Raymarine’s Night Might
Raymarine’s new T-Series thermal-imaging cameras offer easy-to-use protection for nighttime navigation.
With camera or not, any of the windows on the E-Series or G-Series displays can be customized to show other feeds, including fish-finder information, a “sailing” mode, dual-radar input, and even Sirius marine-weather maps and satellite radio. And for even more utility, the E-Series can accept a total of four video-input sources (nine for the G-Series), including satellite TV, onboard marine monitoring cameras, and DVD entertainment. And if that isn’t enough, the unit can even activate and control Raymarine’s SmartPilot X-Series autopilots directly from the chart-plotter interface while monitoring engines, generators, and sensors. So what we’ve really got here is a complete command-and-control system on displays that can be as big as 19 inches, depending on which model you choose.
When it comes to choosing which camera is right for your needs, they’re offered in two different resolutions: the standard 320- by 240-pixel Q.V.G.A., which includes a 2X zoom feature, and high-resolution 640- by 480-pixel V.G.A., with 4X electronic zooming for the sharpest, clearest image possible. Our little on-water demonstration showed just how sharp that can be.
And in terms of camera installation, Jim McGowan, Raymarine’s marketing manager, says, “Nothing special is required to mount it. Several of the electronics-mount companies offer mast-mount and backstay-mount solutions for Raymarine T-Series and FLIR M-Series cameras. The camera can also be mounted upside down if you prefer. We refer to it as ‘ball-down’ mounting. In that type of installation, it might be possible to hang the thermal camera from the underside of a radar-scanner mast mount.” Mounts are available from such companies as Edson, SeaView, PYI, and Questus.
McGowan points out that cruising sailboats have one other factor to consider when planning the camera-mounting location. “The only major consideration on a sailboat installation is the sails themselves,” he says. “Make sure that they’re not going to strike the camera. Consider, too, that the camera can’t see through them,” since the sails have their own heat profile. This could cause a problem, for instance, if you mounted the camera on the mizzen mast and find yourself on a run with the main fully eased out. The best solution is to mount the camera as high as possible to avoid sail interference.
Pricing on the T-Series cameras ranges from $9,000 to $20,000, so you won’t find them on every boat in the marina. But in a press tour last fall, FLIR and Raymarine representatives made it clear that they envision thermal cameras being more common than radar on boats within a short number of years. In the meantime, purchasers will benefit from Raymarine’s recently announced Rapid Care program, which provides replacement units should any of their devices fail within the warranty period. And that warranty period, as of January 1, 2011, has been extended for all Raymarine gear from two years to three.
I can tell you from experience that if you do even a little nighttime navigating, you’d be able to do it with a lot less stress with Raymarine’s T-Series thermal-imaging systems aboard. And if you do a lot of overnight bluewater cruising, these cameras could go a long way toward making sure your next crew-overboard situation has a happy ending.
Captain Chris Kelly is a veteran navigator who writes frequently about marine electronics.