March Electronics 2018

As we wait for the bulk of the new product announcements at the Miami Boat Show, we will review and reflect on some of the popular and innovative products we saw over this past year. Next month in Part Two, we will look toward the future with a roundup of all the exciting new product releases for 2018. 

One of the biggest advancements we saw this year were improved screen viewability, not only for large cruisers but also for recreational fishing boats and day cruisers.  The other trend that we continue to see is electronics with enhanced capabilities at a reduced cost.  Options that were only available on larger commercial vessels and high-end yachts are now available for recreational boats.   Advancements in radar, AIS and digital monitoring are making boating safer for all sizes of vessels. 

Furuno DRS4DL+ UHD Radar - One of the most popular and sought-after features found in the latest generation of Furuno Radars is ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) with Fast Target Tracking (TT).  Previously only available in larger, high-end systems, this technology is now a standard feature of the new DRS4DL+ compact UHD radome. NavNet TZtouch and TZtouch2 customers will now be able to acquire and track up to 10 targets, then easily view speed and course information for those targets. After selecting a target, it only takes a few seconds for a speed and course vector to be displayed. With accurate tracking information, estimation of other vessel's course and speed is made simple.

This 4kW radar is presented in a compact, rugged 19" dome with a 5.2 degree horizontal beamwidth antenna. Furuno's automatic, real-time digital signal processing offers navigators some of the clearest targets ever seen from a radar of this compact size.

Simrad GO12 XSE - The Simrad GO12 XSE chartplotter navigation display is designed to allow sportboats, cruisers, and smaller center consoles the capabilities of plug-and-play support for Simrad Broadband Radar™ and Halo™ Pulse Compression radar systems. Behind a super-bright, multi-touch widescreen display lies a built-in GPS receiver, wireless connectivity, and industry standard NMEA 2000® networking. Connect with smartphones and tablets, control your onboard sound system, monitor engine data, and choose from an array of built-in sonar technology to cruise with confidence and find fish like a pro. 

Like other manufacturers, Simrad has included automatic routing. Very much like your smartphone or in-car navigation system, you can simply select a destination and your display will suggest the shortest, safest route.  Another unique option is the Navionics® SonarChart™ Live support, Available exclusively with Navionics charts, this feature creates a depth-contour overlay using live sonar data from your display’s built-in sounder. The results are shown on your GO series display and updated in real-time as you fish or cruise.  This model is also compatible with the Simrad WM-3 SiriusXM satellite weather module. 

Simrad GO7 XSR - We don’t usually write about two similar products from the same manufacturer but the Simrad GO7 XSR warrants a mention.  This product exemplifies enhanced capabilities at a reduced price.  A smaller 7” widescreen version of the GO12, it boosts most of the same options such as an easy to use multi-touch interface with bright LED backlight, built-in Broadband Sounder™, CHIRP sonar, StructureScan® HD imaging or ForwardScan™ sonar support (transducer required), radar display for Simrad Broadband 3G™/4G™ and Halo™ Pulse Compression.  It is also compatible with the Simrad WM-3 SiriusXM satellite weather module (North America only). 

Garmin Echomap Plus Combo Series - This next generation chartplotter/sonar combination for both saltwater and lake boaters features powerful sonar capabilities, preloaded charts and mapping and built-in WiFi for access to the new Garmin ActiveCaptain marine app. This series first hit the market about five years ago and each new model has added increased functionality such as key-assist touchscreens.  A free software update planned for Q1 2018 will also enable the 7- and 9-inch ECHOMAP Plus units to share user and sonar data between devices.

 B&G Vulcan 12” - This multi-touch chartplotter is designed specifically for sailors featuring B&G’s award-winning SailSteer function that allows you to see all of your key sailing data at a glance.  View data together on one handy dedicated screen, or overlaid on charts for the modern sailor's ultimate navigational view. With the addition of sailing instruments and sensors via industry-standard NMEA 2000 networking, SailSteer evolves to show Boat Speed, Wind data, Heading, Tide, Wind Shift Sectors and even Laylines – enhancing the detail on SailSteer and chart screens. It's easy to add waypoints or plot a course; with B&G SailingTime you'll see waypoint arrival times based on realistic sailing course and tidal effects, rather than a straight-line calculation. When connected to a B&G autopilot system, the Vulcan 12 acts as a secondary autopilot controller providing Intelligent Sail Steering, manual and auto steering functions, and Smart Maneuver functionality combined with intuitive menus for ultimate control. 

