Electronics

Connected Cruising

Picture a spring evening that's so clear and calm you've jumped out from Charleston, South Carolina, planning to chug through the night to Beaufort, North Carolina, and thus skip a sometimes shallow and/or tedious section of the Intracoastal Waterway plus enjoy some offshore solitude. But, darn it, you've got 21st-century habits and would like to spend some of that time on the Web, checking your

SeaKey v2.0

SeaKey v2.0 is major upgrade from the original, adding an LCD interface and two-way Orbcomm satellite communications. However, the goals remains the same: to connect boaters underway with a call center able to both handle emergencies and deliver concierge service, plus provide geo-fence security and simple monitoring of bilge level and main battery bank when

ACR ResQFix

ACR's ResQFix Personal Locator Beacon is 35 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than its previous AquaFix model and yet purportedly performs better. This is not so trivial when you consider that this six-inch-high unit is meant to acquire a fast GPS fix in tough conditions (like from its float bag next to you in a rough sea), transmit that position and your ID via 406 MHz to the

Cobra 425

The big consumer electronics company Cobra has gotten serious about marine VHF, introducing both this feature-packed handheld and a Class D DSC fixed radio. For instance, the $170 HH425 and the $190 F80 are each submersible and backed by three-year warranties. Both also offer a "rewind, play again" feature that spaceshots like me will find handy—a built-in memory chip records the last 20

Man Overboard

Though some of life’s most enjoyable moments take place while boating, it’s no secret that Mother Nature can be unforgiving when it comes to the ocean. Indeed, the worst-case scenario is always a possibility. There have been many technological advances in marine electronics in recent years designed to help ensure safety on the water. Automatic-fire-suppression systems? They have been standard

Gauges to GUIs

Why reinvent the wheel? Faria tapped Maptech to help create Maestro.

You can almost smell stacks of freshly stitched and pressed Civil War uniforms as you walk around Faria's antique brick and granite factory on the banks of the Thames River just north of New London,

VHF 101

When it comes to communicating on a marine VHF radio, there are no "good buddies" and no "breaker 19s." Smokey and the Bandit may have made CB radio jargon hip for a time, but a marine VHF is definitely not a CB radio. It’s a serious piece of safety equipment whose use is regulated by the FCC and the U.S. Coast Guard. When used properly it provides a critical communication link to

The Road to the Future

GPS technology has been the major force in bringing marine route planning into the 21st century. The Navstar GPS satellite network that made its way to us after the 1986 Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) was a godsend: CRADA brought commercially viable, federalized positioning technology to the private sector, and we boaters benefitted with the chartplotters that grace our

McMurdo SmartFind

Similar to ACR’s ResQFix PLB, McMurdo has introduced a GEPIRB (GPS-equipped Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) that's smaller yet supposedly performs better. The $849, 1.5-pound SmartFind Plus accomplishes this largely by using LEDs for its strobe, which

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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