The Jose Fernandez boating tragedy, some safety thoughts

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 28, 2016

Jose_Fernandez_crashed_boat_courtesy_Patrick_Farrell_Miami_Herald.jpgYou probably already know at least the rudiments of the story. At about 3 am on Sunday, three young men died when their 32-foot center console fishing boat engaged at high speed with the long north jetty that guards the Port of Miami's Government Cut channel. Just the violence of the crash -- it was heard by a policeman on shore nearly a half mile away -- was noteworthy, but the owner and probable driver was the beloved budding baseball star Jose Fernandez. It's a deeply tragic story as is, but is there anything in it to learn about boating safety?

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Testing Raymarine Quantum Q24 radar, solid on many levels

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 22, 2016

Raymarine_Quantum_Q24_displayed_on_eS128_cPanbo.jpgThat's very good radar imagery in my experience, especially given that it's the fully automated output of a relatively small and affordable radome which can be super easy to install. Note, for instance, how well it's separating the moored boats in Camden's recently discussed Outer Harbor and thus usefully revealing the channel into the Inner Harbor (that many visiting boats have trouble finding even in clear daylight). I also got to see how well Raymarine navigation networks can handle dual radar scanners and how sophisticated their WiFi has become. And finally I hope to spank Ray about its annoyingly overprotective MARPA alarms (though that situation could be easily fixed in software ;-)...

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Navico NASA moves tech support to the cloud

... written for Panbo by Bill Bishop and posted on Sep 10, 2016

navico_nasa_logo_aPanbo.jpgMarine electronics tech support is a ritual I'm all too familiar with. Dial the phone, wade through the metaphorical press one for yes, two for no and wait until the tech picks up. For the average boater this can quickly turn into a button pushing slog with unsatisfactory results. Tech: "What version of software are you running?" Boater: I don't know, where do I find it?" Tech: "Go to the System tab." Boater: "Where's the system tab?" Tech: "It's in Settings." Boater: "Where's Settings?" I won't belabor this but sometimes it takes a lot of patience to provide tech support with the information they need to help you. This is now changing for the better with Navico's new cloud-based Network Analyzer Service Assistant (NASA) software. It's the most significant use of the Internet by a MFD to date, I think, and the high-tech aspect of the NASA acronym isn't lost on me either.

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New: Lars Thrane sensors, B&G Triton2, and Maine Cat 38

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 6, 2016

Lars_Thrane_LT-1000_NRU_and_LT-500_AHRS_aPanbo.jpgToday I've got a smorgasbord of new gear to share, starting with a trio of serious multi-sensors from Lars Thrane A/S in Denmark. The company first came to my attention when they inquired about advertising -- thanks, LT -- but a little research revealed why their products may well appeal to Panbo readers. The LT-500 AHRS in the foreground is an 11-sensor Heading, Roll, Pitch, Air Pressure and Temperature device; the LT-300 GNSS not shown is a 72-channel GPS/GLONASS/BeiDou receiver; and the LT-1000 Navigation Reference Unit (NRU) shown installed essentially combines the two. Common to all of the current Lars Thrane products is promised high precision, reasonable pricing, simultaneous NMEA 0183 and 2000 output, and an impressive attention to the real boat details involved in installation, calibration, and future proofing...

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Garmin wireless wonders #1: Virb XE and now the Virb Ultra 30

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 31, 2016

Garmin_Helm_app_showing_wireless_Virb_XE_cam_and_gWind_cPanbo.jpgThe multiple layers of Garmin wireless communications going on above may seem crazy, but they all work well and have endless practical and/or fun applications around a boat. Normally, for instance, it would take two people to align a fixed boat camera, plus running power and video cables. But I simply climbed up Gizmo's mast, mounted a Virb XE with an adhesive base, and aligned it using the free Garmin Helm app on my phone to see the Virb video screen running on the flybridge GPSmap 7612. It took mere minutes to get a masthead view at my helm, and while mounting the gWind sensor required tools, it too is completely wireless. Garmin is blazing several worthy wireless trails...

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A Camden boat grounding dissected, can crowdsourcing help?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 18, 2016

aground_in_Camden_mooring_field_blurred_cPanbo.jpgThe identities of the yacht and its operators are irrelevant. But how did they go hard aground in a highly used harbor during a clear summer day? Was it just a dumb mistake or was a lack of chart detail partially to blame? Should the USCG or the town of Camden better mark the danger? Did marine electronics somehow contribute to what was at least an embarrassing incident? Can crowdsourced data help? I'm not sure about the answers but I have assembled a lot of information for discussion...

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Articulating display pods tested: SeaView, ScanStrut & NavPod

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 8, 2016

Gizmo_Glass_Bridge_II_August_2016_cPanbo.jpgThe latest multifunction displays (MFDs) look smashing on Gizmo's flybridge, I like to think. And it's not just that Raymarine, Simrad, Furuno, and Garmin -- that's the lineup, left to right -- have almost all further evolved the black glass style that promises to be with us for a long time. Those two articulating pods also contribute to the clean look, plus they make it easier for me to use the podded MFDs from different spots on the bridge. It's time to discuss the SeaView, ScanStrut and NavPod articulating pods I've tried in the last few years...

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Testing Furuno DRS4D-NXT solid-state Doppler radome, "Radar Redefined" most definitely

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 2, 2016

Furuno_DRS4D-NXT_Doppler_Target_Analyzer_Camden1_cPanbo_.jpg

After many hours testing a NXT radome on Gizmo in often busy Maine waters, I believe that Furuno's bold "Radar Redefined" claim is completely justified. This radar is so smart that it makes sense to run it in broad daylight. Brightly highlighting the one vessel (above) moving toward me in Camden Harbor's forest of moored and moving boats is just one example of its highly automated and intelligent features. I fear that many readers will suffer radar jealousy as I detail what I've seen so far, but let's look at the bright side and honor Furuno for setting a significantly new performance bar that other major manufacturers will hopefully try hard to attain...

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Summer fun: Camden, Panbots & Gizmo

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 27, 2016

yachts_RH3_and_RH4_special_opps_style_lr_cPanbo.jpgHave we reached the era when "special ops" makes sense as a superyacht style? I joke, but RH3 would be pretty imposing even if it weren't cruising Maine in company with the all-black, dual jet drive, 40-foot-plus RH4. Given the two other substantial black tenders on the boat deck -- and lord knows what's in the hidden arms lockers (ok, I'm fantasizing, but armament is a seriously untold big yacht story) -- this team seems ready to fend off a serious bad guy attack or invade a small island nation...

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NOAA introduces Zones of Confidence; mind your ZOC

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 18, 2016

NOAA_chart_18622_w_new_ZOC_table_cPanbo.jpg

Yikes! Did you know that some areas of the U.S. coastal chart you're using may only show land and bottom features accurate in position to +/- 1,600 feet, and you shouldn't be confident about the depth soundings either? NOAA has a new way to show boaters how old and inaccurate much of its survey data is, and it will surely give pause to those who pay attention. The concept is called Zones of Confidence and it's slowly rolling out as diagrams on paper-style raster charts like the one above, but the ZOC accuracy info is coming much faster to NOAA's ENC vector charts, and apparently it could be made easily accessible on the commercial vector charts you're probably using.

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