Garmin’s new ActiveCaptain Community site, what’s good and what’s not?

28 May

I am a long time fan of ActiveCaptain boating info. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my January 2007 Camden Public Landing review above was one the very first, as I was simultaneously writing about AC’s inception here (and at Power & Motoryacht). Now the AC database and user community are both huge, but many of us “captains” are struggling with Garmin’s very recent and complete rebuild of the service. In this entry I’ll share what I’ve learned about the new ACC website, hoping for more pros and cons from readers (and meanwhile, Ben Stein is working on an ...

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Standing a 24 hour watch, am I nuts?

21 May

As the title suggests, I’m not confident that I should have taken Gizmo on a 24-hour solo jaunt from Norfolk to Atlantic City in what looked like dicey weather conditions. Some readers may think I endangered myself and others, and they may well have a point. Actually, I’d like to get that discussion out of the way here because I plan several other entries referencing all the real world gear testing that went on.

Why solo? I’m not antisocial, but cruising alone does mean oodles of freedom to do as I please, be it spending all day at anchor working ...

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SEAiq apps replace ActiveCaptain with Waterway Guide

15 May

Actually, as you can see above, SEAiq lets you overlay both ActiveCaptain and Waterway Guide info onto its chart display (and easily turn either or both overlays on and off). But as noted on the SEAiq website, the AC data will not be updated after May 23, though “We are considering updating SEAiq support for ActiveCaptain but do not have definite plans yet.”

As Panbo has been reporting, third-party app support for AC is uncertain for a couple of reasons, but I’m hoping that it will turn out to be reasonably easy for developers to adopt Garmin’s new ...

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Fusion Apollo Series, truly “The Sum of Audio Innovation”?

10 May

Even bolder than the advertising tagline quoted in my title is sentence two of the Apollo press release: “Building on FUSION’s industry recognized True-Marine design philosophy, the new Apollo Series will forever change the face of marine entertainment and set a new standard by which all others will be created.” And the Apollo name and logo even reference the classical Greek god of music. It would all seem immensely pretentious if Fusion hadn’t also gone big with design and audio goodness. But, by golly, I think Apollo delivers…

While you can learn a lot about the Apollo Series online...

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Somewear Iridium satellite tracker/messenger and Garmin InReach Mini

5 May

The relatively low-cost Iridium satellite two-way communications service known as SBD (Short Burst Data) has proven itself remarkably reliable and useful on boats, as seen with the Garmin InReach Explorer+ I’ve been long testing (and with other devices). So I was glad to hear about the Kickstarter campaign for Somewear, another handheld GPS/SBD tracker/messenger that seems competitive with inReach but with a fresh design approach from San Francisco startup Somewear Labs.

Unlike the various inReach models, a Somewear can only send a distress alert when used by itself; everything else — like messaging, requesting a weather forecast, and ...

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PYI Seaview Cable Glands, even a Retrofit model

29 Apr

Ben Stein’s cabling frustrations reminded me about the value of good cable glands, like the selection from PYI Seaview. They are designed so that you can pass a cable with a fair sized connector — or even several such cables — through a deck or superstructure, but end up with a tight waterproof seal around the cable(s).

PYI offers Seaview Cable Glands in anodized aluminum, polished stainless, and even custom finishes, but I’m fine with this less expensive ABS plastic multi cable model. When it’s eventually installed behind the radar and hailer speaker on the front of Gizmo’s...

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Eco bottom paint testing, back to copper and Irgarol

23 Apr

I did hire a diver to clean Gizmo’s bottom last September, but he said he found very little hard growth (like the barnacles that can really slow a good boat down). So it seems fair to say that the water-based copper-free Pettit Hydrocoat Eco did well in that department given how much clean area is seen above after 22 months in the water, including a winter in Maine with enough ice to grind the paint completely off much of the waterline.

All things considered, this was pretty effective bottom paint, and very friendly to apply, but you may recall that ...

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Gadget’s new battery, the Chrome Pro Series iGel

19 Apr


This was such a pleasant surprise. Perhaps you recall how I built a solar-charged bilge pump system into Gizmo’s beloved Fatty Knees 9 tender Gadget in early 2016. Well, it has worked very well but also taken some abuse, and the already seasoned 3AH motorcycle-type battery died last December. There were a great many choices on Amazon (even with the same YTX5L-BS model name ;-), but if you want the amazing technology seen above, get the Chrome Pro Series iGel (somehow only $22.50 with shipping in January).

Yes, that is a built-in voltage tester, and if you hold down ...

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Marina WiFi can be weird, report from New Bern

15 Apr

Holy cow!  I’ve never seen WiFi download speeds over 100 Mbps on land, let alone in a marina, and nevermind a dreaded marina well populated with liveaboards and northbound snowbirds. I measured the internet connectivity above while logged into New Bern Grand Marina‘s WiFi and was so dumbfounded that I tested the connection with multiple internet speed apps on both iOS and Android devices over four days. The amazing results were consistent — and, zounds, did those apps download fast — but there is much more to the story.

In last week’s feature titled Marine internet, a connected year ...

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CZone Signal Interface module long test, replacement impressive

11 Apr

In early 2013, installing a CZone Signal Interface to put Gizmo’s tank levels on my NMEA 2000 network was a very pleasing experience. In fact, I’ve kept it installed for long testing and have become quite dependent on its reliable performance. So it was bad news in January when I somehow bricked the module while trying to update its firmware after all these years — hey, the CZone system isn’t really meant for DIY use — and even worse when I didn’t get back to the boat until just before heading north. But, dang, replacing the Signal Interface also turned ...

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