So Sail Editor Peter Nielsen sends me this shot wondering who makes that articulated stalky thing holding up the B&G autopilot, and where he can get some for his boat. I have no idea, and I’m interested too. Can anyone fill us in? Of course I asked Peter where he’d seen it, and damned if he hasn’t been out goofing around Boston Harbor with Loïck Peyron, the offshore racing demi-god I mentioned yesterday. And he kindly sent along the shot below of Gitana Eighty’s nav station.
Sometimes you-know-who works in mysterious ways. On Saturday afternoon I watched a long-time friend, Tom Amory, set sail for Finland with his daughter and her friend, but without the Simrad AI50 Class B AIS transponder he’d tried so hard to obtain. I was excited for him, but also yet further ripped at the FCC. Tom ordered the unit from a Canadian distributor who agreed to ship it to the U.S. for use in international waters, but insisted on putting its true identity on the customs form. It got turned back at the border! Then Tom employed an alternative importation technique, which didn’t work in time. Note to the FCC commissioners: What the hell are you doing, making an upright citizen smuggle in a U.S. Coast Guard approved safety tool that he can legally use about 3,988 miles of his 4,000 mile voyage?!?!
While evidence of unusual EPIRB failure activity remains scarce, who doesn’t like the idea of testing their own, as often and as thoroughly as possible? So I always try to note what a new model’s self-test abilities are (though I didn’t have much detail on these GME PLBs just coming to the States). But even the best self-testing is surely limited. There are also professional test receivers—like Musson Marine’s and the WS Tech BT100 PDA-hosted systems—which measure real over-the-air 406/121.5 MHz transmissions, but I don’t know how available that service is to regular boaters. Anyone? Both GME and WS Tech, by the way, are distributed in the U.S. by EPIRB/PLB expert George Lariviere and his Whiffletree Corp.
Well, if I’m going to post on Memorial Day, I guess a war sub-text is appropriate. You see, Rob Stormer got very upset about what I thought was a polite, if argumentative, commentary on his EPIRB failure “investigation”. His displeasure is pretty vivid in the rebuttal he posted today, but you should have heard him yell at me over the phone on Friday! Now normally I avoid such combat, but I can dish it out, and it seems worthwhile in this case because illuminating Stormer’s ongoing errors does shed some light on this important safety subject. Two glaring examples from his rebuttal:
Geez, I was just getting used to the idea that Garmin really would buy Raymarine—lots of industry people seemed to think it would happen—but apparently now it’s off. Or maybe this is one of those Yahoo/Microsoft dances? I have absolutely no idea. But I am going to Portsmouth, England, in two weeks to join a British Marine Federation press tour (with quite the international cast of scribes, I just noticed), and I’m hoping that I can visit Raymarine’s R&D center before the tour. I’d be content just to see the operation, but who knows what I might find out?
Is there a problem with EPIRBs? Robin Storm thinks so, and is even calling for a congressional investigation into what he perceives as an alarming number of failures and a flawed failure investigation system. But I read his whole report and, at the risk of sounding cranky, must ask: “Where’s the meat?” There are several supposed failures cited, none of which seem clearly the fault of the EPIRB itself or the COSPAS-SARSAT system:
Preston Calvert is one of several valuable contributors to the HD radar discussion, which is how I got e-mailing with him last night. Which is how I confirmed that he is indeed the same Preston whose Riviera 45 was tested in PMY recently, except his Neuromancer3 is better looking, and a lot more geeked out, than the boat they used in the main photo shoot. It also turns out that Preston is a new user of SeaKey v2, and he kindly gave me “guest” access to his account there. I’m pretty impressed with the service he’s getting, but will turn it over to Preston:
Doh! There’s a pall of embarrassment hanging over Panbo HQ today. When I first reviewed the new Raymarine software and Platinum+ charts, I complained that I couldn’t see the live tide and current icons that were an announced feature. None appeared after the “real” reset either, and so I complained to Raymarine. Well, gosh, they were right under my nose: select any regular tide or current icon on a chart, hit OK, and—ta! ta!—there’s a new “Animate” soft key choice. Which gets you to the very able screen above, full size here. Every station in view animates either automatically or step-by-step at an interval you choose, and you can zoom and pan at will. Nice! (By the way, I used the Fish’N Chip chart here because it seemed cleaner-looking at this zoom level, interesting data too.)
I have a gripe about High Definition radar, or Ultra HD or Super HD or whatever; as best I can tell there is no identifiable technology, specs, or benchmarks to compare one with another, or even to grasp what it is. But it definitely is something. I’ve seen screen shots of Northstar/Simrad HD that looked good, I’ve heard excellent reports on Garmin’s HD and Raymarine’s, which I also saw myself, though only in tight quarters and flat water. But last week I spent nearly six hours inshore and off with a Furuno UHD 4kW 3.5’ array, and…wowsuh, I was definitely, and highly, impressed.
After I’d written my first impressions of the new E-Series 4.29 software and the Platinum+ charts it supports, I learned that I hadn’t done the “real” version of the recommended factory/master reset. You see, though Raymarine’s own FAQ is unclear about it, a reset done by powering up while holding down the leftmost soft key is apparently different, and deeper, than the one I’d done from the System Setup menu. I know for sure that this is true, as after a “real” reset yesterday, some of the problems I’d seen went away. For instance, I can pull up the System Diagnostics SeaTalkNG sub-menus now without causing a reset, though the device list there remains strangely empty (the new manual says it’s “for diagnostic use by authorized dealers” anyway). Much more important is how the test E seems be performing even quicker and looking better than what I’d noticed the first time around.