Raymarine’s Night Might
Raymarine’s new T-Series thermal-imaging cameras offer easy-to-use protection for nighttime navigation.
Then, as we all peered into the blackness trying to see the fishing boat, two more objects appeared on the screen. Each kayak carried its own red/green running lights, which were almost impossible to see with the naked eye. If you were sailing along, there’s no way you’d see either of these kayaks until you were on top of them. This was great proof of the potential for collision protection, even involving very small vessels. The heads of both paddlers showed up as “white hot” on the E-Series screen, as did the swimmer’s.
Next we got a demo of how the controls work for the T400. The camera is the first thermal-imaging system to be controlled by Hybridtouch technology, when integrated with an E-Series display. Just slide your finger across the screen and the camera pans accordingly, and in real time, so there’s virtually no delay in camera movement. Slide your finger upward and the camera tilts as well. The range for panning and tilting is a full 360 degrees horizontal and up to 90 degrees vertical. This provides horizon-to-horizon coverage and the convenience of using typical touch-screen control to pan/tilt the camera; the optional traditional keypad/joystick would be very helpful in rougher seas.
Once interfaced with either the E-Series or G-Series displays, either of the FLIR/Raymarine cameras will generate a graphic “thermal camera” icon on the display’s homepage. Touch the icon once to get the thermal image in full-screen mode. You’d definitely want to use this mode if you were in an actual search-and-rescue situation. But under normal nighttime-running conditions, you’ll probably choose the split-screen mode in which, for example, you can show the night-vision on the left panel, the electronic chart on the upper-right panel, and the radar on the lower-right panel.
Think about the application for a moment. You’re sailing along at night and spot a target on the radar. You can’t tell at this range whether it’s one vessel or two, so you flip on the camera—and sure enough, dead ahead of you is a small boat towing another. They looked like one boat on the radar, but now that you can see that there are two, you can act accordingly to change course and avoid them. The company is currently working on a Cue and Slew feature that lets you touch an onscreen radar or Automatic Identification System target and have the camera immediately focus on it.
Or how about this one: I was skippering a 44-foot ketch on a delivery from New York to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and we were caught in a big storm off the coast of Cape Fear, in North Carolina. I had to find a safe harbor fast. Unfortunately, the charts don’t show buoy locations in that area due to shifting sand shoals, so since it was already dark, I had to rely on a verbal description of the channel from the U.S. Coast Guard via radio. That almost ended in disaster: We wound up hard aground on the beach and had to call in a Mayday. A 41-foot Coast Guard utility boat showed up, shot a monkey’s fist with towline over my boom, took us in tow, and then, incredibly, the Coast Guard boat ran aground while towing us in. We really could’ve used a T-Series camera that night!
As far as working distances go, the ranges, depending on the camera model you choose, are about 1,500 feet to spot a person in the water and up to 1.2 miles for larger objects, such as boats. That kind of range would’ve been plenty for me to spot the channel buoys and navigate to shore safely, and because virtually everything has a “heat profile,” Raymarine says the cameras can even pick up semi-submerged rocks and icebergs.