September 2008 Archives

2 new Garmin VHFs, remote mic too

Sep 30, 2008


Even if it was pretty predictable (I got it half right), Garmin will indeed add (“2nd Quarter, 2009”) fixed VHF radios to its ever-expanding marine line. Here’s the press release, and here’s a bigger image of the VHF 200 model above, including the GHS 10 full-function remote mic that can optionally wire to it. The second mic possibility is why you see “INTRCM” as one of the soft key choices on that 3.2” display, and it—along with the 20 watt hailer and a NMEA 2000 data interface—are about all that differentiate the $400 VHF 200 from the $250 VHF 100 seen below.

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Maptech Navigation, another good home found

Sep 29, 2008


Above is the new home page at, and while it represents the end of the old Maptech, it sure doesn’t mark the end of the Maptech name. In fact, the blue “Marine Software” tab takes you to a new company called Maptech Navigation. It’s the creation of Peter Martin, who’s worked for Maptech, Chartkit, and as a professional mariner. Martin bought the rights to develop and market Maptech’s digital charts and software packages (except for The Capn, which found its own good home). Martin says his plan is basically “business as usual”…

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SeaVieweR, and more on Class B

Sep 26, 2008


Shine Micro is not the only company offering a Class B workaround, i.e. a high-end AIS receiver that can later be turned easily into a full Class B transponder. The same is true of the SeaVieweR above, and bigger here, which is built in the U.K. by SevenStar and distributed to technical dealers in the U.S. by Whiffletree. The SeaViewR costs $995 in receive-only mode, which includes a purportedly high precision GPS, and another $400 plus tech time to make it into a transponder. Why would you want a workaround when the FCC has finally approved Class B? Well, it’s still going to take some time to get complete transponders to market. And besides you may need a technical dealer to install a Class B, whether it’s from SevenStar or another manufacturer:

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Invalid MMSI numbers, a real problem

Sep 25, 2008


The above (bigger here) is clipped from an interesting report on MMSI “anomalies” that dropped into my e-mail box. It makes a good case for why the FCC decided that Class B AIS devices should have their MMSI numbers input in a controlled way, and why, as noted in the new Report and Order (page 20), it may extent those controls to Class A. As I understand it, invalid MMSIs don’t affect AIS’s primary collision avoidance function—unless there are duplicates in the same target area—but they can mess up advanced functions like DSC calling (and security monitoring). Here’s more detail on the report:

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Meteor, and other Camden Harbor curiosities

Sep 24, 2008


The 18' Annie G. must have looked comical, not to mention bedraggled, circling the 169' schooner Meteor as she varoomed her 100 kW bow thruster to set twin 600 lb CQRs in the Outer Harbor yesterday. But my mate Max (once owner of his own noteworthy schooner) and I had never seen this superyacht before and had to gawk. In fact if it weren’t for a later Google search—hello Meteor!—I wouldn’t know a thing about her, and still can’t figure out what all those domes on the carbon spreaders do.

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Standard Horizon HX850S, first impressions

Sep 23, 2008


I finally got my hands on a Standard Horizon HX850S GPS/VHF, and I’m almost in love! Even if the 1.75” screen seen above, and bigger here, is not quite as bold as the first marketing images promised, I find it quite readable in any sort of light. The screens are well designed, too, offering channel labels if you want, or COG/SOG/position, and fairly intuitive access to the radio’s complete setup and DSC menus. A little time with the manual is necessary to understand some of the radio’s more obtuse capabilities and button combinations, but that’s to be expected with so much functionality built into such a small package.

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Class B AIS, finally the FCC Order

Sep 20, 2008


My Class B AIS sources were right! Though it’s not yet in the FCC Daily Digest (Monday, probably), the new AIS Order was released yesterday and is posted as a PDF. And it looks good. If you recall, the FCC could have just granted waivers for the Class B devices already approved by the Coast Guard, but instead the Commissioners have fully approved Class B and dealt with side issues like frequency allocation. The major bit of news I see in the Order is that users will not be permitted to input their own MMSI numbers. However, the new Rule is nicely flexible about who can:

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A beautiful new helm, in Maine

Sep 19, 2008


Two days in the deadline mill and I’m tuckered. But I thought you might enjoy this rather gorgeous helm, bigger image here. It’s the custom Wesmac 50 I mentioned back in June, i.e. the boat on which I got a taste of my writing subject, Garmin’s new autopilot. So let’s forget about that for the time being and take a look at the ergonomics of this dazzling command and control center. My notes:

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Class B AIS here?, but worthless?

Sep 17, 2008


Today two reliable sources told me that all five FCC commissioners have now signed off on Class B AIS for US waters, though neither knows when the Order will become effective. The final step should be an announcement in the FCC Daily Digest. Having been wrong about the timing so many times in the past, I certainly won’t venture a guess. But it does seem like a good time to discuss an e-mail I recently received from a marine electronics industry veteran and Class B AIS skeptic who would like to remain anonymous. Based on his own “on-the-water analysis” he thinks it’s “completely worthless”! His points, in italics, along with my comments:

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Deckband 4i, interesting Bluetooth concept

Sep 16, 2008

Deckband_4iSo how about a product whose details are mysterious and which may not exist, and even if it does, probably doesn’t work very well? The thing is that I’ve gotten a little Bluetooth happy, and the Deckband 4i concept looks like a particulary interesting way to use it on a boat. From what I can gather at the unfinished site above, this hub not only permits four crew to communicate via Bluetooth cell phone type headsets, but can also somehow mix in VHF, and (I think) serves as a proactive man overboard alarm system.

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