July 2010 Archives

Wilson cell booster testing, on Sun Dancer

Jul 30, 2010

Wilson amp install.jpg

Panbo reader Pat Harmon is cruising Alaska aboard M/V Sun Dancer and he kindly agreed to write about some gear, seen above, that's helping him stay in touch:

I recently installed a cell phone booster on my 43' North Pacific trawler, and although I am not an expert, my hands-on experience may be helpful to my fellow boaters. I am computer literate and had Navy electronics training back in the 60's...

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Gizmo bridge 2010, a shout out to Garmin ID

Jul 29, 2010

While Panbo's logo is still a work in progress, check out the sharp name plate Gizmo is sporting, thanks to Garmin's industrial design department.  Gander too at how much electronic goodness I managed to squeeze onto the boat's latest flying bridge dash, and note that a wider view would also show a Furuno MFD12 and a Raymarine E140 Wide with room for more!  It's quite the testing platform and you'll be seeing lots of pictures and screen shots taken here, but today let's tour that cool design shop in Kansas...

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Genasun & Victron, power to spare?

Jul 27, 2010

That's a pair of Genasun LFP Lithium batteries that weigh a small fraction of what similar sized regular marine batteries would and offer a lot more usable power than even their 760 amp hour rating would indicate, because they can endure truly deep discharges and accept massive recharges.  Combine these with no less than four Victron MultiPlus inverter/chargers, which can automatically kick in extra AC when shore power or the generator can't carry the load, and you've got power to spare.  Yes, this is a high end project, but note the gray diagonal planking seen behind the lithium batteries...

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DY AIS200N2K, even better than it looks!

Jul 26, 2010

The picture tells a lot: Digital Yacht's new AIS200N2K is the first AIS receiver I know of with NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, and USB outputs. But get this: it can also multiplex 0183 input and gateway it to N2K, "so that traditional data such as depth, position, speed and wind, which is available in NMEA 0183 format, can be converted to N2K within the unit."  All for $519!  The press release doesn't say what's coming out of the USB port, but I suspect it's an 0183 mix of AIS target data and 0183 inputs.  Maybe someone from Digital Yacht or its US and EU retail arm Cactus Marine can elaborate in comments, because I may lose my Internet connection any moment now...

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Good gear: Gemini Marine, the strapless bimini & more

Jul 22, 2010

Did "strapless bimini" get your attention?  Well, it does involve some sexy hardware, and the finished strapless product, as seen on this local sloop, has a certain elegant attraction.  The trick is that those 1" strut tubes seen under the port and starboard edges of the canvas each contains an internal hinge that lets the whole deal fold aft, but they also have a 10" section of 1 1/8" tube that slides and locks over the hinge, rendering them rock stiff.  (But maybe enough with the double entendres?)  I have not tried this hardware myself, yet, but have been watching the manufacturer, Gemini Marine Products, perfecting it for years...

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Si-Tex SP36 autopilot, like ComNav's but different

Jul 21, 2010

My first reaction to a press release about the new Si-Tex SP36 autopilot -- sure to be posted at the Si-Tex site soon -- was that its nifty-looking color control head above looks exactly like one ComNav has offered for a while.   Not that rebranding the ComNav gear, which has a good reputation (I think), is a bad thing.  But what's actually going on here is that Si-Tex has contracted ComNav to manufacture an autopilot to its own specifications, and at least one difference looks like a smart idea to me...

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Lowrance DSI , & Navionics goes MicroSD (Raymarine included)

Jul 19, 2010

Last week Lowrance announced the Elite-5 DSI and some related fishfinder/plotters, and while they're unabashedly aimed at freshwater fishermen, there's at least two things of interest to others.  DSI stands for DownScan Imaging, which seems to mean that Lowrance has isolated the high resolution down-looking portion of StructureScan into an even more inexpensive form.  That means a transducer that can ping at 455 or 800 kHz, trading detail for depth and breadth.  Aren't lots of non-fishing boaters -- like gunkholers and/or curious monkeys like me -- also interested in detailed bottom imagery, even if it's only to 100 feet or so?  That's why I installed StructureScan on Gizmo even though the thru-hull transducer wasn't ready yet, and I can't wait to seriously experiment with it (soon!).  The new Lowrance plotters will also be the first I know of to exclusively use MicroSD chart cards...

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SimNet network testing, & more NSE goodies

Jul 16, 2010

Years ago I gave Simrad grief for developing its own NMEA 2000 cable and connector system, called SimNet, instead of going with the DeviceNet standard as NMEA wanted.  When NMEA 2000 was just getting started, SimNet confused end users and installers alike, as would Raymarine's SeaTalkNG, and Lowrance's first version of LowranceNet, etc.  I remain leery about proprietary cabling but I've never heard of performance issues with SimNet, and I've never had any trouble integrating SimNet devices into standard N2K networks, using male versions of the adapter cable seen above.  Until this week, however, I'd never tried it the other way around, building a SimNet network and adding in other manufacturer's N2K devices as desired.  No problems so far...

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SRT mini AIS modules, & trouble from the East?

Jul 14, 2010

I mentioned SRT's amazingly miniaturized Class B and SART AIS modules back in May, but seeing is believing. In that aluminum EMI enclosure at left is a Cobalt Class B transponder complete with precision GPS engine and power supply (the board itself is inset)!  What we're looking at is smart phone technology applied to a very specific marine use, and it shouldn't be too long before these modules make AIS less expensive, more powerful, and much easier to integrate with other devices.  But I'm also hearing about a dark cloud looming as the marine world rapidly adopts AIS...

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Camden NOAA chart changes, the questions

Jul 12, 2010

So I've done more research into the various small issues I've noticed regarding recent NOAA chart changes to Camden Harbor (discussed most recently here).  Let me emphasize small, and also my appreciation of NOAA as an agency with vast tasks and limited resources.  The intent of charting the Outer Harbor channel buoys maintained by the town, and updating dock details in the crowded Inner Harbor, is excellent; nearly every day I'm around the harbor I hear visiting boats getting guidance about these matters via VHF, and the verbal guidance often doesn't work well.  But the chart update issues certainly bring up questions about data sourcing and NOAA's quality control system, as well as others regarding intentional and unintentional chart presentation details.  And they probably apply to the official charts all around the country...

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