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Updated Electronics for the New Year

Advances in radar, audio and more

November 24, 2020
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Man using FLIR night vision monocle.
FLIR’s new night vision monocle is just one of the new products on tap for the upcoming season. Courtesy FLIR Systems

As we get set to move into a new ­season, there are some notable updates and new products from a number of marine-­electronics companies that deserve a closer look. Here are a few that are sure to be gracing new builds soon.

Garmin Fantom 254

This might be the most powerful radar for mariners yet. First, 250 watts of solid-state power from the 6-foot array offers a range from 20 feet to nearly 100 miles. Unlike magnetron radars, solid-state radars are up and running the instant the skipper selects “on.” There is no warmup time. Another great benefit is the much finer resolution from pulse compression, which allows the separation of targets that are nearly touching; it also sees floating items as small as a ­coconut. Motion-scope technology identifies moving targets and assigns them a distinguishing color. Garmin’s mini ­automatic radar plotting aid tracks up to 30 individual targets—projecting their position and relative motion—and enhances the skipper’s ability to assess collision risks. Color trails on moving targets further clarify situational awareness.

A Garmin radar on a white background.
Garmin’s new Fantom 254 radar packs a punch: 250 watts of solid-state power, along with a host of additional features. Courtesy Garmin

Scan-to-scan is another important feature: It identifies and then ­averages sea clutter, and removes it from the screen. Tap another button to turn on auto bird gain, without the need for agonizing manual gain adjustments. Yes, there is radar overlay, clearly identifying targets over charts for better navigation in close quarters. Dynamic sea filtering digitally smooths out the image that might otherwise be disturbed by the radar pitching in rough seas. The last feature for safety at sea is the guard zone you establish so any object that comes within that boundary sets off an audible alarm. Other radars have bits and pieces of these features, but Garmin has them all in one array. The Fantom series comes in 4- and 6-foot arrays from 120 to 250 watts, or 18- and 24-inch radomes at 40 watts for smaller vessels.

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Watch: Double Take is Hull No. 19 from ACY, and she’s a beauty.

JL Audio Speakers and Amplifiers

This past year, JL Audio introduced the M6 series speakers at the Miami International Boat Show. Now they have an M7 series 12-inch marine subwoofer—one of the most powerful on the market and an ideal match for the M6 speakers. The M7 can handle 600 watts of continuous bass power with an 86.7-decibel sensitivity. It is designed to work both in 2-cubic-foot and 3-cubic-foot ported boxes or an open-air environment for maximum thump. Both speakers boast a new transflective cone design that reflects silver when LEDs are off and an evenly glowing backlight without hotspots when LEDs are on. At last year’s Miami International Boat Show marina party, a half-dozen boats played these speakers in sync, and the crisp, clear sound filled the night like a rock concert. To get the most from these speakers, you’ll want JL’s new MV1000/51 five-channel amplifier. Four channels pump out 75 watts of continuous power, and the fifth energizes that amp with 600 watts RMS. Heck, get two of these amps and the whole ship will rock ‘n’ roll.

FLIR Scion OTM

The Scion outdoor thermal monocle uses the same powerful camera as the M300 FLIR camera for the ultimate in night or day thermal vision. It can shoot ­photos and video and save them to either internal memory or a microSD Card. It has an 8x digital zoom and can display both its ­full-frame image and a zoom window within it. The internal GPS and compass enable image geotagging for later referencing images by ­location in photo browsers or with Google Maps. With Wi-Fi connectivity, it can be linked to a tablet, smartphone or laptop to stream thermal video to a display while someone uses the monocle. Near-field ­communications uses a sensor to tell when the device is removed from the case, resulting in it automatically turning on or off when it is returned. When night vision is critical to boating safety, the Scion OTM is the ideal tool.

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A Navionics screen showing shaded relief charts for plotting.
With Navionics’ new shaded relief charts, you have the ability to tune your plotter to show graduating depth contours in greater detail. Courtesy Navionics

Navionics Updates

If you’re running Navionics Platinum Plus chart cards, you now have access to Navionics’ exclusive shaded relief charts that allow you to tune your plotter to show depth contours in graduating shades of color, enhancing your ability to find, avoid or approach contours as the circumstances dictate. Deep drop-offs that might hold upwellings and billfish activity are easier to spot, while coastal hazards stand out brilliantly so you can avoid them easily. Color schemes can be customized to the skipper’s tastes or visual needs as well. Shaded relief is available for the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico south to the Florida Straits. The West Coast and Alaska are also covered with detailed shaded relief. Add it to your plotter via a Wi-Fi update or use your mobile phone to download and transfer the data in a simple update.

Simrad Evo3 Firmware Update

If you haven’t updated your Simrad Evo3 lately, you should. Version 2.1, an upgrade of 2.0 with some glitch fixes, has autorouting with both C-Map and Navionics chart software. Make dock-to-dock routes by touching the destination; the chart plotter chooses the most appropriate route according to the distance, depth characteristics and bridge clearances. Enhancements to sonar imaging increase performance and clarity of SideScan, DownScan, and StructureScan HD or 3D imaging while maintaining the range.

Read Next: Check out our comprehensive guide to billfish tournaments here.

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Raymarine LightHouse 3 Firmware Update

Raymarine’s free new firmware update brings bright, new color ­palates to Navionics and Lighthouse charts, and adds a swipe-out bar for NMEA 2000-compatible audio devices, such as Rockford Fosgate, Fusion and JL Audio, that are networked to the system. New apps for HP Watermaker, Lumitec Poco Lighting and Lumishore Shadowcaster are now on board your Axiom system as well. Also, QNN Quick Nautical Network is added to control thrusters, battery chargers, windlasses, gyros and more.

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