Technology

Articles about new technology to make passagemaking safer, more efficient and more enjoyable.

Holiday Gift Guide for Boaters

Holiday Gift Guide for Boaters

Looking for some last-minute holiday gift ideas for the boater in your life (or you)?  We’ve got suggestions that range from truly in expensive to once-a-year-purchase.  One or two you should consider for more than just your boat.

Weego is offering a holiday bundle. Image courtesy of Weego.

Weego is offering a holiday bundle. Image courtesy of Weego.

The Boater’s Gift Guide for 2015

  • Weego Jump Starters – If you operate anything run by battery, you should have one of these in your bag or in a locker on the boat. It’ll jump-start or re-charge anything up to a moderately sized diesel engine, all the way down to your Bluetooth headset.  The Weego units distinguish themselves from other chargers on the market by their premium build quality, connectors and compact size. They also don’t lose their charge while sitting in a bag or locker. You can put one near the helm or in your car’s glove compartment and come back a year later and be able to jump-start that engine. The unit we’ve linked to here is about $120 and still available for delivery before Christmas. The bundle in the image above is available directly from Weego here.
  • Pettit Protect® with Mica Shield Technology – If you’re looking to tackle a barrier-coat challenge for your boat, consider Petit’s new product. Introduced this summer, it features slate mica in the epoxy resin, compared to the granular mica found in most barrier coats.  Think of it as a series of sheets of mica overlapping in the resin; a great structure to resist moisture intrusion. It’s a traditional two-part epoxy coating, with a 3-to-1 mix ratio, and a typical 18-foot powerboat would likely require less than two gallons (at 3 coats) for full coverage. We don’t have a specific price estimate so check the link for local dealers and give them a call.  I don’t expect it to be more expensive than other high-solids barrier coatings, which means it could run about $115-$120 per gallon.
  • GOST Nav-Tracker 3.0 SM – Have you already jumped on the GOST boat security bandwagon?  You should.  It’s like a Lo-Jack™ for your boat. And if you’ve already got some security sensors on the boat — webcam, horn, motion detection — this latest package from GOST will allow you to use an included hardware interface to integrate those into the total security effort. The complete GOST Nav-Tracker 3.0 SM Package includes: the GOST Nav-Tracker 3.0 control unit with tamperproof backup battery, the hardwired interface unit, a 5 foot I/O cable to connect the HWIU to the control unit, an IP67-rated momentary Arm/Disarm Button, a Door/Hatch Contact, High Water Sensor, GA-Mini Siren (with all the required cables), the GOST Nav-Tracker antenna, a 10-meter antenna cable, a 2-meter power cable and a GNT-L bracket to mount the antenna. Check out the GOST Global link for a supplier near you.
  • Simrad® GO5 XSE Chartplotter and Fishfinder – How about a cutting-edge, compact chartplotter and fishfinder that can cover all the bases and do it for the price of perhaps two tanks of gas on a typical center console fishing boat? The GO5 XSE features a super-bright multi-touch display, internal 10 Hz GPS receiver, StructureScan® HD and CHIRP Sonar, autopilot integration/control, engine data monitoring, full audio entertainment integration with SonicHub®2, integrated wireless connectivity and the powerful, new Simrad TripIntel™ trip computer. Seriously, what else do need? Ranging in retail price from $449 to $599, depending on the transducer included with the display, the Simrad GO5 XSE is scheduled for March 2016 availability from authorized distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • Vesper Marine XB-6000 Class B AIS Transponder – If you do any kind of big-water cruising, whether it’s coastal or Great Lake or large rivers, you should consider installing an AIS transponder on your boat. It uses VHF radio frequencies to tell other boats and shore stations who you are, what you are doing and where you are going. This data can be displayed on almost every chatplotter and navigation monitor out there nowadays and while AIS transponders aren’t yet required on all recreational boats, they should be, and you should be the first on your fairway to install it. This Vesper unit is reasonably priced, yet has what might be the most advanced AIS technology there is, with a built-in GPS receiver and NMEA gateway. We found it on Amazon for $555. Check the link to see that source.
  • IMTRA Largo Tri-Color LED Light – That annoying white dome light you have in the middle of your helm deck overhead can now be both useful and pleasant to deal with. IMTRA’s new Tri-Color LED light offers white, blue and red light and simple, momentary-push operation. Since it’s LED, it uses very little power – 4.7 watts in this case for a 30-watt halogen-equivalent. You can pick either a warm or cool white light as part of your unit, while both the blue and red lights preserve the crew’s night vision. How often will you have to change it? It’s designed for 50,000 hours of life.  Are you?
  • FUSION Signature Series Speakers – Got tunes aboard? How about sending those signals out through the best speakers you can put on your boat. FUSION has 230-watt and 280-watt configurations of its new Signature Series line that will give you both the sound and look you want. Choose from Classic White, Sports White or Sports Grey/Chrome styles. The new speakers are offered in a 6.5-inch 230 Watt or 7.7-inch 280 Watt configuration. A dual-color diffused LED lighting option that illuminates in either striking blue or sparkling white based on the polarity of the wiring, adds to the aesthetics There is also a new sub-woofer for the series — a 10-inch unit that delivers premium bass reproduction. Comprised of a high tensile fiberglass-paper composite cone driver that produces a massive 450-Watts maximum output, this unit will bring the bass to the party. Check out the link to see the FUSION Signature Series on Amazon, where some units are still available for pre-Christmas delivery.

