February 2007 Archives

ACR Nauticast B, a new Class B playa

Feb 28, 2007

ACR Nauticast B not yet for sale cPanbo

Over the years, I’ve gotten the impression that the FCC can be a capricious, even frightening, regulatory agency. For instance this is the only prototype Class B AIS that was actually shown to the public in Miami (I think), and ACR asked that I include the disclaimer below in this entry. At any rate, the Nauticast B looks pretty attractive (bigger image here). It’s quite compact at less than 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches—the translucent case apparently helping with its “water resistance” while letting the four LED status lights shine through—and it will retail for $1,000 (once it’s approved). It comes with a remote SRM (safety related message) send button which, like the SevenStar, can be reprogrammed by the user to instead turn quiet mode (receive but don’t transmit) on and off. But probably the most important thing about this box is the name on it. ACR’s reputation for quality, reliability, and support will be a real boon to AIS Class B adoption (as the new receivers from Furuno and Raymarine will be for AIS awareness overall). So, please, FCC, let’s get on with it!

This device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained.

WaveRV WiFi revisited, 400mw redefined?

Feb 27, 2007

WaveRV screen

When I first heard of the WaveRV Marine USB WiFi combo radio/antenna last year, I wrote that the radio pumped out 400 milliwatts. One Panbo commenter wrote in doubting that figure, and he was right (that was AdriftAtSea, and hearts out to him for hWaverv-marine-antenna-on-mountis recent tragedy). As you can see in the connect software that comes with the WaveRV (and is quite good), the actual “Tx Power Level” is 100 mW. When I questioned RadioLabs about this, they said that their 400mW spec is based on the combined power of the amp and antenna, justifiable since they are physically combined. Well OK, fellas, but how about putting that information clearly into your specs
  RadioLabs has scaled down its performance claims from the “Up to 30 Times the Range of Standard Integrated Wireless Cards. Line-of-sight up to 4 Miles.” on the original press release to the “Over 15x the range of your notebook wireless card!! Up to 1 mile of range to a wireless access point.” now on their Web site. But I doubt I saw any ranges approaching a mile when testing the WaveRV in Maine, the Netherlands, and Florida over several months. But it certainly did increase my range as compared to the Intel PRO radio built into my HP laptop. I also tried it in the same Camden Harbor locations as I did the Port Networks Ethernet radio and, while changes in the APs spoiled a direct comparison, I’d say that PN’s box did better. (And I also tried it with an older laptop, but the connection was pokey due to the limitations of USB 1, not the WaveRV.)

Garmin 5xxx, more thoughts

Feb 26, 2007


Garmin has put up more press images of the 5xxx series, and this one shows some of the neat 3D abilities I saw demoed in Miami. These machines, and I’d guess at least the 4xxx series too, can overlay radar imagery onto this “mariner’s eye” topside view, and fishfinder imagery onto the separate “fish eye” 3D view. And I don’t mean ARPA targets and fish icons, though they can be useful too. There’s a handsome engine screen too (if you have a NMEA 2000 talking engine, or can use Maretron’s conversion box). The demo units were very much prototypes so I have no idea how fast and smooth they’ll be in real life (actually I’m not even positive which 3D view that is), but they certainly seemed bright, especially for touch screen. I’ve also learned that these 5000 series machines can support a wireless mouse and remote control (4000 series too), which may mollify those folks worried that the touch screen will be hard to work in bouncy conditions. (And I tried faking the Harmony remote into “learning” one of these remotes, which I’m pretty sure it can do). But all this is really just glimpses of Garmin’s new high end; time, and some testing I look forward to, will tell.

Garmin 5xxx Gauges Panbo

"Lit Up" lights off, no further problems

Feb 26, 2007

Viking Lit Up afire

That’s a 35’ Viking, ironically named “Lit Up”, as it became “the world's largest flare gun” off Mayport, Florida, on Feb. 10. All six crew survived just fine, thanks to good planning and gear. Doug Ritter, of the always valuable site, first made me aware of this accident, and the picture comes from a thorough article at 

XML feed, email subscription too!

Feb 25, 2007

State of Panbo

Some Panbo readers who like to keep up with this blog via an XML/RSS reader, like Google’s or Bloglines, have noted that the feed is screwed up, and I apologize for that. The fact is that I didn’t even know about the particular feed they were using! The one meant to work is this one, hosted by Feedburner, and it still does. I also just added a way to subscribe to Panbo by email, also hosted by Feedburner. It’s very easy to set up, and the only thing you have to share is an email address, which will not be abused. If you use either service (also available down at the bottom of the right column), you’ll see that you only get a short text excerpt from new Panbo entries. That’s because my sponsors and I want you to come to our sites to read the full entries.
   Sponsors? Yes, both Power & Motoryacht and Sail are now helping to make Panbo possible. PMY is also streaming the content at its site and Sail has a link and recent excerpt on its home page. Yet another reason I feel gratitude toward these magazines, and partially why I have a paid hand now rebuilding Panbo on a more reliable hosting site. Admittedly I’ve been talking about this for a long time, but the rebuild is truly getting closer and will eventually include a wider format with a little space for companies that want to support Panbo with graphic adverts. In this regard I’ve been investigating the services like BlogAds that could make this easy for all parties; suggestions welcome. 

