Panbo

The DIY lithium battery bank; Bob Ebaugh has 330 cycles so far

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 1, 2014

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Bob and Elaine Ebaugh did it, leaving Florida in April, 2011, on their DeFever 44 Mar Azul and spending more than two years cruising a big Caribbean loop. Their blog, Mar Azul Adventures, is a good read, but you might miss the fact that during the cruise Bob managed to research, assemble, test and install a 1,200 amp hour do-it-yourself lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery bank to replace the 12 golf cart batteries they'd worn out. He also wrote a thorough white paper about why he chose DIY lithium and how he put the system together...

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Edson Marine: old school, new school

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 31, 2014

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I visited Edson Marine headquarters while Gizmo was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during my cruise home in May 2013, and one vivid memory is this old catalog that co-owner Will Keene showed me. My old sloop Alice had one of those Mahogany Steering Wheels, and while I'm sure it cost more in 1946, it's amazing to realize that you could once buy one for $15, Ebonized Rim included. I also enjoyed seeing how well Edson has kept on keeping on since Jacob Edson invented and started manufacturing the first diaphragm pump in 1859...

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Furuno 711C Navpilot head & MCU002 remote keypad, TZT style

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

Furuno_711c_autopilot_head_SETCSE_aPanbo.jpgThe press release (PDF here) for Furuno's new color 711C autopilot control describe it as "completely redesigned to provide an excellent match with Furuno's flagship line of NavNet TZtouch MFD's... right down to the control knob!" There's no denying the similar handsome styling, and doesn't it make you wonder if Furuno will eventually offer a color NMEA 2000 instrument display with the same standard DIN size and 4.1-inch color screen? That's 100% speculation on my part, but doesn't it make sense as Furuno finds itself competing with Raymarine, Garmin, and Simrad over the glass style helm that the TZT Series arguably spearheaded? The MCU002 remote TZT keypad, also now official and shipping, seems like another step in keeping TZT competitive.

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Gizmo's awning AC and Muvman sit-stand stool

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 24, 2014

Gizmo_awning_AC_cPanbo.jpgToday it's wet and gray here on a mooring float in Northeast Harbor, but we're enjoying a distinctly non-electronic improvement to Gizmo's gear list. It's a new awning that stretches from the cabin brow to the bow pulpit, letting us keep the hatches open despite the rain bursts. Yesterday, when it was sunny and fairly hot, the awning shaded the forward cabin top and the main cabin's large forward windows. If it gets really hot, I'm pretty sure that the combination of the awning plus the see-through "Florida curtains" over the other big windows and maybe a small fan will make the boat as comfortable as the air conditioning unit. Actually, more so at anchor or moored, since we won't have to run the generator (that's no longer aboard anyway)...

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Simrad RS35 VHF & HS35 wireless handset, testing pretty well

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

Simrad_RS35_testing_GPS_source_cPanb_o.jpgIt's taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35's nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return the radio for the software fix, but now it's installed at Gizmo's lower helm and has no problem with the three GPS sources shown above and a lot more I threw at it. I've also seen it output AIS info over NMEA 2000 to every MFD currently on Gizmo (though there is a glitch if you also have a transponder, explained below). And while some interesting radios have come to market in the last year, the RS35 at about $300 to $350 seems the VHF/AIS/N2K value leader (except for its sibling Lowrance Link-8 if you don't care about the wireless handset option)...

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Navionics SonarCharts, now via SonarPhone or GPX file, plus the Lowrance autopilot

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 17, 2014

Navionics_Vexilar_iPad_app_aPanbo.jpgWow. Combining the Navionics Boating apps and the Vexilar SonarPhone WiFi fishfinder seems like an obvious development now, but there are so many marine electronics integration possibilities these days that even the ripe low-hanging fruit can be surprising. Announced yesterday at ICAST (PDF here) and available for iPhone/iPad in August (and Android later), the combined Navionics SonarPhone app means that a small boater can have a fairly sophisticated plotter/fishfinder for about $200, phone or tablet not included (and note the issue of screen visibility in an open boat). I was impressed with the SonarPhone bobber-style T-Pod in April and suspect that SP200 T-Box small boat model works even better. And there's more: the users of this system can very easily contribute their sonar logs to Navionics' SonarChart collection, which they can access (along with chart updates) with an additional $25 Navionics+ annual subscription.

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Inmarsat iSatPhone 2, a solid satphone but here come Globalstar Sat-Fi & Iridium GO

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

Inmarsat_iSatPhone_2_aPanbo.jpgA brief test of the new Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 showed it to be quite a good satellite phone. Compared to the original IsatPhone Pro I tested in 2010, the new phone locks onto both GPS and Inmarsat satellites noticably faster and the voice calls seem to sound better. I also found the screen quite readable in most conditions including direct sun, and the user interface struck me as fast and easy to get the hang of. However, if you sense some "buts" coming, you are correct. At nearly $1,000 street price, this phone is not the "game changer" promised in 2010. Also, long gone are the $200 prepaid SIM cards good for 250 minutes and two years mentioned in my 2010 review; Inmarsat phone service is pretty costly these days. Perhaps more important, we are just entering an era when we can supposedly have all the services of a satphone without actually having to own another darn phone and possibly at a lower overall cost...

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Marinebeam: Ultra Long Range LED flashlight tested, MarineKinetix wind turbine admired

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 8, 2014

Marinebeam_Ultra_spot_flashlight_testing_cPanbo.jpgYou really should click on the photo above to see the higher resolution version. With my camera on a tripod I was lighting up boats and mooring buoys about 500 to 700 yards away (460 to 640 meters) with only an LED flashlight powered by three D cells. What's more, the beam is so tight that I was able to do this testing without blinding myself or (hopefully) anyone who was on their boat in Camden's outer harbor last night. The Marinebeam Ultra Long Range RLT Illuminator is an unusual and useful flashlight as is, but it also demonstrates a promising technology...

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"21st Century Waterways" -- have your say about the Future of Navigation in the USA

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 4, 2014

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Hurricane Arthur is putting a damper on Fourth of July celebrations even up here in Maine. The fireworks were canceled yesterday, our family lobster dinner is postponed, and the gale watch that went up this morning may mean I'll be minding Gizmo tonight. But once again knee-jerk criticism of weather forecasting is not standing up to reality, specifically the work of NOAA's National Hurricane Center. Arthur made a slight left turn last night, hence the gale watch, but remains darn close to the track forecast days ago. What's more, the NHC not only distributes voluminous detail about the science behind their forecasts, but also a running graphic tally of how their forecast and the underlying computer models compare to the storm's actual track. No doubt some boaters will still get in Arthur trouble, but I'm also confident that the U.S. Coast Guard is wonderfully able and willing to render assistance. So what a perfect time for those of us in a dry spot with an Internet connection to spend a few minutes helping NOAA, the USCG and also the Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) to maximize their resources in the future.

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Gizmo 2014, glass bridge shakedown cruising #1

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 30, 2014

Gizmo_2014_fly_bridge_cPanbo.jpgRedoing almost all of Gizmo's electronics has taken longer than I would have guessed last fall, when it seemed like a good idea to rip everything off the boat. And sadly, I'm not done yet. But the hoped-for glass bridge theme is revealing itself and I like it a lot. But then again, new equipment and even just re-installed old gear also means fresh opportunities for things not to work together correctly. In this entry I'll go over much of Gizmo's test setup for the next year and a half -- though by design there's room for more -- and also note a couple of features that have worked well and not so well during recent shakedown cruises...

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