Electronics

Icom M34

Icom's new handheld VHF is its first without an aluminum chassis, but it's purportedly still "military rugged," and it actually floats, a combination that fuels the company’s "last handheld you’ll ever need" pitch. The M34, which costs about $180, also has an Aqua Quake mode that shakes water from its speaker plus a "favorites" feature that lets you limit channel scrolling to just the ones you

Perfect Picks?

I had two strong reactions to the idea of picking ideal marine-electronics systems for three different styles of boats. The first went something like, “Yikes, there’s a fast way to annoy a lot of worthy but unlisted manufacturers,” and the second, “Oh, but that would be impossible anyway.” On further reflection I realized that truth number two would (hopefully) null out truth number one and that

Universal Aggravation

Yes!” was the almost universal response to my idea of opening this column about universal remotes with a soul-satisfying photograph of one being smashed to smithereens. I can’t think of another class of gadget that is such a universal example of beneficent technology run amuck. If you are anywhere near my age,

Garmin 5000 Series

Just as the flagship 4000 series covered in the February issue was enjoying its U.S. debut at the Miami International Boat Show, Garmin upped the ante by showing prototypes of its even newer flagship 5000 series. The four models—eight- and 12-inch units, each with a choice of built-in chart portfolios—are very similar to the 4000 series except they’re almost completely

Furono FA30 AIS Receiver

The Furuno FA30’s Ethernet port means it can plug right into a NavNet vx2 network, but it also offers standard NMEA AIS output and comes with a PC AIS plotting program able to use the Ethernet feed, so it can be set up in many ways. The FA30—expected to cost less than $1,000—is a true dual-channel receiver (see more on

Carlisle & Finch NightFinder 200

Combining a 15 million candlepower Xenon spotlight with a 320x240 pixel thermal camera yields more than just the efficiency of shared casing, cabling, and pan/tilt controllers. You can leave the thermal going all night and if you spot something indistinct, hit it with the already-aimed spot. And if that “thing” is hostile, note that the powerful beam, aided by

Northstar 6100i Sirius Weather

Also at Miami, Northstar demonstrated how the powerful soft-key interface on its 6100i multifunction displays (MFDs) can now enable users to easily mix and view all the real-time and forecast weather elements available from Sirius Satellite Radio. For instance, that overlay key can rotate through six customizable data mix presets, each neatly represented in the little window by icons. The

Ray218 VHF

Raymarine has started an impressive new VHF line with the $569 Ray218. It’s a Class D DSC set that purportedly offers the best audio specifications—like receiving sensitivity and intermodulation rejection, plus spurious transmitting emissions—in the business. It’s also the first VHF ever with soft keys, which appear quite useful for negotiating complicated menus or getting at favorite

Last Call VHF Repeater

Last Call is the good idea of a professional skipper in Puget Sound, Washington. Superficially it is simply an improved speaker for your VHF, but inside is a chip that constantly memorizes the last 60 seconds of whatever transmission breaks the radio’s squelch. Push the button on the top, and it will repeat it back to you, amplified even. This $100 accessory

Charles IMcharger

Charles’ new battery charger is a good example of how old-time electrical manufacturers are getting into microprocessors, info screens, and boat networking—and hence into your helm and my electronics columns. The IMcharger, as in Intelligent Marine, really is pretty smart. It can feed four battery types—gel, lead acid, AGM, or NiCad—in up to four 12- or 24-volt

Murphy HelmView

F.W. Murphy has added chartplotting ability to its 6.4-inch VGA HelmView display—just add a NMEA 2000 GPS sensor to its network, and slip a Navionics SD chart card into the slot—but its prime function is monitoring engine and other system data. Besides N2K, it has two other CANbus ports able to interface with the J1979 protocol that are even more

Parker Fuel-Tank Selector Valve

Yet another big-time industrial manufacturer reaches up into the electronic helm. Parker’s Fluid Control Division developed this solenoid drive selector valve so that a skipper can change tanks without leaving the helm. In fact, the first customer, Hinckley, set it up to switch tanks automatically based on fuel levels. That six-port model you see is able to

Offshore Systems Fuel Gauge

Offshore Systems’ nifty fuel gauge is built into a stainless steel deck fitting, right where you want it. One version, costing $349, can be used with existing analog tank-level senders and gauges; another $271 model just plugs into a boat’s NMEA 2000 network. If you go the latter route, you could also use Offshore’s $263 N2K senders, which claim two-percent

