Panbo

Maritime Robotx Challenge & the WAM-V USV, head's up!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 22, 2014

QUT Maritime RobotX challenge WAM-V courtesy QUT.JPG

Right now it's possible to come upon an unmanned surface vessel (USV) like this trying to navigate waterways all over the world, though rest assured that there will be a boat load of attentive geeks nearby. That's because fifteen student/professor engineering teams from five countries have been given a basic 16-foot WAM-V articulating catamaran to which they are adding propulsion and control systems for the upcoming Maritime RobotX Challenge in Singapore. The contest strikes me as a great way to accelerate robotics development, but of course one eventuality is unmanned vessels roaming the coasts. In fact, that may already be happening...

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Appreciating fuel management, wanting more

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 18, 2014

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Gizmo is fenders down, awning up, in bustling Baltimore Harbor, and I have tales to tell. This old powerboat sails! That's no surprise given her windage, but now I have precise data about how much wind (and current) can help her along, thanks to a fuel management system. In this photo, for instance, we were making around 10 knots over the ground at 1,350 RPM but still getting over three miles to a gallon, thanks to a stiff easterly wind pushing us down Long Island Sound. That's a wake-pulling, inefficient RPM when running on flat summer water in Maine, but is much easier on crew and autopilot when in seas like these. While I'm usually willing to spend more fuel money to shoulder through conditions like this, I was pleased to learn that the dollar difference wasn't great...

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Antenna masts: Edson Vision & more

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 11, 2014

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So far, so good. Finishing up Gizmo's antenna mast was the last minute task before heading south, but nothing fell on our heads during the often lively passage to the Cape Cod Canal and around into Long Island Sound. Most of the new installs up there worked, too, though we experienced a couple of very odd MFD issues that I'll write up once I understand them better. For the time being I'll just repeat a venerable adage: Do not rely on any one source of navigation information. Now let's discuss the Edson Vision and custom mounting hardware I used for the antenna farm...

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Gizmo south: TFU, IBEX, NMEA, HSR & other self promotions

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 2, 2014

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I didn't write the seminar title, but I do understand the value of a grabby headline and I'm excited about being part of the entirely revised TrawlerFest in Baltimore. Paul Comyns and I will make a valiant attempt to cover all the important electronics bases for the knowledge-hungry, long-range-cruisers-to-be that tend to take the all-day "TF University" courses. An interesting added challenge for the presenters is to provide money-saving tips. I'm already working on concepts like how GPS, AIS, and improved signal processing have made it possible to "make do" with a smaller radar, but please suggest other reasonable cost-cutting strategies. And TFU is just the beginning of my fall speaking engagements, one or more of which you might want to attend or at least kibbutz about...

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EchoPilot Platinum FLS, better than expected

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 29, 2014

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She: "HEY! Do you realize you're steering right at a ledge?!?" He: "Yes, dear." While it was a tough cruise for my lovely first mate, I did learn a lot about what an EchoPilot FLS Platinum Video Engine can actually do. If you click the photo above to full size, for instance, note how the FLS in the Garmin video window is showing especially shallow water about 55 feet ahead, though in a rather vague, pixilated manner. Note, too, that the more conventional and less expensive Raymarine CHIRP DownView/sonar is at least suggesting a shallowing trend. Still, as the title says, I am finding that the EchoPilot's performance and usefulness is better than I expected, but then again -- a big "but" -- my expectations were quite low...

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Cruising Solutions headsets, testing the Bluetooth update

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 26, 2014

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Apparently, the folks at Cruising Solutions have not forgotten that I once characterized their useful and still popular Mariner 500 intercom headsets as "making a boater look unfashionably similar to a Soviet tank driver," and hence asked me to test their latest solution to the problem of verbal communications when captain and crew are in different areas of a boat. They are called "My Team Talks" Bluetooth headsets and they're much more than modern looking intercoms. "Bring state-of-the-art multiplex communication technology to your boat" is not an overstatement...

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Garmin SmartMode, and here comes Simrad Bridge

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 22, 2014

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Garmin's SmartMode station control seemed like an obviously great idea when introduced with the 8000 Glass Helm series in early 2013. The basic feature simply lets you group 8000 displays at a helm (station) and control what the various screens are showing all at once. But the interface designers went a smart step further by naming the default SmartModes after the overall tasks at hand, instead of the conventional specifics about the tools needed, like "chart/radar/cam". Thus the 8212 now being tested on Gizmo came with CRUISING, DOCKING, ANCHORING, and FISHING modes already suggested, and I've been adding my own in the same task-not-tool spirit...

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Gizmo glass bridge MFD testing 2014, specs & prices

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 19, 2014

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Now we're talking. Gizmo's flybridge feels like the starship Enterprise now that the Simrad NSS16 evo2 is installed in its Seaview Power Pod and the Garmin 8212 has been moved closer to the helm since I first discussed the 2014 glass bridge install. Recent visitors tended to break into giddy laughter, but the marine electronics horsepower at my fingertips is truly phenomenal. In this scene, for instance, I'm exploring a dicey area of Camden outer harbor -- hence the lack of moorings -- using StructureScan and medium CHIRP sonar on the NSS16, CHIRP DownView and sonar on the gS125, and EchoPilot FLS via the Garmin's video port. Today's subject, though, is about how and why I selected the particular gear I hope to test and compare for quite a while...

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MBHH Show 2014: Akalaria RC3, Dock Works utility cat & other surprises

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 14, 2014

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I knew I'd gotten Maine Yacht Center's Brian Harris to photograph me in the comfortable driver's seat he designed for the second Aklaria RC3 finished out at MYC, but how did the shot come out of my camera like this? Did I fall into some revery imagining reaching the 20 knots this exotic Open 40 racer is easily capable of? The 12th annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show was rich in the elegant lobster yachts and daysailors my state has become famous for, but there were also plenty of interesting surprises. Even Mainiac boat nuts don't realize how versatile we are...

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Siren Marine cellular boat monitoring long test, reliable & powerful

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 11, 2014

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Boat theft is very rare in Maine, but on a recent Saturday night someone apparently "borrowed" a big twin outboard off a local dock for a "joy ride" during which something was hit hard enough to hole the topsides, and then they put the boat back on the dock and vanished! To my knowledge the mystery remains unsolved, but it sure jogged my memory about the Set feature on the Siren Marine cellular monitoring system I've been testing for over two years. The partial phone screen above shows what happened when Gizmo moved more than about 15 meters several days after I texted the "SET" command to the Siren. First I was notified that she'd TRANSGRESsed the geofence set up by the SET command and then the Siren started texting me every five minutes with GAT (Geofence Automatic Time-based) reports that included course, speed and a lat/long link to Google Maps. I could have guided the Maine Marine Patrol to the transgressor pretty quickly, if the "villain" hadn't been myself...

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