 

Copyright ©2015 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Electronics, Fishing, Gift Guide, GPS, Navigation, Sonar, Technology
KEP Marine Vessel Monitoring System Scalable for Any Size Boat

KEP Marine Vessel Monitoring System Scalable for Any Size Boat

Editor’s Note — As the marine world finally catches up to the rest of modern life, electronics are controlling more and more of the systems on our boats.  Although some old salts will claim otherwise, this is a good thing.  It means our engines run more reliably, efficiently and pollute a great deal less.  It also means we have more precise control of our major systems — everything from batteries, to air conditioners, tank monitors and safety and entertainment systems.  The next big step in marine modernization is monitoring — getting all those electrons to give us a complete picture of what’s happening on our boats, and giving us the opportunity to interact with and control those systems — all from the helm (or wherever else we want, as we’ll see later in this article).  There are a relatively small, but growing number of companies developing monitoring and control systems for our increasingly electronic boats.  One in particular, KEP Marine, is offering a family of products that scale nearly perfectly all the way from a center-console fishing boat to a superyacht hundreds of meters in length.  Here’s a look at what they’re offering and why I think it’s worth consideration by anyone considering a new boat or a major refit.

KEP Marine Company Logo

KEP Marine Company Logo

KEP Marine’s Intelligent Vessel Monitoring System (IVMS) can give captains of everything from small fishing boats to superyachts precise monitoring and control of nearly every system on their boats. And it does so using an open-standards system that easily handles whatever proprietary data system a particular component manufacturer may be using, so you don’t have to worry about establishing a single data bus format on your boat.  Today’s boat captains have high-definition, flat-screen, multi-function displays to help them navigate, investigate and explore. Now they can have the same kind of inward-looking vision and awareness of what’s going on inside their boats.  Ultimately, this means far fewer nasty failures and surprises and a safer boating experience.

An Open Standards System

The KEP Marine IVMS was developed using open standards, which means that standard Ethernet protocols are used.  The company has developed its system to operate with nearly any information protocol from the individual devices aboard your boat, whether NMEA 2000, CAN bus, MOD bus or company-proprietary.

KEP Marine Intelligent Vessel Management System (IVMS)

KEP Marine Intelligent Vessel Management System (IVMS)

This might be one of the most significant features of the KEP Marine IVMS, since the ongoing lack of device and network standardization in the marine industry can frustrate even the most dedicated efforts of builder, captains and installers to get major and minor systems onboard to talk nicely to each other.  Fortunately, the KEP Marine staff have worked closely with all the major systems and engine-makers and understand how to link these systems into the IVMS.  This is where years of experience in not only the marine industry, but the industrial monitoring and control business pay dividends.

WAGO Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) typically used in a KEP Marine IVMS. The PLC serves as a robust central processor for all the data in most IVMS and IVMS Pro installations. An IVMS Ultimate system might also use a dedicated PC to handle multiple display options. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

WAGO Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) typically used in a KEP Marine IVMS. The PLC serves as a robust central processor for all the data in most IVMS and IVMS Pro installations. An IVMS Ultimate system might also use a dedicated PC to handle multiple display options. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

The system uses a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) from WAGO, a type of digital computer used to monitor and control mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment.  It differs from a general purpose computer in that it is capable of many simultaneous inputs and outputs and is normally designed to withstand the environmental rigors of an industrial (or marine, in this case) environment.

Three Basic Levels Lead to Infinite Scalability

The KEP Marine IVMS is offered in three basic configurations — the IVMS, IVMS Pro, and IVMS Unlimited.  The standard IVMS package is designed specifically for recreational vessels under 50 feet in length.  It allows the captain to monitor and mange the most critical information onboard using a dedicated sunlight-readable 7″ touchscreen display.  Here’s a list of some of the typical monitoring and control functions for such a boat:

  • Battery levels
  • Shore power
  • Smoke and CO detection
  • Tank Levels, including fuel, freshwater and blackwater
  • Voltages
  • Bilge
  • Exhaust

 

Example of a typical engine-related gauges information display from the KEP Marine IVMS System. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

Example of a typical engine-related gauges information display from the KEP Marine IVMS System. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

The simplest installation might be for a center-console fishing boat, where the IVMS is monitoring all the basic systems, but might also be controlling the aeration of the baitwell when water temperature or species change. A boat owner might spend around $5,000 for a system like this, which will earn back its investment the first time you head offshore in a big tournament and discover a dying engine battery before you get stranded in the Gulf Stream. The standard package includes the 7″ display, control panel, terminal block kit and a choice of 16 monitoring selections. The graphics on the display are user-configurable.

The IVMS Pro series includes all the features of the base system but expands the “human interface” software element to support additional monitoring stations, remote viewing, full engine monitoring and switching of electrical circuits.  A typical IVMS Pro installation will include one sunlight-readable panel for an outdoor station — say a flybridge — and one standard panel for an indoor station, likely the pilothouse helm. This is the kind of system you would expect to find on an offshore cruising yacht or sailboat, with more and more-complex systems to both monitor and control.

