Electronics Roundup 2017 - Part 1

This is a great time of the year for new electronics and the main theme for 2017 is radars. Recently, a few manufacturers started offering a Wi-Fi radar, where the radar signal is transmitted wirelessly to a tablet or multi-function display. This year, many manufacturers came out with solid state radars that provide low power consumption and instant on capabilities without sacrificing target separation or even range. Furthermore, the new radars offer new user friendly features such as automatically distinguishing between moving and stationary objects. Another interesting feature is emphasizing dangerous targets with a different colour to quickly highlight the risk to the operator.

Every March we put together a list of products that have caught our eye however, this issue always falls on the cusp of the Miami Boat Show (February 16 – 20, 2017) where all the manufacturers unveil the latest and greatest they have to offer.  This year we decided to put together a two-part electronics issue so we can highlight some tried and true favourites and then, next month, look at some new technologies.  Let's get started!

Simrad EVO 3 with the SolarMAX™ HD Screen - The NSS evo3 includes a 7", 9", 12" and 16" model with an updated TouchSensible touchscreen, keypad and rotary control knob, all designed to be easier to operate when the boat is in motion.  The new SolarMAX HD display technology provides high-definition visuals with extra-wide viewing angles, perfect for use in direct sunlight or low light.  The big difference with this technology is advanced in-plane switching (IPS) with superior colour accuracy to enhance viewing of the Halo radar and the dual channel CHIRP sonar.  The touchscreen even works when under constant sea spray and bad weather.

The display includes a 10 Hz internal GPS antenna, fully integrates with both the autopilot and the Broadband 3G™ or 4G™ or Halo™ radar system.  The dual channel CHIRP enables wide angle, ForwardScan, and deep view sonar images from the same transducer.  The built-in Wi-Fi enables access to GoFree® online, which delivers smartphone monitoring and tablet control.  Simrad has also released their latest navigational interface called TripIntel™, that makes it easy to plan journeys based on fuel range, tide, and detailed trip history.

B & G Zeus 3 - Is an easy-to-use chartplotter navigation system designed specifically for sailors.  Like the Simrad, it has excellent screen visibility with ultra-wide viewing angles in 7”, 9”, 12” and 16” models.  Built-in Wi-Fi lets you access charts, weather information, software updates and online support directly from your display via any Wi-Fi internet hotspot.  GoFree® Wi-Fi also lets you mirror your Zeus³ screen on a compatible smartphone, and control your Zeus³ display from a compatible tablet, for an extra display that you can use anywhere on board.  B&G's unique SailSteer feature combines all the essential sailing data, from Heading, Wind, Laylines and Tide to Wind Angle Target indicator and Wind Shift Sectors.  And, this is all available on a chart overlay.

Garmin Forward Looking Sounder Panoptix PS51-TH - This multibeam thru-hull transducer with forward-looking sonar helps you avoid running aground by displaying the ocean floor on your chartplotter.  It displays up to 90 metres ahead of your boat in real time providing instant feedback to give you more time to react.  This image data can be easily shared with other chartplotters across the Garmin Marine Network.

Raymarine Wi-Fish App - Transform your smartphone into a CHIRP DownVision sonar with Wi-Fish™. Download the free Wi-Fish app and connect using standard Wi-Fi and you will be streaming real time sonar right to your phone or tablet. Pause, zoom, and rewind right on your smart device. Compatible with the Dragonfly 4, 5 and 7 Pro, each waypoint is displayed as a dynamic overlay on a real-time view of the waterway in front of you. Simply pan your smartphone or tablet 360 degrees across the horizon and the precise positions of your waypoints are shown on the live camera feed.  The App contains a new View-Switcher, that allows you to scroll through CHIRP DownVision, fish-targeting sonar, augmented reality view, map view and combination views.

Garmin Fantom Radar - Garmin’s newest 18-inch and 24-inch dome radar with 40W of power.  Garmin uses MotionScope technology that utilizes the Doppler effect to detect and highlight moving targets to avoid collisions, find flocks of birds and track weather.  With its pulse compression technology, Fantom provides high resolution while maximizing energy on targets to enhance detection and identification of targets. Pulse expansion can then maximize target size to help differentiate real targets from noise.

The Fantom 18 features a 5.2-degree beam width, while the Fantom 24 offers a narrower 3.7-degree width offering a precise, high-resolution image. Both radomes offer excellent range performance from 6 metres to 48 nautical miles.  It includes a dual range feature, so boaters have the ability to see both close- and long-range simultaneously, with an overlay on a chart for one or both ranges. This eliminates the need to toggle between views.  The Fantom 18 and 24 feature low power consumption (less than 25W) and instant turn-on, so no warm-up time is needed.

Furuno DRS4D-NXT - A solid state radar with pulse compression that packs the performance of an open array radar in a 24" radome.  This is the first Furuno radar to use their exclusive Target Analyzer technology which causes targets approaching your vessel to automatically change colour and identify if they are hazardous.  Furuno has also introduced RezBoost beam sharpening, equivalent to 2 degree beam width allowing you to see detailed targets such as kayaks.  And for fishers, it includes a bird mode which allows you to track birds to find the best fishing grounds.

ICOM M605 - A new Class D DSC radio which has the capability of connecting up to three command stations, with an intercom function available between the main radio and controllers.  The colour LCD provides nearly a 180 degree viewing angle. The 4.3-inch wide display has high resolution characters and function icons. The night mode screen provides the optimal viewing brightness for comfortable operation in the dark.  The M605 has an integrated AIS receiver, that can show real-time AIS vessel traffic information on the display. The AIS combo screen enables you to monitor the AIS plotter during basic operation and you can directly call a selected AIS target from the AIS screen using an individual DSC call.  The last call voice recording function automatically saves up to two minutes of an incoming call.  It is also NMEA0183 LS & HS and NMEA2000 compatible.

SmartFind S20 AIS MOB - This personal locator beacon is designed to be fitted to a lifejacket and activated in the event of a person overboard situation. After the lifejacket is inflated, simply pull the orange locking tab downwards to deploy the antenna and activate the high precision GPS.  The S20  will transmit position information and a serialised identity number back to your boat's onboard plotter. It will transmit continuously for a minimum of 24 hours and has a 7 year battery storage life. The flashing LED indicator light also makes you easier to spot at night.  There is also an automatic deployment option that can be professionally fitted to a number of compatible lifejackets that causes the S20 to activate when the lifejacket is inflated.

 Autopilots - There are two autopilots this year, one from Simrad and the other from Garmin.  These new systems use compass settings, waypoints, wind and a route to perform like cruise control while integrating with your chartplotter.

Garmin GHP Compact Reactor - This is the ideal entry-level autopilot system designed for single engine outboard boats under 10 metres.  Offered in 3 different corepacks, this autopilot lets you configure your autopilot setup depending on the features you need and how much you want to spend. Buy the starter pack, add a GHC™ 20 marine autopilot control unit, or add both a GHC 20 and Shadow Drive. The Shadow Drive system automatically disengages the autopilot if the helm is turned, giving you the freedom to maneuver the boat. The autopilot automatically re-engages when you hold a steady course. And, this autopilot actually reacts to the sea to hold your course, even when the boat is pitching and rolling.

Simrad AP44 Autopilot Controller - This system is designed for hydraulic-steered outboard and stern drive boats up to 10 metres.  It features an autopilot controller with a 4.1-inch colour display, an RPU-80 hydraulic steering pump, an autopilot computer, a precision-9 solid-state compass plus all the necessary NMEA 2000® cables and connectors.  It has an easy setup with automatic tuning and compass calibration and the virtual rudder feedback eliminates the need to install a mechanical rudder feedback unit.  The AP44 offers no drift steering which holds your course against wind and tide however the GPS receiver is sold separately.

Shakespeare SuperHALO - We wrote about his last month in our “Stay Connected” article but it bears repeating.  It is a very popular product for boaters who want to boost an existing cell signal and broadcast cell within a boat forfor 5 – 10 simultaneous users.  It is the first marine grade 5-band cell phone booster 2G/3G/4G voice and data antenna.  The kit ships with an indoor and outdoor antenna, cell booster and cabling which enables you to optimize cellular coverage on your boat where reception may be weak due to your distance from a cell tower or mountainous terrain. Designed with boaters in mind, the unit will go dormant when not in use to save power.

Cameras - We are installing more and more cameras on boats, not only for navigation but for monitoring and security.

FLIR AX8 - Combines a thermal and visual camera in one very small package.  The AX8 provides continuous temperature monitoring and alarming for of critical electrical and mechanical equipment such as engines, exhaust manifolds, shaft bearings, etc.  This camera integrates with the Raymarine LightHouse II multifunction displays and sends audible and visual alerts when the temperature rises above a preset.  You can keep a watchful eye on equipment, spot problems before they happen and evaluate ongoing temperature trends without going in the engine room.  Confirm that the camera ships with a power supply and cable, as you may have to purchase them separately.

Nest Camera - Using your boat or marina WiFi, you can monitor your boat systems using your smartphone and the Nest App. The camera provides super clear 1080p HD video and comes with advanced night vision and 8X digital zoom. It also has a microphone and speaker, which is great if your technician is onboard and you can’t be there.  The Nest Cam includes Nest Aware with video history that saves 10 days of continuous footage in the cloud. If you need more coverage, there is a subscription that provides you with a cloud recording service that allows you to rewind up to 30 days.

Fusion StereoActive - We included this in our December Gadget Gift List and it continues to be extremely popular.  Combined with the Fusion Active Safe, this system uses the Fusion puck system to attach to almost any surface on a kayak, paddleboard, dinghy or boat.  It is IPx7 rated, water resistant and floats. The stereo uses the FUSION-Link wireless control and can be controlled with your Garmin smartwatch.  The buttons on the top of the stereo are designed so you can control the volume or take a phone call with the tap of a paddle.  It has a dual 2.5” 40 Watt custom-designed directional speaker system, bluetooth audio streaming, AM/FM radio tuner and weather band radio. 

We are looking forward to the manufacturers’ announcements at the Miami Boat Show and will report back in next month’s issue.

About the author: Jeff Cote is the owner of Pacific Yacht Systems, a full service shop delivering marine electrical and navigation solutions for recreational boats. Visit their website and blog for info and articles on marine electrical systems, projects and more: www.pysystems.ca.