Monthly Archive: August 2009

NMEA announces Technology Award, & shows some tech leg 7

NMEA announces Technology Award, & shows some tech leg


The 2008 NMEA Convention in San Diego prompted many Panbo entries last October, and I’m hoping the return to Fort Myers this year will be at least as interesting.  One new feature of note is a Technology Award that will be judged by yours truly and three other BWI boating writers. The criteria will be “a combination of innovative design, benefits to boaters, practicality and value,” and the NMEA has wisely chosen to limit manufacturer entries to products that were not available for sale and delivery sixty days before the 2008 convention but are available sixty days before this show.  In other words, no vaporware please!

Garmin VHF 200, first impressions 5

Garmin VHF 200, first impressions


It took a while, but the premium Garmin VHF 200 is now a reality, and it’s a corker. I installed a sample on Gizmo yesterday and spent a fair bit of the day listening to it and trying out DSC features.  As Bill Lentz noted in a recent comment, the 200 is a snap to hook up using NMEA 2000, instantly getting GPS off the backbone and delivering DSC call info to any device that knows what to do with it (unfortunately few so far). It also seems to have a sensitive receiver and a nice way of pausing enough in scan mode that you’ll often hear both sides of a conversation.  But he didn’t get into how well the soft key scan (and other) menus work…

18″ radomes #4, the wet edition 17

18″ radomes #4, the wet edition


Things didn’t work out as hoped for yesterday — via Nexrad the rain cells appeared to dissipate well to the west, and then when it did pour unexpectedly (the Camden Hills really limit our western view here) I wasn’t ready to get underway — but I did get a taste of how the four 18-inch radomes handle precip, and I did get wet.  It seems to me that radar should ideally do two somewhat contradictory things in rain: cut through it to show real targets, but also show distant cells so you might maneuver around them.  The Furuno DRS2 did quite well on both counts…

18″ radomes #3, weirdness edition 17

18″ radomes #3, weirdness edition


I’m beginning to feel a bit different.  Who else was pleased to see the fog roll back into Camden yesterday?  And what other boat has four 18″ radomes mounted, one with velcro…

MOB systems, AMEC is in 7

MOB systems, AMEC is in


When I first met Alltek Marine Electronics Corp. in late 2007, the team was working on a LifeTag-like MOB system (speaking of Raymarine).  Well, now the AMEC MOB Dolphin is apparently ready to go, including FCC approval.  The idea of plotting MOBs on an AMEC Camino 201 Class B AIS transponder seems to have gone by the wayside, but a single-hander can set up the system so that his/her connected AMEC AIS will send out an SRM message if the worst happens.  I’m not sure how well that will work as Safety Related Messages seem to be a little used part of the AIS system.  But the MOB Dolphin does come with an interesting-looking PC program for monitoring and managing the up-to-99 pendants it can handle…

Garmin buying Raymarine, for real????? 24

Garmin buying Raymarine, for real?????


This is starting to get serious!  While this Reuters article also notes Garmin’s disclaimer that “there was no certainty an offer would be made”, yesterday Garmin had no comment at all.  Personally I have no knowledge of this deal whatsoever, and can tell you that the product people I know at both these companies seem to be full speed ahead.  But I’m starting to monitor the financial news closely.  Somewhat strangely, the most complete and original reporting seems to be coming from a Reuter’s guy in Bangalore, India; his piece yesterday helped me understand why this acquisition might make sense for Garmin:  Foreign distribution and an “OEM footprint” (in case the boatbuilding business ever comes back to life).  But how would the product lines be “rationalized” and what would a big Garmin/Raymarine combination mean to the relatively little recreational marine electronics industry?  Let’s discuss.

SRT, blowing the AIS doors off 7

SRT, blowing the AIS doors off


In 2005, when Software Radio Technology talked about a Class B AIS transponder retailing for $500, I expressed some skepticism.  But “good work takes time” (as I often say about my home-built home), Class B has almost reached that price point in 2009 (largely thanks to SRT), and — holy cow, Batman — wait til you hear what they’ve got in the pipeline.  For starters, how about a small, high performance Class A transponder that will cost “well below $2,000” and will be available to client companies (SRT sells nothing direct) “at the end of 2009”?  And apparently that’s as both an OEM product virtually ready to ship or as a two-board module ready to get additional features (like NMEA 2000 output) and/or be integrated into ECDIS, plotters, VHF radios, etc…

Humminbird downrigger control, really different 9

Humminbird downrigger control, really different


I could easily write a dozen more entries on 18″ radomes, AIS, NMEA 2000, and iPhone apps, but how about something completely different?  I received and bench tested a loaner Humminbird 1197c this week.  My plan is to check out its side-scanning abilities, particularly now that Lowrance is challenging its dominance in this niche.  But I couldn’t help but notice the rather amazing downrigger controls shown in the machine’s demo mode.  The screen above shows one of three downrigger pairs being automatically positioned 5 feet off the bottom as my simulated boat trolls a wavy bottom.  And there’s much more…

18″ radome testing, part 2 14

18″ radome testing, part 2


Man, this radome testing is getting complicated.  I had kinda presumed that the Navico Broadband BR24 would be obviously superior to other 18″ scanners.  But, as discussed recently, the Raymarine RD418D killed that presumption.  While I doubt that any radar can  target a moving dinghy and two sailboats on a float at 100 feet as cleanly as you see above, there is a lot more to radar than super near range.  The inflatable, incidentally, dissappeared when it got nearly alongside, but that situation may change when I move the BR dome down to flying bridge level.  And then I’ll also have two radar mounts available for testing 18″ scanners from Garmin and Furuno…