Logitech Harmony, play stump the remote

Feb 24, 2007

Logitech Harmony w charger

I’m working on an article about universal remotes, the bane of many yachts (and households). Specifically I’m testing a Logitech Harmony 890, and so far am finding it an amazing solution to just about every problem I’ve had with previous “universals” (lots). If you’re not familiar with the Harmony design, they all have USB ports which you use along with dedicated software and Harmony’s Web site to program the thing for all the devices you want to operate. You can teach it individual commands, but Logitech has thousands of devices already databased, including my particular TV, surround sound system, DVD player, VCR, and Media Center laptop. I’ve checked and know they also have the dedicated receiver in the KVH M3 system. What else should I look for in the lists?


Ray218, first impressions

Feb 23, 2007


I really didn’t get to fool with the new Ray218 much during Raymarine’s Miami sea trials—what with the AIS250, C-Series Sirius, and LifeTag demos—but it sure sounded good. The speakerRaymic_Hand is big and the product manager claims that specs (PDF brochure) like sensitivity and “intermodulation rejection” are the best out there. It’s also the first VHF with a soft key interface, which seems darn useful for getting at favorite channels quickly or negotiating complicated menus (the main thing many boaters get from DSC, I fear). There are three knobs, too, just the ones you need, not to mention four scan modes, 30w hailer, and NMEA in/out. The Ray218 (May shipping expected) will come with a fairly standard mic, but there will also be  an optional full function RayMic that has the same soft keys, and does duplex intercom with the base station. Apparently this $569 MSRP set will be the top of a whole new VHF line to roll out eventually, and surely is an indication that Raymarine wants to go hard against the best of Icom, Standard, etc. Is it just me who’d like to see an ever higher end model with a color screen?

Multihull madness #2, the Stealth 540 delivers

Feb 22, 2007

Stealth 540 BenE c Panbo

I actually turned down a short trip on Earthrace Tuesday, but it was partially because I knew I’d be spending yesterday on the Stealth 540, an experience I’ve been scheming about for months. What a blast! This boat has interesting electronics and electrical systems (like a 3kw Victron inverter/charger able to make up for a modest generator and shore power setup), but they’re overshadowed by the hull and power train technology. Time and again we passed boats of similar size and luxury appointments but with significantly greater horsepower and diesel thirst. Like the pair below, which we left in the (Q-SPD generated) rooster tail at 45 knots. At about 17 knots the Stealth raises up a foot or two on its foils, leaving minimal wetted surface. The main foil also provides some shock absorption in waves and seems to help the boat carve turns. Truth be told, it drives like a big sports car. The “HYSUCAT” system has been around for many years, but my impression is that Stealth has really put it all together. (Now, back to Maine; bye, bye, Miami.)

PSs 2/23–25: The guy above (who’d really like to rip that wheel out of my hands) is Bob Kyle, owner of Yacht Share, where you’ll find some recent pictures of the 540. I will be writing up the boat test for PMY, by the way. And here’s the home site for Professor Hoppe’s HYSUCAT designs, with a video of the Stealth 540’s first trials in Cape Town at the top of the list. And finally, sail boats can be fast too, as nicely illustrated by this entry over at the nicely reborn blog Navagear. It’s expected that a sailboat will break 50 knots this year, and it will probably be on hydrofoils.

Stealth 540 45k2 c Panbo

NDI, bye bye?

Feb 21, 2007


NDI, or Nautical Data International, just announced that it’s selling its exclusive right to produce and license digital versions of Canadian charts back to the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), effective on March 30. It sounds like that’s the end of a long and unpleasant affair I’ve discussed before, but who knows for sure? If you read the Q&A’s, you’ll find that NDI plans to stay in business, and to continue its suits against C-Map and Navionics. I haven’t followed this dispute closely, but have noticed that both those companies are now offering very reasonably priced Canadian charts, especially when compared to NDI’s PC charts. In fact, I know boats that have gone from PC to plotter mainly because of that price difference. Here’s hoping that CHS will make Canadian rasters and ENCs more affordable and easier to use.

AIS Miami, good times

Feb 21, 2007

Furuno FA30 cropYeah, man, that’s an Ethernet port on the new Furuno FA30 AIS receiver, meaning that it can plug right into a NavNet vx2 network. It also has standard NMEA 0183 38.4k AIS output, and comes with a PC AIS plotting program able to use the Ethernet feed, so it could be set up in many ways. The FA30 is a true dual channel receiver and will retail for “under $1,000.” It’s slightly bulky at about 10 x 8.5 x 3.5 inches, but that same box will house a Furuno Class B AIS that they’re planning to introduce eventually.
  I’m a bit disappointed that Raymarine’s AIS250 is only a one-channel-at-a-time receiver, sporting a pretty stiff $1,120 MSRP too, but it does pack a lot of features under the hood. For one thing, it’s got a built in antenna splitter, allowing just one stick to feed AIS, FM, and VHF sets (preferably your standby set). It also has a built-in multiplexer offering two inputs and two outputs, all able to talk at either 4,800 or 38,400 baud as needed. This can solve lots of installation issues, particularly with single-NMEA-port C– and E-Series machines. Note that ShipModul has a special multiplexer for doing AIS with Ray C/E, as does Brookhouse (informative PDF here), and SeaCas is offering a dual channel receiver/multiplexer bundle.

Ray AIS250 c Panbo