An example of an iPad displaying detailed engine information, as might be used with an IVMS Pro installation from KEP Marine. A remote, wireless display like this can give the off-watch captain some peace of mind while she is off the bridge. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

An example of an iPad displaying detailed engine information, as might be used with an IVMS Pro installation from KEP Marine. A remote, wireless display like this can give the off-watch captain some peace of mind while she is off the bridge. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

Imagine a Nordhavn or Kadey-Krogen trawler offshore with engines, generators, watermakers, extensive fuel and water management systems, hydraulic systems like stabilizers, and an extensive HVAC system with several zones.  All are easily handled with a single PLC in an IVMS Pro installation.  The owner of such a yacht might spend $50,000 to $70,000 for a system like this, once the components, installation and software development is totaled. My feeling is that level of expense is likely to be well-leveraged when insurance premiums and unscheduled repair costs are figured into total operating and ownership costs.

I have to admit that, for a recreational yacht, this level of display, from a KEP Marine IVMS Unlimited superyacht installation, would be nice on my idea of an ocean-capable trawler of the Excelsior-class starship "Enterprise." Seriously, it illustrates a conning display with the types of information important to the navigator, helmsman and captain. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

I have to admit that, for a recreational yacht, this level of display, from a KEP Marine IVMS Unlimited superyacht installation, would be nice on my idea of an ocean-capable trawler of the Excelsior-class starship “Enterprise.” Seriously, it illustrates a conning display with the types of information important to the navigator, helmsman and captain. Image courtesy of KEP Marine.

When you get into the superyacht and ship category, you will see IVMS Unlimited series systems using a PC to drive more extensive and customizable displays of all the systems.  The addition of the PC — called an “Operator Work Station” in the IVMS system, is a type-approved computer with a solid-state hard drive and Windows Embedded OS.  The Unlimited series still use the WAGO PLC for connecting and controlling sensors and actuators.  With the Unlimited series, display and control panels can be installed throughout the vessel — picture crew’s mess and cabins, engine room and other key locations.  Unlimited systems might require an investment of $150,000 or more, depending on the size and scope of the installation.  While that might seem like a lot of money, it’s quite normal in the superyacht industry to allocate those kinds of resources to safety, monitoring and control systems, many of which are required by the classification societies that govern shipbuilding at that level.

Bottom Line

Consider a system like the KEP Marine IVMS, either at the basic or PRO level if you are going to have a new boat or yacht built,  And if you are buying an older vessel and planning a major refit, particularly one where electrical and plumbing runs will be completely replaced, you’ll be in a good position to incorporate the IVMS in the refit.  The process will involve working with a local dealer and installer but you will undoubtedly work with the KEP Marine staff directly as well, since they do all the programming of the PLCs in-house.  They have programmed controllers for nearly every type and brand of system on today’s yachts, so your system is unlikely to pose any difficulty.  The PLCs they typically use in most installations are programmable via SD memory card, which makes modifying and updating the program (and backing it up) extremely simple.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Electrical Systems, Electronics, Maintenance & DIY, Marine Electronics, Technology
Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

The "About" screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

The “About” screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

Do you have an iPad (with GPS) or iPhone on the boat with you?  Okay, then, no excuses:  Download the latest Navionics Boating app update from the App Store, now standard with access to the free U.S. electronic navigation charts (ENC) from NOAA.  There.  You’re not lost anymore.  You’re welcome (from Navionics, anyway).

Now, a little more objectively. . .Navionics today released the latest version (7.0) of its free app, Navionics Boating, which now includes integration with free U.S. government-produced charts for U.S. coastal and navigable waterways, plus additional shorelines of major lakes and rivers from other public sources.

NOAA ENC Charts Included

This means that the Navionics Boating app is immediately suitable for direct navigation in these waters.  NOAA ENCs are vector charts, which means they scale up and down in a completely readable way, and they conform to the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) S-57 standard for electronic charts.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

They include all the primary navigation data you need — depths, buoys, beacons, harzards, channel markers and more.  Of course, you can also purchase full-featured Navionics charts with enhanced detail and features such as newly improved dynamic tide and current information and displays.  The chart on the right here of the north shore of Long Island is a NOAA ENC.

You can see the little blue circle at the lower left labeled “GOVT” which means I’m using a NOAA chart.  If you click on that you can opt for a Navionics chart instead, or load one of the cool, crowd-sourced SonarCharts.  Also visible in that screen capture is the classic “navigate” button at lowest left, camera and search buttons to upper left, zoom buttons at upper right and a distance measuring tool at bottom right.

Enhanced Features

The updated app includes several enhanced features:

  • Tracking — The Navionics Boating app uses GPS to measure and record performance data.  Speed, Trip Time, Course Over Ground, Distance and more are all displayed in a new Tracking Console.  Boaters can pause, playback and review a track, and share details with others.
  • Expanded Routing — Planning and route creation are also free with the Navionics Boating app.  Boaters can measure distances, mark waypoints, create simple routes and save data across mobile devices.  The company says wind forecasts include 3-day projections, as well.  The app includes a free trial version of a Nav Module ($4.99) that includes Estimated Time of Arrival, Distance to Arrival and more.
  • Sharing — App users can share memories of their trips with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter and email.  Using a camera function within the app, photos and videos are automatically geo-tagged while recording a trip.  Other images, such as tracking screens and stats can be shared, too.
The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

Integration with On-board Electronics

As of the most previous update, v6.0, early this year, Navionics Boating includes Plotter Sync, a new feature that allows on-board electronics to connect to Navionics servers on the Internet for uploading data and downloading new charts or updates.