BilgeWatch 8

The trouble with automatic bilge pumps is that they can hide a slowly building leak. The BilgeWatch 8 takes care of that issue, monitoring one to eight pumps simultaneously, showing you when they come on, recording their history, and delivering alerts and alarms based on your settings. The latter can trigger indicator lights, buzzers, relays, and/or auto

Sailor’s Solutions Sensibulb

While all LED interior lights are long-lasting and energy-efficient, the quality of their light can vary significantly. The SensiBulb lives up to its claim: the warm color, intensity, and beam width of a 10-watt halogen bulb.

The basic $40 bulb fits as is into most dome lights, and accessories enable retrofitting to many standard reading lamps. The

SolLight LightShip

The LightShip’s LEDs may be ordinary, even somewhat wimpy, but it gives you a choice of regular white or red save-your-night-vision colors, and it’s both waterproof and solar-powered. Thus the cute three-suction-cup, flying-saucer-like design makes sense; stuck to a sunny hatch or port, the $15 LightShip gathers energy for the night ahead, to be used either in

Argonaut Tflex-G615

Argonaut has broken a significant price barrier with the $995 waterproof and sunlight-viewable Tflex-G615 monitor. Its claim of an enormous 2,000-nit illumination equivalence may be exaggerated (the transflective technology used along with some standard backlighting is not really measurable), and in fact the G615 is not quite as bright as the same-size and

Here Comes Class B

Thanks to Software Radio's all-in-one PCB, firms like Comar coan easily produce Class B AIS units-once they are approved.

That printed circuit board (PCB) at right may not look like much, but it's a key ingredient to the any-moment-now advent of Class B AIS transponders, and for that we kiss it. The evolving Automatic Identity

Si-Tex ColorMax 15

The $3,179 ColorMax 15 offers good multifunction display (MFD) for the money. The 15-inch, 1024x768-pixel screen is bright and sharp, rendering full-screen video as well as any MFD I’ve tested. The unit also has VGA out for a repeater and no fewer than five NMEA 0183 ports for AIS, GPS, autopilot, etc. The ColorMax 15 also supports every feature in the C-Map Max

Northstar M121

I first knew the 12-inch Northstar M121 MFD as the Navman 8120. Now it not only has joined the Northstar family (upper right in group photo) but has gained a new little brother, the 8.4-inch M84, and brought along some 27 various Explorer smaller boat cousins. The latter are all based on Navman designs, only with black buttons and in some cases upgrades like

Poly-Planar Modular Marine Stereo

One sign of how deeply Poly-Planar rethought marine stereo is that it takes a while to fully comprehend its flexibility, power, and thorough boat-worthiness. Start with the basic $500 package, a MRD-70 combo AM/FM receiver and no-skip CD/MP3 player paired with a RD-44 control head; everything's waterproof, even the cable connectors, and the head, in either gray

Hatteland Series 2

Hatteland Display, a large Norwegian manufacturer with an excellent behind-the-scenes reputation, is going public with its new Series 2 Marine Multi Displays (MMD) and Marine Multi Computers (MMC). The interesting idea here is that interchangeable "backpacks" make identical slim-line screens into either conventional multi-input monitors or compact all-in-one

Raymarine LifeTag MOB System

Unlike some safety gear, you'll never have to worry if LifeTag is going to work when you need it. That's because it's what might be called an "alarm-on-failure" system; the receiver triggers an alarm whenever one of the constantly transmitting pendants goes out of its 30-foot range (overboard!), if it breaks or loses battery power, or when a wearer pushes his or

POI'd Off

This C-Map POI data is the best available, but it's still full of errors.

It's my good fortune that I get to spend many a fine summer's day hanging around beautiful, bustling Camden Harbor, Maine. Often I'm fooling with some new charting wonder because that's my job, and often I'm also scanning locally busy VHF channels because I'm

Garmin GPSMAP 4XXX

Garmin chose the huge Marine Electronics Trade Show (METS) in Amsterdam to preview an entirely refreshed marine line that will roll out during the first half of 2007, and I wasn’t the only bowled-over observer. We saw 20-something new products all boasting a sleek, new casing design as well as an intriguing new interface platform. For example, the latest

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