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Why This Year’s Yacht Tech Shows a Lot of Promise…


I’m not winter’s biggest fan. Days are stingy-short and cold in the Pacific Northwest, making it challenging to get a saline fix. Fortunately, boat-show season provides an opportunity to go somewhere sunny and check out the latest marine electronics offerings, which can be integrated into a yacht’s navigation systems during the offseason. Here’s a look at some exciting new options.

Digital Yacht: Autohelm created the SeaTalk network in the early 1990s to let autopilots access networked navigation information, and SeaTalk served as Autohelm and Raymarine’s proprietary network until its 2012 retirement. This absence created headaches for owners of legacy Raymarine equipment that couldn’t easily be networked with newer NMEA 0183 equipment or personal computers. Now Digital Yacht’s SeaTalk1 to NMEA gateways ($199) delivers bidirectional data conversions between a SeaTalk network and an NMEA 0183 device or network. The company’s ST-NMEA data converter (USB) can be networked to a personal computer, and the ST-NMEA data converter (ISO) connects with Digital Yacht’s wireless NMEA server ($199) to deliver networked data to wireless devices.

Digital Yacht also recently unveiled its AIT5000 Class B automatic information system (AIS) transceiver, broadcasting at 5 watts using the Class B SO scheme, which means it increases its reporting rate as the vessel’s speed increases. The AIT5000 ($1,199) has dual NMEA 0183 and single NMEA 2000 and USB interfaces, Wi-Fi and an optional AIS MOB/SART alarm.

Furuno: For those seeking an integrated communications hub, Furuno’s FM-4800 fixed-mount VHF radio transmits at 25 watts and has built-in Class D digital selective calling (DSC), a 72-channel GPS receiver, an AIS receiver, a 15-watt loudhailer, listen-back functionality and intercom capabilities. The FM-4800 ($750) integrates with Furuno’s NavNet TZtouch or NavNet TZtouch2 multifunction displays, or users can network the FM-4800 to the yacht’s NMEA 0183 or NMEA 2000 backbone to share the radio’s AIS, DSC and GPS data with other instrumentation. The radio comes with an IP67 environmental rating, has 10 embedded weather channels and — key for anyone transiting the Intracoastal Waterway — has an automatic terminal information service mode. Users can add a Furuno HS-4800 ($280) to unlock the radio’s dual-station capabilities.

Garmin: Garmin has long been a player in the multifunction display and cartography markets, and has extended its flagship GPSMap 8600 series displays with the GPSMap 8610xsv ($2,699), GPSMap 8612xsv ($3,999) and GPSMap 8616xsv ($5,999). Each has edge-to-edge glass monitors with in-plane switching and optically bonded, high-resolution screens; built-in, 1-kilowatt chirp and traditional sonars; and the ability to stream four IP cameras concurrently. These HTML5-friendly displays also have pinch-to-zoom touchscreen interfaces, NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 compatibility, and IPX7 weatherproof protection.

Garmin purchased Navionics in 2017 but kept Garmin’s BlueChart separate from Navionics’ cartography. This relationship changed with the introduction of BlueChart g3 cartography, which blends Garmin and Navionics bathymetry data and features, and is compatible with contemporary Garmin multifunction displays. BlueChart g3 cartography will serve as the base maps for all new GPSMap displays (existing customers will be offered an upgrade), and all BlueChart g3 cartography comes with Garmin’s Auto Guidance capabilities.

Last, Garmin has released its wireless Autopilot Remote. Users point and shoot the Autopilot Remote ($249), and compatible Garmin autopilots will steer toward the corresponding azimuth numbers.

Raymarine: ClearCruise AR, Raymarine’s augmented-reality system, is spinning heads with its promise of increased situational awareness. This three-component system requires a Raymarine Axiom series chart plotter ($849 to $12,299) that’s running Raymarine’s Lighthouse 3.7 (or newer) operating system, a Raymarine AR200 Augmented Reality Sensor Module ($499), and a Raymarine CAM210IP ($699) or CAM220IP ($499) video camera.

The camera delivers live video to the Axiom plotter(s) and then enhances that video with graphical tags that, for example, denote the name of nearby vessels (via networked AIS data), or graphically enhance aids to navigation or user-created waypoints. All information is updated in real time as marine traffic moves, and the system’s video imagery can be stabilized with the AR200’s built-in nine-axis attitude heading reference system.

Simrad: Simrad’s parent company, Navico, has introduced a Halo24 radar for aftermarket consumers. This radome-enclosed radar employs solid-­state, pulse-compression technology to harness Simrad’s VelocityTrack (Doppler) processing, graphically differentiating threatening and nonthreatening targets. The Halo24 ($2,699) has Dual Range performance up to 48 nautical miles, and it spins at 60 rpm — rather than its standard 48 rpm — at ranges up to 2 nautical miles to generate near-real-time imagery up close. Finally, the Halo24 can track as many as 10 MARPA targets (per range) and offers modes including harbor, offshore, weather and bird.

Underwater, Simrad’s Active Imaging Sonar technology for GO series chart plotters is available in two models: The three-in-one transducer ($299) combines scanning sonar with traditional medium-frequency and high-frequency chirp sonars, while the stand-alone transducer ($229) has Simrad’s scanning technology and is designed to be used with a separate chirp sounder.

Finally, Simrad has unveiled its RS40 fixed-mount VHF radio, with a dual-­channel AIS receiver, an integrated GPS receiver, a dot matrix LCD screen.

Standard Horizon: Powerful things come in small packages, like Standard Horizon’s 8.1-ounce HX40 handheld VHF radio, roughly the size of a deck of cards. The HX40 ($119) has a 1,850-milliamp lithium-polymer battery that delivers 6 watts of transmitting power. Additional features include an FM receiver, a backlit dot matrix display and an intuitive menu. The radio has a preset key that gives fast access to 10 channels.

Stepping up in size and capability, Standard Horizon’s 6-watt HX890 handheld VHF radio has Class H DSC functionality, a built-in 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver, positive buoyancy and a 1,800-milliamp lithium-ion battery. The HX890 ($269) is built to military and IPX8 weatherproof standards, and offers waypoint and route navigation, an FM radio, and a water-activated strobe.  

Solid-State Sentry: Blue Guard Innovations has modernized the bilge pump with its Solid-State Bilge Pump Switches, available with or without high-water alarms. These 12- and 24-volt DC switches work with any bilge pump (drawing more than 20 amps) and have no moving parts, a design that should prevent clogging. Users can monitor and control bilge-pump activity via a smartphone and Blue Guard’s BG-Link wireless monitoring system ($695 to $895).


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