Products to look out for when updating your electronics
January 20, 2012
Your cell phone can already be used for everything from monitoring the baby sitter to carving a turkey (yep, there’s an app for that!), so why not use it as a chart plotter too? Using the Marine Charts app from EarthNC is one way you can do it, and the company has just announced a new version: Marine Charts 3.1. Marine Charts works on both iPhones and iPads (iOS 3.0 or later), and it essentially turns your device into a handheld chart plotter with all U.S. charts and offers integrated real-time weather data, including NOAA weather radar, route creation, and ports and services information. Sometimes, having so much info can be confusing — especially if you accidentally plotted waypoints and routes where you don’t need them. So, with the new 3.1 version, you can delete waypoints more easily during route creation (just give ’em a double tap); you can delete waypoints from the map screen; and you can delete waypoints, routes and maps in the options menus. Check it out at earthnc.com or go to Apple’s App Store. But this app isn’t cheap, and this capability will cost you $19.99.
You like expensive toys? Of course you do! Here’s one we anglers will have a ball with. A company called Aquabotix has introduced the HydroView, an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), for recreational use. The HydroView has a built-in high-definition camera, LED lights and 50 feet to 300 feet of cable. This 8-pound, 19-inch-long microrover is rated to dive to a maximum depth of 150 feet, and can go up to 5 knots forward and 2 knots in reverse. But the coolest thing about the HydroView is the way you tell it where to go: Your smartphone or tablet (either Apple or Android) serves as the controller, and all you have to do is tilt it. Give the phone a dip to the left, and the ROV turns left; slant the phone to the right, and it turns right, and so on. Just how much will it cost you to remotely explore beneath the ocean’s surface? Three grand. Hey, I told you this toy was expensive! www.aquabotix.com
Navico’s broadband radar is one of the fastest-evolving technologies on the water right now. The BR24 was fresh out of the box when it was rendered obsolete by broadband 3G, and here we are already talking about 4G. That’s a three-generation progression between 2009 and 2012. The principal technology — radar that sends out a continuous, modulated transmission wave instead of a magnetron microwave pulse — remains the same. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this system is the absence of the magnetron pulse, which requires bang suppression. That suppression prevents you from seeing close-up targets on traditional radar, reducing its usefulness in extremely poor-visibility situations. Broadband, on the other hand, can clearly mark targets as small as a single piling at very close range. But there’s a downside: The nature of this beast limits maximum range to a paltry 24 nm. At least it did until 3G hit the market. With a doubling of the transmission power — which is still a mere fraction of the energy of a cell phone — 3G could see out to a maximum of 32 nm. Now, enter 4G, for an exceptionally reasonable price of $1,699 (for the Lowrance version; the Simrad is $2,299). The latest in the broadband series extends range yet again, this time out to a maximum distance of 36 nm. How did they do it? Noise rejection. By effectively lowering the noise floor of the receiver, weaker radar return signals could be detected at longer distances. They also used beam sharpening to boost the resolution — a nifty trick that essentially allows you to modulate the radar’s horizontal beam width. There are also some alleged data filtering processes, although Navico doesn’t want to talk about them, since the patent for the technology is still pending. www.lowrance.com
In the world of cartography, marine mobile apps are all the rage. The latest: C-Map’s Plan2Nav for iPads and iPhones. The app’s a freebie with a world background map included, and although you’ll have to start paying if you want to download detailed charts, it costs less than one would expect. Most charts go for about $19.95, and C-Map MAX data covering Maine to Florida is a mere $29.95 — significantly less than the cost of those chips we used to buy. And once you have those charts in your iThing, you can use it for pre-trip planning and downloaded weather overlays. It’ll also display real-time GPS data like SOG, COG, ETA and TTG. What will those cell phones be able to do next? Insiders say that, as multifunction displays (MFDs) continue to evolve, you should look for the ability to wirelessly link up and transfer Plan2Nav data and similar app info from your phone to your helm. www.jeppesen.com
Raymarine e7 and CP450C
