Panbo

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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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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