Here are some of our favourite gadgets for 2017.
The Vesper WatchMate XB-8000 SmartAIS Transponder with WiFi and NMEA 2000 gateway has been voted the best black box a boater can buy. Unlike an ordinary AIS which only sends and receives data, smartAIS from Vesper Marine is an active AIS system with smart alarm logic that proactively alerts you when you have a potential collision situation. It uses navigation instrument data (wind, depth, speed, heading, log and temperature), GPS data (position, course and speed), AIS data and smart alert logic to continually determine safety implications and alert you. It also plots your anchor position and alerts you if your anchor drags. When your crew activates an AIS MOB device, it will allow you to see their current location for quick action. The free Android and Apple WatchMap app configures and monitors the XB-8000. Anchor watch shows your position relative to your anchor and triggers an external alarm if you drift outside a configured zone. Low energy consumption allows it to work continuously and does not require your phone or tablet to be on. MSRP $1,039.00
If you have ever said, "I wonder what my solar panel is putting into the batteries?", Coastal Climate Control's DC Watt Wizard is for you. It is like a battery monitor for your solar panel and lets you know, instantly, how much power you are pulling from the sun. This unit can monitor any small/medium charging source or load for a reading on watts, volts, amps, accumulative amp/hours, and run time. Data is displayed on a two-line, four-digit LED display with three customizable buttons. With an optional relay, alarm parameters can be set for over and under voltage, over current, over power, over amp/hours, and over time limit. MSRP $ 193.00
The Bluesea M2 State of Charge Monitor accurately measures and monitors the state-of-charge of your batteries. At one glance, you see all the battery info without having to scroll or navigate to some hidden menu. It uses Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology to provide high contrast visibility during the day while utilizing auto dimming at night. The monitors, available for both AC and DC applications, accurately measure and monitor current, voltage and frequency of one battery bank while also measuring voltage on two other battery banks. It requires a 2" round hole for installation but also ships with a square bezel for flush mounting. MSRP $ 520.00
We see a lot of inverter/chargers that are now reaching the end of their 10 to 15 year life cycle. In last month's Tech Talk article we looked at the new line of Xantrex Freedom SW Inverter/Chargers. This new generation represents a highly sophisticated and advanced inverter/charger which is available in two models, a 3000W inverter with a 150A charger and a 2000W inverter with a 100A charger. An added feature is that these pure sine inverters can be stacked, two 3000W would give you a total of 6000W. The SW series also comes with an automatic generator start function that will automatically start your generator based on battery voltage and then stop after a pre-programmed amount of time. You can even program quiet times to protect the serenity of your morning coffee. You can also add a Xantrex Conext ComBox that uses your onboard Wi-Fi to monitor the inverter, battery charger and generator start module through a web-based portal or smart phone. It will even text you if there is an issue. MSRP 2000W is $ 2,620.00, 3000W is $ 3,060.00 and the Conext ComBox is $ 486.00
The Fusion Sound-Panel all-in-one, shallow mount speaker system has two soft dome tweeters, two custom 4" speaker drivers and a bass radiator to deliver 200 watts of high quality audio for your boat. The sound panel provides great sound without taking up valuable space, it can be flush-mount to 19mm or surface mount with no cutting at all. It can be installed on the inside or outside as it is UV treated and IP65 rated against salt water and dust. If you have a TV installed on your boat, you can install the sound-panel just below it for a true theater experience. MSRP $ 320.00
We first talked about the Shakespeare Super Halo Cell Booster in our March 2016 Tech Talk article. We have now completed a number of installations and the reviews are really positive. Boaters have reported good service in places like Jedediah, Prideaux Haven, and Wallace Island. It is the first five-band cell phone booster with 2G, 3G and 4G voice and data but, for this system to work, there must be some cell signal. This powerful 462 square metre coverage signal amplifier, boosts cell reception of all Canadian and US mobile networks on all wireless devices such as air cards, personal hotspots/ cell spots, Android & iPad tablet computers, and all smartphones. It ships with everything you need to plug and play, a 50dB adjustable marine cell phone signal amplifier, an omni directional outside antenna and a unidirectional inside panel antenna. MSRP $ 2,880.00
The Acti-Sense NGW-1 NMEA 2000 Gateway is the easiest way to link your boat's old NMEA 0183 equipment to a new NMEA 2000 network and vice-versa. It has a bi-directional converter with wide support of message types such as AIS and autopilot. MSRP $ 298.00
The ICOM M605 VHF Marine Radio was a 2017 NMEA Product Award winner. This premium class D, DSC VHF radio has an integrated AIS receiver that can show real-time AIS vessel traffic information on the display. It has a wide viewing angle 4.3 inch, high resolution colour display with a night mode screen to provide optimal viewing in the dark. Using NMEA 2000 connectivity, the radio can exchange GNSS, AIS reports, DSC call information data, radio frequency and PGN list data on the network. It includes active noise cancelling, last call voice recording and an integrated GNSS receiver. MSRP $ 1,289.00
The Solbian ALLinONE is the first flexible solar panel with a built-in, smart battery charger. This is a very simple plug and play solar solution that combines the high efficiency of SunPower solar cells with an advanced, ultra compact MPPT charge controller in one flexible solar panel. They are currently available in 23W, 47W and 72W for 12V or 24V applications. This is a great solution if you have a boat on a mooring buoy, or have no dock power, and want to keep the starter battery charged. The smart controller ensures that the batteries are never over-charged even if they are left for long periods of time. In good sun the 23W will give you 6 - 7 Ah/day, the 47W will give you 12 - 14 Ah/day and the 72W will give you 18 - 22 Ah/day. MSRP 23W $ 448.00, 47W $ 796.00 and 72W $ 998.00
The Bluesea 5991 Battery Post Mount Switch is perfect for smaller outboard boats with limited space or those hard to reach places on your tender. It is made of tin-plated copper for maximum conductivity and corrosion resistance with a one-piece design cast bus to ensure a secure connection. It is ignition protected and safe for installation in gas engines. The clamp design fits standard tapered posts for either positive or negative side mounting. MSRP $23.00
For many boaters, it is all about reducing clutter onboard and one of the biggest contributors to clutter is cell phone and tablet chargers. We have found that one of the easiest ways to address this challenge is to install a GFCI/USB outlet. These are readily available at most hardware stores and may keep the kids from arguing over the only USB wall adapter. MSRP $30.00
The Smartplug is now available in 50A. The 125V/250V inlets have been designed to be used with 3-wires (125V) or 4-wires (250V) in a single inlet. The inlet connector provides an increased electrical contact area eliminating overheating conditions. The solid sleeve connection has a weatherproof seal and the mounting flange-holes match existing inlets so it can be easily installed to replace the old twist-type inlet products. The Smartplug is available in stainless steel and three non-metallic colors, (white, black or gray) and is made of high performance/flame resistant material. MRSP Non-metallic $349.00, Stainless $425.00
About the author: Jeff Cote is a systems design engineer and 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.