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Monthly Archive: April 2014

21

The state of marine Ethernet connectors, and hello to RayNet

Raymarine_RayNet_cables_cPanbo.jpgIt’s not an exciting photograph, I know, but cables are a fairly big deal when you or your installer get down to the real nitty-gritty of putting a marine electronics system together. While it’s great that the NMEA 2000 cable and connector standard is pretty much taking care of lower speed sensor networks regardless of equipment brands, the sore spot now is the Ethernet cables used for high speed data like radar, sonar, IP cameras, and chart sharing. Though standard Ethernet cables easily connect many different devices in our homes and offices, in the marine world the connectors are not standardized. In fact, some Raymarine customers are dealing with two proprietary Ethernet connector designs as the company transitions to the Raynet plugs seen above. But Raynet makes sense to me and shouldn’t cause undue pain once all the available options are understood…

73

Smartgauge battery monitor, RC proclaims “paradigm shift”!

Smartgauge_testing_courtesy_Compass_Marine.jpgIf you like sailing with some electronics running, or just anchoring without a generator, you’re probably very interested in the State of Charge (SoC) of your battery banks. Voltmeters, however, only hint at what’s going on, and true battery monitors require careful calibration and the installation of shunts, but still tend to go out of whack over time. Well, darned if the great RC Collins of Compass Marine didn’t go to extraordinary lengths to prove that the Smartgauge — a little known product that’s been around for almost a decade — can somehow accurately measure SoC without calibration and without a shunt, and yet still get even more accurate over time. Apparently when it shows your Charge at 92%, as above, your battery bank really is at 92% capacity…

15

NMEA 2000 color instrument power testing, looks good

Raymarine_i70_power_testing_cPanbo.jpgWhen Garmin recently introduced GNX20/21 displays, it led to questions about the power needs of similar but all-color NMEA 2000 instruments. And that led me to finally make up a special N2K cable that I can use with my trusty Power Analyzer Pro to measure the 12 volt current flow to an individual N2K-powered device. So what you’re seeing above is that a Raymarine i70 working with live data at 100% brightness level is using 0.13 amps. That’s not much by most standards, but dropping down a hair to 90% brightness reduced the power draw 20%…

25

Simrad ForwardScan, a challenge to EchoPilot FLS?

Simrad_ForwardScan_concept_aPanbo.jpgWhile Simrad announced ForwardScan at the Miami Boat Show, details are scarce and the concept diagram doesn’t really show what a ForwardScan screen is going to look like. Yes, like other Foward Looking Sonar (FLS) systems, the goal is to display the water column and ocean floor in front of the vessel to “help boaters eliminate the worry of potential groundings in unfamiliar waters” and, yes, FowardScan is the first FLS to be fully integrated into a multifunction display system. Well, I’ve hounded Simrad for more information — all of which sounds good — and it also looks like I will get to test ForwardScan against what seems like the most similar existing product…

12

Vexilar SonarPhone T-Pod, WiFi fishfinder in a bobber!

Vexilar_SonarPhone_T-Pod_closeup_cPanbo.jpgIt’s 2014 and a sealed plastic 5-inch bobber can indeed contain a fairly able 400 Watt 125 kHz fishfinder and a WiFi radio, plus enough rechargeable battery to run both for a few hours. The SonarPhone T-Pod will strike many as a toy, but it actually works quite well considering its small size and price tag ($130). And the manufacturer Vexilar puts the same technology into models meant to install on small boats, which means that dedicated iPad (or Android tablet) boaters do indeed have a fishfinder option…

19

Garmin GNX 20/21 instrument displays, monochrome mashups

Garmin GNX 20 and GNX 21 instrument displays aPanbo.jpgThe press release for the new Garmin instruments doesn’t mention it — and I didn’t notice it at first myself — but can you see what’s quite unusual about these monochrome displays? The GNX 20 at left and its inverted GNX 21 sibling have LCD screens that are partly segmented and partly dot matrix. I didn’t even know that was possible, but I think it makes sense in terms of maximum power efficiency without completely surrendering to the readability limitations of large segments…

14

WaveTrax iThing app, more smart boat logging to the cloud

WaveTrax_log_history_cPanbo.jpgI wish that track was on the water, but testing WaveTrax auto boat logging over the road is impressive nonetheless. Running on my iPad mini, the app not only collects a track point every minute but automatically creates log entries marking my Lat/Long, COG, and SOG on the hour (and at user selectable distances). It’s fairly easy to add notes, captioned photos, engine/fuel status, and weather observations as desired, and when a trip is done, I even get to touch scribble a signature. But that’s hardly half of it… 

16

Shaft Razor long test, with a look at the competition

Shaft_Razor_line_cutter_installed_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpgThere are still patches of icey snow left from a memorable March in Maine, but I enjoyed a recent afternoon wandering around the boatyard checking out shaft cutters. Pictured above is the Shaft Razor that’s been protecting Gizmo from line wraps since the spring of 2010. Like my stainless rudder it picked up a lot of barnacles last fall, but that double set of super-sharp serrated teeth were still quite effective. The Shaft Razor is also a good value that has required zero maintenance, and while I saw some interesting competition around the yard, I wouldn’t trade…

9

Afterguard heads-up display, the Recon Jet goes sailboat racing

Afterguard_HUD_in_action_aPanbo.jpgThe goal is to direct your focus wherever it’s needed on or beyond the boat while still having critical data in sight.  Brand spanking new today is the Afterguard heads-up display (HUD) for racing sailors. Yes, recent America’s Cup skippers apparently used HUD sunglasses, though you’re a better researcher than I if you can find detail about how they worked and what data they provided. Afterguard intends to bring this technology down at least a few levels, and that means we get a better look at what it can do. This sort of product is more than a little out of my wheelhouse, so to speak, but it looks like this new company did its homework and made some smart decisions…