Panbo

Smartgauge battery monitor, RC proclaims "paradigm shift"!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 23, 2014

Smartgauge_testing_courtesy_Compass_Marine.jpgIf you like sailing with some electronics running, or just anchoring without a generator, you're probably very interested in the State of Charge (SoC) of your battery banks. Voltmeters, however, only hint at what's going on, and true battery monitors require careful calibration and the installation of shunts, but still tend to get out of whack over time. Well, darned if the great RC Collins of Compass Marine didn't go to extraordinary lengths to prove that the Smartgauge -- a little known product that's been around for almost a decade -- can somehow accurately measure SoC without calibration and without a shunt, and yet still get even more accurate over time. Apparently when it shows your Charge at 92%, as above, your battery bank really is at 92% capacity...

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NMEA 2000 color instrument power testing, looks good

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 21, 2014

Raymarine_i70_power_testing_cPanbo.jpgWhen Garmin recently introduced GNX20/21 displays, it led to questions about the power needs of similar but all-color NMEA 2000 instruments. And that led me to finally make up a special N2K cable that I can use with my trusty Power Analyzer Pro to measure the 12 volt current flow to an individual N2K-powered device. So what you're seeing above is that a Raymarine i70 working with live data at 100% brightness level is using 0.13 amps. That's not much by most standards, but dropping down a hair to 90% brightness reduced the power draw 20%...

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Simrad ForwardScan, a challenge to EchoPilot FLS?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 17, 2014

Simrad_ForwardScan_concept_aPanbo.jpgWhile Simrad announced ForwardScan at the Miami Boat Show, details are scarce and the concept diagram doesn't really show what a ForwardScan screen is going to look like. Yes, like other Forward Looking Sonar (FLS) systems, the goal is to display the water column and ocean floor in front of the vessel to "help boaters eliminate the worry of potential groundings in unfamiliar waters," and yes, FowardScan is the first FLS to be fully integrated into a multifunction display system. Well, I've hounded Simrad for more information -- all of which sounds good -- and it also looks like I will get to test ForwardScan against what seems like the most similar existing product...

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Vexilar SonarPhone T-Pod, WiFi fishfinder in a bobber!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 15, 2014

Vexilar_SonarPhone_T-Pod_closeup_cPanbo.jpgIt's 2014 and a sealed plastic 5-inch bobber can indeed contain a fairly able 400 Watt, 125 kHz fishfinder and a WiFi radio, plus enough rechargeable battery to run both for a few hours. The SonarPhone T-Pod will strike many as a toy, but it actually works quite well considering its small size and price tag ($130). And the manufacturer Vexilar puts the same technology into models meant to install on small boats, which means that dedicated iPad (or Android tablet) boaters do indeed have a fishfinder option...

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Garmin GNX 20/21 instrument displays, monochrome mashups

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 10, 2014

Garmin GNX 20 and GNX 21 instrument displays aPanbo.jpgThe press release for the new Garmin instruments doesn't mention it -- and I didn't notice it at first myself -- but can you see what's quite unusual about these monochrome displays? The GNX 20 at left and its inverted GNX 21 sibling have LCD screens that are partly segmented and partly dot matrix. I didn't even know that was possible, but I think it makes sense in terms of maximum power efficiency without completely surrendering to the readability limitations of large segments...

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WaveTrax iThing app, more smart boat logging to the cloud

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 8, 2014

WaveTrax_log_history_cPanbo.jpgI wish that track was on the water, but testing WaveTrax auto boat logging over the road is impressive, nonetheless. Running on my iPad mini, the app not only collects a track point every minute, but automatically creates log entries marking my Lat/Long, COG, and SOG on the hour (and at user selectable distances). It's fairly easy to add notes, captioned photos, engine/fuel status, and weather observations as desired, and when a trip is done, I even get to touch scribble a signature. But that's hardly half of it... 

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Shaft Razor long test, with a look at the competition

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 5, 2014

Shaft_Razor_line_cutter_installed_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpgThere are still patches of icy snow left from a memorable March in Maine, but I enjoyed a recent afternoon wandering around the boatyard checking out shaft cutters. Pictured above is the Shaft Razor that's been protecting Gizmo from line wraps since the spring of 2010. Like my stainless rudder it picked up a lot of barnacles last fall, but that double set of super-sharp serrated teeth were still quite effective. The Shaft Razor is also a good value that has required zero maintenance, and while I saw some interesting competition around the yard, I wouldn't trade it...

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Afterguard heads-up display, the Recon Jet goes sailboat racing

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 3, 2014

Afterguard_HUD_in_action_aPanbo.jpgThe goal is to direct your focus wherever it's needed on or beyond the boat while still having critical data in sight.  Brand spanking new today is the Afterguard heads-up display (HUD) for racing sailors. Yes, recent America's Cup skippers apparently used HUD sunglasses, though you're a better researcher than I if you can find detail about how they worked and what data they provided. Afterguard intends to bring this technology down at least a few levels, and that means we get a better look at what it can do. This sort of product is more than a little out of my wheelhouse, so to speak, but it looks like this new company did its homework and made some smart decisions...

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Vesper XB-8000 test, much more than a Class B AIS transponder

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Mar 30, 2014

XB-8000-3-in-one-800.jpgI've had a Vesper XB-8000 installed in the lab for the last month, and I'm confident that it will do well in a long test on board Gizmo beginning in May. I will miss some features of the Vesper Vision I tested last season, but having the blue box installed behind the scenes will help me test the glass bridge concept (one MFD brand, many screens), and at $799 I think the XB-8000 is a multifunction value that could work on a wide variety of vessels. The recent testing also revealed some new features that apply to both the XB and the Vision as Vesper continues to expand on the concepts expressed in the 3-in-1 diagram above...

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Lowrance Elite 5/7 cheap CHIRP, the sonar wars rage on

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Mar 26, 2014

Lowrance_Elite-5_CHIRP.jpgLowrance just launched Elite-5 and -7 CHIRP fishfinders and plotter combos today, but they showed off working prototypes during the Navico writer's event I attended in January. What seemed to particularly excite the product managers was the Elite's new ability "to produce low, medium and high CHIRP sonar ranges and display two user-selected ranges simultaneously" using just an "affordable" HDI Skimmer transducer. Apparently they didn't realize that this tranducer could usefully CHIRP until they tried it, and now they think they have a edge in the sonar battle that's taking place both on the water and in law offices...

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