October 2008 Archives

HDS, a major Lowrance refresh

Oct 30, 2008


Today Lowrance is announcing a new series of multifunction displays called HDS that I’m excited about seeing at the boat show (and trying when they ship in a few months). The acronym stands for High Definition System, and seems justified on several counts: all the plotter/fishfinders in the series have Lowrance Broadband Sounder technology built in; all have new and more detailed Lake Insight, Nautic Insight or at least an enhanced U.S. basemap built in, and can display every Navionics chart card, including HD Platinum Plus; and all, even the 5” combo model above, can also display Lowrance HD radar, via Ethernet. And there’s more…

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The Wizard, first impressions

Oct 28, 2008


A sample of the intriguing but controversial Wizard antenna arrived yesterday morning and I was able to do some testing before hitting the road for Fort Lauderdale. If I had to put the results in three words they’d be: disappointing but tentative. Before the details, check out the bigger image , which goes along with a more concrete description (that came with the sample) of the marine Wizard’s purported capabilities. That RG-58 cable with a BNC connector coming out of the left side will support a 25 watt VHF radio while the two RG 174U cables on the right (one BNC and one SMA) can purportedly handle AM/FM, WiFi, GPS, Cellular, Sat phones, and UHF/VHF, all transmissions limited to 5 watts. The various added connectors and patch cables are what I had to do to hook the Wizard to VHF and Class B AIS, and the unfortunate lash up at bottom right is one of the reasons I say “tentative.”

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Class B install #2, Digital Yacht bundles

Oct 27, 2008


Here’s Digital Yacht’s SPL250 VHF antenna splitter, purportedly the only splitter able to handle 2 watt Class B AIS and regular 25w VHF transceivers without smoke rising from either. (That’s supposedly true even if the splitter loses power, though I haven’t yet dared to test that feature.) It will significantly simplify some Class B installations, particularly here in the States where our VHF antennas and radios typically use PL-259 connectors, while most Class B VHF antenna inputs are BNC. That’s exactly how the SPL250 is set up and it even comes with those PL-259 and BNC patch cables. Check out Tim Flanagan’s Shine Micro AIS-BX install for a lesson on the value of a gadget like the SPL250.

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Lake survey photo essay, thanks Navionics!

Oct 24, 2008


That strange graphic rendered on a laptop in a car trunk stuffed with cold weather clothing represents a terrific experience I had yesterday, and a wicked lot of work. Compare the graphic—which is actually hundreds of thousands of GPS/depth data points—to Lake Megunticook. After a few months and a lot of post processing that data will become a Navionics HD HotMap available on a chart card or for use with easy-on-the-wallet HotMaps Explorer. I don’t yet know how much Navionics will let me write about their specific data collection gear and techniques (Yachting revealed a bit), but here’s what it looks like:

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NMEA new guys #2, Intellian

Oct 22, 2008


You may have seen the full page ads in the boat mags; there’s a new player in the marine satellite TV business, Intellian Technologies, and if nothing else they clearly understand that they must make their case well to make a dent. They certainly didn’t mess around at the NMEA Conference; aside from a booth, they set up a suite with many of their initial seven (7!) products running live. That’s company CEO Eric Sung and U.S. Sales Director John Minetola above, shortly after they showed me some goodies…

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Class B, name game #2

Oct 21, 2008


We’re down to Class B AIS details, my friends, and they aren’t hard. Above, and bigger here, is the Static data screen seen in the proAIS software that comes with the European version of Digital Yacht’s AIT250 transponder (and possibly others, as it comes from SRT, the manufacturer of so many Class B circuit boards and finished boxes). In the U.S. market this is the screen an installer would see after he or she had entered the vessel’s MMSI number. Users will see all those data fields grayed out (I presume, as I haven’t actually seen the finished U.S. software). Of course that’s because the FCC barred users from inputing the data themselves. But the user does have to supply accurate info to the installer. Let’s break it down:

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Gigando iPod interface, on Alexis

Oct 20, 2008


So what do get when a very successful software developer cuts loose on an Azimut 55? Among many other things, the biggest iPod interface I’ve ever seen. I didn’t quite get all the details but I’m pretty sure that Alexis’s super-fine entertainment system includes a Yamaha home theater system, XM Satellite Audio, KVH stabilized HD TV, a Logitech Harmony 1000, and some gizmo that transmits the tunes over an FM channel to whatever nearby radios want to tune in. But my interest in the yacht was mainly its Simrad GB60 system…

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Class B AIS, the name game

Oct 19, 2008


This weekend I’m working on a PMY column about Class B AIS, and now have three transponders up and running, which you’ll hear about. But I also went over my notes and audio recording of the NMEA AIS meeting, and recalled with a smile Jorge Arroyo’s dismay about repetitive and goofy recreational boat names. “We don’t want 250 Rum Runners in our database!” he exclaimed. The very next day I saw Bullship moored above at Catalina Island. The truth is that we can be pretty foolish about boat names, and they are going to look…um…unprofessional on AIS target screens and Web sites…

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SPOT gone mega, and FLIBS

Oct 16, 2008


Check out the full screen shot for a modern take on the noon position. The world’s largest NMEA 2000 network, i.e. the yacht Sandrine, is experimenting with a Spot Messenger while on passage to Fort Lauderdale. Instead of using Spot’s tracking feature, like Flash of Beauty did, Captain Jay Kimmal (below) is using Spot’s OK message to send an email/text to friends and family every three hours, and the messages are also collected on Sandrine’s share page above. The cost, of course, is trivial on a yacht like this, but Kimmal may have had to put the messenger on deck somewhere to get a consistently functional sky view. Wouldn’t it be nice for boaters if Spot II had a bracket and ports for an external antenna and power feed? 

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Class B installs #1, Brookhouse solution

Oct 15, 2008

Brookhouse AIS B transponder solution

A nice thing about Class B AIS transponders, I think, is that by regulation they include a GPS and thus they deliver “own vessel position” along with AIS target info to whatever displays they feed. But that can present an issue if you’re adding Class B to a system that already has an NMEA 0183 or a SeaTalk GPS attached. Brookhouse seems to have a neat multiplexer solution that makes the new GPS a backup ready to automatically take over if the vessel’s regular GPS fails…

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