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Monday, February 19, 2018


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Confusion Comes With State Borders



Our article on mandatory state boater education requirements ("For Boaters, Fine Lines Come With State Borders" Feb/March issue) generated much comment regarding individual states' requirements for visiting boaters. One of our hypothetical scenarios, in fact, contained an unfortunate inaccuracy but also illuminated the potential for confusion. Our fictional New Jersey boater, "Nevin," who was venturing into Pennsylvania waters, should've been younger (the law states born after 1981). We weren't specific enough on the details in his particular case, as several alert readers informed us.

I'm a Pennsylvania resident, USPS Certified Instructor, and a member of a Squadron in the greater Philadelphia area. I teach public boating courses each year in communities which are near the Delaware River. Pennsylvania only requires boat operators of Personal Watercraft and vessels powered by 25-hp or greater motors to have passed a NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators) safe-boating education course. However, Pennsylvania recognizes online and home-study courses that are NASBLA approved, including online, non-proctored examinations. After passing an approved course and the state-specific exam, students apply for a Pennsylvania safe-boating education certificate.

Therefore, in Rick Lydecker's story, the operator of a 35-foot cabin cruiser holding a New Jersey certificate would not require a Pennsylvania-issued state safe boating education certificate because the New Jersey safe-boating education certificate meets the PA requirements.

D/Lt John R. Gill
Delaware River Sail & Power Squadron, Inc., S/Ch/ABC Coordinator


In addition to Pennsylvania accepting NASBLA-approved boating safety education certificates issued by another state or province, the boater described in your article is in compliance with Pennsylvania law as he's not required to possess an education certificate. PA law states that personal watercraft operators and those born on or after January 1, 1982, who operate a boat greater than 25-hp, must possess a boating safety education certificate. The boater in your example fits neither criteria. This error is an example of how diverse and somewhat confusing boating safety education requirements are from state to state.

Laurel L. Anders, Director
Bureau of Boating and Access, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
Harrisburg, PA

Folk Icon Pete Seeger

Your beautiful photo of Pete Seeger aboard the sloop Clearwater bears a caption that reads: "Seeger's enduring passions have been the preservation New York's Hudson Bay and a sloop named Clearwater." It's the Hudson River, which runs from the Adirondack Mountains to New York City, that Seeger has worked so tirelessly to reclaim and preserve. It was heartwarming to see Pete profiled. Now 91 years young, his efforts to clean up the river, his commitment to teaching our next generations to respect and honor their natural waterways, and his willingness to speak truth to power, should serve as an inspiration to us all.

Vicki Ryder
Webster, NY


I was offended to see the Pete Seeger article in the Feb/March 2011 issue. In June of 1978, I was a passenger aboard a Coast Guard cutter leaving Governor's Island to review a simulated helicopter rescue on the Hudson River when Seeger, aboard the Clearwater, steered the sloop in front of the cutter and luffed his sails, then he and his psychedelic-shirted crew made obscene gestures! This man is a disgrace.

John T. Long
Far Hills, NJ


I remember Seeger from 1972 on the Clearwater, when it came up the Anacostia to be there when Nixon signed the Clean Water Act. Seeger is a wonderful man and interviewed my grandmother pretty extensively. Why? The Buttersworth painting mentioned in the article hangs in my mother's den!

Michael Parramore
Annapolis, Maryland

Life Jacket Wearability Is More Than Half The Battle

I sail around a dozen ocean races each year, about half short-handed, including the Singlehanded Sailing Society's LongPac, which ventures 200 miles offshore and back. I wear a Spinlock Deckvest exclusively for shorthanded sailing and feel it's superior to other lifejackets on the market. It isn't the most comfortable to wear, but I think its features outweigh any discomfort. Along with its very high floatation value and built-in safety harness, the hood can be pulled down over one's face when the lifejacket is deployed. One of the points made at safety-at-sea seminars is that, in rough conditions, many people drown because they can't keep their faces clear of breaking water, even though their lifejacket is keeping them afloat. This life jacket is not USCG approved; it is CE approved.

