Boat Monitoring Systems

Boat Monitoring Systems

The more we streamline and centralize our vessels’ myriad navigation and propulsion systems in one place, either in the pilot house or in the nav station below decks, the safer crew and vessel are while underway on the water. The core of any vessel monitoring system must, of course, include today’s standard array of compass, GPS chartplotter, depth sounder, wind direction indicator and battery charge indicator. More advanced systems include engine monitoring, a radar screen and sensors for water and fuel levels. Battery Monitoring A small day-sailing vessel with an engine used only for propulsion and nav lights can be…
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AIS Transceivers:  An Offshore Imperative

AIS Transceivers: An Offshore Imperative

Wherever we may find ourselves on our vessels, there are sure to be other craft out on the water moving along at cruising speed with their crew occasionally looking out over the water for other vessels. Although having someone on watch 24-7 is imperative, this practice is not foolproof, particularly in heavy fog or rain. Fortunately, with the latest generation of AIS transceivers, we have a means of knowing what is out there, even in those moments when the watch takes a nap.   The standard AIS-equipped VHF radio is limited to receiving AIS transmissions and displaying them either on…
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North offers new  sustainable sails

North offers new sustainable sails

We see a boat over on its beam ends in a blow and say “they’re over canvased.” But, of course, sails are no longer made of cotton-based canvas. They’re woven from synthetic materials derived from petroleum. Now North Sails has announced a new sail fabric called RENEW that’s almost entirely made from recycled materials. And in Europe, Danish sailmaker Elvstrom offers a sail it calls EKKO also made from recycled plastic. For cruisers who wish to reduce their overall voyaging footprint, new sailcloth products like these can be an attractive choice. North calls its RENEW product a North Paneled Laminate…
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Electronic Navigational Charts explained

Electronic Navigational Charts explained

As has been long reported by this magazine and others, NOAA’s on-going policy is to eliminate traditional paper charts. At the end of 2024, NOAA will no longer update traditional paper chart products. A type of electronic chart c alled the Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) will be the only official chart product available to recreational mariners. To buffer the transition to all-electronic charts, NOAA has created a new online app called NOAA Custom Charts (NCC) that mariners can use to make a backup paper chart of their own design based on the ENC. The app creates a PDF, which users…
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Quantum sensor to pin down  the wandering needle

Quantum sensor to pin down the wandering needle

The Earth’s magnetic field is an unquiet beast. Not only does it refuse to line up with the globe’s geographic pole, it changes its relationship to it, as evidenced by the yearly movement of the magnetic pole, which now is sliding across the Arctic Ocean toward Siberia. While magnetic compass-based navigation is less important than in the past, there are many devices, from autopilot units to GPS antennas to smart phones to aircraft and satellites that have magnetic sensors for determining direction and attitude control. An effort by U.S. and British government called the MagQuest Challenge seeks to improve geomagnetic…
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View from a buoy

View from a buoy

Access to weather forecasts has improved tremendously in recent years. Getting weather data in Grib format via satellite has made the process of voyage planning and in-passage weather adjustments vastly easier than in years past. What if you could know the situation ahead on your course while you were voyaging? Turns out that in many ocean areas that is actually possible via deep water buoys that collect a slew of data, including images of the surrounding sea state. And now a company in Canada is offering a product that further increases buoy awareness.  There was a time when buoys were…
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Liveaboard invents safer propane switch

Liveaboard invents safer propane switch

A galley stove is standard equipment on a voyaging boat. The heating fuel for this stove is often propane, which is easy to handle and to use. For all its benefits, however, propane does have one property that makes it a potential fire or explosion danger: It is heavier than air, and gas from a leak will sink to the lowest point and accumulate. Any type of spark can set it off. It’s important to have a properly designed and maintained system that complies with ABYC standards to avert any problems. Tim Litvin, a sailor and inventor in San Diego,…
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Artificial intelligence comes to the cockpit

Artificial intelligence comes to the cockpit

Integrated performance systems that display inputs like wind direction, heading, depth, position, etc., have been available for decades. Most recently the multifunction display has become the go-to device for combining all that sensor data in one place. Now an Oxford, Nova Scotia-based company named iNav4U has released a product called Wayfinder that not only integrates the display of sensor information but goes a step further and uses rules-based artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the data and provide warnings and make recommendations to the vessel operators about how to proceed.  Wayfinder was developed by Olivier Hendrikx, an experienced Swiss voyager who…
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AIS everywhere

AIS everywhere

When a marine electronics concept achieves big success, it often migrates across multiple platforms and products until it becomes a nearly omnipresent part of the marine electronics environment. This happened with GPS and is now occurring with the automatic identification system (AIS). AIS is now embedded in multiple products and has grown far beyond its original implementation. In its fledgling years, GPS, for example, was confined to bulky, dedicated receiver boxes. The screen on early GPS receivers gave you a readout in latitude and longitude. You had to manually plot the numbers on your paper chart — imagine that! Early…
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Celestial navigation simplified?

Celestial navigation simplified?

There have been many attempts over the decades to simplify celestial navigation. Now a new celestial nav simplification effort is about to launch called StarPoint. Still in the Kickstarter stage, StarPoint makes use of a small fixed optical device based on the Bris sextant originally developed by Swedish sailor Sven Yrvind. The StarPoint offering is more than merely a reselling of the Bris device, however. It’s a complete package that developer Brian Villmoare, assisted by fellow developer James Weisheit, has crafted to make celestial nav more accessible. Using the StarPoint system, users can get a lat/long fix with two sights…
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