I’ve been lucky to experience many kinds of boating over the years, but, man, I’ve missed a lot too. For instance, I know zip about the high end ski boats which might sport this Infinity 6000M system, made by Prospec and an entry in the MAATS Innovation contest. The watertight speakers can blast a 100 watts of music out to the skiers in the boat’s wake, but the driver can cut in with his mic as needed. This wouldn’t go over well on some quiet Maine lakes, and no one skiis on the cold salt water here, but imagine the big lake scenes in the really hot parts of the country. In fact, check out this New York Times piece on Party Cove, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, where 3,000 boats often “gather for weekends of sun-drenched, alcohol-fueled, sometimes X-rated revelry”. Yike. Google “Party Cove videos” for a peek at what the Times only hints at. Party Cove is definitely not On Golden Pond (which, by the way, is a wonderful play my wife opens in tonight at a local community theater…much more my speed, and maybe yours).
July 2005 Archives
The heh, heh irony in the promo at right is that what really looks good is the little wireless fob tied to the pneumatic lady’s bikini sash. Right. But it does actually look good; Virtual Lifeline can supposedly be easily setup with any outboard or inboard engines so that they will shut down if anybody on board goes overboard. This product just won a safety Innovation Award at the MAATS show in Las Vegas. The electronics award was split between two products we’ve already talked about here—Navionics’ Platinum charts and Humminbird’s side scanning sonar. It’s not online but I just purloined a list of all the entries to the contest, and there are some neat items I had not heard of. More later.
There’s finally some good Web material up about Navionics Platinum charts. Not surprisingly it’s at Raymarine’s site, as the E Series will be the first to display it. Definitely check out the “Feature Tour”, whose Flash animation illustrates some of Platinum’s dynamic nature. Raymarine calls this all a “Preview”, with the actual chart cards and E Series software upgrade “Coming Soon”. My sense is that it will be quite soon, as I’m starting to see ads too. Plus I’ve been trying out beta versions for a while now, and the software seems darn solid to me. Raymarine understandably asked me not to comment on beta product, but hopefully that too will change soon. In the meantime, one word: outstanding!
Given that it’s notoriously hard to photograph a video screen, this is a fair image (bigger here) of what I was seeing yesterday in about 20’ of water using Splashcam’s Deep Blue camera. Plus I should note that Camden Harbor is a bit murky due to the river that dumps into it (and maybe some other dumping, like aboard visiting yachts). I could actually see that lobster trap somewhat better than the photo shows, and when I aimed straight down (with the camera surfaced, via a simple adjustment strap) starfish, shells and annoyed crabs were very sharp and colorful...and fun to see for the first time since I gave up diving. It was also simple as pie to hook Deep Blue to the Raymarine E120, which can handle 4 cameras. As you can see, you can even name the video inputs (as I’ve done with an interesting aft facing camera I’ll write about soon). Plus there are a lot of picture adjustments behind that “presentation” soft key. But dangling electronics in salt water is hard service. Deep Blue seems very well thought out and built, but the double O rings on one of its lights apparently failed in 50’, and the innards don’t look very happy today. In fact, it’s hard to blame on Splashcam as the design uses Pelican MityLite xenon flashlights rated to 250’, which seems like a smart idea (and Pelican offers a “forever” replacement policy). Another camera I took out didn’t work at all, but that’s another story.
Unfortunately Web posting at PMY has gotten a little slow lately—just so many minutes in the day—but my June Wifi column is now up. It includes a thumbnail of this picture above, which deserves more detail. That’s a gentleman named Park Walker who lives aboard a 41’ Little Harbor trawler with the fine name of Om Sweet Om. He’s had good luck using WiFi to do some technical consulting while cruising. "Without wireless I would be severely restricted in where and when I could roam. Now my clients ask 'Where are you today?'." The details of Park's sophisticated setup are worth knowing for those of us who’d like to do something similar:
I have a 9dBi omni-directional antenna mounted on my radar arch with 25ft of LMR400 cable running into the main cabin. The antenna cable is connected to a LinkSys WET11 wireless bridge. This is an 802.11b device that operates as a pass-thru client rather than a router. The ethernet interface is currently connected to the WAN port on a Netgear WGR614 which provides wireless service to the desktop computer and the laptops on-board.
