Panbo

Category: Communications

METS 2014: AIS MOB, Class A N2K, Torqeedo app, Wave WiFi router & more

Nov 26, 2014

Last week there were two Panbots roaming the annual Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) floor. Henning Dürr and Kees Verruijt were there trying to find (some) of what was new and interesting. This first entry focuses on vendors that Henning visited.

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AIS MOB and SART with DSC
AIS MOB devices were once called Personal AIS SARTs and are the baby brothers to commercial lifeboat AIS SARTs, but with lower requirements for range and operating hours. The advantage is that they can be made smaller, small enough to be carried by individuals. Since both device classes are relatively new, older displays capable of AIS targeting don't necessarily handle this type of AIS well (good behaviour illustrated here). Additionally AIS MOB beacons are not yet part of the official GMDSS, so officially the world wide SAR operations do not need to react to them and/or may not have the equipment to use them. Ocean Signal and Weatherdock showed new models with a DSC twist that aims to fix this -- as was discussed here on Panbo in 2012.

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Standard Horizon HX870, handheld VHF/GPS/DSC powerhouse

Nov 3, 2014

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I was impressed with Standard Horizon's original HX850 and I've been happily using the slightly upgraded HX851 model above for several years. It's a fine handheld 6 Watt VHF (if you don't mind the size), plus it's always ready to place a DSC distress call and/or navigate a life raft (or tender or kayak or...). But wow, look what they did with the new HX870 model: The screen is at least twice as large, the interface seems usefully updated with soft keys and icons, the battery is substantially larger and more...

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Garmin 2015: glass bridge 7600 series, Reactor autopilot, xHD2 radar & more

Oct 31, 2014

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Garmin introduced lots of new products in Fort Lauderdale yesterday along with the promise that all of them will be shipping by mid-February. There's even a special Marine 2015 website, while this Garmin blog entry offers a succinct overview of the whole lineup. At the press conference the line that seemed to neatly frame Garmin Marine 2015 was "not necessarily ground breaking, but easier to select, easier to install, and easier to use." I noticed evidence of all that along with a few features that do indeed seem unique and valuable...

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Antenna masts: Edson Vision & more

Sep 11, 2014

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So far, so good. Finishing up Gizmo's antenna mast was the last minute task before heading south, but nothing fell on our heads during the often lively passage to the Cape Cod Canal and around into Long Island Sound. Most of the new installs up there worked, too, though we experienced a couple of very odd MFD issues that I'll write up once I understand them better. For the time being I'll just repeat a venerable adage: Do not rely on any one source of navigation information. Now let's discuss the Edson Vision and custom mounting hardware I used for the antenna farm...

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Cruising Solutions headsets, testing the Bluetooth update

Aug 26, 2014

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Apparently, the folks at Cruising Solutions have not forgotten that I once characterized their useful and still popular Mariner 500 intercom headsets as "making a boater look unfashionably similar to a Soviet tank driver," and hence asked me to test their latest solution to the problem of verbal communications when captain and crew are in different areas of a boat. They are called "My Team Talks" Bluetooth headsets and they're much more than modern looking intercoms. "Bring state-of-the-art multiplex communication technology to your boat" is not an overstatement...

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Siren Marine cellular boat monitoring long test, reliable & powerful

Aug 11, 2014

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Boat theft is very rare in Maine, but on a recent Saturday night someone apparently "borrowed" a big twin outboard off a local dock for a "joy ride" during which something was hit hard enough to hole the topsides, and then they put the boat back on the dock and vanished! To my knowledge the mystery remains unsolved, but it sure jogged my memory about the Set feature on the Siren Marine cellular monitoring system I've been testing for over two years. The partial phone screen above shows what happened when Gizmo moved more than about 15 meters several days after I texted the "SET" command to the Siren. First I was notified that she'd TRANSGRESsed the geofence set up by the SET command and then the Siren started texting me every five minutes with GAT (Geofence Automatic Time-based) reports that included course, speed and a lat/long link to Google Maps. I could have guided the Maine Marine Patrol to the transgressor pretty quickly, if the "villain" hadn't been myself...

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Simrad RS35 VHF & HS35 wireless handset, testing pretty well

Jul 22, 2014

Simrad_RS35_testing_GPS_source_cPanb_o.jpgIt's taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35's nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return the radio for the software fix, but now it's installed at Gizmo's lower helm and has no problem with the three GPS sources shown above and a lot more I threw at it. I've also seen it output AIS info over NMEA 2000 to every MFD currently on Gizmo (though there is a glitch if you also have a transponder, explained below). And while some interesting radios have come to market in the last year, the RS35 at about $300 to $350 seems the VHF/AIS/N2K value leader (except for its sibling Lowrance Link-8 if you don't care about the wireless handset option)...

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Inmarsat iSatPhone 2, a solid satphone but here come Globalstar Sat-Fi & Iridium GO

Jul 14, 2014

Inmarsat_iSatPhone_2_aPanbo.jpgA brief test of the new Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 showed it to be quite a good satellite phone. Compared to the original IsatPhone Pro I tested in 2010, the new phone locks onto both GPS and Inmarsat satellites noticably faster and the voice calls seem to sound better. I also found the screen quite readable in most conditions including direct sun, and the user interface struck me as fast and easy to get the hang of. However, if you sense some "buts" coming, you are correct. At nearly $1,000 street price, this phone is not the "game changer" promised in 2010. Also, long gone are the $200 prepaid SIM cards good for 250 minutes and two years mentioned in my 2010 review; Inmarsat phone service is pretty costly these days. Perhaps more important, we are just entering an era when we can supposedly have all the services of a satphone without actually having to own another darn phone and possibly at a lower overall cost...

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Inmarsat Fleet One, affordable FleetBroadband for real?

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

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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