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Monthly Archive: October 2009

14

VOJ satellite broadband testing #2, the install +

Gram_w_SatComs_cPanbo.JPG

Visions of Johanna is now in Ecuador, the vast Pacific beckoning.  As discussed recently, Gram Schweikert has set the sloop up to test and compare the new compact satellite voice/Internet systems from Iridium and KVH/Inmarsat.  Above he’s geek goofing with the KVH IP Phone and a Uniden waterproof portable which
can access four lines — Skype, cell, Inmarsat FB150, and Iridium OpenPort.  But he’s sure been doing his homework.  What follows is the longest Panbo entry ever, in which the good Gram details the hardware, the installation, the costs, and his first impressions of performance…

17

Intellian D4 #2, the sat tv wars

Intellian_D4_searching_cPanbo.JPG

I finally got the Intellian D4 sat TV system I’ve been testing to misbehave.  During Saturday’s heavy rains, while trying a lot of wet gizmos on Gizmo, the D4 had trouble locking onto one of the three DirecTV satellites it tries to switch among as you change channels.  Whereas the system has previously worked fine with the boat laying at my float, despite the less-than-optimal antenna location, I’m guessing that the problem was signal interference from the water in the atmosphere.  Further proof: It only had trouble with 103 (aka Spaceway 1) which is not only the harder-to-get KA frequency but is also in the most distant geosynchronous orbit and hence sits at the lowest elevation with the most atmosphere between it and Camden, Maine.  Otherwise, though, the D4 has been pretty much flawless…

9

M/V Brilliant, loving AIS

Marine_Traffic_Brilliant_cPanbo.JPG

I am a wee bit jealous.  That’s my brother-in-law Richard Itkin driving his Grand Banks 42 Brilliant down Chesapeake Bay this morning, having left New York Harbor yesterday morning (and Barrington, RI, on Tuesday).  As a guy who drove submarines and sub tenders for the U.S. Navy, Rich has a well developed appreciation for collision avoidance, and he’s been tickled with the ACR Nauticast B AIS transponder he installed a few weeks ago.  But before I pass on his reports, please click on the screen above, so I can note something I just realized regarding MarineTraffic.com.

3

Cable ties, Cobra & Velcro

Cobra_ties_Eclipse_tool_cPanbo.JPG

Does too much fantasizing about the electronics future make you too want to jump back to the practical?  Well, how about cable ties!  I’ve used several hundred of them in the last six months, and cut a hundred more, and have some opinions.  For one thing, I’m grateful to the Cobra cable tie company for sending me samples of their low profile ties, because they’re great.  The material and ratchet mechanism are strong, they look tidier than regular ties, and — most important, I think — you, or someone working on your boat at a later date, will not cut their hand on a sharp plastic snag.  You can tighten and trim Cobra ties OK with a wire cutter, but that Eclipse tool works slick (and better than the Anchor version I already had, in my opinion).  Cobra ties cost a bit more and don’t seem widely distributed, but the company sells direct (though penny pinchers may want to go elsewhere for the tighten/trim tool). 
    I also like hook and loop ties…

44

Trends in marine electronics, your thoughts please!

Garmin_5212_GMR24HD_cPanbo.JPG

I’m working on a January Yachting feature about trends in marine electronics, and I’d appreciate your feedback.  One thing I’m fairly sure of is that multifunction displays have come a long way in recent years, and justifiably dominate the mid size boat market.  I took a solo overnight expedition last week, and had to note again that each of the four MFD/radar systems currently installed on Gizmo is pretty darn powerful.  Especially if you imagine yourself five to ten years back in marine electronics.  Note how the Garmin 24HD radome is imaging and overlaying that low ledge seen off to starboard, without any tuning, and also the NMEA 2000 data flowing onto the 5212 screen (and every other display aboard).  Note, too, the iPhone on the dash — right then running SailTrac, a trip tracking and blogging program I’ll write about soon — and the Standard Horizon HX850S, which also has a GPS and is ready to call in the cavalry via DSC should I screw up.  There are many trends to consider…

13

Tim Thurston, map maker extraordinaire

Tim_Thurston_Lake_Megunticook_cPanbo.JPG

Tim Thurston earned that grin.  We were out on Lake Megunticook last week, randomly comparing the digital map I helped Navionics make last fall with the survey work Tim did for his little Maine Lake Charts company at about the same time.  And while that little islet in the background is on the beautifull MLC paper map Tim made, and on that Garmin Etrex he managed to put his digital data on, it was completely missing from the Navionics map!  While this is a shallow and somewhat out-of-the-way spot I steered us to — and both maps are way, way better than what was available right until to this summer — I tend to think that Tim got the details better.  Unfortunately boater can’t make best use of those details just yet…

4

New Interphase FLS, high end & economy

EchoPilot_Bronze_2002_cPanbo.JPG

Even though the EchoPilot Foward Looking Sonar (FLS) I tried back in 2002 couldn’t see very far and wasn’t reliable (kelp seemed able to hide even steep Maine ledges), it hooked me on the potential of the technology.  In tricky waters my eye regularly flicked to that little screen above, hoping to see the bottom ahead.  Thus I got excited when Furuno previewed a purportedly powerful FLS in 2005, and again when hints arose last winter.  But that product has never surfaced.  Interphase, however, is attacking FLS issues from two directions…

21

Lowrance StructureScan, hands on #1

Lowrance_StructureScan1_cPanbo.JPG

On Monday I spent a few hours cruising around the Harbor and Bay with Lowrance’s StructureScan module attached to an HDS-10.  Impressive!  This upstart seemed to image the bottom as well as the Humminbird 1197C I was also running, and Humminbird has completely owned this niche for years.  Lowrance’s side imaging is also easier to use.  Humminbird SI, for instance, doesn’t have an auto range feature that adjusts the displayed bottom width (and resolution) according to the depth, nor does it have the useful soft keys seen above.  They both work pretty well, though, and the more I use them, the more I think they’re valuable to fisherman and even cruisers…