The company says owners of Raymarine Wi-Fi-enabled plotters — just the first of Navionics’ manufacturer partners compatible with this technology — can now use Navionics Boating as a bridge for this connection, eliminating the need to remove a memory card from the plotter to update it.  The App will sync with the chartplotter and provide the update directly.

This is especially cool when users upload and share with Navionics their fishfinder’s recorded sonar tracks, allowing the company to verify and integrate the information in to SonarCharts™ — a new high-definition bathymetry maps that reflects the ever-changing conditions boaters experience in the real world.

Updating Advice

I checked out the new version on my iPad and it’s a big change.  The inclusion of NOAA ENCs makes a HUGE difference in out-of-the-box usability.  If you’re in need of the more detailed and feature-laden Navionics charts, by all means buy them.  They’re not that expensive for most areas (at least compared to what we used to spend for charts and updates) and you won’t regret the purchase.  But for starters, the NOAA ENCs will get you going and keep you safe.  When I fired up my iPad, it didn’t offer me the app update when I went to the App Store, so I deleted the version I had (6.0.3 – the April update) and then downloaded the app again and it was the 7.0 version.  I imagine the updating will be automatic and more smooth over the next couple of days (it could also conceivably have been my own iPad’s sometimes flaky relationship with my router).  If your older version doesn’t seem to be updating, just delete it and download it anew from the App Store (assuming you don’t have any data saved that you need).

Then, when you start it up, after you acknowledge the EULA and settle on a chart area, you can download the NOAA ENC for that area for free.  I downloaded the chart for New England and it was about 68 MB, which downloaded over my Wi-Fi in about 1 minute.  Beautiful and ready to navigate.  You can see “me” in the screen capture up above, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Long Island Sound.  I will actually need to board the boat to navigate from here, but the readers come first!

Android Version Coming Soon

Navionics says an Android version of the updated app will be out soon, with features similar to those in the iOS version rolling out throughout the year.  You will find that version in the Google Play store; we’ll advise when it’s released.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, Navigation, seamanship, Sonar, Technology
Lowrance Offering Special Deals on High-Tech Displays

Lowrance Offering Special Deals on High-Tech Displays

Lowrance said today it was offering money-saving promotions on some of its latest displays, with cash rebates and map giveaways among the highlights. The promotion includes $200 cash rebates on HDS-9 and HDS-12 Gen2 Touch displays, as well as free map giveaways with the purchase of Elite-4 and Elite-5 HDI models. These special offers will continue to be available through June 15, 2014 in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

 

The Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 Touch Display.  Image courtesy of Lowrance.

The Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 Touch Display. Image courtesy of Lowrance.

There are also some great bundle deals involving the StructureScan HD.  I saw this technology demonstrated earlier this year at a special press preview at Hawk’s Cay and it’s nothing short of jaw-droppingly impressive.  Watching the high-definition sonar displays show every little details all around the boat, and having the ability to scroll back to an interesting detail, just left me speechless.  The test boat I was on had an autopilot aboard that let me simply designate a point in that sonar history and then took me right to it.  If you fish, or explore, you NEED this gear.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Depthfinders, Electronics, Fishing, Marine Electronics, Navigation, Radar, Sonar, Technology
Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available from Ocean Signal

Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available from Ocean Signal

 

A rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal is shown attached to the upper surface of this inflated personal floatation device. Image courtesy of Ocean Signal.

A rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal is shown attached to the upper surface of this inflated personal floatation device. Image courtesy of Ocean Signal.

The Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based rescue system has saved more than 35,000 people in distress and nearly three-quarters of those were at sea.  Modern 406 MHz rescue beacons have had a huge impact on maritime safety.  If you go offshore anywhere, it’s time for you to equip your boat with an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and to seriously consider equipping your offshore crew and passengers with personal locator beacons (PLBs).  One such personal device is the rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal, touted by the company as the smallest PLB available.

Having a PLB like the rescueME PLB1 either on your person or attached to the floatation device that you are WEARING will give you an extraordinary advantage if you go overboard.  The current fleet of low-Earth orbit and geostationary satellites will pick up the emergency signal from your PLB, and will transmit it and the GPS-derived location data to a local rescue authority.  When that happens, you give the rescuers a huge leg-up on finding you.

Check out this video showing how the rescueME PLB1 works:

 

There are several brands of EPIRBs and PLBs, but I highlight the rescueME PLB1 here because it’s a great example of how compact and user-friendly these devices have become.  This device will sit comfortably attached to your personal flotation device (PFD), or your person, if for some inexplicable reason you are not wearing a PFD while on deck.

The rescueME PLB1 is currently on sale at Landfall Navigation.  And you can see the product description at Datrex, the U.S. distributor for Ocean Signal’s rescueME PLB1.

Check out these devices and don’t forget to properly register your device when you get it.  That ensures that rescuers know who to contact to get more information about you and your cruising plan.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Electronics, Gear & Apparel, GPS, Marine Electronics, seamanship, Technology
Argonaut Offers Android-Powered Smart MFD

Argonaut Offers Android-Powered Smart MFD

Love all those Android apps but wish there was a more integrated way to use them at the helm?  Argonaut Computer last week announced the A615 smart multifunction display (MFD) — a fully marinized Android MFD with built-in GPS and lots of delicious inputs to take advantage of all the other data sources on your boat.

The A615 Android-Powered Smart MFD from Argonaut Computer.  Image courtesy of Argonaut Computer.

The A615 Android-Powered Smart MFD from Argonaut Computer. Image courtesy of Argonaut Computer.

