December 2011 Archives

Interlux Pacifica Plus, the seven month test

Dec 29, 2011

Antifouling bottom paint is a tricky subject, especially now that we're rightfully paying more attention to the health of the waters it works in and the health of the people who apply it. So I was happy to experiment with copper-free Interlux Pacifica Plus this season, and the results were better than this photo looks. In fact, I may well use it again next year, but I would like to understand more about what chemistry actually constitutes a safe and effective bottom paint...

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SmartPlug shore power system, has its time come?

Dec 27, 2011

I've got shore power running to Gizmo right now, as I'm trying to get the batteries in tip top shape for the frigid months to come, and I feel a lot better about that situation because I recently installed the SmartPlug system above. Maybe I'm paranoid but I've heard of so many boat fires which started at the shore power inlet that I'm always reluctant to leave one active when I'm not around. But that 30 amp SmartPlug inlet is carefully designed to avoid heat-inducing resistance and it also contains a trip thermostat which cuts power at 200º F (just before wire insulation begins to soften). Plus the inlet is very easy to install, and when you first use the orange plug itself, you too will likely wonder why we've been messing with twist locks all these years. With its obvious orientation and lock levers, a glance at its straight blades is not necessary. The blue "I've got power" LED is a useful touch too. But can SmartPlug change the traditional hardware world of shore power?...

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Season's Greeting, marine electronics style

Dec 24, 2011

I do enjoy the odd array of holiday cards, digital and otherwise, that I receive from the marine electronics industry each year. An image of animated snow (you may have to click on thumbnail above) seen on a beautiful KEP Marine monitor is joyful...

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SolLight solar-powered LEDs, the long test

Dec 22, 2011


Daylight today was at the minimum, at least in my hemisphere, and I was also fiddling with various holiday lights (which might be related phenomenon). So it seems like a good time to write about these SolLight solar-powered LED fixtures that have been lighting up my life for years. I started testing that LightShip model in early 2007 and when Gizmo came along in the spring of 2009 I stuck it to the hatch in the head, where it's served well for three seasons. It's left so that the dim red LED comes on at night and then we often switch to the brighter white when using the facilities...

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Standard Horizon GX1700, finally a fixed VHF w GPS built in

Dec 20, 2011

It's not slated to go on sale until February, assuming FCC approval, but it's very likely that the Explorer GX1700, press release here, will be the first fixed VHF radio with a GPS built in. Of course that means that this radio will be easier to install so that the automated distress call under that little protective plate at lower right, and many other DSC features, actually work. A professional installer or DIY boater will only have to wire the GX1700 to 12v power and a VHF antenna, and program it with an MMSI number that can be had easily and free from organizations like BoatUS (unless you plan to cruise outside this country or want to base a Group MMSI on your number, in which case you'll need to deal with the FCC). This radio is also housed in a similarly trim case as the current Explorer GX1600 -- with which it shares many interface and calling features -- and it makes use of its internal GPS in ways beyond DSC...

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Jeppesen C-Maps, Coastal Explorer 2011 & Plan2Nav

Dec 19, 2011

It may not matter if you don't cruise outside the U.S., but Coastal Explorer users who do seem quite excited that the PC charting program will soon support the worldwide portfolio of Jeppesen C-Map Max charts and maybe even the older NT+ format. You can hear the enthusiasm, and learn a lot of detail about how the support will work, by checking out this CE Beta testing forum entry. Better yet, if you already run CE 2011, you can download the Beta from the same page and then use its rich chart management features to download some of C-Map's generous demo cartography...

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Super light VHF handhelds: Icom M24 vs Standard Horizon HX300

Dec 14, 2011

I've been meaning to write about the Icom M24 handheld VHF for some time. While I haven't actually tested this model myself, just holding one at a boat show was a revelation about how light and hand-friendly a full-featured portable marine radio can be these days. Apparently Standard Horizon was also impressed, because today they announced an HX300 model that seems very similar...

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Open N2K to WiFi, Chetco SeaSmart & DMK Yacht Instruments

Dec 13, 2011

It took me less than an hour to cable a sample Chetco SeaSmart E-Net to Gizmo's NMEA 2000 network and WiFi router and use the boat's PC to scan for its IP address, which then yielded screens like the "Weather Info" browser page above on both my iPad and Android Incredible phone. Cool!  And if I was actually proficient at the sort of IT stuff represented in that SeaSmart "Network Setup" screen, it probably would have been quicker. Admittedly there are some issues with that data -- Gizmo was not pitched 30 degrees, for instance! -- and I've got a lot more testing to do, but I am excited about the growing number of devices designed to gateway NMEA 2000 (and other boat sensor data) out to Ethernet and WiFi in forms that can be easily displayed, or, better yet, easily used by any software developer...

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Vesper Marine AIS-DSC calling, merry Christmas (again)

Dec 12, 2011

I'll venture a guess that Vesper Marine won't commit to giving Christmas "prezzies" to their AIS WatchMate customers every year, but the company is following up on its terrific 2010 anchor watch software gift with another free update feature that lets users place direct DSC calls to AIS targets if their WatchMate model 670, 750, or 850 is set up to output NMEA 0183 to a compatible VHF radio. But I fear "compatible" is the key word here, and I caution WatchMate owners not to set their expectations high, though I think that this is a very worthwhile experiment...

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Lowrance HDS Gen2, with StructureMap!

Dec 8, 2011

The breaking news today is that Lowrance is out with the new HDS Gen2 multifunction display series, and it has enough processing power to support an interesting new feature called StructureMap. Of course you need to have a StructureScan module and transducer networked to the MFD(s), but then you can see its output overlaid onto your chart in real time and/or save the scans for later perusal. The video on that HDS Gen2 page is the best way to get a sense of StructureMap, I think...

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