By Ben Ellison
Keys to the Kingdom
|Part 2: Suffice it to say that NavNet MaxSea adds oodles of possibilities to Furuno’s already able and rugged hardware system.|
Let’s have a look. Once the NavNet MaxSea software is installed on a laptop or onboard PC, there will be no need to mess with wiring in even a GPS. Just plug in that one slim Ethernet cable and—bada bing—drop-down menus give you access to, and control of, radar, fishfinder, everything. Kunz and Kurutz dazzled the audience with how smoothly this worked and how MaxSea could pan and zoom C-Map NT+ charts living on the NavNet system as fast as the regular display could and vice versa. But MaxSea can also read MapTech, Softchart, ARCS, NDI, and Mapmedia (MaxSea’s own format) raster charts, as well as C-Map’s commercial-level CM-93 and NOAA’s free ENC vector charts. Thus you can use the best or favorite chart for any occasion or location and still have radar overlay, ARPA targets, waypoint sharing, etc.
MaxSea has a big following among the offshore sailing crowd and thus has a well-developed system for downloading compact but rich weather files for anywhere, free from its own servers, then overlaying and animating them on the charts. Moreover, a routing module can examine these predictions along with a description you build of your boat’s abilities in different wind and sea conditions, as well as your preferences on the speed-versus-pain continuum, and come up a recommended voyage plan (powerboat version in development). Perhaps more important, MaxSea has long served the needs of some commercial and high-end sportfishermen and thus can display sea-surface temperature charts and elaborate 2-D and 3-D bathymetry. There’s even a Personal Bathometric Generator module that can rebuild and detail the bathy charts on the fly using NavNet’s fishfinder. There’s more, but suffice it to say that NavNet MaxSea adds oodles of possibilities to Furuno’s already able and rugged hardware system.
Mind you, the relationship does not come cheap. The basic NavNet Commander package is $1,500, $500 more than the MaxSea-only version. But Kunz notes that built into that margin is complete, “as long as it takes” Furuno worldwide support, even for underlying Windows issues, and I’ll bet that some customers will find this single-vendor feature at least as valuable as the single Ethernet wire. It’s the whole package that’s a milestone. (To be fair, Raymarine first introduced an integrated hardware/PC system, RayTech, but it was somewhat awkward with the original HSB networking, and the company seemed to pull back on it, probably in anticipation of its recent switchover to Ethernet. I’m sure RayTech will return.)
In hindsight Furuno’s early adoption of Ethernet may have seemed a red herring but was actually a promise of things to come, a promise now delivered on big time. In fact, it turns out that NavNet MaxSea works fine even with the original system. NavNet vx2 is incremental—the same NavNet1 size choices, only with improved displays, easier installation, support of C-Map Max charts (and maybe Navionics Platinum eventually), and use of SD chart cards for easy system upgrades—and backward-compatible with all existing NavNet1 gear. (I wish Furuno had added NMEA 2000 support as well—another big story in Miami—but am told that it may come to the whole series with a single 2000-to-Ethernet gateway box.)
Kunz is justifiably proud of Furuno’s early Ethernet move and his 2001 prediction that most manufacturers would eventually follow. And it’s the truth of that prediction that makes NavNet MaxSea even more significant. Northstar, Garmin, and Raymarine now all have Ethernet connections—possible PC doors, though locked thus far—to their electronics networks. Can you hear more keys to the kingdoms jingling?
Furuno ( (360) 834-9300. www.furuno.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.