Part 3: Either device can help you keep your bottom intact if you understand its limits.
By Ben Ellison — July 2002
Wille Meinhardt is similarly pleased with his EchoPilot FLS Silver model navigating the thicket of 30,000 islands--and many more ledges--along the coast of his native Sweden, "To cruise among all those islands means that you have to have a constant check on the chart in order not to lose a grip on where you are," he says. And even if you manage to keep the grip, there are uncharted ledges in this area. Meinhardt happily reports that his FLS seems able to better the 6:1 distance-to-depth ratio when the danger is a steep, hard surface, and he has thus avoided contact with a couple of such rocks. He has had problems with the display fading out after a day in direct sunlight but says that EchoPilot has provided a new--but yet untested--unit.
Sheldon Haynie is another satisfied FLS user with another modus operandi. Haynie cruises out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and must often buck the mighty tidal currents of the Piscataqua River in his relatively pokey sailboat. He uses Interphase's PCView, "a very capable tool," to avoid shoals and "old sunken pickups" as he hugs the shore in search of back eddies. PCView is a black box product, feeding Haynie's laptop with the same vertical scan imagery as shown on the Probe and Outlook, but with more pixels and in color. Its transducer, the size of "half a grapefruit," can also scan horizontally 45 degrees to port and starboard at a fixed 20-degree downward angle. This is a harder image to interpret, but Haynie likes it to "ride the edge of the channel." Interphase president Charles Hicks tells me that customers transiting the Intracoastal Waterway like the horizontal scan, also found in the Twinscope product, because it not only warns of danger ahead but may also indicate an alternate course.
EchoPilot also offers a sort of horizontal scanning product, but it is quite dissimilar, requiring the user to physically turn the transducer sideways, and is meant for bottom analysis rather than grounding avoidance. The significant difference in the two companies' vertical scanning technologies is that EchoPilot fires and receives back its echoes in one instantaneous process while Interphase utilizes an eight-element phased array. EchoPilot claims that its method delivers very fast profiles that are particularly valuable as a boat maneuvers. Interphase counters that its users can use "Width" and "Mode" controls to choose between fast images or detailed ones.
Judging from the experience of my correspondents, to whom I'm grateful, neither version of FLS is magic, but either can help you keep your bottom intact if you understand its limits, and yours. As Haynie says, "It's still possible to run aground when not looking," and my Swedish friend adds, "Of course, with this instrument I'm taking some chances I would not have taken without it."
Interphase Technologies Phone: (831) 477-4944. Fax: (831) 462-7444. www.interphase-tech.com.
Pilot Marine (EchoPilot U.S. distributor) Phone: (757) 430-3344. www.pilotmarine.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.