I carry a pack of those ridiculous square orange things that the USCG approves, just in case I get stopped for a courtesy inspection. If required to don a "USCG-approved vest" I'd break them out; otherwise they just occupy space. I hope that I never need to use a lifejacket, but just in case, I'll wear what I consider the best available.

Patrick B. Broderick


I've been boating all of my adult life and when my children came along my attitude toward wearing my jacket turned to setting an example more that pleasing the Coast Guard. I always had the orange jackets on hand for myself and my guests but when my kids put the Coast Guard approved jackets on they were riding up their neck, in their face, making them kick and scream. I found Life Line Jackets online. This company makes custom-fit jackets for any size person. They're not Coast Guard approved but I feel they provide far more protection than not wearing one. I was stopped by the Coast Guard last summer and they were glad to see we were wearing our jackets, approved or not, they never checked. Now putting the jackets on is like putting on the seat belt in our car, automatic.

Scott Burns
Port Huron, MI

Boat Play Love

My BoatUS Magazine is informative, educational, and increasingly a place to find well-written articles on all kinds of topics, including — of all things — love. Ann Dermody's article, "Boat, Play, Love," (Feb/Mar 2011) was a joy to read, until the fifth sentence from the end of the article, when it became a must-read. The searing pain of losing one's soul mate is something I hope I never have to face. But if that day ever comes, I hope I'll recall Ann's exquisitely poignant article to remind myself that my wife would wish for me to live out my days remembering and retelling those who will listen of the joys we shared. I only hope I can describe those times even half as eloquently as Ann has done.

Kevin Hylton
Rochester, NY


I just finished "Boat, Play, Love" and had to send you this note. I loved Ann's story so much but frankly I was completely unprepared to have it end as it did. Her meeting Ed is a true fairy tale story that is precisely what so many of us single sailors hope to experience.

Bill Lawrence
Brooklyn, NY


Now Is The Time

Thanks Ann Dermody for sharing such special memories and laughs with the rest of us. I have never written an author to comment on their articles before but I enjoyed your so much I had to write. I loved all the stories. What a great life adventure! Your comments regarding not putting off adventures & dreams were perfect. Carpe Diem!

Jim Snoddy
via email

Photo Finish

The February Issue of BoatUS Magazine just arrived and I was surprised to find on page 8 a two-page spread of my Sunset image of The Great Salt Pond. I'm honored that it has been selected as a finalist for your photo contest. I took this photo this past June while my wife Margaret and I were on vacation on Block Island, RI. We had just finished dinner with our friends Maria and Joseph and couldn't help but notice the striking red sky. We decided to drive out to Sandy Point where the North Light is located to watch the sunset. However, while traveling north on Corn Neck Road I realized that we wouldn't make it in time. At that point I came upon the driveway entrance to The Sullivan House, which sits atop a rise overlooking The Great Salt Pond. Perfect. Two minutes later I was standing on the Sullivan House porch and took my photo.

All in all Block Island presents a perfect haven.

John O'Dair
Yorktown Heights, NY

Invading Boaters Ought To Know

The Reciprocity section of the Feb/Mar 2010 Government Affairs column offers an example of California trailer sailors coming to Oregon for the summer. The example says only that they must obtain boater-education cards after 60 days.

Oregon has also recently begun an Aquatic Invasive Species monitoring program, paid for by a fee charged to both Oregon resident boaters and to visiting boaters. Your hypothetical California boaters must buy a $22 AIS permit to launch their boat in Oregon or be subject to a significant fine. They can learn more about Oregon's AIS program at:www.boatoregon.com/OSMB/programs/09LawsFAQs.shtml.

Tom Stringfield
Portland, OR

Built To A Different Standard

I am the volunteer Editor of US SAILING's edition of the International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) Offshore Special Regulations governing Racing for Monohull and Multihull Sailboats.

