Check Out the New Electronics
Industry awards can provide waypoints to guide you to interesting advances in technology that are on display at this season’s boat shows. "Gear Review" from our February 2012 issue.
One technology that’s proven a challenge to all but well-trained or experienced users is radar. Properly tuning and setting up radar has always been an art, and interpreting the data one sees can also be tough, even when the radar image is laid over a chart. Furuno hopes to take some of the mystery out of the experience with its DRS Ultra High-Definition Radar series.
Furuno’s latest radar technology offers a clear, noise-free signal thanks to automatic, real-time digital signal processing, and it has automatic gain, sea, and rain controls. If you’re a radar whiz, the system can step up to your level with its ability to display two different radar ranges while allowing autonomous manipulation of each range individually. If you understand all this technobabble, you’ll appreciate the system; what’s more important is that if you don’t, the system can still provide you with easy to understand data at your fingertips.
For those who use a PC for navigation rather than a multifunction display, another award-winner from Amsterdam’s Marine Equipment Trade Show stands out. Our old friend Nobeltec (partially owned by Furuno) has released TimeZero Trident (above). Boasting all of the features incorporated into Furuno’s NavNet software but designed for PC use, this software does it all, and does it seamlessly and with no lag, although users who load it onto older PCs may suffer from hardware slowdowns. TimeZero Trident also, of course, integrates well with NavNet systems. Best of all? No dongle is required to unlock the program, and a less expensive Odyssey version that can’t work in conjunction with radars has just been released.
Often neglected in any boat’s electronics suite is the VHF radio. Less expensive models offered today are still rich in features, so it’s hard to decide which model is best. By relying on award winners, we can once again separate the wheat from the chaff. The Matrix GX2150 radio from Standard Horizon is a feature-laden unit that has an integrated dual-channel A.I.S. receiver that allows you to use a single VHF antenna. This means that boats with older chart plotters can receive A.I.S. information from the Matrix GX2150 without requiring their existing VHF antenna to be replaced or another added. To make this even simpler, the GX2150 allows you to select the baud-rate output to your plotter from 4800 to 38400, which is great for plotters that only have one NMEA port.
When connected to a GPS, the GX2150 can display all the necessary A.I.S. target information (the Marine Mobile Service Identification number, Call Sign, Ship Name, Bearing, Distance, Speed Over Ground, and Course Over Ground), and it alerts you to any Closest Point of Approach issues with programmable C.P.A. or Time to Closest Approach collision-avoidance alarms. In addition, the GX2150 allows you to contact the ship directly using digital selective calling, a boon in crowded waterways.
Other features that make the GX2150 well worth its $400 price include a loud hailer/foghorn, a ClearVoice noise-cancelling speaker, NOAA Weather Alert, Programmable Scan, Priority Scan, and Dual Watch. It can also serve as a good basic backup for your chart plotter since it can store 100 waypoints and can display Speed Over Ground, Course Over Ground, Bearing, and Distance to Waypoint.
In addition to these award winners, there are plenty of other new electronic devices available to render your navigation easier, your entertainment more enjoyable, and your ability to connect with work, friends, and relatives—should you want to—more robust. As a sailor and a consumer, I find that the fun part is to play around with all of them until you find the one that best suits your needs.
Next Year’s Winner?
In its quest to avoid awarding kudos to manufacturers for vaporware—products that don’t really exist quite yet—the rules of the National Marine Electronics Association dictate that in order for products to be considered, they have to have been shipped to customers 60 days before the association’s annual conference. Thus, one of the latest and perhaps greatest new products of 2011-2012, Broadband 4G radar by Navico, wasn’t considered for this year’s awards despite its obvious promise.
This solid-state, Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave radome claims 50 percent greater range and target detection than current 3G model radar.
Coupled with the increased range is what Navico calls Beam Sharpening, which improves the horizontal beam width. That means that even Navico’s compact, 18-inch radome can produce signals that one would normally expect from larger sets, and it makes 4G technology very appealing to owners of smaller boats that can’t carry large radar antennas. The Broadband 4G radar will be available from Simrad, Lowrance, and B&G, companies all owned by Navico.
The Broadband 4G radar also offers dual-range capability on some Navico multifunction displays, allowing a user to monitor an object such as a buoy or another boat as close as two meters away as well as such objects as land masses that are as much as 36 miles away, and even have the “separate” radars each overlaid on a chart window. All that, coupled with high resolution and an attractive price (as low as $1,900 for the Lowrance version), makes for an interesting option for those looking to add radar to their bag of navigation tricks.
Tony Bessinger, a frequent CW contributor, is a veteran captain and navigator.