The A615 — a 15-inch, waterproof, sunlight-viewable unit — is also directly web-connected via its own WiFi connection, so if you are docked or have Internet access while underway, you can access live data for your apps beyond just the GPS.  Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

  • Built In Android Processing For Web, Apps
  • Powerful Navigation App With U.S. Charts
  • Weather Monitoring with Live Radar Plot
  • Full Featured AIS App with Alerts/Status
  • On Dash Access To Over 875,000 Apps
  • Built In 2.4G WiFi Network Send/receive
  • Multiple Input/Output Signal Connectors
  • Tflex 15” Bonded Sunlight View LED
  • Precision Lock TouchPad User Control
  • Unmatched Low Power Consumption
  • Includes 48 Channel GPS Receiver
  • Shock Isolated Design, 360 Waterproof
  • Industry Leading Three Mounting Options
  • Comprehensive Two Year Warranty

The A615 is not cheap.  MSRP is $2,999, which seems like a lot until you consider that this is not just a monitor, but a fully-powered MFD, with its own Wi-Fi, GPS and waterproof, marinized construction.  That makes it on a par, cost-wise, with other stand-alone marine MFDs.  One tremendous advantage is that you can load it up with free and low-cost apps that, in many cases, are as capable as their PC- and MAC OS-based sister products.

The A615 can also be mounted in a number of different ways — surface mount it like any other fixed helm display; in an optional U-bracket, or an optional RAM arm mount.

Here’s a LINK to the detailed specs for the A615.

This is a product to consider if you’re building a new helm or looking to update one and you need a lot of bang for your buck.  It’s a great way to build in functional redundancy in your helm, or even as the centerpiece of your helm.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, Navigation, Radar, seamanship, Technology
Navionics at Center of ICW Magenta Line Renovation

Navionics at Center of ICW Magenta Line Renovation

Last year, NOAA’s Coastal Survey Office announced that it planned to discontinue the so-called “magenta line” on charts of the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) because the line placement was based on data that, in some cases, hadn’t been updated since the original charts were produced in the early 20th century.  Well, that generated quite a storm of response from the user community but that response turned into something much more substantial and positive — a commitment by some companies and from boaters themselves to help get the data updated themselves.  Navionics, known for its comprehensive charts of nearly all the navigable waterways, lakes and coastal areas visited by recreational boats, decided to employ some of its latest crowdsource-supported technology to assist in the effort.

An example of the "magenta line" on a chart of the ICW.  Image courtesy of Navionics.

An example of the “magenta line” on a chart of the ICW. Image courtesy of Navionics.

Navionics is at now at the center of the NOAA Office of Coastal Survey’s efforts to reestablish an accurate magenta line on IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) charts.  The Navionics effort involves updating the charting data on its “Freshest Data” servers with information generated by boaters who upload sonar logs and who submit edits to charts using the Edit Map function on their Navionics mobile application.  Given that there are more than 1.5 million users of the mobile apps, Don Black, global vice president of sales and marketing for Navionics, says, “We are able to deliver invaluable enhancements to charting data at an unmatched pace.”

Crowdsourcing (have you noticed how German the American English is becoming, just combining words into compound words?) is one of the hottest developments in the online world today.  The technology of “connectedness” makes it possible for users to now share local data and build profoundly more accurate databases of information.  In the marine charting world, that translates to the possibility of much safer local navigation, offsetting many years of neglect from government hydrographers who had higher priorities and insufficient budgets.

If you’re a user of the ICW and you would like to participate, get onboard with the Navionics Boating APP and get your local sonar logs and information uploaded to Navionics.  You may also contact NOAA’s Coastal Survey Office directly with input and comments. Use the link above to see how.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Depthfinders, Electronics, Marine Electronics, Navigation, seamanship, Sonar, Technology
Navionics Plotter Sync Wirelessly Updates Charts on Raymarine plotters

Navionics Plotter Sync Wirelessly Updates Charts on Raymarine plotters

If you own a wirelessly enabled chartplotter from Raymarine  and you use charts from Navionics, your life is about to get MUCH simpler. An updated Navionics app on your iPhone or iPad will download daily chart updates, and then when you are within range of your wireless-enabled chartplotter from Raymarine (with the latest firmware update, likely by late April), the app will communicate with the chartplotter using an embedded technology called Plotter Sync, and update your Navionics chart cards. You really just won’t have to think about it or worry about it anymore:  you will always have the latest updates for your charts.

The Navionics Boating App is available for iOS and Android platforms.  Image courtesy of Navionics

The Navionics Boating App is available for iOS and Android platforms. Image courtesy of Navionics

Navionics Plotter Sync on Raymarine chartplotter

Navionics Plotter Sync wirelessly updates the Navionics charts on Raymarine chartplotters. Image courtesy of Navionics

According to Navionics, the Navionics Boating app gets the latest chart data from Navionics Freshest Data servers and, using Plotter Sync, automatically syncs to the chart card.  You never have to remove the card or take it back to a computer.  A bonus comes if the Raymarine user is sharing her sonar logs with Navionics.  Then, the logs will also wirelessly sync to the mobile device and then up to the cloud where they become part of Navionics crowd-sourced SonarCharts.  In the right-hand image here you can see the Navionics chart display on a Raymarine e97 chartplotter, which the image on the left shows the same chart info on an iPad, which is using the Plotter Sync technology to sync with and update the e97.

