August 2007 Archives

Lowrance N2K FM/VHF, and more

Aug 21, 2007


If you check the bigger image, you’ll see the FM band button, a welcome first for a fixed VHF radio. But maybe better yet, I think, is the Lowrance style NMEA 2000 plug on the back.

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Hurricane tracking, XM & more

Aug 20, 2007


Panbot Allan Seymour (thanks!) sent in this image of Hurricane Dean showing on his XM-enabled Garmin. It also happens to show the southern limit of XM’s cloud coverage coverage. Which shouldn’t be confused with the southern limit of the area covered by XM’s satellite, though it’s close. Meanwhile, gCaptain put up a good list of online hurricane tracking maps, plus a link to great info on Google Earth storm tracking. Tis the season.

Rendez-vous, clever use of AIS standards

Aug 20, 2007


Tender tracking systems, like the Nobeltec/Seetrac combo discussed here last year, are a bit exotic (even a bit mockable). But I’ve seen the captain of a big charter yacht worry over a ditzy guest out on a PWC, plus I see how over-the-top some mega yacht tenders are getting (like the Vikal Limo). In fact, when I was in the British Virgin Islands last spring, it seemed like every big, really fine center console I saw turned out to be the “little” boat often towed by one much bigger. In other words, tender tracking can be serious business, and I think the new SeaCas Rendez-vous system looks to be a powerful solution.

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TDI inverters & converters, modular & hot swappable

Aug 17, 2007

Electra TDI inverters cPanbo

This week I spent some more time aboard the fabulous Electra, back at Lyman Morse after a month long trial/pleasure cruise to New York. I’ve come to realize that her owner, George Wallner, has a deep understanding of electricity that’s similar to the way some fine chefs I’ve met know the science and mechanics of their basic materials like, say, butter. Wallner is not only a talented electrical engineer but also a guy who’s run a company that manufactured mission critical electronics—credit card swiping systems—and a yachtsman who’s been seriously cruising a boat similar to Electra for ten years. Don't you want to see how he’s equipped his new ride?

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HF weather broadcasts, & DMS, revisited

Aug 16, 2007

CamslantWhen I first mentioned the USCG’s need to replace its HF weather radios, I had a hard time getting into the Document Management System (DMS) where any us can make a comment or see other people’s comments. Well, apparently some 900 folks did figure out DMS, and the vast majority of them are asking the government to spent the four million dollars it will take to replace 20 transmitters. I learned this from Joe Hersey’s post and there’s also a new NavCen page on the subject. There are 10 more days to make comments, and the USCG would like more, but neither of those references tell you how to find your way around The magic Docket ID/Number is 27656. Entering that in “Simple Search” or “Comment/Submissions” will get you to the HF Weather issue. Yes, it seems a little nuts that the government is going to all this trouble about a piddly 4 million (especially considering Iraq), but wouldn’t it be a shame to lose HF weather broadcasts?

Pilot's bag, part 2 (belated)

Aug 15, 2007

Pilot Skip Strong Wheelhouse screen

Above is a laptop screen from the Wheelhouse II program which is part of the Raven pilot package I discussed back in June when I got a ride on Penobscot Pilot. Skip Strong grabbed the screen from a recording of the Nor’easter outbound trip he piloted that day, and it’s well worth seeing at full resolution. As I wrote in my Sept. PMY column:

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Reporter Wireless, catch a thief

Aug 13, 2007

Reporter Wireless receiver back

Responding to a Hull Truth discussion about the value of DSC, a cruiser anchored in Panama reported how it just helped him deal with an intruder. Reporter Wireless sensorThe full story (see 8/4/07 “update” on his site) reveals that he was alarmed about the intruder by a simple wireless motion detector designed for home use and for sale at $70.  Reporter Wireless looks to be a pretty powerful system, and whereas the battery operated sensor is weather proof—and it looks like the receiver can be run off a 12v supply—pretty boat worthy. The receiver, by the way, can support four sensors, and has a relay to fire a louder alarm or talk to another monitoring system. The manual is available here.

Lighted Charts, for the man who...

Aug 13, 2007


I saw a lot of interest at the MBHH Show, but nothing as novel as these decorative charts with LEDs correctly displaying the characteristics of all lit aids to navigation. Carl Welshman designed a circuit board that he can program with up to 52 light sequences and which he wires to each LED. You can see the detail a little better in this larger shot, but you really have to see one in the flesh to appreciate the excellent craftsmanship. There’s info about upcoming shows, available charts, etc., at Harbour Lights’ site, but not prices, which are understandly significant.

Handheld DSC VHF/GPS, I wish!

Aug 10, 2007


Rusty commented that the FCC may make GPS mandatory in a DSC-equipped handheld VHF, adding that he’d “rather spend $300 on a 5 watt marine portable with GPS location rather than buy one of these FRS 'locators' {TracMe}.” I agree completely, and even see considerable safety value in a DSC handheld without GPS. If, say, my little Gizmo caught fire, I wouldn’t hesitate to hit the red button on my Standard Horizon HX470S. (Actually you have to flip off the cover, press the deep button hard, and wait three seconds, counted off on screen as shown above.) 

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Spot, another tracker/beacon

Aug 9, 2007

Globalstar Spot

Interesting! The just announced Spot is a waterproof Globalstar messenger and GPS combo that will purportedly let you alert the authorities (at least the U.S. ones) with your position, or ask for help from your friends or just notify them of where you are, or build an online track of your travels. It will be available in November for $149 with an annual service contract ranging from $99 upwards depending on what features you want to use. There’s not much detail on the Spot site yet, except for some pretty extreme fear marketing, but I’d guess that this product will get some real attention, even from some boaters. And I’m glad that, unlike TracMe, Spot is not confusing the market place by using the term Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Safety-seeking boaters will be confused enough, what with this, possibly MOB Guardian, and who knows what else competing for our confidence.

PS 8/13  I spoke with the gentleman from Spot who was good enough to straighten me out about its technology in the comments section below. Indeed, Spot uses Globalstar’s reliable one-way messaging system, which has nothing to do with the failing amplifiers that are causing trouble for the voice/data service. I also learned about GEOS Alliance, which will be providing Spot’s 911 capability. Sounds interesting, and I look forward to possibly trying Spot this fall.