Panbo

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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Raymarine 2014: science, cadence & "IReverywhere!"

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 25, 2014

Raymarine_freeze_test_courtesy_Raymarine.jpgThis frozen aSeries MFD has almost finished a two-day low temperature test, but that's only the beginning of its suffering. Next it will run another two days in a high temperature cabinet with 85% relative humidity, and there's still 19 more days of torture to Raymarine's ERT (Early Reliability Test) Qualification Process. The quality of the testing tools and seriousness with which they're used was as impressive as the Raymariner on-the-water lab, and I'm publishing more photos below because it's reassuring to see what proper modern marine electronics have to go through before reaching our boats. But I'll also attempt to describe the product innovation processes in play at Raymarine's R&D center, which seemed equally impressive though much harder to photograph or quantify...

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Hand's on Scanstrut Rokk adjustable mount & 2nd generation Lifedge iPad case

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

Scanstrut_Rokk_rail_mount_on_bend_cPanbo.jpg"Rokk" is a apt name for Scanstrut's adjustable mount system. Due to the large surface area and fine machining of those metal-on-metal ball and socket joints, it's easy to precisely position an attached MFD or iPad and then just a modest twist on the white handle will render the whole rig rock solid. I tested the Rokk Adjustable Rail Mount -- note how well it handles curved 1-inch rail or helm pedestal pipe -- with the Lifedge iPad case holder shown, but there's also a Rokk Adjustable Deck Mount and either can accommodate top plates custom designed for various popular displays in the 5- to 7-inch screen range. Is Rokk better than RAM?

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Lenovo Windows tablet, new MFD accessory or primary plotter?

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

Digital_Yacht_SmarterTrack_on_Lenovo_MiiX_2_aPanbo.jpgI first heard of the Lenovo Miix 2 when Digital Yacht dubbed it a "best buy for boaters"; besides a low price of about $220, the 8-inch tablet is purportedly bright, fast, and able to run regular Windows navigation programs like DY's own SmarterTrack. While an internal GPS enables standalone navigation, the DY team mainly envisions the tablet as a second station using NMEA 0183 or 2000 boat data (like the AIS seen above), provided over WiFi by one of its many black box hardware options. But then a look at the Miix 2 on Amazon revealed a sailing reviewer who's very enthusiastic about this tablet as his primary nav device, running free OpenCPN software...

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New Raymarine a9, a12 & gS19 -- aboard the mighty Raymariner

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

Raymarine_a9_gS19_a12_aPanbo.jpgRaymarine recently announced three new multifunction displays, extending the multitouch aSeries to 9- and 12-inch screen sizes, and the glass bridge gS Series to 19 inches (the proportions of my collage are approximate). Given four additional a9 and a12 models with digital sounder or Chirp DownVision built in and the fact that all these new MFDs can network with all the aSeries, cSeries (non touch), eSeries (hybrid touch), and gS models already available, is any other manufacturer offering so much choice? They all run the same software -- now up to Lighthouse II, release 10 -- so you may already be familiar with most of the features, but the new MFDs do have a few new hardware highlights, some of which I got to see in action aboard Raymarine's remarkable testing vessel...

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On board HMS Medusa, D-Day marine electronics

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 6, 2014

Alan_Watson_on board_HMS_Medusa.JPGThere's much to report about my three day visit with Raymarine's impressive product development team, but the impromptu kicker was a visit to HDML (Harbour Defense Motor Launch) #1387, and the vessel's key story couldn't be more timely. 70 years ago yesterday, well before D-Day H-Hour, 1387 headed toward Normandy loaded with electronics that helped her crew precisely mark the planned final channel to Omaha Beach, first for the minesweepers and then for the vast fleet of landing craft that left Portsmouth behind her. And today she's headed for France again, this time with an all-volunteer crew led by Alan Watson, the gentleman who so kindly showed me around last evening.

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Inmarsat Fleet One, affordable FleetBroadband for real?

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

Sailor_Inmarsat_Fleet_One_system_aPanbo.jpgBoaters looking for a reliable, moderately fast satellite Internet connection for light and/or occasional use have learned to be leery of Inmarsat. When FleetBroadband came out in 2009 -- particularly the FB150 model with its easily installed 13.5-inch stabilized antenna -- it seemed like a reasonably affordable option for bluewater cruising. This promise was confirmed in a terriffic Panbo review series conducted by Gram Schweikert as his family sailed from Maine to New Zealand with both KVH FB150 and Iridium OpenPort antennas mounted on the spreaders. Note the fairly friendly FB rate sheet published in Gram's installation entry and how (with very careful data use) he found the FB150 quite useful out in the Pacific at only about $100 to $150 a month in service charges. Unfortunately, the deal changed...

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Navionics Boating app, now with free U.S. charts!

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

Navionics_Boating_app_v7_w_US_Gov_chart_cPanbo.jpgThis is a significant surprise. Version 7.0 of the free Navionics Boating app released today for iPad and iPhone includes the ability to download and use NOAA vector charts, as seen above. Meanwhile, if you already own a Navionics Marine app for iOS, there's a 7.0 update available which adds "Gov Charts" and the same feature will soon come to Android versions of both the Boating and Marine apps. Navigators who already use Navionics charts on a tablet or phone may find it useful to have NOAA data for comparison, but the big news is that any U.S. boater can now enjoy a Navionics level charting app completely free...

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