Panbo News and Reviews

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Aqua Map updated with no-wake zones, live sharing, and more

Two recent Aqua Map upgrades have brought several new features and the ability to share your location with other Aqua Map users. Aqua Map now displays no-wake zones, artificial reefs, and the state of Georgia’s restricted anchoring zones. Although it might not seem like a major feature, I’m most excited about the ability to display no-wake zones.

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Dymo XTL labeler, premium quality labels at a premium price

Several weeks ago I shared a few pictures of me working in an engine room with Ben Ellison. He used those pictures in his recent entry and in a caption asked, “Wait, is that yellow/black thing an exotic cable label machine or what?” Well, it is indeed a (somewhat) exotic label machine, the Dymo XTL 500 and I think it’s definitely improved the quality of my installs. The XTL series of labelers print on a broad range of labels including several very well suited for work aboard a boat.

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DIY LiFePO4, build completed and testing underway

My first installment of this series introduced my build of a 280 amp hour LiFePO4 battery using cells purchased from China and a 120-amp battery management system (BMS) from a reputable U.S. supplier — though the BMS is still made in China. I left off in the very early stages of the build while I was giving the cells an initial charge to get them ready to join into a 12-volt battery. Although the process took longer than expected, it’s done and I’ve made a 12-volt battery. But what about the big question of capacity and performance of this homemade battery? I’ve got some early answers…

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Fusion XS series speakers: Quality sound & cost-effective

Fusion offers two lines of speakers: The XS series are the value models and Signature is the mark for their high performance, more expensive line. I’ve recently outfitted my 22-foot center console with a full XS suite, subwoofer included. Open, relatively high speed boats like mine create a challenging environment for speakers. The noise from an open boat on plane often reveals a speaker’s weaknesses. Although they’re probably helped by a powerful amplifier, I’m pleased by the performance of these value-oriented speakers.

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Lost Bens? Nope, we’re in the lithium mines, finding gold!

The caption is serious, because right in front of your eyes is the most basic — and possibly dangerous — mistake anyone could make while setting up and bench testing a fully integrated lithium-powered marine electric power system. And it’s a mistake I made even though it was truly right in front of my eyes during the many hours I spent trying to figure out why Victron’s brand new and quite amazing Lynx Smart BMS would not power up. So if…

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Garmin GPS 24xd: inexpensive Heading data to stabilize charts, radar, and AIS

The Garmin GPS 24xd combines a high-performance GNSS receiver with a heading sensor though it only costs $50 more than their GPS 19x GNSS receiver. Thus it can inexpensively stabilize chart and radar views on your MFD while also ensuring that your boat’s AIS target is headed in the right direction even when it’s tied up. I’ve been testing one, successfully, and also investigating why the GPS 24xd is not a good replacement for a more accurate, faster-updating, and likely better located Heading sensor that’s appropriate for autopilots and radar ARPA/MARPA calculations.

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Helm ergonomics #2: Gizmo’s pilothouse

“Your boat should fit like a glove!” yacht designer Dave Gerr wrote in the 1990’s, and the 2020 refit of Gizmo’s lower helm is the closest I’ve gotten to that excellent advice yet. The ergonomically arranged array of displays and controls above are also a somewhat experimental mix of PC and tablet navigation tools with dedicated marine electronics and oodles of monitoring in the background. I could talk for hours about the gear choices and install details, but the focus of this entry is how well this helm layout works

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Upgrading our house battery system, part 2; life is better with lithium

In part one of this series, I explained our motivations for upgrading to a lithium house battery bank, my choice of all Mastervolt components, and the pleasing results of early testing. Now let’s talk about what makes lithium different and what you need to consider if you too plan an upgrade. Active battery monitoring and control are critical to protecting other power components, for instance, and there are other important install details. Plus, I’ve got more real-world testing results to share.

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Upgrading to lithium batteries & testing an all Mastervolt DC power system

Like many boaters, I treasure the peace of a serene anchorage, but not the sound and smell of a generator. So the high energy density and fast charging abilities of lithium batteries got me interested, and eventually led to an all-Mastervolt system that should also improve my 12-volt DC house power system in many other ways. This is part one of a series detailing the reasons for that decision, the installation, and how well it performs.