June 2008 Archives

Furuno NN3D charts, some issues?

Jun 30, 2008


The good news is that more Furuno NavNet 3D MFDs are getting delivered and installed; the bad news is that some of the first users aren’t happy with the charts, neither the rasters nor the vectors. For instance, the two empty MFD12 holes we saw a while back are finally filled, but now the owner—Hull Truth poster “PSW”—is wishing he could use Navionics cards in his MFD12s, as are fellow posters “srmote” and “snowpup”. And I know that our own frequent poster Russ was not pleased with his first look at the charts on his MFD8. My own NN3D experience off Cape Cod did not leave me nearly as negative, but I did note some weaknesses. It helps that I like raster charts and am used to plotting on them, but I didn’t think they worked very well on the 8” display, as suggested in the screen above. Some other levels of zoom/chart scale looked better, and some worse. 3D perspective can put more info on the screen—and fast panning/zooming make it all more tolerable—but there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re looking at a large paper chart through an 8” window. The rasters looked fine to me on the 15” display that was also on the test boat, and I’d guess they’d work OK at 12” (but the Hull Truth gang don’t seem to think so).

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Garmin 18" HD radar, the beam width problem

Jun 27, 2008


My first time out with the Garmin 18” HD radar was a bit disappointing; Rockland Harbor (try the ‘NOAA’ slider), loaded with bold shore features and boats, seemed overloaded with blotchy targets. It didn’t help that I’d recently been out in another small boat with a Furuno 3.5’ UHD open array that painted targets with astonishing accuracy, even without adjustments. But that’s not a fair comparison (aside from the 4x price difference); the GMR 18” HD, like most any scanner this size, has a 5 degree beam width, while the 3.5’ one has a beam width of 2.3 degrees. I don’t fully understand the transceiver physics, but this ratio of scanner width to target resolution is pretty much immutable in current marine radar technology, and it really makes a difference.

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Garmin N2K, the GPS 17x under-deck mount

Jun 25, 2008


Today was my second in a week out on Peter Smith’s Banks Cove 22 Slancha, and I’m ever more impressed with Garmin’s NMEA 2000 sensors and its 18" HD radar. Let’s start with the GPS 17x, which now ships with all 4– and 5000 series MFDs, as discussed in March. Peter chose to use the optional under-deck mount, as seen above. It’s way up in the bow of Slancha, and I’d guess that backing plate at left is under the forward starboard pulpit mount, meaning there’s some stainless steel pipe between this sensor and some satellites.

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N2k instruments, in direct sun

Jun 24, 2008


This is the collection of NMEA 2000 instruments I’ve been testing for several months, but here they’re shown in direct sun light (at about 45N latitude, but this afternoon, darn near solstice). Pop up a bigger image of the shot above to see how different they look than when in the shade of a pilot house (or electronics lab). When photographing these screens in controlled lighting I have to turn down the brightness of both the Garmin GMI 10 and the Maretron DSM 250 so they don’t blow out the others, but look what happens here, with everything at maximum brightness (or in the Furuno case, automatic brightness). The transflective Raymarine ST70 is at least on a par with the two other color screens, and the Furuno FI-50s are in a class by themselves, though I think they use the least power of the bunch.

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Mobilarm VPIRB, interesting idea with the wrong acronym?

Jun 23, 2008


I’ve long thought that handheld VHF DSC can have real value in a MOB situation, which is one reason I’m delighted that the HX850S is shipping and a similar Lowrance model should soon follow.  I also figure that we’ll soon see more Spot-like satellite messenger/GPS/-safety products, and there will be even more confusion about how they work relative to official SARSAT system with it PLBs and EPIRBs (as referenced at the end of the recent FOB entry). But I had no idea until today that Mobilarm was developing a dedicated VHF/DSC/GPS man overboard device, and apparently marketing it as an alternative to a personal EPIRB.

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Maine wackiness, and Garmin HD

Jun 22, 2008


Bet you never saw a rig like this “buck-a-cup” beverage launching ramp!

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Race course problems in China? Call Pyacht!

Jun 20, 2008


I’ve never met Rob Emmet, founder of Pyacht.com, but have come to think of him as quite the can-do gear guy. Apparently the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Race Management Team thinks so too. Above, and bigger here , is the innovative mark management system that Pyacht developed for a certain major sail racing event—with five tight courses sometimes in use simultaneously—that will take place this August in Qingdao, China (Pyacht is not supposed to use the O name promotionally, so I won’t use it either). Whereas Emmet “couldn't see the Chinese allowing us to use the 900 MHz band to stream NMEA data from the marks,” he settled on VHF DSC. Thus all those Standard Horizon HX-850S handhelds will live in special pouches on the marks, where their GPS position can be polled by those Icom IC-M604 fixed VHFs that will be installed on the committee/signal boats. Then each committee boat, plus the Principal Race Officer and the Media Center (and “Chinese Officials”) all get copies of Nobeltec VNS Max Pro so they can monitor the course layouts. Of course putting all that gear together with proper cabling, battery charging systems, etc. and getting it all approved by the ISAF and Chinese government was pretty complicated. Emmet lays out the whole story well at the Pyacht blog. Even if you don’t give a fig about racing sailboats this is an interesting example of how the new GPS/DSC handheld VHFs can be used to track tenders or whatever. Tip of the propeller beanie to Pyacht!  (Which, by the way, sends out an occasional newsletter, where I learned about this project.) 

Captn Jack's, liquidation?

Jun 19, 2008


Sign of the times? Or just an indication that the Captn Jack’s portion of Maptech is going to shut its doors? I really don’t know much new about the Maptech sale since my last entry, but there sure are some good deals available at Jack’s, free shipping too. Like the new version of the WxWorx XM Weather receiver (with a modular interface, and I imagine alternate modules can be had from WxWorx), the Last Call VHF speaker/recorder I tested and liked, the iBlue Bluetooth GPS/tracker I tested and bought, the Emtac Bluetooth GPS (which is better built), some interesting looking 12v appliances, and who knows what else. If you have some cash or credit left, that is.

PS:  If you have a weakness for gadgets, for goodness sakes never visit Woot.com, especially on Woot Off! days like today. And don’t even consider downloading the Wootalyzer.

FOB update, SPOT and AIS OK

Jun 18, 2008


Flash of Beauty sailed from Camden three Wednesdays ago and is now passing over the top of Scotland, as you can see live on its Spot track sharing page. Tom and crew are planning to stop in Stormness, and I bet they can already smell the heather and taste the peaty scotch. Aside from sailing almost 3,000 miles, Tom did manage an underway install of his Simrad Class B AIS, but—whereas FOB took the cool, damp, and seldom-used northern route—wasn’t sure it worked until early this morning:

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Cobra MR F300, a marine Bluetooth cell mic!

Jun 17, 2008


What a good idea! Today Cobra is introducing its MR F300 BT Bluetooth handset, which seems carefully designed to make a cell phone work better, and live longer, on a boat. It’s a waterproof marine-style mic with noise-canceling technology on both the receive and transmit sides. It even has a Push-To-Talk (PTT) button like a VHF mic, but in this case it’s really a reverse mute button. In other words, you and your caller will hear no amplified boat noise unless you push the button (and you’ll still hear your caller even when the button is pushed). But if it’s quiet on the boat, there’s a dedicated button for hands-free speaker phone mode. In fact, the 4.5” tall mic even has soft keys able to call up a 50 number received call log and equal size phone book, and other features like 10 ring tones that can be individually assigned to regular callers {correction due to Cobra Web error, now also corrected: there’s just a choice of 10 tones, not selectable by caller}.

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