Sailfeed
April 17th

Simrad ForwardScan, a challenge to EchoPilot FLS?

Posted by // April 17, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

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Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 17, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Simrad_ForwardScan_concept_aPanbo.jpgWhile Simrad announced ForwardScan at the Miami Boat Show, details are scarce and the concept diagram doesn’t really show what a ForwardScan screen is going to look like. Yes, like other Forward Looking Sonar (FLS) systems, the goal is to display the water column and ocean floor in front of the vessel to “help boaters eliminate the worry of potential groundings in unfamiliar waters,” and yes, FowardScan is the first FLS to be fully integrated into a multifunction display system. Well, I’ve hounded Simrad for more information — all of which sounds good — and it also looks like I will get to test ForwardScan against what seems like the most similar existing product…


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First there’s the news that the $699 ForwardScan option will not require a black box.…

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April 15th

Vexilar SonarPhone T-Pod, WiFi fishfinder in a bobber!

Posted by // April 15, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

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Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 15, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Vexilar_SonarPhone_T-Pod_closeup_cPanbo.jpgIt’s 2014 and a sealed plastic 5-inch bobber can indeed contain a fairly able 400 Watt, 125 kHz fishfinder and a WiFi radio, plus enough rechargeable battery to run both for a few hours. The SonarPhone T-Pod will strike many as a toy, but it actually works quite well considering its small size and price tag ($130). And the manufacturer Vexilar puts the same technology into models meant to install on small boats, which means that dedicated iPad (or Android tablet) boaters do indeed have a fishfinder option…

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That’s the SonarPhone T-Pod kit above, my iPad mini excepted.…

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April 10th

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 10, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Garmin GNX 20 and GNX 21 instrument displays aPanbo.jpgThe press release for the new Garmin instruments doesn’t mention it — and I didn’t notice it at first myself — but can you see what’s quite unusual about these monochrome displays? The GNX 20 at left and its inverted GNX 21 sibling have LCD screens that are partly segmented and partly dot matrix. I didn’t even know that was possible, but I think it makes sense in terms of maximum power efficiency without completely surrendering to the readability limitations of large segments…

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The GNX 21 true wind speed/angle screen above illustrates the segment/dot matrix mix pretty well, especially if you click to make it bigger, and the inset depth/depth graph does it even better, though I don’t have a high resolution version.…

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April 8th

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 8, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

WaveTrax_log_history_cPanbo.jpgI wish that track was on the water, but testing WaveTrax auto boat logging over the road is impressive, nonetheless. Running on my iPad mini, the app not only collects a track point every minute, but automatically creates log entries marking my Lat/Long, COG, and SOG on the hour (and at user selectable distances). It’s fairly easy to add notes, captioned photos, engine/fuel status, and weather observations as desired, and when a trip is done, I even get to touch scribble a signature. But that’s hardly half of it…

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WaveTrax is both an app and a synchronized personal website, and in my view, that’s the way to go for tasks like this.…

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April 5th

Shaft Razor long test, with a look at the competition

Posted by // April 5, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Boats and Gear,

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 5, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Shaft_Razor_line_cutter_installed_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.jpgThere are still patches of icy snow left from a memorable March in Maine, but I enjoyed a recent afternoon wandering around the boatyard checking out shaft cutters. Pictured above is the Shaft Razor that’s been protecting Gizmo from line wraps since the spring of 2010. Like my stainless rudder it picked up a lot of barnacles last fall, but that double set of super-sharp serrated teeth were still quite effective. The Shaft Razor is also a good value that has required zero maintenance, and while I saw some interesting competition around the yard, I wouldn’t trade it…

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First, here’s a closer look at the Shaft Razor that better shows its simple one-piece design and diabolical teeth.…

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April 3rd

Written by Ben Ellison on Apr 3, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Afterguard_HUD_in_action_aPanbo.jpgThe goal is to direct your focus wherever it’s needed on or beyond the boat while still having critical data in sight.  Brand spanking new today is the Afterguard heads-up display (HUD) for racing sailors. Yes, recent America’s Cup skippers apparently used HUD sunglasses, though you’re a better researcher than I if you can find detail about how they worked and what data they provided. Afterguard intends to bring this technology down at least a few levels, and that means we get a better look at what it can do.…

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March 30th

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 30, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

XB-8000-3-in-one-800.jpgI’ve had a Vesper XB-8000 installed in the lab for the last month, and I’m confident that it will do well in a long test on board Gizmo beginning in May. I will miss some features of the Vesper Vision I tested last season, but having the blue box installed behind the scenes will help me test the glass bridge concept (one MFD brand, many screens), and at $799 I think the XB-8000 is a multifunction value that could work on a wide variety of vessels.…

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March 26th

Lowrance Elite 5/7 cheap CHIRP, the sonar wars rage on

Posted by // March 26, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Boats and Gear, ,

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 26, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Lowrance_Elite-5_CHIRP.jpgLowrance just launched Elite-5 and -7 CHIRP fishfinders and plotter combos today, but they showed off working prototypes during the Navico writer’s event I attended in January. What seemed to particularly excite the product managers was the Elite’s new ability “to produce low, medium and high CHIRP sonar ranges and display two user-selected ranges simultaneously” using just an “affordable” HDI Skimmer transducer. Apparently they didn’t realize that this tranducer could usefully CHIRP until they tried it, and now they think they have a edge in the sonar battle that’s taking place both on the water and in law offices…

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In December I hailed the Elite-4 HDI as a lot of fishfinder and plotter technology at a low cost, but of course a 7-inch screen can reveal a lot more information, especially when you can put a long scroll of CHIRP sonar right above the same track imaged with high-frequency DownScan.…

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March 23rd

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 23, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Sonos_Play_1_test_cPanbo.jpgI knew little about Sonos wireless hifi a month ago. While the ads suggested an elegant Apple-like design, I had the impression it also came with Apple-like premium prices and was certainly not suitable for boats. But now that I’ve lived for a month with the relatively new Play:1 seen above, I may have been wrong on both counts!  Many reviewers have already praised the little speaker/amp’s hardware and audio quality compared to similar wireless speakers. I want to detail the superb Sonos audio access and control software that you can tap into with just one $199 Play:1(though adding more components will be a huge temptation) and also discuss how Sonos can make sense afloat.…

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March 18th

Written by Ben Ellison on Mar 18, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Si-Tex_T-760_standalone_radar_w domes_aPanbo.jpgThere’s more to the new Si-Tex T-760 Series radar than you’ll currently find on that product page. Those multi-speed radomes are unlike anything Si-Tex has offered before and contain digital processing that will eventually put 16-level true color target imagery on that 800 x 480 pixel touch screen (with a software update). Plus, the case is carved from solid aluminum and can be easily flush mounted. At a suggested retail of about $2,100 with the 18-inch radome and an impressive set of radar features, the T-760 looks like an interesting alternative for boaters who don’t want all their electronic navigation tools on a multifunction display.…

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