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Getting Weather Data at Sea

As a USCG Master who does offshore deliveries, I rely on accurate and current weather forecasts. After exploring several options, I finally settled on...

Networking the Old and New

Over the years Practical Sailor has done many articles analyzing VHF radios, chart plotters, etc. This article will discuss how to get various brands of electronics that use different communication protocols to work together seamlessly. It is proven to work on my 39-year-old personal boat and parts of this process has been used on boats I have delivered for my customers.

Making Sense Out of NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000

The NMEA 0183 has two different communication (baud) rates for-4800 baud and the faster 38400 baud (also known as NMEA 0183-HS). You have to match the baud rate of both devices for communication to occur. AIS will always use the faster rate. Once the speeds correlated on our test boat, the radio presented targets on its one-inch display. Sitting at the dock it was apparent that info below decks was useless.

Converters and Connectors Round Out the Expenses

Although wireless systems have gradually made their way aboard modern cruising boats, hard-wiring remains an essential part of most systems, especially when you are matching old and new gear, or using converters. One of the biggest challenge for those of us with terrible fine motor skills is dealing with the tiny wires. Stripping, splicing and connecting these wires isn't neurosurgery, but definitely not the sort of thing you want to deal with on a rocking boat. But like any installation, it is a job you want to get done the first time-especially when you consider the challenges of troubleshooting electronics faults.

Preventing Electric Shock at the Dock

The human body runs on electricity and if you overload the nervous system with an external field, everything goes haywire. Every year several people die because they go swimming near a dock, a wiring fault creates an electric field in the water, and their muscles freeze. It is called Electric Shock Drowning (ESD).

Wireless Boat Monitoring

Most of us spend a great deal of time away from our boat. Whether shes on the hard, moored in our home harbor or anchored in a foreign port, we want to know whats going on with critical systems. Is my vessel where it should be? Has someone disconnected a power source or tried to gain access? Is the bilge pump cycling more frequently? Is the house bank okay? Is the freezer holding its set-point? If your boat was struck by another vessel, wouldnt it be helpful to have photos?

Deck-level Wind Vanes

There are two primary wind indicators on a sailboat. First, we watch the sails. Sailing to windward we watch the jib for luffing and for flow on telltales.

Crimping and Sealing for a Life Offshore

Mast antennas, like all electrical components, are particularly vulnerable to water intrusion at connectors. In the extreme, corrosion at unions or terminals can damage a transmitter.

Special Report: How to Prevent AIS and VHF Antenna Malfunction

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) ships-including tankers, passenger vessels and cargo ships over 300 gross tonnage-must be equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). In the U.S., carriage requirements also includes vessels over 65-feet. AIS can allow you to see a distant ship, but is not a substitute for radar.

Register Your VHF Radio

The U.S. Coast Guard continues be concerned about the misuse (or lack of use) of VHF radios for distress calling. Many boaters, it seems, don't understand the importance of registering their radio equipment, and how to properly use Digital Selective Calling (DSC) feature. Here we offer a brief overview of the most frequently asked questions regarding DSC. More information can be found at the Coast Guards Navigation Center website, www.navcen.uscg.gov.

Sizing Up the Autumn List

Some of the best sailing I ever had was September on Narragansett Bay, pretty close to heaven in my mind. But before we let a long September reach carry us away-and hopefully carry us through winter-its a good time to take out a pen and pad, and start to build the winter work list.