The LinkSys box is what makes the connection to the available WiFi service. With the 9dBi antenna I have been able to connect to base stations with a clear line of sight up to about 1 mile from the boat. We used it extensively in the Abacos over a two month period roaming from Green Turtle to Little Harbor without ever being without a usable signal. I didn't go with a higher gain antenna as this one suited my needs, but the range can be increased to 5 or 6 miles using a 15dBi standard antenna and even more using amplification.
Running the connection from the LinkSys into the Netgear router provides NAT, DHCP and a firewall to the computers on-board. While in a marina I typically make the service available to neighboring boats who happen to find out that it's available, although I have started putting MAC address filtering in place to keep track of who is using it.
The original hi res picture, by the way, was taken by Park and send via WiFi.
This is the upper helm on a big Marlow Explorer being shown at the Miami Boat Show. Look how many brands are involved; Furuno NavNet, a Nauticomp montior for a PC system, Raymarine instruments, and Simrad autopilot—and that’s just the top half! And of course there is an even more elaborate helm below. The radar scanners indicate that Nobeltec Admiral is probably the main charting/radar system with NavNet for redundancy. I would guess that this is a tremendously powerful system overall, but what a stew of data interfacing to install, not to mention man/machine interfaces to learn. I don’t know much about Marlows, but my buddy Bill Pike—who may have tested more power yachts than any man alive—loves them (here and here).
And, yes, sharp-eyed readers, the yacht is the background is named “Lucky Sperm”. Ewwwww! Actually, another writer friend knows the owner of that boat, and thinks he’s just being damn honest about the source of his money.
This babe, the first of Inmarsat’s 4th generation satellite fleet, was launched in March and recently went into service over the Indian Ocean. That dish antenna is 9 meters across, the array of solar panels extend 45 meters. The flap at far left is a “sail”, able to “harness pressure exerted by particles from the Sun - the solar wind - to steer the I-4 and fine-tune its orbital position”. This bird is already improving existing Inmarsat service in its planet print, and is just about to really show its stuff in terms of high speed data. Tim Queeney at Ocean Navigator nicely lays out what this all means for actual boat communications here (not much yet, unless your ride is a megayacht).
It strikes me that with so many multifunction displays able to show video pretty darn well, a lot of boaters will be looking to upgrade their 12v helm stereo so it can play DVDs. Sound track on the stereo, picture on the bright display. Quarter screen underway in open waters, full screen on the hook. Why not, especially when you’ve already spent the big bucks on the MFD (an acronym I’m not quite comfortable with yet, but “plotter” doesn’t really cut it anymore). At any rate, there’s a lot of activity in “mobile video” because of the screens also appearing in cars, and yesterday I stumbled on this $125 add-on DVD/MP3/CDRW deck which even has a built-in TV tuner. It’s a Boss 3800T and I don’t know much more about it. There is, of course, some good dope on car video (and marine stereo) over at Crutchfield, which I’m exploring. No one’s talking about “marine mobile video” yet, but I’m sure someone out there is trying it, and I’d like hear from them.
I shot this picture last winter during a demo in the ICW near Ft. Lauderdale. What you see (bigger here) is the ultra low light (.00015 lux!) output of a Night Vision Technologies (NVTi) 3000 Series pan and tilt cabin top triple camera. What you couldn’t see with your plain eye was that day marker, not to mention the water surface, trees and other shore details. Regular eyesight was mainly screwed up by the bright shore lights. Had it been pitch black—or had I been looking for something with a distinct temperature signature, like a man overboard—I could have switched over to the thermal camera. In daylight I might be spying around using the color cam with 220x(!) total zoom ability. Since all three cameras pan and tilt together, it’s very easy to try the different imaging technologies on a given target. This is expensive, but effective, technology.
Above is a video camera designed to live on the outrigger of a sport fishing boat, ready to catch the action from a better angle than you normally see…i.e. better than the back side of a guy fighting a big one. Apparently it’s rugged enough to take the banging around and to be washed and waxed just like the rest of the boat. Veteran captain and video guy Mike Latham sells and installs packages of multiple cameras and recording decks which look very effective. He can even set up a little wireless controller that will turn everything on with a single button push.