Winter boat, with help from Victron, Maretron, and FloatHub

13 Feb


Ben Stein is already in Miami working as an Innovations Award judge and I look forward to his reporting as I man the news desk here in Maine. Today, though, I’ll discuss some of the monitoring tools helping to keep Gizmo safe in winter conditions like the easterly gale that blew about ten inches of snow onto Camden last night.

Victron remote control on Android phone 2-13-19

The newest monitoring equipment being tested on Gizmo is a Victron Venus connected to their latest BMV 712 Smart and the MultiPlus inverter/charger I installed in 2012. Victron loaned me the ...

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E-Tech electric boat motors, used and distributed by Maine Cat

8 Feb


When I wrote enthusiastically about the then-new Maine Cat MC 38 in 2016, my only reservation was the gasoline outboards (though MC has used them on other sailing cat models for years). But then again, the lightweight, low drag 38 design seemed perfect for ever-improving electric propulsion and twin drives should give it reliable and excellent maneuverability around docks.

So I’ve followed closely as builder/designer Dick Vermeulen pursued an electric solution, and while that’s been a somewhat bumpy road, there are now two interesting stories in progress:  Maine Cat recently became the E-Tech distributor for North America and several ...

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Helm ergonomics, Steve Dashew style

30 Jan


Cochise is certainly eye-catching, and especially so when you realize that you’re looking at the personal cruising “dream machine” of a remarkably innovative designer, engineer, and mariner with hundreds of thousands of offshore miles under sail and power. Fortunately, Steve Dashew is also an outstanding photographer and a motivated blogger, so you too can learn about the evolution of his FPB (Friggin Power Boat) series in deep detail at

But you may also notice that the Dashews announced their retirement from FPB building in September 2017 (while also posting a grand photo history of their half-century afloat ...

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My Walker taffrail log, designed centuries ago and still working

16 Jan


I certainly agree with DownEast magazine’s choice for a top 10 iconic Maine image. Heck, I still remember relishing this photo of Captain Lincoln Colcord grinning his way around the Cape of Good Hope at the turn of the 19th century when I first visited the Penobscot Marine Museum about 72 years later. And the underlying story is bigger than any state.

Beyond the obvious thrill of fast reaching toward an Asian cargo port helped by big winds and seas, Capt. Colcord was racing against the steam engines that were fast ending his way of life — this ...

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Scheiber’s kinetic Light Air Switch kit, with Marinebeam assist

10 Jan

Scheiber is a substantial French electronics company that provides sophisticated systems to large boatbuilders like Beneteau and Lagoon, but it’s now offering its lighting control technology in a retail kit form that means a local installer or DIY could use it for refits or custom builds. Moreover, the $350 Light Air Switch is distributed and supported in the U.S. by the crack team at Marinebeam, and what technology it is! For starters, the wall switches themselves don’t even need batteries, let alone wires…

In this demo video, Marinebeam’s Jeff Field explains how the switch is powered by harvested or kinetic ...

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Starlight LED helming guide, plus Autonnic’s unusual A55 “analog” instrument displays

7 Jan

One of my METS show highlights was the Starlight LED Helming Guide introduced by Autonnic Research. While the concept is somewhat hard to grasp from ashore — even with an animation — I think it’s a great example of how electronics can be fashioned into a unique and useful tool that connects intuitively with the natural world of boating. While “a star to steer by” sounds lovely, I’ve observed many a helmsman who needed lots of help and experience to make it a truly smooth and pleasurable experience, and I’m pretty sure that Starlight can substantially shorten the learning ...

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The Equation of Time, old time navigation know-how in the modern world

21 Dec

If you ever messed with celestial navigation, you probably understand why even a perfectly installed sundial can be off by more than 15 minutes at some times of the year. But let’s recap on this shortest and darkest of days — in the Northern Hemisphere, that is — and I’ll also discuss how my old celestial nav skills recently helped with some very modern technology.

While it seems logical that the sun will pass due south of a fixed spot on earth at the exact same time every day, it does not. The calculated differences between Mean Solar Time (our ...

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Spinlock Sail-Sense, the IoT now includes tacking and flogging

19 Dec

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) concept has not excited me so far. For instance, the oft-repeated example — a  wireless sensor/software system by which my ‘smart’ refrigerator will monitor a ‘smart’ milk carton’s level so that my phone can alert me when to buy a new one — leaves me as IoT skeptical as this tech pundit. But when the thing is a valuable sail and Spinlock’s Sail-Sense sensing goes well beyond human capabilities, the IoT story gets interesting.

Using the Sail-Sense app to enter sail data that will be saved in the Sail-Sense module

The Sail-Sense ...

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Navico Halo24 & Raymarine Quantum2 radars, Gizmo goes full Doppler

8 Dec

Credit to the schooner Mary Day for lighting up Camden Harbor nights with her Christmas tree main-topmast, but yesterday Gizmo became the rare vessel equipped with four different solid-state Doppler pulse compression radars. Given the Simrad Halo24 announced in October, and the Raymarine Quantum 2 introduced last February, all four major marine navigation electronics brands now offer this valuable technology. And while the timing isn’t ideal, I’m excited about adding the two new radomes to the Garmin Fantom 24 and Furuno DRS4D-NXT Doppler models already being tested.

Navico (Simrad, B&G, and Lowrance) Halo24 radar underside

Navico (Simrad, B&G, and Lowrance) Halo24 radar underside

Actually, near-freezing air temperatures do ...

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Edson ComfortGrip Strips & Gizmo’s winter spot

27 Nov

When I went down to visit Gizmo this morning, the cold rain had pretty much eliminated the ice, snow, and slush that helped make the Thanksgiving holiday such a joy. But that composite float decking still felt a little “greasy,” especially given the 30+ knot Nor’easter that was pushing enough of a swell into Camden’s innermost Inner Harbor to sometimes roll my poor boat about 20 degrees. But mission accomplished: My very first use of that 8-inch Edson ComfortGrip Strip just installed on the stanchion I grab to help me (or anyone) get aboard was much appreciated.

Frankly I wasn’t ...

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