtedly remind you that Birmingham England is a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims, presumably including non-Muslim satellite electronics. By Fox’s reasoning, our satellite dish, agnostic by all accounts, was well within its rights to find another destination. No Christian person, or agnostic satellite dish, would think of landing foot in Birmingham, at least according to Fox News.

As attractive as the theory that our dish was avoiding Birmingham might be to some segments of society, the technologist in me believes there’s another, simpler explanation for its trip to Burma. We had a small choice of boxes to pack the awkward shaped dish. The box we selected, a shipping carton formerly used for bike, had several bar code labels. Learning to read bar codes ranks near the bottom of the list of things I want to do before I die. Nevertheless, I’d guess there’s a good chance one of the many barcodes on the repurposed bike box we used was coded for a Burmese address. By my theory, one of the scanners at La Poste caught one of these barcodes on our box and figured that our satellite dish wanted to go to Burma. After all, La Poste’s barcode detector had cause to exclude Birmingham as a potential destination; even postal scanners know that Birmingham is a “no-go” zone.

As a take home lesson I’ll plan on obscuring all of the leftover barcode labels on any box I use for shipping in the future. No sense taking any chance that a package might be misdirected. Besides, who knows what sort of subversive messages are hidden in the lines of the bar codes.

Reception anywhere where there is a view of the sky, even on the hard.

A few weeks later the box returned from Conrad Anderson. Once installed on Wanderlust’s deck it has worked like new. Becky was quickly returned to her daily routine of searching the Internet for dog pictures as Gigi lays mournfully at her side waiting for her next walk.

Simple things are often a big challenge living in a country where you don’t speak the language. I’m okay with that. In fact the challenge is a big reason why we live on a barge in France.

But the thing that bothers me most about this whole episode is that our satellite Internet dish got to visit Myanmar before I did. I’ve always wanted to go to Burma. It simply isn’t fair that our stupid satellite Internet dish got to go there first.


9 thoughts on “Saint Jean de Losne: Wanderlust’s Satellite Internet Dish Goes en Vacances

  1. Hi not seen your comments regards to the Piper disputes , have I missed them or have you given up on any claims,

      • Hi thank for your prompt reply,I hope in the near furure you can find time to put pen to paper, I was as stated about to spend £350k aprox & go down a similar road to yourself & your report brought this to a halt mainly because barge builders dont seem to have seperate paint sheds & the other important point zero excess into the bilges at all points.Having to cut holes in the floor would show to me bad design at the outset. Enjoyed the humour with your SAT dish I hope you keep writting, regards MISHA

      • Having to cut holes through the bottom of the hull to fix the fuel leaks was even more traumatic!

        We had a paint survey, which I will post about. The builder’s surveyor had said in his report that basically for the price of the boat we couldn’t expect a high quality paint job. Our paint surveyor was very tweaked by the comment saying that many people deliver high quality finishes in similar circumstances, in construction sheds with tenting around the boat, and that the builder had purchased good paint but had simply not applied it properly. Two major problems were identified: The surface preparation was not done correctly and far less paint was used than specified by the paint manufacturers. There were around 600 paint thickness measurements made, which generally showed that less than half the required amount of coatings or less were applied in all zones of the boat. Most of Wanderlust’s paint issues would not have occurred if the correct amount of paint was applied.

        More later as I get caught up.

      • Can i offer advice, these posts are public, not sure about my replys but if so its maybe best to use private e mail or in the long term on the resale it could and would effect the value, that report was far worse than i expected, to cut the floor is a sin. to cut the hull leaves me speechless, I knew the basic paint flaws from your original posts. regards Misha.

      • Yes, they are public.

        I’m the type to disclose the warts before a sale anyway. In this case, repairs are being made often as substantial improvements over original and records are being kept. I think most people buying barges look at the current state and not how the boat was ten years ago. In any event, I feel keeping stories such as ours quiet does a massive disservice to future customers who are often painted an unrealistic picture before the sell. My biggest concern is that some may wrongly view Wanderlust’s problems as universal among the builder’s boats. They aren’t, though they are not universally absent either.

      • Lol you have good internet connection hence the fast answers, Maybe what stands out regards to Pipers as a company the 2nd rate service, to throw away goodwill in the longterm will come back & haunt them. You mention cutting into the hull to find a fual leak which means the tank Whilst i can understand not filling them untill on the water . Simple question would you buy another Piper barge ? Good advice to all new buyers is look past the glitz and glammer , look at the floor is their multi excess points to the bilges , look at excape routes can you reach them and can us fat humans get out of them fast. If your happy to go public on the problems overall it will help other buyers. Comments are you fussy at what leval is classed as finiky in my eyes, you have been more than easy going with Pipers. Just as a point of humour —- the royal navy type 35 all need holes cutting in their hulls to exchange the engines that cut out in hot countrys ———– and you think you have prob s . Will keep a lookout for your reports in the near future. regards Misha.

      • I’m not sure that I followed everything…

        Piper would not sell us another barge. There’s absolutely no chance.

  2. 2nd post I used brackets to make some points this web site chopped them out , pressure checking the tank at point before fitting the flooring and under glitz glammer i used the gimmik wine celler example.

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