Navionics PlotterSync on an iPad synchronizing chart updates to a Raymarine e9 plotter.  Image courtesy of Navionics

Navionics PlotterSync on an iPad synchronizing chart updates to a Raymarine e9 plotter. Image courtesy of Navionics

This technology represents a significant safety enhancement.  A boater using Plotter Sync not only will have the latest charts on the Raymarine chartplotter, but also on an independent mobile device.  If you were smart enough to buy your iPad with a cellular modem, and thus with an actual gps receiver in it, then your iPad becomes a fully functional offshore navigation device.  Our resident expert on iPad navigation for boats, Christine Kling, has written extensively about iPads on boats.

Print out a up-to-date free PDF chart from the NOAA website before you leave for the dock and you’ve set yourself up for success with a triple layer of navigation redundancy.  Get the updated Navionics Boating app from the iTunes store if you want to sync your Raymarine unit via your IPad.

Plotter Sync will also soon be working with chartplotters from Navico.  The Simrad, Lowrance and B&G units equipped with GoFree wireless will be able to sync routes, tracks and logs according to current plans.  The Navionics Boating app is available also for Android devices, for use as a planning tool or for navigation.  Current Android capabilities do not include the wireless chart sync with devices on your helm. Without trying to put words in Navionics’ mouth, I can imagine that at some point in the future, we will be able to use any and all of our mobile devices to sync with our fixed-mount plotters. The technology is evolving almost on a daily basis, it seems. It’s already pretty cool and useful.  If you are using this or testing it, let us know in the comments how it’s going.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, seamanship, Technology

2014 Miami International Boat Show Opens Today

 

Open Doors of the 2014 Miami International Boat Show

What’s behind this door? The 2014 Miami International Boat Show

We’re in Miami for the opening of the 2014 Progressive® Miami International Boat Show and it’s clear from the exhibits on display, the boats in the water and the news already making headlines that there is a new optimism in the boating industry.

View of the show floor at the 2014 Miami International Boat Show

So much to see as you walk into the Convention Center show floor at the 2014 Miami International Boat Show

If you’re following our Tweets from the show (@OceanLines), you’ve seen some quick spy shots we got from the show floor last night while all the show employees and company folks were still putting last-minute touches on all the displays. We tweeted photos of the Lehr propane-powered outboard motors; a great solution if you have a diesel boat and don’t want to carry or mess with gasoline for your tender. Actually, it might be a great solution for anything you want to do with a smaller outboard.

We also sent a picture of the great line of Yamaha outboards on display; the cool paint jobs on the Mercury Verado outboards on Deep Impact’s boats; the rocketship-like go-fast boats from Marine Technology and some examples of the new Carver Yachts lineup.

Last night you also saw our Tweet with a photo of Boston Whaler’s innovative fold-down side gate on the 270 Dauntless. We’ll have two more news stories from Boston Whaler today, including one on a brand-new boat being developed by the company.

There is also a lot of news from the marine electronics companies this year and we’ll have all the coverage, including a roundup of the great new technology and content available from the Navico brands — Simrad, Lowrance and B&G.

So, stay tuned and be sure to follow us on Twitter for quick heads-up items and photos from the show floor and the marinas.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Posted by Tom in Boats, Electrical Systems, Electronics, Engines, Gear & Apparel, GPS, Industry News, Marine Electronics, Performance Powerboats, Powerboats, Propulsion, Radar, Radios, Sonar, Technology

VesselVanguard Plans, Tracks Your Boat Maintenance

VesselVanguard, the brainchild of CEO Donald Hyde, is a web-based service that organizes, tracks and alerts you to your boat’s maintenance requirements.  If your experience was like mine, the first time you bought a new boat, or a used one with lots of documentation, you found yourself with one or more huge, looseleaf binders and hundreds if not thousands of pages of manuals, specifications and warranties.  Maybe they were all there, but I never really knew.

With VesselVanguard, once you go through a basic set-up process, you can access your custom profile via any web-enabled device and see at a glance the maintenance status of all your equipment, both OEM and aftermarket-supplied.  You track your boat usage in the digital log.  Here’s the description of the set-up process from VesselVanguard:

“VesselVanguard alleviates the work and worry in owning a boat by providing you with a Dashboard view of the maintenance status of listed equipment and on-board systems. Based on days or hours-of-use, Task Alert emails are automatically sent to you, and parties you determine, in advance of required maintenance as recommended by the boat maker and equipment manufacturers. Never again leave the dock without knowing the exact status of your boat.”

The system will send you (or anyone else you want) an alert when a system or device is approaching a service interval.  You can see all of these at a glance when you log in.  There are many ways in which you can customize your experience, including by specifying that maintenance alerts go directly to your mechanic or yard.

VesselVanguard User Landing Page Screen Capture

This is what your screen might look like when you log onto your account at VesselVanguard — Click on to enlarge

The best thing about this service, IMO, is that they have done all the work for you in terms of collecting all the manuals and service recommendations for your boat — they have a huge database of painstakingly collected OEM references.  You don’t have to worry about tracking down this manual or that spec sheet; it’s done already in all likelihood.  If your boat has some customized gear that was added after it was purchased from the manufacturer, you just tell VesselVanguard about it; they’ll probably already have the manuals and recommendations for it anyway.  Check out this brief into video from the company:

How expensive is this service?  Well, it’s not free, but frankly, it’s probably less than a tank of gas for a typical mid-size cruising powerboat.   Again, here’s VesselVanguard with the price explanation:

“Initial Set-up* is $579.00 and recurring Annual Membership is $179.00. If you are an existing member of BoatUS or MarinaLife you are eligible for a member-benefit discount. *The Set-up fee may be offset with insurance premium discounts from participating insurers.”

