Panbo

Simrad ForwardScan (B&G too): a breakthrough even in beta testing

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 9, 2014

Simrad_NSS_evo2_home_screen_w_ForwardScan_cPanbo.jpgOn Monday I got to poke around Baltimore Harbor with a beta test version of the Simrad ForwardScan announced last spring (discussed here on Panbo) and also introduced recently as B&G ForwardScan. Navico's sonar product manager, Matthew Laster, brought along several versions of the NSS evo2 software that supports the new forward looking sonar (FLS) transducer, but loaded the latest, saying, "It hasn't been tried on a boat yet, but I think it's quite stable." In fact, it was darn stable and I was quite impressed with what I saw...

Continue Reading

MFD and AIS anomalies, be careful out there

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Oct 5, 2014

Capt_Joe_McCarty_cPanbo.jpg

Consider this is a portrait of a deeply experienced boat guy who still remains skeptical about the wonders of modern marine electronics. Lord knows I tried, but gremlins sabotaged my efforts from the moment when my old friend Joe McCarty arrived in Rockland, Maine, for the trip to Baltimore. I was using the Garmin Helm app on my iPad mini to watch the tank gauge as I squatted on the deck pumping diesel fuel and Joe just had time enough to say, "Well, that is cool!" when the digitized tank reading plunged from 85% to 20% and stayed stuck there even as we topped off using the old-fashioned method of listening to the changing vent gurgles...

Continue Reading

Maritime Robotx Challenge & the WAM-V USV, heads 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 boatload 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 would be unmanned vessels roaming the coasts. In fact, that may already be happening...

Continue Reading

Appreciating fuel management, wanting more

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

Gizmo_running_down_LIS_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

Antenna masts: Edson Vision & more

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

Gizmo_10-2014_antenna_farm_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

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

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

TrawlerFest_U_Baltimore_electronics_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

EchoPilot Platinum FLS, better than expected

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

Echopilot_Platinum_FLS_on_Maine_ledge_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

Cruising Solutions headsets, testing the Bluetooth update

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

Mariner_headset_review_PMY_9-2004_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

Garmin SmartMode, and here comes Simrad Bridge

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

Garmin_8000_SmartMode_home_page_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading

Gizmo glass bridge MFD testing 2014, specs & prices

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

Gizmo_flybridge_sonar_testing_8-14_cPanbo.jpg

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...

Continue Reading