The Next New Things
But the recent VHF introduction that really caused a blog buzz is the GX2100, from Standard Horizon (www.standardhorizon.com), which combines a full-featured Class D DSC fixed VHF with a dual-channel AIS receiver for a minimum advertised price of $400. Hence the GX2100 has four independent receivers sharing the same antenna and can not only monitor AIS traffic-graphically, and with collision alarms-but also place a direct DSC call to a target using its MMSI number. The set can output AIS data to a plotter or PC, and its sister GX2000 model ($230) can perform all the same functions using input from a boat's existing AIS receiver or transponder. Standard Horizon has also updated its already excellent HX850S GPS/DSC/VHF handheld, adding waypoint navigation and more strobe features and thus making it a real Swiss army knife of handheld safety and day-to-day nav and coms capabilities.
There are more reasons to think that AIS usage by sailors will expand rapidly around the United States this year. Digital Yacht (www.digitalyachtusa.com), for example, has announced both the ANT200, a $300 AIS receiver that's packed into what looks like a GPS mushroom antenna with a VHF stubby on top, and the $800 SmarterChart SC500A, a compact C-Map plotter with a 5-inch color screen and GPS and AIS receivers both built-in. There's also talk in the industry that this smaller, better, cheaper trend will soon move into Class B and even Class A AIS transponders. In Europe, Icom (www.icomamerica.com) has been showing a heavy-duty Class B with its own display and a special DSC relationship with some of its existing VHF sets. Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to forge a ruling that will extend transponder mandates to some 16,000 coastal commercial vessels that don't currently fall under the international mandates.
Fun and more
What about onboard entertainment? Need to watch live NFL games in HD, for instance? Well, both KVH and Intellian (www.intelliantech.com) have solved DirecTV's triple-satellite challenge, but you'll need room for an 18- or 24-inch dome and serious finances. Also noteworthy is the latest MS-AV600 waterproof marine stereo ($500) from Fusion Audio (www.fusioncaraudio.com), which not only can output videos to your MFD/monitor but also control an iPod or an iPhone in a waterproof dock and even pause the audio while you take a call. Speaking of which, the tidal wave of recent iPhone boating apps may be the biggest onboard fun story of the year, and is arguably heading somewhere more serious, but we'll take that up next month.
Of course, there are other interesting new gadgets that defy my simple categories. Like the First Mate (www.flir.com) from FLIR, which puts see-anything-in-pitch-dark thermal imaging-especially hot humans flailing in the water or lurking around a remote anchorage-into a $3,000, waterproof-monocular form. There are also a slew of side and forward-looking sonar advances from Navico, Interphase (www.interphase-tech.com), and Echopilot (www.echopilot.com). Plus Baron Services (www.baronservices.com) is introducing a worldwide Quicklink weather service that looks as comprehensive as the XM Satellite Weather for which it also provides weather data.
If I've ignored some worthy new products in this roundup, I'll make amends-and deliver news of even newer products-at my blog, which you can visit via Cruising World's website (www.cruising
To see photos of Ben's finds click the photos button at the top of the article. -Eds.
Ben Ellison is CW's electronics editor.