May 2009 Archives

Educational Passages, fun with GPS tracking

May 30, 2009

Here I am trying to cover the world of marine electronics from my nest in Camden, Maine, and darned if I don't miss interesting happenings in my own neighborhood.  Apparently Richard Baldwin, an experienced bluewater solo sailor who lives just up the Bay in Belfast, is the passion and brains behind an unique endeavor that's using mini sailing drones like the prototype above to teach students of all ages about oceanography, not to mention GPS and satellite communications...

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Comar AIS-MULTI receiver, looks great but...

May 28, 2009

After METS 2007, I wrote about how many new AIS products Comar had in the pipeline.  Well, this U.K. company hasn't slowed down, and has even developed a snappy new logo and Web site.  Comar's latest is this AIS-Multi, which seems like quite an able AIS listener at $399 (from U.S. distributor Milltech Marine).  It features true parallel receivers, so slow Class B updates will plot as well as they can; an amplified VHF splitter, so you don't need to add another antenna; USB data output, so you can connect it to a modern PC without needing a serial converter; and, finally, the ability to multiplex in NMEA 0183 data at 4800 baud (GPS most likely), so the unit's 38,400 baud data output can be easily used with a plotter whose NMEA 0183 port was already in use (and the PC will get it, too).  But...

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Gizmo update, careful with the wipers!

May 27, 2009

So Gizmo's nifty, and now semi-permanently installed, PC charting system could have perished abruptly in a nasty mix of saltwater and glass.  But it didn't.  In fact we were tied up on our float before the slow shatter of tempered glass became evident.  And it was really me, not the boat, at fault.  On Memorial Day, soon after we set out for home from Pulpit Harbor on North Haven (note the link: it's great news that MyTopo has revived the old Maptech mapserver), the running port windshield wiper went overboard with a bang.  It was blowing 20 knots Northwest right on our nose with short, sharp seas, and we were taking serious bow spray even at 6 knots, but none of that broke the window...

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A57, iPhone, & HDS-10 -- Navionics everywhere

May 26, 2009

The photo isn't fair, because the shooter (me) is reflected in the Raymarine A57D's screen and the iPhone is in an Otter Box which includes a screen protector that muted its display in a way I don't notice in normal use.  But there's some truth here, too; the screen on the Lowrance HDS 10 has been bright, crisp, and completely readable in all light conditions so far experienced on Li'l Gizmo's completely exposed helm, whereas the other two have sometimes been quite hard to read.  Another truth is...

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Class B rollout, looking better, but mysterious

May 21, 2009

Ever since I realized that the free AIS pro web viewer can count and/or filter AIS types, I've been using it occasionally in an attempt to gauge the spread of Class B in the USA. You may recall the day last October when my Li'l Gizmo was the only Class B to show up on the whole East Coast (or at least within range of a certain mix of listening towers). And, frankly, I haven't seen many B transponders in US waters since then...until today when there were six in the general New York area, almost all underway. And, surprisingly, some were being seen well offshore, in fact way offshore... 

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GPS problems? Boaters last!

May 20, 2009

I think that the Google news search above, and those 397 articles you can click through to, mostly indicate that the US General Accounting Office accomplished its goal: Light a fire under the collective butt of the U.S. Air Force, which has apparently been slow at deploying two billion dollars to upgrade the GPS satellite system (GAO report here).  I've gotten several notes of concern about the situation, but I think boaters are about the last user group that needs to worry about it.  We almost invariably use GPS in almost ideal conditions, puttering along at a relatively slow speed with a wide open sky view. And we don't care beans about altitude (except for going negative)!  We were about the first to get into GPS because it was useful on the water before the full constellation of satellites was in place, and, if the system truly does break down, we may be the last.  But we surely do value electronic positioning a great deal.  So here's my question:  If we're having trouble keeping GPS fit on a two billion dollar budget, why the heck is the government even considering saving a tenth of that by shutting down eLoran, a viable backup system?

iPhone/Touch nav, yet more news

May 20, 2009

I don't usually write about rebates and sales, but 90% off!?!  Navionics not only launched version 2.0 of its Mobile app yesterday, it's slashing prices. Here's the press release, and note above how the whole Gold USA East chart portfolio dropped from $50 to $5.  Apparently all the chart region prices will follow -- at least to some degree (British Columbia now $10) -- in the next few days, and stay bargain priced for "a limited time this summer."  A month ago I noted how fast iPhone/Touch navigation is moving, and it hasn't slowed down...

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Skipper (FB) 150, & a Panbot gets into the biz

May 18, 2009
Ronald Hiemann & Apple Tan, Manager Marketing for Addvalue Singapore.JPG

Some of us got confused last week when Inmarsat introduced its tiny but fast Fleet Broadband 150 Internet & voice service in Miami.  While Inmarsat boasted about "sub $5,000" terminal hardware, KVH said it couldn't price its TracPhone 150 yet, and a source told me he'd seen a Sailor price list that put its FB150 hardware at over $5,000 wholesale.  What we missed was the $4,995 retail FB150 terminal that's coming from new-to-retail Addvalue Communications.  Fortunately, Ronald Hiemann -- who sometimes comments here as "Seajet" (his company) or as "Bremer Speck" (his boat) -- was able to fill me in on the Wideye Skipper 150.  His story begins thusly:  "Once upon a time, there was a sailor who wanted Internet access at sea on his sailboat..."

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Lyman Morse big cat, almost done

May 16, 2009

How about these command and navigation stations?  Thursday evening turned out pretty horrid for a boat launching, but Lyman Morse pulled one off with its normal panache.  The Hunt-designed 54' jet express Whistler (just visible beyond the catamaran's bow) is another stunner for its power boat portfolio, especially if she zips by you at her expected 30 knot cruise.  While it was neat to check out Whistler's interior at the same time many of the local craftsmen involved were showing off details to their families, I particularly enjoyed some alone time on the 60' Morrelli & Melvin sailing cat Mala Conducta, which Lyman Morse launched just last month... 

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Fleet Broadband 150, the Miami intro

May 14, 2009

I'm in a gang now, sort of, and I like it. Above is my Yachting magazine colleague Jason Wood calling me via FB150 sat phone from the Inmarsat demo boat on Biscayne Bay Monday, photographed by colleague John Brownlee, editor of Salt Water Sportsman.  Yesterday I talked and texted via the loaner Iridium 9555 handset with two other members of the gang, SWS electronics guy Glen Law and Sport Fishing electronics gal Chris Woodward.  We are testing electronics together, or at least comparing notes, and that's good...

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