Digital Switching with CZone - Marine electrical wiring has not changed a great deal over the years.  Recently, we have seen the introduction of multiplexing or digital switching as a way of simplifying wiring and providing far easier monitoring and control.

A New Zealand company, BEP Marine, introduced CZone a few years ago mostly to new boat construction.  CZone is a digital networked power control and monitoring system, using a common NMEA 2000 CAN bus. CZone replaces normal wiring with a single wire to shorten cable runs. By decentralizing the DC power distribution system, and moving circuit control and protection devices closer to loads, CZone enables shorter cable runs and reduces the size of conductors. CZone is scalable on boats ranging from 7 to 28 metres. Modules can easily be added and the plug and play system is designed for simple, fast installation requiring no factory set-up.

PYS has been working with the CZone system for the past few years and recognized an immediate benefit with reductions in cable usage, harness weights and installation times. The CZone system also integrates many stand-alone components into one intuitive system. Wiring is dramatically simplified as the CZone system is designed to remove complex switching clusters and wiring runs. Modules can easily be added into the system to best suit the OEM and end-users’ needs. 

VesperXB 8000  smartAIS Class B Transponder with Deck Watch App - We have written about this product line before but it received a lot of attention at this year’s Vancouver Boat Show winning the Best In Show Award for Electronics.  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 potential collision situations. It plots your anchor position and alerts you if your anchor drags. It continuously watches for a person overboard and triggers an alarm for quick action.  The free Android and Apple deckWatch app uses the power of Android Wear 2 to connect your smart watch directly to the WiFi of your smartAIS transponder. It's your safety companion anywhere on your boat. You don't have to reach for your smart phone or tablet or carry them in rough sea conditions about the boat. You can see alerts directly on your smart watch.  Low energy consumption allows it to work continuously and does not require your phone or tablet to be on.

 Lowrance Hook2 4x with Bullet Transducer and GPS Plotter - This product really exemplifies the added features, low price trend we have been discussing this year.  With a retail price under $200, this 4.3” colour plotter is touted as the world’s easiest fishfinder.  It offers simple menus, easy access to key functions and autotuning sonar.  It features wide-angle, broadband sonar coverage plus a simple and accurate GPS plotter.  It ships with a transom mount transducer but note that a separate transducer must be purchased to use Downscan.

Airmar P75M and P95 Chirp Transducers - The P75M is a good solution for solid fiberglass hulled boats.  It is a 600 watt, single frequency Chirp in-hull transducer working on the medium frequency band (80-130kHz).  This frequency is good for inshore saltwater as well as lakes for target definition out to 215 metres and is the perfect solution for trailered or lifted boats.  The P95 is a 300 watt, single frequency Chirp in-hull transducer working on the medium frequency band (95-155kHz) for target definition out to 152 metres. This transducer is designed for smaller boats up to 8 metres with solid core, fiberglass hulls.

Furuno DRS X-Class Series - With its improved short range detection, the Furuno X-Class radar gives you unprecedented target separation for use in identifying hazardous targets.  It is available in 3 models, a 6kW, 12kW or 25kW.  This new radar offers a simplified installation with no requirement for an external power supply and has multiple bolt patterns on the gearbox to ensure an easy install for new installations or retrofits.  It has the ability to display up to 30 targets simultaneously with the fast target tracking feature.  This model is only compatible with the NavNet and TZtouch/TZtouch2.

Garmin Striker 4 - This is another product that offers robust features at a small price.  The 4" model also falls in the "under $200" category and it includes a Chirp ClearVu transom mount transducer with 500 watts of power.  Instead of sending just one single frequency, Chirp sends a continuous sweep of frequencies, ranging from low to high and the interprets them individually upon their return.  These frequencies provide a wider range of information and can create crisper fish arches with greater target separation.  The Striker 4 also has a built-in GPS to locate your current position or, more importantly, allow you to mark spots where fish are biting. 

Power-Pole Vision Multi-Media Tablet - This product is designed specifically for shallow water fishers in small skiffs or bass boats.  This all-in-one touch-screen tablet allows multiple boat accessories to be connected and controlled by one device.  Referred to as a digital dash, the Power-Pole Vision can control anything on the boat with an ON/OFF capability such as engine data, fuel levels, Power-Pole anchors, dimmers, tilt and more (NMEA 2000 capable).  Enhanced map viewing technology lets you see and track your position using satellite images.  The swipe-down water shade protects and locks the screen against water spray.  It can also connect to WiFi or your smart phone (hotspot) for updates.

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: