The sound of waves crashing on the jetty waft through the saloon, while AIM Marine Group Senior Electronics Editor Ben Ellison—illuminated by a single red LED overhead, pecks at his keyboard. He’s toggling between plotting the next day’s course on Coastal Explorer and answering questions posted on his electronics blog, panbo.com.
“This guy is asking a question about the very thing we’re doing right at this moment,” Ellison says, his eyes glued to his oversized monitor. “Wi-Fi out on the water can be complicated.”
It’s 10:00 pm after a hectic day. Ellison spent five hours teaching an intensive “Soup to Nuts Navigation” class at the International Cruising Boat Expo held at Brewer Essex Island Marina in Essex, Connecticut, a course where he led new and experienced boaters through the finer points of course plotting. Later in the course he led small groups to his floating electronics laboratory—his 37-foot Duffy, aptly named Gizmo—to share some insight on equipping a helm.
“You’ll never see another boat like this,” laughs Ellison, while his students ogle an MFD-filled helm and four (yes, the man has four) radars. He walks through the various MFDs and explains what some of the strengths and weaknesses are of each.
Shortly after class is dismissed, Ellison is scurrying about his boat, tidying up and preparing to shove off. The water tank is filled; lines and fenders are stowed away.
Once away from the dock, Ellison finds a seat at the centerline helm of his flying bridge and begins doing what he does best, fidgeting with electronics while his boat makes its way out the Connecticut River to the Long Island Sound. After months of cruising, teaching, and testing, he is finally returning to his homeport of Camden, Maine.
I joined Ellison under the guise of helping him during the delivery. The truth is I fully expect to get more out of this trip than he will. My current electronic-navigation arsenal includes a 5-inch Garmin GPS and Navionics loaded on my girlfriend’s pink iPad mini. A trip with the guru of marine electronics aboard a boat with, again, four freakin' radars, I’m bound to get an education that isn’t offered in any class.
So with light winds and calm seas, we logged 46 miles from Essex to Point Judith’s Harbor of Refuge. Having MFDs from Garmin, Raymarine, Furuno, and Simrad in your face was overwhelming, but I have a feeling I’ll get a lot of time to practice with them during this delivery. Stay tuned.