Panbo

Inmarsat Fleet One, affordable FleetBroadband for real?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 2, 2014

Sailor_Inmarsat_Fleet_One_system_aPanbo.jpgBoaters looking for a reliable, moderately fast satellite Internet connection for light and/or occasional use have learned to be leery of Inmarsat. When FleetBroadband came out in 2009 -- particularly the FB150 model with its easily installed 13.5-inch stabilized antenna -- it seemed like a reasonably affordable option for bluewater cruising. This promise was confirmed in a terriffic Panbo review series conducted by Gram Schweikert as his family sailed from Maine to New Zealand with both KVH FB150 and Iridium OpenPort antennas mounted on the spreaders. Note the fairly friendly FB rate sheet published in Gram's installation entry and how (with very careful data use) he found the FB150 quite useful out in the Pacific at only about $100 to $150 a month in service charges. Unfortunately, the deal changed...

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Navionics Boating app, now with free U.S. charts!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 29, 2014

Navionics_Boating_app_v7_w_US_Gov_chart_cPanbo.jpgThis is a significant surprise. Version 7.0 of the free Navionics Boating app released today for iPad and iPhone includes the ability to download and use NOAA vector charts, as seen above. Meanwhile, if you already own a Navionics Marine app for iOS, there's a 7.0 update available which adds "Gov Charts" and the same feature will soon come to Android versions of both the Boating and Marine apps. Navigators who already use Navionics charts on a tablet or phone may find it useful to have NOAA data for comparison, but the big news is that any U.S. boater can now enjoy a Navionics level charting app completely free...

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Gizmo's Ocean Armor topsides & Pettit Hydrocoat Eco bottom, the testing begins

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 24, 2014

Gizmo_5-2014_Ocean_Armor_topsides_cPanbo.jpgCheck out the evening gleam on Gizmo's flared bow. I think it's impressive for a gelcoat surface that's seen a lot of weather over 14 years and better yet, the pros who applied the "nano polymer wax replacement" were also impressed. There's more detail on the new coating called Ocean Armor Pro Maxi All Gloss further along in this entry and also my experience with an initial application of Pettit HydroCoat Eco bottom paint, which seems like another winner so far...

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Quality NMEA 2000 cabling, the eBay way

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 20, 2014

eBay NMEA 2000 Turck JBBS cPanbo.jpgI'm not sure whether to thank or curse the Panbo reader who got me hunting for NMEA 2000 cabling equipment on eBay. There is a thrill to picking up a $290 Turck JBSS 57-811 DeviceNet multi-port junction box for about $35 to $45 with shipping (and there seem to plenty left here, here, and here). It's beautifully made -- fully potted with nickle-plated brass connectors and gold-plated brass contacts, plus a built-in voltage indicator -- and it can definitely be a useful part of most any boat's NMEA 2000 network, as I'll demonstrate. But you may find yourself up late looking for related heavy duty N2K network components, probably getting confused by complex nomenclature and maybe even buying stuff you can't use. Then again, you're apt to learn how many ways there are to build a valid N2K network...

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Changing transducers -- "So you have a 5200 problem?"

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 16, 2014

Gizmo_forward_transducers_May_2014_cPanbo.jpg

I'm tentatively proud of Gizmo's 2014 forward transducer installs (which you can see better by clicking on the photo above). I knew it would be hard to remove the three ducers installed there in 2010 and "mistakes were made" during the replacement phase, but I'm fairly sure the boat is set up now to properly compare EchoPilot FLS with ForwardScan, and I also look forward to checking out the manly HD version of Navico StructureScan. Plus, there are yet other possibilities for the forward retractable casings and two new fixed transducers back aft...