Falvey and Brown and Brown are two insurance companies offering discounts for boaters using VesselVanguard.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines, a publication of OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Maintenance & DIY, Technology

OceanLines Has a New Look and Focus

OceanLines.biz homepage screen capture

OceanLines Home Page as of New Year 2014

If this is the first time you’ve been here in a while, you might notice our new look and our new focus.  Since its first post in 2007, OceanLines has focused on the boats we like to live and cruise on, whether for the day or for long, ocean-crossing passages.  Since the Great Recession fully landed on the boating world in 2009, the appearance and sale of new boats gradually diminished, until it almost disappeared.  There has been a small resurgence over the last year, but frankly, new boats and designs in our cruising category are still rather scarce.

One thing that remains true, and which is a field that has continued much more steadily to innovate and produce new products for boaters, is the marine electronics and boating systems industry.  Ok, those are two industries really, but together they represent what we put IN our boats and what helps us to use our boats safely and efficiently.

So here at OceanLines, we’re going to focus on covering the developments in those two industries, bringing you all the latest news on marine electronics, software, and boat systems ranging from propulsion to electrical, hydraulic and sanitary.  If you can buy it to be installed aboard or fitted to your boat, we’ll cover it.

If there are new cruising boats developed and launched, we’ll cover them too, no worries.

There’s a lot of water to cover.  Consider the following:

  • Touch screens are the wave of the present and future.  But how you implement them and how you handle them when seas are rough are the sticky points.  We’ll look into the latest offerings, such as the chartplotters from Garmin, Raymarine, the Navico brands – Simrad, Lowrance and B&G, and Furuno, and any others we can find that we think might deserve your attention.
  • Radios are not the simple units of the past.  Most you’d want to consider are GPS-equipped and include hailing and sometimes a host of other features, including wireless mics, integrated AIS receivers, even constant recording so you can replay the last received communication (now THAT would be handy).
  • Depthfinders and other sonar units are as capable as the military technology of not so long ago.  Multi-frequency transducers adapt to conditions and requirements and many units now often side-scan capabilities.
  • Radars are decidedly more capable than the units of even five years ago.  High definition units make close-in navigation much safer and use significantly less energy and pose almost no radiation risk to boaters or crewmen on deck.
  • The “glass helm” has finally arrived in recreational boating and there’s a long list of new technology and products to consider.  These systems can integrate information from your propulsion, electrical and safety systems and display as much or as little as you want.  Multiple screens can serve to expand information or provide redundancy, although the reliability of today’s displays is much improved, too.
  • Propulsion options have all gained joystick control options, something I actually predicted back in 2007 (eh, I don’t publicize the predictions I get wrong).  Whether you have pod drives, inboards or outboards, they can all be controlled (sometimes requiring a bow thruster) with a joystick via computerized controls.
  • Other boat systems have kept pace (some more so, some less so) with the revolution in marine electronics — some can now be monitored by your helm displays, for example.  Tankage monitoring continues to get ever-so-slowly better.  We have systems now to better charge and maintain our batteries, not to mention the proliferation of new battery technology.  Everything from lighting (LED) and galley appliances (high-efficiency induction) have changed our power requirements.
  • There are new services available, too.  Consider Vessel Vanguard, a company that offers boat owners a comprehensive cloud-based portal to help manage and log maintenance requirements for all of their boat’s onboard systems..  And if you aren’t already a member of the ActiveCaptain crowdsource, you’re missing out on some pretty profound resources for cruising.

So, there’s a lot to review and a lot to discuss with you.  We’d appreciate any heads-up or tips you can send us on new products — and services — that might interest your fellow boaters.  Use our contact form to send us ideas, or email us at info at OceanLines dot biz.

Copyright © 2013 by OceanLines, a publication of OceanLines, LLC.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Boats, Electrical Systems, Marine Electronics, Propulsion, Technology, Website news
Marine Navigation on Android Arrives in Style

Marine Navigation on Android Arrives in Style

Well, it’s not that you couldn’t do it before, but now you can do it with Plan2Nav, a world-class app, C-MAP charts by Jeppesen, and seamless integration of critical cruising data from ActiveCaptain.  That’s the upshot of the release of Plan2Nav from Jeppesen this week.  The app is available for free from the Android Store and from “the iTunes,” as Sheldon’s Mom would say.  Obviously, if you’re gonna run it on Android, you’ll get it from the former, probably through Google Play.

Plan2Nav Marine Navigation App for Android

Plan2Nav using C-MAP charts by Jeppesen power your Android marine navigation. Image courtesy of Jeppesen.

