Vexilar T-Box WiFi fishfinder & Navionics SonarChart Live wow

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Mar 1, 2015

Navionics_Vexilar_SonarChart_Live_skinny_water_cPanbo.jpgThis mid-January screenshot represents a very pleasing experience in marine electronics testing. Thanks to a Vexilar SonarPhone T-Box SP200 and the Navionics Boating app I'm cruising around in my 9-foot dinghy with more than just charting and a fishfinder. I have access to three different chart formats plus a live SonarChart being created as I move along, and the data I'm collecting will be available to my fellow cruisers a week or two later. It sounds exotic, but the total cost was about $250 (iPad mini excepted), installation was fairly trivial, and it all worked quite well right out of the box.

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Furuno TZtouch2 and FI-70, back in the game!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 25, 2015


Sorry for the blown out screens, but the point of this photo is Furuno USA marketing manager Dean Kurutz, who co-delivered the NavNet TZtouch2 introduction with senior product manager Eric Kunz just like they did with the original NavNet in 2001 -- when I was just getting into electronics writing -- and every NavNet update since. The dynamic duo have been coming to Miami with the company since well into the last century and a lot of their colleagues have similar histories. If you go Furuno you get remarkable management consistency and institutional memory, but that doesn't mean they're old school...

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MIBS 2015: Raymarine, Icom, Lowrance, B&G, FLIR, Blue Sea and drones

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 23, 2015


"Black is the new gray," say the folks at Raymarine, and so it is with the three new CPx70 sonar modules which were introduced in Miami. They'll replace the existing blackbox fishfinders but not the CP100 and 200 CHIRP Down-or-Side-Vision and sonar combos designed for shallower depths and structure imaging. So the 600-foot-max-depth CP100 also installed on the demo boat above highlights by contrast the beefiness of the CP370 model, which is actually the bottom of the new line with its traditional dual 50KHz and 200 KHz fixed frequencies, 1,000W of power and purported depth range of 5,000 feet. The performance enhancements seem subtle but multiple...

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MIBS 2015: Ocean Signal, ACR, C-Map, Garmin GNX, Lumitec and Veethree

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 17, 2015

MIBS2015_Ocean_Signal_James_Flynn_cPanbo.jpgIt's often hard to organize the news from a busy event like the Miami International Boat Show (MIBS), but this year a few of my photos stood out because they also portray the people behind the electronics. So say hello to Ocean Signal co-founder James Flynn, seen here showing off their latest ultra compact rescueME safety devices. The MOB1 personal AIS beacon with its added DSC alarm seems impressively simple to fit and use, and thanks to recent FCC approval, it's now available here in the USA.

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Garmin Panoptix All-Seeing Sonar, GPSmap 7x16, and BlueChart Mobile 2.0

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 11, 2015


The Garmin Panoptix "All-Seeing" sonar announced this morning sounds fascinating, but be aware that it's meant for smaller boat fishing, at least at first. The $1,500 rectangular "multi-beam transducer that utilizes a phased-array scanning sonar technology" will come in two styles, with the tilted Panoptix Forward model oriented vertically on a trolling motor or transom mount and the Down Transducer with its horizontal orientation only available for transom installs. Neither one looks easy to transform into a thru-hull fitting but judging from the screenshots a lot of bigger boat owners will be hoping that's possible...

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Simple marine cell boosting: Wilson Sleek 4G (weBoost Drive 4G) and Digital Antenna Bullet

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 9, 2015


New FCC regulations have caused turmoil in the world of cell boosters and now leading manufacturer Wilson Electronics has changed its name to weBoost. Thus, the Wilson Sleek 4G (460107) above, one of the very first new breed boosters last April, has just morphed into the weBoost Dash 4G-S (470107). Adding to the confusion is the boater's need to replace that wimpy car top antenna with a possibly illegal marine model -- I'm happily using a Digital Antenna 1285 Bullet in my testing -- but the whole package ends up relatively simple to install and effective for its cost.

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Lowrance MotorGuide Xi5 SmartSteer trolling control, life changing

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 5, 2015

Lowrance_SmartSteer_MotoGuide_Xi5_in_action.jpgTwo Maine blizzards later it's nice to recall that just a week ago I was casting a lure off a similarly tricked-out Yellowfin 24 Bay Boat. I didn't land a pose-worthy fish like my friend Chris Woodward, but the important thing about this photo is how well that trolling motor is holding an "anchor" position. Note the nonchalant skipper, despite a brisk wind and strong current both pushing him toward the channel marker aft, not to mention rocks to starboard and us to port. The pro I was with -- the impressive Tom Rowland of the Saltwater Experience TV series -- seemed equally confident about the reliability of the MotorGuide Xi5 and its do-anything integration with the twin Lowrance HDS 12 Gen3 displays, and it was easy to buy his claim that the combination has significantly improved his boating life.

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More AIS in the USA, the new USCG requirements

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 3, 2015

USCG_AIS_Final_Rule_collage_cPanbo.jpgPlease credit the U.S. Coast Guard with a sense of humor. The (NOA and) AIS Final Rule may be a dry read, but not last week's email announcement, which began with the giddy declaration "4,232 days in the making!" I don't know why the rulemaking process took so long, and it may have been most frustrating for those who do, but I'll still be glad to have more of the commercial vessels working along our coasts equipped with AIS. It won't happen fast, though -- vessels newly required to carry Class A or B AIS transponders can take until March 2016 to install them -- and the number of such vessels seems uncertain...

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GoFree goes online & Insight Genesis Social Mapping goes free

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 30, 2015

GoFree_gets_online_cPanbo.jpgThe 2015 Navico writers event was in the same Florida Keys location as last year's spectacular, which only seemed to highlight the rapid development pace we witnessed. For instance, fishing in a now familiar place and style with the new Lowrance HDS Gen3 multifunction display really showed off the phenomenal variety and quality of functions built in. It may even qualify as a "revolutionary" MFD feature set, despite my earlier skepticism, and it wasn't even mentioned at the 2014 event. But that story will have to wait. Last fall Navico also announced a plan to get their MFDs online and as suggested on the screen above, I got to see the software update in action. It's only the beginning of what the GoFree online connection can be, but it's an impressive beginning...

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Digigone DigiMed telemedicine kits & more Pittman Innovation Award winners

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 26, 2015

digigone_DigiMed_Mini_aPanbo.jpgSail's 2015 Pittman Innovation Awards were just announced and one of several interesting winners is a series of DigiMed wireless kits that work with Digigone's existing telemedicine service. Even the smallest DigiMed Mini above can teleconnect you to a 24/7 emergency medical center via Android tablet and Bluetooth headset, and I've seen how the included wireless macro camera allows the experts to examine the victim down to skin pore level...

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