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Two way testing DeLorme inReachSE, plus new Explorer model & OCENS SpotCast Weather

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 13, 2014

DeLorme_inReachSE_message_screen_cPanbo.jpg"Two way" doesn't just refer to the fact that a DeLorme inReach handheld satellite messenger/tracker will let you text back and forth with people pretty much like a cell phone. I also tested the shore side of the system by loaning the sample inReachSE model to friends Doug and Dale Bruce when they went on an adventure cruise to some remote islands south of New Zealand. So that's me messaging from Maine when I saw where they were headed (via their MapShare track), and then Doug texting me back a few minutes later. Yes, he had a little trouble with SE's little cursor keyboard, but heck, he was in rough seas on the other side of the planet!

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Inexpensive LED navigation lights, Aqua Signal & especially Marinebeam

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 6, 2014

old_Perko_filiment_nav_light_test_cPanbo.jpgAs much as I value LED lighting, I was hesitant to change Gizmo's navigation light fixtures. Why spend the (significant) money and refit time to save power when a big alternator is always running at the same time as the running lights? But I had already removed the boat's side light boards for refinishing last fall, and then I noticed that the cost of at least some LED nav lights has become quite reasonable. It was nearly an impulse buy when I put a pair of Aqua Signal Series 33 side lights in my Defender cart at $45 each. I'm not totally satisfied with the purchase, but I do expect the Aqua Signals to be a vast improvement over those old incandescent fixtures...

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Garmin's GCV 10 DownVü/SideVü, a serious new weapon in the sonar war

... written for Panbo by Bill Bishop and posted on May 4, 2014

GCV-10_downvu-sidevu_transducer_courtesy_Garmin.jpgPanbo is very pleased to publish the first guest entry of esteemed marine electronics installer and writer Bill Bishop ~ editor

It's a rare case when we actually get to see into some technology we use, and this is one. You're looking at a special clear casting of the DownVü/SideVü transducer that Garmin designed for its GCV 10 CHIRP-based sonar. As the photo suggests -- you can click it much bigger -- there is much more to this tech then you might initially think. The long silvery bars (you can see two of three) are the ceramic piezo transducer arrays. The shorter one is for the down scan. The metal dot on the right side is the temperature sensor. In Garmin's words "the DownVü and SideVü transducers were designed using an innovative multi-element shaded array to provide clear, picture-like imaging. The range and side-lobe performance is like nothing else out there." This is not simple stuff. With today's rapid developements consumer marine sonar is now nearly the equal of sonar systems owned by oceanographic research institutions, albeit with less power. The average boater isn't doing seabed mapping at extreme depths, but hey if you mounted this transducer on a tow fish...

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IBEX ConnectWorld, thanks to Chetco Digital

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 2, 2014

IBEX_2013_ConnectWorld_hosted_by_Chetco___cPanbo.jpgA surprise high point of last year's International Boatbuilders Exhibition (IBEX) was ConnectWorld. For several years the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) had staged a substantial ConnectFest NMEA 2000 networking demonstration on the show floor -- remember the Fish Gate 100? -- but for some reason they dropped out in 2013. I arrived skeptical about a hurried effort to keep the idea alive managed by a manufacturer instead of NMEA. What I found, however, was that Chetco Digital Instruments had put together a nice demonstration of multiple brand devices sharing data across multiple networks. While NMEA 2000 made a lot of it possible, there's some great development going on beyond the N2K backbones and I'm excited about what we'll see in Tampa at IBEX 2014...

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The state of marine Ethernet connectors, and hello to RayNet

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Apr 29, 2014

Raymarine_RayNet_cables_cPanbo.jpgIt's not an exciting photograph, I know, but cables are a fairly big deal when you or your installer get down to the real nitty-gritty of putting a marine electronics system together. While it's great that the NMEA 2000 cable and connector standard is pretty much taking care of lower speed sensor networks regardless of equipment brands, the sore spot now is the Ethernet cables used for high speed data like radar, sonar, IP cameras, and chart sharing. Though standard Ethernet cables easily connect many different devices in our homes and offices, marine connectors are not standardized. In fact, some Raymarine customers are dealing with two proprietary Ethernet connector designs as the company transitions to the RayNet plugs seen above. But RayNet makes sense to me and shouldn't cause undue pain once all the available options are understood...

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