Thermal Imagers

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Testing Electronics on Board a Classic Grand Banks, (continued)

Thermal imagers

In These Dark Times

FLIR Ocean Scout TK $599; www.flir.com

IRIS Night Spotter $2,995; www.boat-cameras.com

Approaching the Ortona Lock on the Okeechobee Waterway after nightfall, we were well aware that the daytime hours kept by the lockmasters were going to put us out on the hook for the evening. No matter, we’d just anchor right outside the lock and be first in line when the guys moseyed on back to work in the a.m. Setting the anchor in the quiet canal, we wanted to be sure of our surroundings so we’d have enough swing room in case the wind kicked up and shifted. Without a good spotlight aboard, we were peering into the dark with our flashlights. I grabbed a couple of choices to help our cause: The FLIR Ocean Scout TK ($599) and the IRIS Night Spotter ($2,995) both powered up relatively quickly and gave us a closer look at the darkened shoreline. Sure enough a line of heavy pilings stood sentry 30 feet from the shore to starboard. Helpful to rest against to stem a drift waiting for the lock, sure, but certainly nothing you’d want to discover in the darkness. Capt. Tommy McCoy adjusted position and we set the anchor accordingly. I prefer the white-hot view (meaning warmer objects show up as ever-brightening grayscale up to bright white) but paged through the screen color palette selections on each one, after I had relayed the information to McCoy. One thing about both of these handheld scopes, the buttons have icons on them that are useless in the conditions in which the devices are meant to be used. I imagine an actual user would practice and get familiar with the unit he or she purchased under ideal conditions (yeah, right), so they’re ready at a moment’s notice when poor conditions necessitate quick action (person in the water in the dark, anyone?). But as a newbie I had to do it by feel and the idea of needing to turn on a flashlight—ruining any night vision that I still had—to work a thermal imager seemed like a miss. Both manufacturers could cut the learning curve dramatically by lighting those button icons.

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