Radar has been in the news a lot recently, with both Raymarine and Garmin adding bigger and better scanners to their High Definition lineups. The most obvious effect of digital-signal processing is that the apparent beamwidth is reduced compared with that of a conventional radar, giving a crisper, clearer picture. But for the retrofit installer there’s an important supplementary benefit in that the cable between the scanner and display is significantly thinner and more flexible.
Simrad, Northstar, and Lowrance users, on the other hand, could be tempted by those companies’ broadband radars, which use a technique called Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) to conjure short-range pictures out of a solid-state scanner transmitting just 0.10 watts.
The digital revolution hasn’t been confined to radar. The same fisherman who might be tempted to upgrade to a 12-kW, six-foot-array radar for its birdspotting ability could well consider upgrading his sonar with a digital black box—perhaps boosting its power to 1kW or more with a new transducer, and certainly enhancing the picture with crisper, better defined echoes and reduced clutter.
New ::: Globalsatellite Onboard Internet
Globalsatellite USA has announced two new Internet services: one for use offshore and one for use in port. Inmarsat claims its new FleetBroadband 150 service is the world’s smallest, lightest, and fastest global maritime Internet, offering landline-quality voice and Internet connection through a satellite dome (left) that is slightly smaller—and a lot lighter—than a bowling ball.
At 150 kbps, the Internet connection is considerably slower than most of us are used to ashore. But with Globalsatellite offering the hardware for $6,523.84, service charges at $506.18 per year, and airtime at $1.49 per minute to landlines or $14.48 per MB for data, it’s a remarkably cost-effective option for the relatively low-volume user who just needs to stay in touch, rather than the one who plans to run a business from mid-ocean.
At the other end of the range scale there is YachtSpot (below), which is designed for use in port or within about two miles of a WiFi hotspot. So far as the user is concerned, it’s similar to a domestic broadband router in that it allows several computers to share a single Internet connection. The big difference is that its connection to the outside world is through a 400-MW wireless card and marine antenna and that it incorporates dedicated software to make it as easy as possible to select and log on to any available wireless network, while keeping your boat’s internal network firewalled against intruders.
YachtSpot is priced at $2,560, with no ongoing user charges apart from those that might be levied by the marina or commercial WiFi service provider.
New ::: Garmin VHF300 Black-Box Radio
Garmin, which only recently introduced its VHF100 and VHF200 fixed-mount radios, has already introduced a third member of the family. Available in two versions—with or without an integral AIS receiver—the VHF300 is a black-box unit (left) that can be controlled by as many as three full-function remote microphones.
The mics, which are the same as those that are available as options or add-ons to the VHF100 and VHF200, include a two-inch LCD display; a rotary knob for controlling frequent tasks such as channel selection, squelch, and volume control; and soft keys for access to the radio’s more advanced features, such as NOAA weather alerts, Class D DSC, intercom, and a two-way 30-watt hailer/fog signal facility. An unusual extra—though it’s one that’s increasingly common—is a playback function that lets you replay the last 90 seconds of any incoming message at the touch of a button.
The list price of the Garmin VHF300i will be $699.99, with the AIS option adding another $300 and extra remotes at $199.99 each.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.