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

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

19 Responses

  1. Henning says:

    Did I read correctly that ForwardScan can also be connected using a black box and would then support MFDs other than NSS evo2 (like NSO evo2, old NSO, old NSS, even NSE)?
    And what about Lowrance products?
    And does the ForwardScan transducer include or replace a standard depth transducer or do you need to drill another hole in any case?

  2. Paul says:

    Hi, i saw you managed to get some echoes of the hanging wires from the barge. Do you think you would be able to detect a partially submerged container and trigger an alarm?It could be a very useful tool then even on open sea passages.

  3. Henning says:

    This is just my personal opinion but our about 6000nm of open sea passages of the last 12 months have made me give up my hopes for an alarm like this on the kind of boats that we use.
    – In conditions other than a dead calm you can expect swell/seas of 3 to 8 feet. 20 knots of true wind from the aft quarter, about 15 knots apparent, pretty much the best conditions you can ask for, will give 8ft seas or close to that. Since the sonar beam cannot pass through air in the troughs, it can really only see as far as the wave you are on or the one directly in front of you, on average maybe something like 100ft.
    – At 6.5 knots you will cover 100ft in about 9 seconds. From that you have to subtract maybe 3 seconds to allow the boat to make a 60 degree course change following your turning the wheel hard over, in order to avoid the container. Then you will need at least 2 seconds to locate the container visually to decide which way to turn the wheel for the best chance to avoid it. My wife and I have spent almost all time on passage below at the nav station with the companionway fully closed (because the aft winds would otherwise funnel down into the cabin, getting everything damp and cold and uncomfortable). I cannot see how I could have woken up from my slumber, realized that this alarm is for real (not a false alarm like the last 10), gotten up from my seat, opened the companionway hatch and door, dashed to the wheel and disengaged the autopilot inside of the remaining 4 seconds.
    – At night, if you can’t see the container, you won’t be able to decide which way to turn so in spite of a perfect alarm, you may not be able to take avoiding action.
    – This is all assuming that, in addition to an excellent forward looking sonar, you have a perfect alarm that interprets the sonar image as good as you could yourself to determine a large submerged object is present and do this taking no time at all. My guess is that, because of the tiny number of people doing open sea passages, we will all have robotic assistants fulfilling our every wish and speaking perfect english before such an alarm comes around. Without the alarm I have no hope that I would notice a container on a sonar image because no one can stare at a screen with full attention for 4 hours without interruption.

  4. Dave Stockard says:

    Ben thanks for the great presentation at Trawlerfest! Here’s the $20,000 money question, at least for me. If you plug this into an EVO2 can your non-EVO NSSs see the screen output?

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Dave, but I’m pretty sure the answer is no. I did ask if ForwardScan running through a SonarHub…
    …would work with pre evo2 NSS and Matthew Lasser said no. (By the way, the SonarHub will be needed by B&G Zeus2 owners who want FS, or owners of a single Simrad evo2 unit who’s already using the port for StructureScan.)
    Matthew did say that they’re hopeful about ForwardScn spotting containers, but I doubt it can be done consistently or at much range.

  6. antoine says:

    Do you have a video of it?
    thx, very interesting.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I saw some real ForwarScan improvements during an on-water demo in Lauderdale, but I didn’t take a video. Fortunately David Schmidt caught some of the latest Simrad booth demo footage here:
    What’s different from the software I tested is that the depth-sensitive heading line is now an “ice cream cone” shape that also shows the ForwardScan beam width. They’ve also improved the algorithm that identifies bottom shape so that FS seems to “see” a little further ahead and they added some useful color to bottom fill. All good.
    Fun fact: the actual ForwardScan file used in the booth demo and now in store displays I think was recorded on Gizmo outside Baltimore.

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Just added a Simrad ForwardScan image showing substantial software improvements I saw in action at the Fort Lauderdale Show.

  9. xavier Itzmann says:

    Hello Ben,
    So, any news regarding ForwardScan from your visit in South Florida this week?

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Yes, Xavier, I was surprised to learn that ForwardScan hasn’t shipped yet. Apparently during the Fort Lauderdale Show demos they ran into problems with interference from other transducers that hadn’t surfaced before. But they had it running fine on at least two boats at Hawk’s Cay and said that release should be very soon. It’s an odd situation for me as I saw it run pretty well all the way from Baltimore to New Bern on early code.

  11. Captain Jack says:

    Ben have you the chance to review the Echopilot 3D?

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Jack, I’m afraid that won’t happen as Echopilot 3D involves a fairly elaborate transducer install. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever even been demonstrated here in the U.S. However, Gemeco Marine does distribute them here and they’ve told me that they have several happy 3D customers. I’d call them for more information and perhaps contact with a user. Gemeco may sell the product but they are also straight shooters.

  13. Xavier Itzmann says:

    Hello Ben,
    You wrote: “I’d already installed an Airmar B617 bronze version of that same retractable stainless housing, I only had to pop in the new transducer.”
    Bronze housing, stainless nut on the sensor itself?
    How’s that going to work, galvanic-wise?
    Just curious. I happen to have a bronze housing already installed, makes me nervous to wait 1.5 years until the next haulout to remove the bronze, install the stainless.

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Xavier, I hadn’t really thought about that, but I checked the transducer install today and everything looks fine. I was even able to unscrew the stainless nut a bit with just a bit of pressure, so I’d say there is zero sign of corrosion. The forward bilge is quite dry and Gizmo has never shown any galvanic issues, but the transducer has been in the water since early Oct. 2014.

  15. Paul says:

    Hello – really useful article. I have a Hanse 455 and want to install FS (matched with eth B&G Zeus 2). Do we need to drill a separate hole into the hull for the stainless steel through-hull mount (ie so i have FS IN ADDITION TO the existing depth sounder) or is FS reliable enough to give depth info directly below the boat like a traditional depth sounder? Thanks, Paul

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Paul, In my experience, ForwardScan delivers reliable Depth data at least to 100 feet and I’ve seen it holding bottom over 200 feet. Moreover, the Depth value is separate from the forward scan data in the sense that it goes out on the NMEA 2000 network and can be seen on instrument displays and other screens.
    However, unlike a traditional depth sounder, the FS transducer has to be very close to vertical both fore and aft and athwartship in order to deliver an accurate profile of the bottom ahead. It’s also good to place it fairly far forward because it can’t see all that far ahead, as discussed above. But I’ve seen modern fin keel sailboats like yours where the depth transducer is on center ahead of the keel and should work pretty well.

  17. richard simons says:

    Hi Ben, do you have any new experience with this product? I have it on my b&G and havnt really played with it yet, is it worth the time and energy?

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Yes, I ran Navico (Simrad and B&G) ForwardScan for years and found it quite useful, but mostly when I already knew I was in thin water. Then I switched to a Garmin Panoptix PS51 which is quite similar, but with slightly better range and speed at a much higher cost.

  18. Richard Simons says:

    Thanks for the feedback, I understand that the latest b&g software release has improved it, I will give it a try.

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