By now you’ve probably heard about Raymarine’s e7, the new touch-screen MFD that incorporates such techno-gee-whiz features as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AutoSync. Well, the wait is over, and in 2012 you can actually get one of these units and put it in your boat. But don’t choose the black-box fish finder you’ll match it with just yet; Raymarine’s biggest announcement for this next season is the CP450C, their version of what Simrad calls CHIRP and Garmin calls Spread Spectrum Technology (SST). These sounders call out into the depths with multifrequency pulses, instead of sending out pings one frequency at a time. Advanced software and lightning-fast processing then provide an analysis of the range of returns, and slam the data on-screen. In a nutshell, you get far better detail, awesome target separation (Raymarine claims it’s under 3 centimeters at 100 feet), and the ability to “see” down to incredible depths — 10,000 feet, in some cases. And the CP450C has a few unique features you won’t find on its competitors: It has a class D amplifier, so it draws less power and uses it more efficiently; and when in zoom mode, it actually adds data to the screen rather than merely magnifying the existing data, which prevents pixelization. There are some other differences between the CP450C and units utilizing similar technology, but there’s one more feature that can’t go unmentioned: It has an MSRP of $1,610, and on the street you should be able to find it for notably less, which puts its price hundreds of dollars under the competition’s. www.raymarine.com
Airmar Broadband Transducers
As marine manufacturers have expanded the CHIRP and spread-spectrum fish-finder offerings, a need for more diverse transducers, with different mounting, frequency and price-range options, has been building. Airmar has the answer in its new line of broadband CHIRP and spread-spectrum transducers. Cutting-edge pucks come with Airmar’s Transducer ID — a feature made possible by the inclusion of a microcontroller in each transducer. The microcontroller “talks” with your fish finder, telling it what frequencies it’s transmitting, its power rating, beam pattern, impedance and other important data that help the fish finder optimize performance. Meanwhile, mounting options have been vastly expanded; they range from through-hulls to keel mounts. This means that for any fishing boat size or type, there’s an Airmar broadband transducer that will get the job done. Pick your favorite at www.airmar.com.
Here’s another weird and wacky development for 2012, which you can put in the “ridiculously expensive toy” category. The Aqua-Vu Claw combines an underwater video camera and monitor system with a remote-controlled robotic claw. It can grab and lift up to 40 pounds at the flip of a switch, and it comes with a rechargeable 24-volt 4.5 Ah battery that provides up to eight hours of viewing time on the 7-inch, 800 x 480 pixel LCD screen. The electroplated steel claw is also surprisingly tough, and its 75-foot-long cable has a breaking strength of 200 pounds. How will you justify the $800 expenditure? Explain to the boss that it’ll soon pay for itself when you retrieve tools, sunglasses and rods that were dropped over the side — not to mention those spiny lobsters. www.aquavu.com
KEP Glass Pod
There’s one problem with glass bridge systems: You need a large, flat display area to utilize them — until now. KEP’s latest and greatest, the Glass Pod, utilizes a unique glass layering process to build an entire pod glass bridge display that can be as flat as a pancake or as curvaceous as a supermodel. And either way, it has just as much visual appeal as Alessandra Ambrosio. The look of a curved, seamless, flush-mounted glass bridge is out-and-out stunning. These pod displays are watertight, treated with anti-reflection coating, and incorporate chemically strengthened glass for improved impact and scratch resistance. Models are available in 15-, 17-, 19-, 21- and 22-inch sizes, and they can be integrated with black-box nav systems from any of the major manufacturers. An added bonus: These pods can be custom-designed to fit your particular helm station, and make for an easy, all-at-once electronics installation. The price is, however, as steep as one might expect for a system of this quality. While it will vary depending on the nature of the beast, you should expect a cost of $50,000 or more for a full-blown curved pod system. Flat-screen pods start at about $15,000. Meanwhile, KEP has another tech advancement for 2012 in the form of two-finger touching. All of the marine glass bridge displays produced to date can only read one finger at a time, but KEP’s dual-touch screens allow you to pinch to zoom in, zoom out, and/or turn and tap to skew image displays. wwww.kepmarine.com