Manufacturers Roll Out New Systems and Communications Gear

A slew of new devices and software lets you dig into your boats systems and talk with the folks back home

Nobeltec Admiral 11 NavView
Nobeltec Admiral 11 NavView

New navigation and connectivity tools won't be the only debutantes at boat shows this spring. Expect to get a glimpse of a neat little Maretron server designed to deliver data from its ever growing family of NMEA 2000 sensors—need to know fuel pressure at the filters? you've got it—to the apps and PC versions of its N2KView monitoring and control software, on board or off.

Meanwhile, Rose Point Navigation will be showing its Analog Engine Interface, purportedly capable of putting any old oil pressure signal, for instance, onto a NMEA 2000 bus and into Coastal Explorer 2011, which naturally has new engine instrument displays, as well as other appurtenances of an all-in-one navigation solution. Nobeltec, too, is adopting NMEA 2000 in its Version 11 charting programs, which means not only easier display of wind, depth, etc. but even a sophisticated fuel management feature. VNS and Admiral 11 will also have a new free GRIB weather feature, much like MaxSea's GRIB chopper, and new compatibility with certain Furuno hardware, reflecting Nobeltec's relatively recent adoption into that brood. Fugawi's new Avia Sail also uses NMEA 2000, along with a BoatraNet-style architecture, to put full instrumentation on multiple screens.

Of course numerous other developments don't fit into the convergence theme, but I must be brief. Inmarsat's Isatphone Pro seems to be a strikingly inexpensive and easy-to-use new choice in portable sat phones, though an expensive dock may be what it takes for reliable voice and data service in rough conditions. Meanwhile Globalstar's voice service is finally on the mend and its SPOT division is finally shipping the HUG, a compelling boat-specific combination of all the existing handheld functions with off-boat security and monitoring. And the little Iridium two-way data modem that I also spoke too soon of last year will surely result in some intriguing takes on SPOT's handheld this year, maybe HUG as well.

There's also Vesper Marine's new Class B AIS transponder, which may well be the best sailboat solution yet, as well as a slew of AIS man overboard devices coming to market. There are new DSC-based MOB devices, too, and several new fixed DSC VHF radios that are economical yet fully Class D (apparently because the U.S. law changed). And any cruiser wanting to improve long distance WiFi connections should investigate the Bullet, though I'll have to refer you to my electronics blog, Panbo, to unravel all the forms it comes in. You'll also find much more detail on nearly all the products mentioned here, and I'll be adding more—at least until many of us converge on Miami.

Ben Ellison is CW_'s senior electronics editor and delves into all things electronics on his website, Panbo.com_