August 2007 Archives

MOB Guardian, & a cruise ship alarm?

Aug 8, 2007


While on the subject of PLBs, MOB Guardian is an interesting combination of proactive personal MOB transmitters, like Raymarine’s LifeTag, with a satellite-based (Iridium apparently) communications station. So it can alarm both a boat and the authorities of a man overboard, or some other critical situation.

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TracMe, not a real PLB

Aug 7, 2007


To be charitable, the new-to-the-U.S. TracMe looks to be a low cost, short range homing beacon that may have some safety value in certain circumstances. But it’s hard to be charitable about the company’s decision to market it as a Personal Locator Beacon, when it has nothing to do with the technology—and the international search & rescue system—that most of us associate with that term.

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WAAS weirdness, part III

Aug 6, 2007


I didn’t get on the water today (my current PMY column alluding to house projects undone is true, worse than implied actually), but I did find a spot down the street that has a decent sky view to the Southwest where the new, and possibly troublesome, WAAS satellite #51 lives. Which is why—if any neighbors are reading—my truck was parked there with three chart plotters running on the cab roof for a few hours. It can take a while for a GPS to find and download WAAS corrections, which probably explains why I failed to see WAAS differential corrections on the Garmin 4212 last Thursday. Garmin assures me that, “As for the new WAAS satellites, all of our newer receivers include firmware that will recognize these new satellites. It might take a few minutes to discover the new PRNs, but they will be picked up eventually.” And the picture above, bigger here, proves it. There’s #51 and all satellites in use are being Differentially corrected.

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Digital chart art? Come to Rockland!

Aug 5, 2007

EricHopkins03 44degreesAs a young island boy, I spent a lot of time looking at maps and charts, plotting courses to find buried treasure, and later as a way to find my way in the world. In recent years, I’ve been drawn to the strong graphic images on my GPS screen as I navigate the local waters. This piece is painted on a rudder from a North Haven dinghy, the oldest one-class design in America, donated by J. O. Brown on North Haven. The image is a loose interpretation of Rockland Harbor around The Atlantic Challenge dock area taken from my GPS map. I like the idea of combining a rudder, the part of a boat that provides direction, with the GPS map imagery that tells you where you are, so you can choose where to go.

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14' of boat, 24" of screen, & more WAAS

Aug 3, 2007


Had some fun this morning, showing my friend Jack the Garmin 5212 and 4212 in action while cruising around a very busy Camden Harbor (classic boat races again). Jack’s no geek but has a lot of plotter time, especially on Garmins, and he really liked these new machines, even the Mariner’s Eye 3D view. Now you will see on the bigger image that there are lots of fingerprints on both screens but mostly it’s the photo/sun angle; they weren’t nearly so noticeable in use. Mainly, I think, because both screens are so very bright even in direct sun. The finger prints are particularly bad because some doubter said he bet the screen wouldn’t work if I had saltwater on my fingers. Easy enough to test, and it worked fine!

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WASS wacky, watch out!

Aug 2, 2007


I just learned that on July 31 (or July 16, according to this Trimble PDF), the FAA decommissioned WAAS satellites 122 (#35) and 134 (#47), and that at least some marine GPS receivers are not able to recognize the remaining two correction-sending birds, 135 (#45 48) and the new 138 (#51). In other words, your plotter may not be showing your position quite as accurately as you’re used to. Take care, and please report in about your WAAS status. There’s a bit of info about this here, and a good explanation of WAAS here. And maybe you can figure out what the FAA is up to here.

PS 8/4: I’ve added the WAAS satellite service numbers—the # you should see on your GPS’s status screen—to the “PRN” numbers cited above and in the technical notices. Learning those numbers (thanks to Wikipedia) means that the Garmin GPS17 I tested yesterday was seeing the latest #51 satellite, which is the Telesat in geosynchronous orbit at 107W, and may be the only bird visible way up here in the Northeast. #48 is the PanAmSat at 133W and together they are supposed to give most of the U.S. redundant coverage. I still don’t know if the Garmin was actually receiving WAAS corrections. Nor am I convinced that a possible lack of WAAS makes much difference to marine navigation, given how good the uncorrected signals are.


Northstar 8000i & VEI & Furuno, @ 40k+

Aug 2, 2007

Hatterascal_Hatteras_60GT_VEI lr

PMY’s Patrick Sciacca had quite a time testing this 3,600 hp Hatteras 60GT, at one point doing 48 mph in a serious seaway.  He was also impressed with the 15” touch screen Northstar 8000i on center in the helm’s pop-up electronics console. I got quite excited about the 8000i when it was previewed to me back in late 2005, but then it didn’t actually get to market for some time, and now things are a bit up-in-the-air as Navico absorbs Northstar.

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TH Class B, & come on FCC!

Aug 1, 2007


Back in June the FCC asked for comments regarding Class B AIS units, and several of you—along with the USCG and other safety minded organizations—all encouraged the FCC to approve, or at least waiver, transponders already approved and in use outside the U.S., as soon as possible. There were NO objections. I was not the only one who thought that units like this True Heading would be available shortly after the comment period ended, like now. But they’re not, and recently I heard that there will be yet another comment period and even waivers may not happen until October. How the FCC justifies it glacial pace I have no idea!

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