This publication uses an International Standard (ISO 12402) to define lifejackets which are basically not available in the US as USCG approved devices. Many people carry and use them but they must also carry USCG Approved PFDs to comply with national laws. In the ideal world we should be able to use these superior devices to satisfy USCG Requirements.

I suggest you test the latest version of Spinlock's Deck Vest, which has the following features required by ISAF:

  • Crotch or Thigh Straps that comply with ISO 12401 and are strong enough to lift the person out of the water
  • 35 lbs buoyancy
  • equipped with a Sprayhood/Splashguard
  • an Emergency Light that complies with ISO 12402-8
  • A full deck harness with attachments that complies with ISO 12401
  • a whistle
  • retro reflective material
  • a buddy line

One of the problems we now have is that when people add many of these ISAF required items to a USCG Approved life jacket, the Life Jacket looses it's USCG Approval! The best improvement we could make to lifejacket design in the US is to have the USCG accept lifejackets built to ISO, UL and EN standards. We don't need new designs. We just need acceptance of the superior lifejackets that already exist. They are comfortable to wear and preferred by people who are encouraged and sometimes required to wear them at the start and finish of all races, when there is fog, night time, rough weather, cold water and when sailing short handed.

Ron Trossbach
Destin, FL


I sail around a dozen ocean races each year, about half short-handed (single/double), including the Singlehanded Sailing Society's LongPac (out 200 nm and back), coastal point-to-point, and the Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Oahu.

The Gulf of the Farallones and coastal waters can be very rough, and it's been my unfortunate experience as YRA Chairman to attend several hearings connected with loss of life in races held out there.

I wear a Spinlock Deskvest exclusively for shorthanded sailing. I feel it is superior to any other life jacket that's on the market today. It frankly isn't the most comfortable to wear, but I think its features outweigh any discomfort.

Along with its 150N value and built-in safety harness (with crotch straps), I value the hood which can be pulled down over one's face when the life jacket is deployed. One of the points made at the Safety at Sea Seminar over and over is the fact that in rough conditions, many people drown because they cannot keep their faces clear of breaking water, even though their life jacket is keeping them afloat. This life jacket is not USCG approved. It is CE approved (jacket and harness).

Of course I carry a pack of those ridiculous square orange things that the USCG approves just in case I get stopped for a "courtesy" inspection. They are securely enclosed in their original plastic packaging to keep them dry. If required to "don a USCG approved vest." I'd break them out, but otherwise they occupy some space and contribute some weight, but would keep me from being cited.

Patrick B. Broderick
Wyliecat 30 Sail

Pleasant Surprise

I became a member of BoatUS just for peace of mind when fishing the inshore waters of Central Florida. Never did I expect to receive such an informative and well laid out publication as the BoatUS Magazine. I am thrilled with my decision. Thanks for the unexpected bonus.

Rich Colesanti
Port Orange, FL

Making of the Corinthians

Upon my arrival home from a long day at work, in the mailbox are usually bills, a friendly reminder of why my husband and I work so hard, and on a rare occasion the warm welcome of BoatUS Magazine.

It's the oneday I can guarantee an early night in bed with my husband. He enjoys lying propped up on pillows, eyes closed hearing me read the stories out loud of other boaters, yachtsmen, their journeys, triumphs and failures on the water, and at times just great tips to take along with us on our own inner coastal journeys.

We both dream of the day of owning our own yacht, with him at the helm, the Captain and I the Co-Captain assisting in the reading of the navigational charts and obeying orders from him as we make our way through unknown territory with our ship as our fortress and safety. Beyond our knowledge acquired through books and countless hours at sea, she alone will be our protector.

We read of other's journeys out into the unknown, the stories of great storms and squalls, the constant reminder from Mother Nature herself that the ships we carry across her are at her welcome and at her mercy. Not only do we learn of the respect that is needed of the great waterways and oceans, we are told that along with the peril, there is beauty that hides amongst it; a grace that not all eyes will bestow, for the path to this great beauty is by water alone.

These hidden wonders once only being shared by the word of mouth are now being shared in writing and in pictures to entice the mere Corinthians like ourselves to their splendor. With the help of BoatUS these journeys and hidden hide-a-ways are received and embraced.

Keep the tales coming, for each in their own way is a romance, fable, legend and on some accounts a saga that needs to be shared.

So with open arms and a bow in gratitude, we love our BoatUS Magazine

And for those who do not know, the definition of a Corinthian:
Corinthian: a young yachtsman in the making.

Your dedicated reader,
Santi Hindes

Category: The Community

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Get A Fix On Radar

By David Anderson



Practice makes perfect when it comes to accurately interpreting the range and bearing of landmarks and boats on your radar screen. If you have radar onboard, follow these tips and do the math to maximize your navigational skills.

Learning to take full advantage of radar means you'll need to understand how it works, how to use its basic functions, and how to incorporate that knowledge into routine navigation. Radar "sees" by sending out microwave pulses, and detecting the pulses that are reflected back from objects, called "targets," around your boat. What it is not is a television camera. On the radar screen, the user sees only blips or echoes of the targets, not realistic representations. Consequently, it takes practice to read a radar screen and to interpret what's really out there. And, arguably, an accurate understanding of the images you see on-screen, especially the moving targets, is the most important aspect of using radar.

Teach yourself to better read those blips by practicing in good visibility. Compare how nature, your charts, and/or chart plotter, and the radar image fit together when you can see what's around you with the naked eye. You'll find that there's usually quite a lot missing in the radar image, owing to the twodimensional illumination of the surroundings with your boat at the center of the display.

Just how far away will your radar be able to see those targets? Antenna and target heights are the key. Don't judge by the unit's maximum-range scale, because when a target is over the "radar horizon" you won't see it, no matter how much power you're broadcasting. Radar range is slightly farther than visual or geographic range due to the refraction of microwaves, but it still can't see over the radar horizon, which can be calculated as follows:

[1.2NM x √ antenna height (in feet)] + [1.2NM x √ target height (in feet)]

For example, if your antenna is mounted at a height of 12 feet above the water and you're looking for a vessel that is 25 feet high, the formula to determine radar range will be [1.2 x 3] + [1.2 x 5] = 3.6 + 6 = 9.6. Until it's within 9.6 nautical miles — even if you have a unit that ranges out to 24 or 36 miles — the target won't appear on-screen.

Naturally, if you mount the antenna higher by locating it on a spreader or mast, you can gain additional range. On a small boat at sea, however, an antenna located too high will be rocking so much that much of the advantage provided by elevation is wasted. For most small craft, pole-mounting an antenna at a height of nine to 12 feet is considered appropriate.

Far Sighted

Radar also has a minimum range, which is a bit more complex to determine as there are several variables: the pulse length and processing of the microwave signal, a geometric element that arises from the shadowed region that lies below the beam pulse, and the intentional squelching of excess close-proximity electrical noise.

The vertical width of a typical radar beam is about +/- 15 degrees from horizontal. That beam first strikes the water at distance of its height in feet, divided by tan (15 degrees). For a 30-foot antenna, this is 30/0.268, which is 112 feet from the antenna. With a 12-foot antenna, this distance is reduced to 44 feet. So on a typical small craft, even one with a high-mounted antenna, this is not a huge limitation.

The next limitation to add into the mix is electrical limitation, which is 164 yards for each microsecond of pulse length. Most radars switch to shorter pulse lengths at lower ranges, with something in the order of 0.12 microseconds being typical for ranges less than a mile. This translates to 0.12 x 164, or about 20 yards from the antenna — but signal processing usually doubles this electronic limitation. Thus the lowest range scale on many makes of radar is 0.25 miles or 0.125 miles. But often the last 50 yards or so is filled with so much noise that you'll see a solid blob on-screen; in some other cases the area within 50 or 100 yards of the antenna is intentionally filtered out with "bang suppression," which merely leaves a cleaner-looking blob or nothing at all at the center of your radar screen. So while the pulse length and height considerations are limiting factors, often they aren't the practical limitation to minimum radar range.

Radar resolution is dependent on many factore, including bearing and range.

There's one major exception to minimum-range limitations, which is provided by the cutting-edge technology found in broadband radar. Broadband doesn't emit strong microwave pulses, like traditional radar. Instead it emits a tiny fraction of the power and measures the frequency change between the emitted waves and those bounced back to the antenna. There's little excess electrical noise created, and bang suppression is completely unnecessary. As a result, it's possible to see objects that are just a few feet away from your boat — much less those 25 to 50 yards away, hidden by a pea-soup fog or inky darkness.

Radar Resolution

Resolution is a measure of how well two nearby objects are resolved, or separated, by radar. In the best-case scenario with outside factors such as sea conditions and target strength aside, it's determined by two separate factors: bearing resolution and range resolution. The typical horizontal width of a radar beam is about six degrees. This means that any two objects separated by less than six degrees can be smeared together into a single target. The tangent of six degrees is 1/10, so if two adjacent objects located a distance (D) away are to be resolved into separate targets on the radar screen, they must be separated by a distance of at least D/10.

For example, two boats five miles off must be 0.5 miles apart, or they'll appear as one. Similarly, if the entrance to a harbor is 0.2 miles across, it won't be seen as an opening (when headed straight toward it) until you're within two miles of it. It's a good idea to become familiar with bearing resolution and these relationships by making your own measurements with a chart in hand in broad daylight, to see how it works with your radar.

The pulse length of a radar signal also affects range resolution. A microwave travels at the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second, or 328 yards per microsecond. If two objects in line with each other are separated by less than one-half a pulse length, then the nearer target will still be reflecting signals from the end of the pulse when the farther one starts to reflect signals from the front of the pulse — and they will appear as one object. To be resolved, two objects on the same bearing must be separated by more than 164 yards per microsecond of pulse length. Typical pulse lengths vary from 0.1 to 1 microsecond. You can adjust pulse length in some units, but in most small craft units it adjusts automatically when you change ranges.

In one unit, for example, on a three-mile range, the pulse length is 0.3 microseconds, and on a four-mile range it's 0.8 microseconds. Consider the case of two close vessels (say a tug and the barge it's towing) separated by 100 yards at a distance of 2.8 miles. On the four-mile scale they'll appear as one vessel (resolution 131 yards), but on the three-mile scale they'll show as two distinct close vessels (resolution 49 yards).

"High definition" is a term you hear a lot today in the world of marine radar, and new high-def units do offer better resolution. But all of the above principals don't change; the main advantage of modern high-def systems is in the software. New algorithms and digitizing the signals allow for better target discrimination and detection of smaller, weaker targets. But remember, the same limiting factors still apply.

Land Ho

As with boats, how well a landmark shows on radar depends on the height of the land and the resolution of the radar. Isolated targets such as other vessels, buoys, small islands, or drilling rigs are easier to interpret than large, irregular landmasses. What one must also remember is that although the size of a large target increases on-screen as it grows closer, the size of the echo on-screen is not always a reflection of the actual size of the target. Especially at longer distances, isolated targets all appear as simple dots or small line segments.

The shape and material of the target also influences acquisition and resolution. Round and pointed bodies reflect only a small part of the incoming energy back to the scanner. The same applies to surfaces inclined towards the horizontal, such as the windscreens of some motor yachts. Remember, the most common material used to build pleasure boats today, fiberglass, provides a far poorer target than metals.

Bear in mind that when you're moving, the motion of any targets on the screen is relative motion, not true motion. If you're moving towards a stationary buoy at five knots, it appears on your radar screen as if the buoy is moving towards you at a speed of five knots. The only stationary target on a radar screen is one that is moving in exactly the same direction and at exactly the same speed as your boat.

Fixing the Problem

The two main uses of radar are preventing collisions and getting a position fix. When collision is a possibility, the first thing you must decide is whether or not a target poses a risk of collision; secondly, you'll have to determine what leads to this risk. For example, it's fairly easy to determine a target moving straight down your ship's heading line on a collision course — but is this a vessel you're going to run into from astern, or is it a target headed full-steam right for your bow?

The variable-range marker (VRM) and the electronic bearing line (EBL) are important tools for answering the questions raised by both collision-avoidance and position fixing. The EBL provides the bearing to a target, while the VRM indicates range to the target at that particular point in time. As time passes, it's easy to see if you are gaining or losing range to the target, and if the bearings remain the same. Ask yourself: Are you on a collision course with another vessel if you maintain the same bearing, and continue to close range? Is the current or tide sweeping you to the wrong side of a channel buoy, even though your compass heading implies that your heading is correct? Keep your eyes on the EBL and VRM to find out the answers.

Remember how your radar works and how to best use it, and you'll find that a good system gives you a new set of eyes — one that can pierce the night and fog — and makes all the difference in the world between safe navigation, and being scared of the dark.

This story originally appeared in Mad Mariner's DIY Boat Owner Magazine.www.DIY-Boat.com




Contact Distances

Typical contact distances for a radar scanner mounted 12 feet (3.6m) above the waterline in nautical miles (nm):

  • Tankers, bulk carriers, cruise liners9–12 nm
  • Freighters6–9 nm
  • Lightships, large Buoys 
    w/radar reflectors4–7 nm
  • Trawlers, coasters3–6 nm
  • Metal-hulled boats3–4 nm
  • Wood, fiberglass boats 
    w/radar reflectors2–4 nm
  • BUOYS:
  • Large w/reflector3–5 nm
  • Large w/o reflector2–3 nm
  • Medium-sized fairway buoys1–2 nm

Ice to windward is hard to pick up because the cooled air bends the radar beam upwards. Smooth ice doesn't produce an echo and neither do ice floes. With your radar antenna mounted at a height of 12 feet above the water you can expect to pick up icebergs and pack ice at a distance of two to nine nautical miles. Growlers are likely to be seen out to about two nautical miles.

Broadband radar offers amazing close-range abilities; the pilings seen onscreen are just a few feet from the boat.

Category: The Community

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Bad Boat Behavior?

Chris Landers' historical article on the history of boating in the April 2011 Issue of BoatUS Magazine drew a great deal of ire from me. On page 50, the lower photo shows a powerboat passing between a small skiff with three male POB and a small cat sailboat with two POB at a high rate of speed and leaving excessive wake.


Truly this is an example of the negligent operation of a powerboat? What is so galling is that the caption reads: "Prepare to be waked! This Coast Guard Auxiliary Boat flying through a peaceful Saturday fleet demonstrates a common boat violation, May, 1959."

I looked at the photo and could not see any evidence that it is a USCGAUX boat. I then used a jeweler's loop to magnify the image and find that the boat has no markings, such as patrol signs and patrol ensign, indicating that it is a USCGAUX boat. The two people seated in the back are a man and a child, (Children are not allowed on USCGAUX Patrols) and the operator and other male standing looking out are not in uniform.

There is no explanation as to how it was determined that this was a USCGAUX boat. As a member of the USCGAUX, and a coxswain who patrols on my own and other members' boats, I take extreme exception to this assertion.


Editor's Note: The photo caption mentioned above caused a great deal of consternation among our members, who couldn't imagine Coast Guard Auxilarists behaving in such a manner, an interpretation of the caption completely at odds with everything we know about the Auxiliary. Here's more background about the photo: It depicts a situation that was indeed set up by the Auxiliary in May of 1959, but they did so to create a public-service message, to intentionally and dramatically demonstrate in photography the bad behavior they would like boaters to avoid. We apologize for not spelling that out more clearly.

Category: The Community

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Coast Guard Considers Mandating Adult Life Jacket Wear



An advisory panel to the U.S. Coast Guard gave its go-ahead to pursue federal regulations that would require adults to wear life jackets on certain boats. The National Boating Safety Advisory Council asked the Coast Guard to consider mandating that anyone aboard a boat less than 18-feet long be required to wear a life jacket when underway. In addition it asks that all those being towed in water sports, riding personal watercraft, or in human-powered boats of any length be required to wear life jackets as well.

The 16-5 decision mirrors a trend among state boating agencies to increase the number of people actually wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets with the aim of reducing boating fatalities. But unlike the Council recommendation, which would apply to all ages, most state laws apply just to children and specify varying age cutoffs, typically 12 and under.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010 and Coast Guard statistics show 736 people died in boating accidents that year. According to a Coast Guard mathematical model, if a 70 percent wear rate was achieved, mandating boaters nationwide to wear life jackets in boats less than 18-feet could save 71 lives each year.

We want your opinion! Let us know what you think about this Coast Guard initiative at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please include whether this specific proposal impacts the boats you go on or not.

Category: The Community

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Revolutionary New Electronics Are Big News From Miami


BoatUS Magazine went sailing with a pre-production model of the B+G Zeus ahead of the Annapolis boat show. Check out the video for complete details. Expected availability for the Zeus nav system is late-2011.


B&G Zeus

It's rare that a new nav system that focuses solely on sailors is introduced, but that's just what's happening this year with B&G's new MFD displays, the Zeus Z8 and Z12. The system benefits from the controls and software found in other Navico systems — look at the keypad, and you'll notice an eerily similar appearance to Simrad's NSE.


The big leg up for sailors is the addition of sailing-specific nav functions, especially the inclusion of GRIB weather-file display and animation, and WindPlot histograms that analyze wind patterns. This allows you to depict laylines while considering future wind patterns as well as current ones, to predict the fastest course along your route. All of the other perks you expect in a full-blown nav system are plug-and-play simple to add, such as radar, AIS, broadband sounding, Sirius satellite radio and weather, SonicHub entertainment, and B&G's H3000 instruments. $3,695 - $4995; www.bandg.com



Garmin GSD 26

Garmin's newest black-box fishfinder (which interfaces with chart plotters in the Garmin Marine Network including GPSMAP 4,000 to 7,000 units) is the first offering of their new Spread Spectrum Technology (SST). It can ping through a spectrum of frequencies in an instant (an ability commonly called "chirp" technology), allowing the unit to improve target discrimination drastically while also boosting maximum depth readings to an amazing 10,000 feet. Power output is 250 watts for SST, or you can choose specific frequencies and boost output clear up to three kilowatts. Note, however, that the size of the transducer you'll need to enjoy this performance (it's nearly two feet long and weighs more than 45 pounds) limits SST to relatively large boats only. $1,999.00; www.garmin.com.



Ghost Immobilizer

This key-FOB controlled device prevents thieves from starting your boat, no matter how hard they try. Once armed, it allows low-current draws so items such as your bilge pumps and stereo memory still get juice, but when it detects a current spike — which engaging the engine's starter produces — it blocks the current and instead of starting the engine, sounds an alarm. $384;www.ghostglobal.com.



Ocean Signal

When it comes to safety gear, you want to stay in the loop. The latest entry into the world of SAR is Ocean Signal. Don't worry about their inexperience, because Ocean Signal isn't actually a "new" company. They're a UK manufacturer, which is just now introducing their gear to the U.S. market. Offerings include the E100 and E100G, an EPIRB and GPS-equipped EPIRB with 96-hour-plus non-hazardous batteries and an LED strobe; the S100 SART, outfitted with the same type of long-life, non-hazardous battery; and the V100 VHF radio, with a protective tab that prevents battery discharge and accidental activation during storage. Prices TBD; www.oceansignal.com.



Simrad BSM-2 Broadband Sounder

The BSM-2 is compatible with Simrad's NSE and NSO systems, and is a black-box depth-sounder brain that "chirps" through the depths with multiple kHz frequencies at the same time. As a result, targets are cleaner and more distinct (Simrad says definition is increased five-fold) and depth range is extended down to the 10,000-foot range. It also requires the use of those whopping-big Airmar transducers, and choosing specific frequencies is not an option. $2,495;www.simrad-yachting.com.



Standard Horizon CPN 700i/1010i

In this day and age, we demand WiFi everywhere we go – including on our boats. That's why Standard Horizon came out with the networkable, waterproof CPN 700i (with a seven-inch screen) and the CPN 1010i (with a 10.2-inch screen), a pair of touch-screen chart plotters that feature built-in Wifi, and more. Both units have sunlight-viewable bonded screens, backup toggle controls for times when it's too rough to use the touch screen, video input, and a built-in GPS antenna. They can "talk" to other electronics via Bluetooth, and the CPN plotters also offer both USB and Ethernet connectivity. Now you can stream music and surf the net, right from the helm. $1,500 for the 700i; $2,300 for the 1010i;www.standardhorizon.com.



RAPC Systems Mariner

Wouldn't it be nice if your boat had one big brain, instead of lots of little ones scattered all over the place? If that big brain was rugged, water-resistant, and had fail-safe backup systems? If it replaced so many pieces and parts that despite an initially high cost, it actually saved you money? Keep on dreaming — or check out RAPC Systems' Mariner onboard computer system.


The Mariner's features are thoroughly impressive: a 3-GHz dual CPU, 4-MB RAM, 1-TB SATA hard drive, and all of it is backed up by a built-in UPS (uninterrupted power supply) battery that reduces or eliminates the problems caused by boat-to-shore power transfers, power failures, and similar glitches — and we all know how "glitchy" electricity can be on a boat. It also keeps your boat's systems running in the event of a temporary but complete power failure. DC input can range from nine to 40 volts, and the unit's components are built to military specs so the Mariner is also corrosion, vibration, moisture, and dust resistant. In the less-potential-for-failure department, note that the system is also fan-free, designed to shed heat without any added mechanical ventilation. Do we find all of this surprising? Nah — RAPC builds similarly rugged and mobile Windows-based PCs for the Homeland Security and defense industries, so making computers that can live in the harsh marine environment comes naturally to them.

The system can support chart plotting, radar, AIS, systems monitoring, weather monitoring, and entertainment systems, and it can interface with all NMEA 2000 peripherals. The software isn't included; RAPC recommends Maretron N2K, which is designed for the NMEA2000 network. Added bonus: The Mariner is amazingly small, at a mere one foot long and six inches across, and is also available in a rack system. $18,000; www.rapcsystemsinc.com.


Simrad NSS Sport

Simrad is going touch screen, with their new NSS Sport series. Available in three sizes (the 6.4-inch NSS7, the 8-inch NSS8, and the 12-inch NSS12), these units offer a wide range of control interfaces: the touch screen, a keypad, and a rotary control. More control is better, especially since using touch screens can be a little iffy when the seas kick up and it becomes hard to put your pointer exactly where you want on the LCD screen.


The NSS7 and 8 have a built-in fishfinder, all units have built-in GPS functionality, and all can have their capabilities expanded with modules including broadband radar, StructureScan side-finders, SonicHub entertainment systems, and Sirius satellite weather radio. $1,895 (NSS7); $2,845 (NSS8), and $3,995 (NSS12).www.simrad-yachting.com.

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