Boats and Gear

Furuno 711C Navpilot head & MCU002 remote keypad, TZT style

29 Jul

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 29, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Furuno_711c_autopilot_head_SETCSE_aPanbo.jpgThe press release (PDF here) for Furuno’s new color 711C autopilot control describe it as “completely redesigned to provide an excellent match with Furuno’s flagship line of NavNet TZtouch MFD’s… right down to the control knob!” There’s no denying the similar handsome styling, and doesn’t it make you wonder if Furuno will eventually offer a color NMEA 2000 instrument display with the same standard DIN size and 4.1-inch color screen? That’s 100% speculation on my part, but doesn’t it make sense as Furuno finds ...

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Life raft: more than two four letter words

26 Jul

Examining raft contents. Photo (c) Michelle Elvy

How do you choose a life raft? We looked for the best raft available. That wasn’t enough.

As dewy-eyed gonna-be cruisers, we focused on choosing a superior product for that moment of (heaven forbid) dire need. We looked at independent research reports, read books and blogs about the life raft experiences of other cruisers, and met with all major brand reps at boat shows. After much deliberation, we settled on a six-man Winslow life raft as the crucial piece of safety gear that we hope to never use.

Our initial certification on the new raft was good for three years, ...

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Gizmo’s awning AC and Muvman sit-stand stool

24 Jul

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 24, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Gizmo_awning_AC_cPanbo.jpgToday it’s wet and gray here on a mooring float in Northeast Harbor, but we’re enjoying a distinctly non-electronic improvement to Gizmo’s gear list. It’s a new awning that stretches from the cabin brow to the bow pulpit, letting us keep the hatches open despite the rain bursts. Yesterday, when it was sunny and fairly hot, the awning shaded the forward cabin top and the main cabin’s large forward windows. If it gets really hot, I’m pretty sure that the combination of the awning plus the ...

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Simrad RS35 VHF & HS35 wireless handset, testing pretty well

22 Jul

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 22, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Simrad_RS35_testing_GPS_source_cPanb_o.jpgIt’s taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35’s nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return ...

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MODERN MARINE ELECTRONICS: My Obsolete Chartplotter

19 Jul

Plotter screen

I’ve been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I’ve been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

Landfall’s website, you’ll recall, purported to have a relevant chart card that was ...

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Navionics SonarCharts, now via SonarPhone or GPX file, plus the Lowrance autopilot

17 Jul

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

Navionics_Vexilar_iPad_app_aPanbo.jpgWow. Combining the Navionics Boating apps and the Vexilar SonarPhone WiFi fishfinder seems like an obvious development now, but there are so many marine electronics integration possibilities these days that even the ripe low-hanging fruit can be surprising. Announced yesterday at ICAST (PDF here) and available for iPhone/iPad in August (and Android later), the combined Navionics SonarPhone app means that a small boater can have a fairly sophisticated plotter/fishfinder for about $200, phone or tablet not included (and note the issue of screen visibility ...

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Inmarsat iSatPhone 2, a solid satphone but here come Globalstar Sat-Fi & Iridium GO

14 Jul

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 14, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Inmarsat_iSatPhone_2_aPanbo.jpgA brief test of the new Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 showed it to be quite a good satellite phone. Compared to the original IsatPhone Pro I tested in 2010, the new phone locks onto both GPS and Inmarsat satellites noticably faster and the voice calls seem to sound better. I also found the screen quite readable in most conditions including direct sun, and the user interface struck me as fast and easy to get the hang of. However, if you sense some “buts” coming, you are ...

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The best sails for downwind cruising

11 Jul

asymmetric

What’s the difference between a drifter, a gennaker, a code zero, and a screecher? Where does a spinnaker fit in? And if you’re a cruiser, what sail should you use for downwind sailing, anyway?

There is no single “best,” because everything on a boat is a compromise, and individual styles/needs vary, but we have some opinions on the optimal choice for most cruisers.

This question came up on a women’s sailing forum I participate in recently. Because Jamie is a sailmaker, I asked him for help with a response that would be useful to differentiate the options for downwind sails. ...

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Marinebeam: Ultra Long Range LED flashlight tested, MarineKinetix wind turbine admired

8 Jul

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

Marinebeam_Ultra_spot_flashlight_testing_cPanbo.jpgYou really should click on the photo above to see the higher resolution version. With my camera on a tripod I was lighting up boats and mooring buoys about 500 to 700 yards away (460 to 640 meters) with only an LED flashlight powered by three D cells. What’s more, the beam is so tight that I was able to do this testing without blinding myself or (hopefully) anyone who was on their boat in Camden’s outer harbor last night. The Marinebeam Ultra Long Range RLT ...

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MODERN MARINE NAVIGATION: Crashing the iPad

7 Jul

Canadian chart catalogue

Having decided that part of this summer’s cruising program on Lunacy will involve a two-week jaunt over to Nova Scotia and back, it dawned on me that I needed to make sure I actually have charts for Nova Scotia. In the previous century, which really wasn’t that long ago, this would have been a simple process. I would consult my ever-growing stack of paper charts, discover I had no relevant charts, and then call the Armchair Sailor in Newport. These people were personally known to me, and I was known to them. I would say: “Hi! Howzit going? I’m sailing ...

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