Once you’ve got the app, you buy a chart region — and they’re truly reasonably priced — and start navigating.  Here are the details from Jeppesen:

Depending on coverage area, charts for Plan2Nav begin at $19.99 (USD) and unlock a variety of powerful features, including:

  •         Detailed harbor charts with Jeppesen’s exclusive C-Marina Port Database, marina diagrams and aerial images
  •         Dynamic Tides and Current Predictions for added safety, better fishing and more efficient cruising
  •         Detailed depth and land elevation data for a more informative, realistic chart presentation
  •         Charts that can be viewed in 2D or Jeppesen’s unique Perspective View format
  •         Accurate, up-to-date NavAid positions for safer navigation

Plan2Nav operates in north-up or course-up orientation for fully rotating visualization, while its compass rose display provides an at-a-glance graphic presentation of your current heading. Speed Over Ground, Course Over Ground, Estimated Time of Arrival and Time To Go data help you stay on top of every voyage.

Plan2Nav Screen Capture on Android Device

Here’s a Screen Cap of one of my local striper haunts, the Shinnecock Canal on the south shore of Long Island. Plan2Nav with C-MAP charts by Jeppesen. Image courtesy of Jeppesen.

One of the best things about this app is that it allows you to access the huge ActiveCaptain database of local information — crowd-sourced and verified.  This means you have the best official information complemented by the best real-world updates.  Did a shoal hazard develop in that inlet?  Has a local buoy moved?  Is there an especially hazardous current running in this inlet?  That’s the kind of critical stuff you get when you add ActiveCaptain to your navigation solution.  It’s available offline and gets updated when you are online.  Use it.  You are safer.  Period.

 

Jeppesen's New Plan2Nav Android App.

Jeppesen’s New Plan2Nav Android App. All images courtesy of Jeppesen.

Try the app and let us know in the comments what you think.  I’ll test it on my Samsung Galaxy SIII next week at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show in Rockland, where I hope to spend some time aboard THIS gorgeous vessel!

Copyright © 2013 by OceanLines, a publication of OceanLines, LLC.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

What is the best marine navigation app for the iPad?

(Editor’s note — Christine Kling is an accomplished sailor and mystery author and she has spent a great deal of time actually using the iPad on the water for navigation and related tasks.  While your mileage may vary, I would put a lot of stock in Christine’s evaluation of these apps.  I’ve included here the first few sentences of her article today on the subject of iPad nav apps.  Be sure to check out the full article at the link below.)

Sample of Garmin BlueChart app with route placed onto chart with ActiveCaptain data.  Image courtesy of Christine Kling

Sample of Garmin BlueChart app with route placed onto chart with ActiveCaptain data. Image courtesy of Christine Kling

by Christine Kling

“This is another question I am often asked, especially since Garmin released their new iPad app BlueChart Mobile (app is free and in-app purchase of charts ranges from $29.99 for US Coast to $44.99 for US and Caribbean). Previously, in my travels, I have always used iNavX ($49.99 for app alone and another $49.99 for US and Northern Bahamas) and I’ve been wondering if Garmin’s new offering was going to sway me from my go-to app.”

Link to full story.

Copyright © 2013 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, Technology

Torqeedo Launches Next Generation of Tiller-Control Electric Motors

Torqeedo Cruise 4.0T Electric Outboard System

Torqeedo Cruise 4.0T Electric Outboard System

Torqeedo, which I’ve talked about a lot here on OceanLines, has launched the next generation of its tiller-controlled electric outboard motors.  The company says the new Cruise 2.0T and 4.0T are “stronger, faster, more robust and more efficient.

Torqeedo says the motors have a new, innovative display on the tiller, which shows information regarding battery charge status, remaining range, speed over ground and input power.  A 4AWG  plug-and-go cable set, including fuse and main switch should make the motors more comfortable to use.

Some of the specs:

    • Operating on 48V with 8-9.9 hp, the 4.0T motor only weighs 40 lbs.
    • The smaller Cruise 2.0T operates at 24V with 5-6 hp and weighs 39 lbs.
    • Both models are offered in short and long shaft versions.
    • Torqeedo’s new Cruise 2.0T is priced at $3,299, while the Cruise 4.0T is $3,799.

I think Torqeedo has provided one of the two best technology paths for future tender and small-boat propulsion. Most cruising powerboats have plenty of excess electrical generation capacity and keeping some Torqeedo batteries fully charged for the tender shouldn’t pose any kind of real challenge. The benefit is clean, reliable and efficient propulsion. I’ve always wished someone (Evinrude, are you listening?) would develop a new-generation diesel outboard, but I may opt instead for a Torqeedo electric.

Copyright © 2012 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Engines, Technology

Northport Systems Announces Fugawi Marine 5

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

Northport Systems announced that its newest marine navigation software, Fugawi Marine 5, will be available at the end of March for new purchase and upgrade from Fugawi Marine ENC. According to the company, Fugawi Marine 5 takes advantage of the latest Windows technology, including a touch-screen control optimized for use with Win 7 and 8 tablets.

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

Northport Systems said the new software includes several specific new features including:

  • Marine Touch™ — touch-screen control optimized for use with Win 7 and 8 touchscreen tablets.
  • ClearChart™ — “ultra fast, smooth and brilliantly clear chart presentation.”
  • SurePlanner™ — “simple, intuitive and efficient route and waypoint planning.”
  • ClearDash — “instrument display for sophisticated and versatile instrumentation that integrates with the Actisense NGT-1 NMEA 2000® gateway or stand-alone instruments via NMEA 0183.”

Here’s a link to the full press release, which has lots of specific details about supported file formats, chart compatibility  and instrument display options.  It looks like a great package for cruisers using PC navigation and planning, especially since the user license explicitly allows the software to be installed on two different PCs, say one at home for planning and one aboard for navigation.

Copyright © 2012 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology