De­signer Data

Cruising World - - Contents - Elec­tron­ics by David Sch­midt

Wear­able tech keeps info close at hand.

Wear­able tech­nol­ogy puts ev­ery­thing you need to know about your boat at your fin­ger­tips.

Ir­re­spec­tive of one’s pro­cliv­ity for on­board tech­nol­ogy, there’s no deny­ing the sea change that smart­phones and tablets have brought to marine elec­tron­ics. Thanks to their built-in GPS re­ceivers, plen­ti­ful pro­cess­ing power, touch-screen graph­i­cal in­ter­faces and cel­lu­lar modems, th­ese de­vices are vir­tu­ally tai­lor-made for use as in­de­pen­dent nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems when loaded with the right cartography app, and pro­vided, of course, that cel­lu­lar or Wi-fi ser­vice ex­ists. I clearly re­mem­ber the first few times that I used a Navion­ics chart app while sail­ing, amazed that I could pri­vately ex­plore al­ter­na­tive rout­ings with­out caus­ing agita at the nav sta­tion.

But while ev­ery­one’s abuzz about their phone and ipad, a new gen­er­a­tion of wear­able tech­nol­ogy has been qui­etly gath­er­ing speed and now of­fers sailors hands­free ac­cess to crit­i­cal data, any­where on the boat.

Al­though many of us sail to es­cape on­shore white noise, wear­able tech­nol­ogy de­liv­ers the ben­e­fit of in­creased si­t­u­a­tional aware­ness and on­board mo­bil­ity sans the need to in­stall a bevy of re­peater screens. Also, by hav­ing con­stant ac­cess to met­rics such as speed over ground and ap­par­ent wind an­gle, it’s much eas­ier to qual­ify and quan­tify the real-time ef­fects of sail trim and steer­ing on your es­ti­mated time of ar­rival. Here, then, is a look at what’s out there in the world of wear­ables and how th­ese de­vices work.

Let’s start at the wrist. Most sail­ing watches fall into one of two camps: dig­i­tal chronome­ters with re­gatta-spe­cific timers and countdown alarms, or up­scale and el­e­gant horo­log­i­cal pieces with me­chan­i­cal move­ments and wal­let-puck­er­ing price tags. Garmin started in­no­vat­ing in this space in 2013 with the

launch of its first-gen­er­a­tion quatix Gps-en­abled smart­watch, which of­fered what the com­pany termed solid-state “ABCS” — al­time­ter, barom­e­ter and com­pass — along with handy sail­ing-spe­cific fea­tures, such as a man-over­board but­ton and tide in­for­ma­tion.

In stand-alone mode, quatix could use its on­board sen­sors and its GPS re­ceiver to de­ter­mine speed, direction and po­si­tion in­for­ma­tion. The watch’s built-in Wi-fi, Blue­tooth and ANT+ (a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­to­col com­monly used by fit­ness and other mon­i­tor­ing de­vices) con­nec­tiv­ity al­lowed it to be paired with Garmin’s GNT-10 NMEA trans­ceiver to dis­play in­for­ma­tion from the ves­sel’s nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem. Cooler still, quatix could be used to con­trol a com­pat­i­ble Garmin au­topi­lot.

“The first quatix was ahead of its time,” says Dave Dunn, Garmin’s di­rec­tor of marine sales and mar­ket­ing, who ex­plained that quatix’s abil­ity to con­trol au­topi­lots earned it the nick­name “the James Bond watch” among time­piece en­thu­si­asts, of which he is one. “It was big and bulky, but it put quatix on the map.”

To­day, all the ma­jor marine-elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clude Wi-fi and Blue­tooth ca­pa­bil­ity in their higher-end chart plot­ters, al­low­ing smart de­vices to wire­lessly talk to the plotter and ac­cess nav­i­ga­tion and other data car­ried over an NMEA 2000 net­work.

“We live in a con­nected world,” says Dunn as he de­scribes the con­sid­er­ably sleeker quatix 3, which was re­leased in 2016 and al­lows users to cus­tom­ize their watch-face set­ting to dis­play a range of on­board data. “One of quatix 3’s only short­com­ings is that there’s no au­topi­lot con­trol,” says Dunn. The au­topi­lot-con­trol fea­ture, he ex­plains, didn’t mesh well with the new watch’s soft­ware plat­form; this may be cor­rected, though, in the next-gen­er­a­tion quatix.

Still, quatix 3 is loaded with sail­ing-spe­cific fea­tures, in­clud­ing a stand-alone man-over­board but­ton that sets an in­ter­nal emer­gency way­point. The watch can also be paired with smart­phones and tablets to ac­cess the In­ter­net, and with a free app, it can be used to con­trol an on­board Fu­sion marine stereo.

For most cruis­ing sailors, ba­sic depth and speed are top of mind when con­sid­er­ing what met­rics to have on dis­play. But Garmin bor­rowed a page from the smart­phone and tablet de­vel­op­ers’ hand­book and gives the quatix user lots of op­tions. Garmin and third-party apps are avail­able for down­load from the com­pany’s Con­nect IQ on­line store. Ad­di­tion­ally, built-in soft­ware al­lows quatix 3 own­ers to cre­ate and store up to 1,000 way­points and 30 routes — a tool that could prove use­ful when search­ing a dark har­bor for the boat af­ter a big night ashore.

As with all por­ta­ble elec­tron­ics, quatix watches are be­holden to their bat­ter­ies, which in this case are Us­brecharge­able lithium-ions. A quatix 3 can go for 30 days be­fore need­ing a DC top-off, says Dunn, so long as its power-thirsty GPS re­ceiver is switched off. To save juice, Dunn rec­om­mends pair­ing quatix watches with com­pat­i­ble chart plot­ters to ob­tain po­si­tion and speed in­for­ma­tion, as this draws sig­nif­i­cantly less power than us­ing the de­vice’s in­ter­nal re­sources.

Third-party con­nec­tiv­ity is a lim­i­ta­tion for quatix and quatix 3 be­cause they can only be paired with Garmin-built chart plot­ters and wind in­stru­ments. Still, the watches’ im­pres­sive nav­i­ga­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties when op­er­at­ing in stand-alone mode, cou­pled with their easy-to-read graph­ics and rugged, wa­ter­proof (to 150 feet) con­struc­tion, make them solid choices for sailors of all stripes.

An­other player in this seg­ment of the wear­able mar­ket is Italy’s As­tra Yacht, which touts its esa Watch as the world’s first An­droid-based sail­ing time­piece. It fea­tures a touch-sen­si­tive, cus­tom­iz­a­ble 1.54-inch high-def­i­ni­tion screen that can dis­play a wide range of per­for­mance and nav­i­ga­tion data. Built-in Wi-fi and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity al­low the watch to con­nect to your boat’s nav­i­ga­tion and other sys­tems via As­tra Yacht’s GAMP 2000 Wi-fi

mul­ti­plexer, which is sold sep­a­rately. Users can down­load apps from the Google Play store, and paired with a smart­phone, the watch can be used to make phone calls, send and re­ceive text mes­sages and email, play mu­sic and browse the Web. If con­nec­tiv­ity doesn’t ex­ist, the watch can use its in­ter­nal GPS re­ceiver to cal­cu­late speed and head­ing in­for­ma­tion.

Ap­ple Watch wear­ers can join the fun too, with a range of sail­ing-spe­cific apps avail­able to let them seam­lessly mesh their time on the wa­ter with all the other as­pects of their dig­i­tal lives.

Heads-up Info

Rather than putting in­for­ma­tion on your wrist, head-up dis­plays, or HUDS, take an in-your-face ap­proach to keep­ing you on top of crit­i­cal data. The tech­nol­ogy be­came fa­mous in the sail­ing world when Or­a­cle Team USA’S skip­per Jimmy Sp­ithill used a cus­tom-built sys­tem to win the 34th Amer­ica’s Cup in 2013.

At present, just two com­pa­nies make HUDS for mul­ti­ple recre­ational out­door ac­tiv­i­ties: Garmin, which orig­i­nally cre­ated a prod­uct for cy­clists, and Re­con, which tar­geted skiers and snow­board­ers but has since ex­panded into other sports, such as run­ning and cy­cling.

So far, Garmin is the only man­u­fac­turer with sail­ingspe­cific gear, its Nau­tix in-view dis­play. Re­con has not launched a marine-spe­cific prod­uct, though Cana­dian firm After­guard made head­lines in 2014 with the news that it has a sail­ing-spe­cific dis­play us­ing Re­con hard­ware. After­guard did not re­spond to cor­re­spon­dence re­lated to this ar­ti­cle.

Garmin’s Nau­tix is a small, 1.1-ounce de­vice that clips onto the tem­ple of most glasses or sun­glasses (ex­clud­ing those with wire frames), mak­ing it an es­pe­cially at­trac­tive op­tion for sailors who use pre­scrip­tion glasses. Th­ese tidy dis­plays wire­lessly talk to a com­pat­i­ble Garmin chart plotter via an ANT+ con­nec­tion, which al­lows Nau­tix to dis­play net­worked NMEA 2000 data. A glove- and wa­ter­friendly touch-screen strip that’s fit­ted along the dis­play’s chas­sis al­lows users to scroll be­tween five cus­tom­iz­a­ble screen views.

“Cruis­ers who are away from their helms can keep an eye on their data,” says Dunn. Nau­tix can dis­play needit-now met­rics, in­clud­ing boat speed, depth, head­ing, wind direction and bear­ing to the next way­point, all on a screen that of­fers 428-by-240-pixel res­o­lu­tion, which de­liv­ers sharp, crisp graph­i­cal im­agery.

As with any­thing new that’s in­tro­duced into your field of vi­sion, it can take a few mo­ments to ini­tially ad­just your eyes to the pres­ence of the dis­play, but af­ter a brief learn­ing curve Nau­tix’s screen is un­ob­tru­sively there, of­fer­ing per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing one’s sight.

For per­for­mance–ori­ented sailors this can be a great tool to help get the most from their boat and sails. An am­bi­ent light sen­sor em­bed­ded in the Nau­tix dis­play even dy­nam­i­cally ad­justs for pass­ing clouds and sun­set.

Un­like quatix watches, Nau­tix dis­plays can’t func­tion in a stand-alone mode, mak­ing them only suited for use aboard Garmin-equipped boats.

While the lud­dites among us can make a strong ar­gu­ment for us­ing sail­ing to es­cape the all-info clut­ter that as­saults us ashore, wear­able tech­nol­ogy of­fers a dig­i­tally stylish way of stay­ing up-to­date on dy­namic in­for­ma­tion, and it can also be a great new way to learn more about how your boat re­sponds to dif­fer­ent sail-trim and steer­ing in­puts. Just be fore­warned: Chas­ing num­bers on the speedo can be ad­dic­tive and lead to some ex­pen­sive — but re­ward­ing — con­ver­sa­tions with your sail­maker.

David Sch­midt is CW’S elec­tron­ics ed­i­tor.

Garmin’s marine-spe­cific quatix 3 smart­watches can dis­play a wide range of screens on which on­board and Gps-de­rived data are re­ported. Users can choose from a num­ber of func­tions tai­lored to sail­ing and fish­ing, crit­i­cal boat in­for­ma­tion and even tide ta­bles.

The quatix 3 can dis­play net­worked data, such as en­gine in­for­ma­tion, sea temp, speed, etc., or even chart in­for­ma­tion. It can also use its built-in “ABC” sen­sor to re­port al­ti­tude, baro­met­ric pres­sure and com­pass head­ing.

Garmin’s Nau­tix in-view dis­play clips onto the tem­ples of most eye­glasses or sun­glasses and is de­signed to pro­vide at-aglance ac­cess to net­worked sys­tems data such as head­ing, speed and bear­ing to a way­point — all feed­back that can help you ad­just sail trim or course on the fly.

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