Away Game Gear

If you’re headed off to par­adise, why not take along a few gadgets to make your sail­ing va­ca­tion all the more mem­o­rable?

Cruising World - - Contents - David Sch­midt

From tunes to charts, take your gadgets on va­ca­tion too. Elec­tron­ics by

One of the coolest as­pects of the sail­ing lifestyle is the abil­ity to travel to sun-soaked par­adises, charter a boat and en­joy a hol­i­day with your fam­ily and friends. These ad­ven­tures are an op­por­tu­nity to ply new waters, cul­tures and gunk­holes, as well as the chance to sail a new (to you) boat and use equip­ment and elec­tron­ics dif­fer­ent from those you might carry aboard your own steed. While this lat­ter point has some­times led to headaches as char­ter­ers mas­ter the ves­sel’s chart plot­ter or stereo, skip­pers these days are aided by wire­less de­vices that en­able you to nav­i­gate us­ing fa­mil­iar screens, soft­ware and car­tog­ra­phy, plus other portable elec­tron­ics that help in­fuse a sail­ing trip with your fa­mil­iar trap­pings of home. Here’s a look at some elec­tron­ics that could help im­prove your next charter ex­pe­ri­ence.


If you cruise with chil­dren, or if you en­joy the odd bit of an­gling, Lowrance’s Fish­hunter Pro and Fish­hunter 3D castable sonar trans­duc­ers de­liver un­der­wa­ter im­agery onto paired smart­phones or tablets (An­droid and IOS friendly) us­ing Lowrance’s Fish­hunter Pro app (free).

Both ver­sions of the buoy­ant Fish­hunter can elec­tron­i­cally sound depths to 160 feet while also main­tain­ing their Wi-fi con­nec­tion with a paired de­vice over dis­tances up to 180 feet. How­ever, the units de­liver dif­fer­ent func­tion­al­ity. The Fish­hunter Pro trans­mits on three fre­quen­cies (381, 475 and 675 khz) us­ing a sin­gle tri-fre­quency trans­ducer to de­liver sonar im­agery at dif­fer­ent depths, and al­lows users to cre­ate cus­tom bathy­met­ric charts us­ing the Fish­hunter app, while the Fish­hunter 3D uses five in­de­pen­dent tri-fre­quency trans­duc­ers (also 381, 475 and 675 khz) to de­liver 3D sonar im­agery and al­low users to cre­ate cus­tom car­tog­ra­phy of their fish­ing grounds or an­chor­age.


While op­tions abound when it comes to travel-friendly, Blue­tooth-en­abled speak­ers, pre­cious few come with the weath­er­proof rat­ing and marine-spe­cific de­sign and DNA of Fu­sion Marine’s fully buoy­ant Stereoac­tive. This highly portable, crisp-sound­ing one-piece sound sys­tem fea­tures an IPX7 weath­er­proof rat­ing, an AM/FM ra­dio re­ceiver and, when used in North Amer­ica, ac­cess to Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion weather ra­dio. The en­ter­tain­ment pow­er­house also has Blue­tooth au­dio streaming, as well as twin 21⁄2-inch 40-watt speak­ers that work in con­cert with each other and a pas­sive bass ra­di­a­tor to cre­ate a fully marinized di­rec­tional speaker sys­tem. Stereoac­tive is avail­able in red, white or blue, and can be con­trolled via a smart­phone run­ning the Fu­sion Link app (IOS and An­droid com­pat­i­ble) or via a Garmin quatix smart­watch (see be­low). The speaker’s porta­bil­ity and rugged con­struc­tion lend it­self to ad­ven­tures on­shore or aboard the dinghy or stand-up pad­dle­board. Lis­ten­ers can play MP3S via a USB flash drive (in­cluded) that Stereoac­tive ac­com­mo­dates in a wa­ter­proof com­part­ment, and they can Fish Hunter 3D pairs with your smart de­vice. FLIR’S hand­held ther­mal imag­ing cam­era lets you see in the dark. Record trip high­lights with Garmin’s Virb Ul­tra30. Dig­i­tal Yacht’s No­mad is a portable AIS transpon­der. also stash valu­ables, such as a smart­phone, credit cards and cash, in the op­tional Ipx7rated Ac­tivesafe, which is buoy­ant and at­taches to the speaker’s base.

For char­ter­ers look­ing for big sound but on a smaller bud­get, the Bose Soundlink Mi­cro Blue­tooth and the big­ger Soundlink Color Blue­tooth Speaker II are worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing. These col­or­ful speak­ers fea­ture a durable sil­i­cone rub­ber ex­te­rior; the Mi­cro Blue­tooth fea­tures fully wa­ter­proof con­struc­tion, while the Color Blue­tooth Speaker II is wa­ter-re­sis­tant. Users can pair these tidy stand-alone speak­ers with their An­droid or Ap­ple mo­bile de­vices (via Blue­tooth) and en­joy their choice of au­dio con­tent — MP3S, apps and streaming ser­vices — and leg­endary Bose sound.

Night Eyes

One of the coolest tech­nolo­gies to have re­cently en­tered marine mar­kets is to­day’s gen­er­a­tion of rea­son­ably priced hand­held ther­mal­imag­ing cam­eras, which are avail­able from man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clud­ing Com­nav, FLIR and Iris In­no­va­tions.

These can-do cam­eras punch well above their weight when it comes to en­hanc­ing sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, but un­like light-mag­ni­fy­ing night-vi­sion equip­ment, ther­mal im(for ex­am­ple, FLIR’S sen­sors are ac­cu­rate to one-twen­ti­eth of a de­gree Cel­sius), which they harness to de­liver

same per­for­mance at 0100 and 1300 hours, mak­ing them ide­ally suited for scan­ning glare-ren­dered hori­zons for ap­proach­ing ves­sels or for find­ing the boat af­ter a big din­ner ashore. Built-in color pal­ettes and dig­i­tal zooms al­low users to fine-tune their cam­eras for their spe­cific con­di­tions and ranges. Right Here While nu­mer­ous op­tions ex­ist for nav­i­ga­tion apps, be it car­tog­ra­phy or wa­ter­proof cases for smart de­vices, Garmin’s GLO of­fers an in­ter­est­ing way of bol­ster­ing these de­vices’ ac­cu­racy. The GLO con­tains a re­ceiver that works with the GPS and GLONASS satel­lite net­works to at­tain po­si­tion in­for­ma­tion that’s ac­cu­rate to roughly 10 feet, which it shares with An­droid and IOS phones and tablets via a Blue­tooth con­nec­tion. The GLO is espe­cially use­ful for char­ter­ers who are vis­it­ing ar­eas with min­i­mal cell cov­er­age, and its in­ter­nal lithium-ion bat­tery (1100 mah) de­liv­ers up to 12 hours of con­tin­u­ous use in be­tween recharges, which can be tack­led ei­ther via USB or 12/24-volt cig­a­rette-lighter adap­tor. An op­tional fric­tion mount helps keep the satel­lite de­vice se­cure and in full view of the sky. How­ever, a word of cau­tion: GLO isn’t wa­ter-re­sis­tant.

Portable Juice

Given the dom­i­nant role that wire­less de­vices play in con­tem­po­rary life, care­ful mariners carry a re­serve power bank (or two), and op­tions abound, in­clud­ing wa­ter­proof bat­ter­ies and banks with dif­fer­ent volt­ages and mil­liamp-hour ca­pac­i­ties. One tempt­ing op­tion is so­lar-pow­ered bat­tery banks, which are roughly the size and shape of a smart­phone and fea­ture rugged, wa­ter­proof or wa­ter-re­sis­tant con­struc­tion. Here, some in­ter­est­ing play­ers in­clude Zenos, Dizaul and Jet­sun. How­ever, users need to un­der­stand these may take some time to recharge. For

cruis­ers seek­ing faster grat­i­fi­ca­tion, com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Ecoxgear, Wildtek, So­lio and Sokoo make mul­ti­panel sys­tems that power a reser­voir bat­tery (some­times in­te­grated, other times ex­ter­nal) that sports at least one USB charg­ing port. Fi­nally, svelte bat­tery-only banks make for smart travel com­pan­ions, espe­cially for cruis­ers nurs­ing ag­ing de­vices with sus­pect in­ter­nal bat­ter­ies.

Keep In Touch

If main­tain­ing con­tact with the out­side world via email, phone or text mes­sag­ing is im­por­tant, a smart op­tion might be to carry a small satel­lite hotspot de­vice that es­tab­lishes a data con­nec­tion and shares it, via Wi-fi, with net­worked smart­phones and tablets. While Sat-fi sys­tems like In­marsat’s Isathub, Irid­ium’s Go and Glob­al­star’s Sat-fi are highly portable, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the speeds they de­liver en­able email, texts and some­times voice com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but they don’t de­liver any­where near the band­width needed to stream on­line con­tent. Of the three sys­tems men­tioned, Isathub, which op­er­ates on In­marsat’s I-4 net­work, of­fers the quick­est speeds (384 Kbps down and 240 Kbps up) and near-global cov­er­age. How­ever, any­one who is con­sid­er­ing a high-lat­i­tude ex­pe­di­tion charter might be bet­ter served with Irid­ium’s Go, which op­er­ates on Irid­ium’s fully global net­work.

Who’s Where?

The au­to­matic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem rev­o­lu­tion­ized marine safety by pro­vid­ing Ais-equipped sailors with the names, lo­ca­tions, speeds, head­ings and con­tact info of ves­sels car­ry­ing their own AIS transpon­ders. Plus, AIS data in­cludes the unique Mar­itime Mo­bile Ser­vice Iden­ti­ties of other boats, which means you can reach them di­rectly via VHF ra­dio.

The trou­ble for char­ter­ers,

transpon­ders and re­ceivers are per­ma­nently mounted, and re­quire an- transpon­der. The de­vice has its own GPS an­tenna and re­ceiver, and a wire­less lo­cal area net­work card for Wi-fi con­nec­tiv­ity. All of this comes packed in a small, travel-friendly black box; a suc­tion-cup-mounted VHF an­tenna un­der 10-inches in size com­pletes the hard­ware. Users can ac­cess No­mad’s AIS in­for­ma­tion via their fa­vorite third-party nav­i­ga­tion and car­tog­ra­phy apps and their mo­bile de­vices (or com­put­ers run­ning third-party nav­i­ga­tion soft­ware). If you’re aboard a boat with a reg­is­tered MMSI num­ber, it can op­er­ate as a transpon­der; if not, it func­tions in re­ceiver mode. Save the Mo­ment Given the dra­matic scenery, fun sail­ing and won­der­ful times that de­fine a great charter trip, portable, wa­ter­proof video cam­eras are a great way to ar­chive mem­o­ries. Garmin and Go­pro both make high-def­i­ni­tion video cam­eras that have been turn­ing sailors’ heads for years. Garmin’s Virb Ul­tra 30 de­liv­ers ul­tra-high-def­i­ni­tion 4K video im­agery, im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, high-sen­si­tiv­ity au­dio and wa­ter­proof per­for­mance to 131 feet (with in­cluded case), while Go­pro’s Hero6 is an ul­tra-high-def­i­ni­tion video cam­era (max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion is 3840 by 2160) that’s wa­ter­proof to 33 feet with­out a hous­ing. Hero6 re­sponds to sim­ple voice com­mands, of­fers fo­cus-free per­for­mance and comes with Go­pro’s “you break it, we’ll re­place it” war­ranty. Both cam­eras also shoot still im­agery, come with 12-megapixel sen­sors and can be fit­ted with a va­ri­ety of hous­ings and mounts.


Garmin’s quatix sail­ingspe­cific smart­watches de­liver se­ri­ous ca­pa­bil­ity for char­ter­ers given the re­dun­dancy and de­vice fa­mil­iar­ity that they af­ford. Both the quatix3 and quatix 5 watches are de­signed to talk wire­lessly with Garmin chart plot­ters to share po­si­tion in­for­ma­tion (this re­duces bat­tery draw on the GPS- and Glonasse­quipped watches) and net­work data. How­ever, all quatix mod­els are equally adept at spitting out lat­i­tude, lon­gi­tude, alti­tude and baro­met­ric pres­sure in­for­ma­tion in stand-alone mode, and the watches’ three-axis com­passes de­liver bear­ing in­for­ma­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of your speed. Both watches can also run a menu of apps, dis­play user-cus­tom­iz­a­ble watch faces and con­trol Fu­sion stereos. The quatix 5 wins the James Bond award for its abil­ity to wire­lessly con­trol com­pat­i­ble Garmin au­topi­lots, and for its in­ter­nal gy­ro­scope, which sharp­ens po­si­tion ac­cu­racy when it’s op­er­at­ing in its Ul­tra­trac bat­tery-saver mode.

A ver­sa­tile tablet lets you bring books and mu­sic along on the trip, as well as the way­points and routes you plot­ted at home.

Stereoac­tive (above) is a wa­ter­proof ra­dio and Blue­tooth speaker. Bose’s Soundlink Color Speaker II (top) is wa­ter re­sis­tant and will let you stream your fa­vorite mu­sic.

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