Being natural-born skeptics, Practical Sailor testers are always pleasantly surprised when we test gear that meets-or almost meets-the hype from its makers and marketers. And that was just the case with Navicos GoFree WiFi wireless networking device for Simrad products. We recently field tested it, and found that aside from a few niggles, the GoFree lives up to makers claims, is easy to install, and works well-straight out of the box!
Practical Sailor recently had the opportunity to take a long-term look at the Simrad NSS7 multi-function display from Navico, and we compared it to a similar unit from Raymarine, the e7D. The test focused on the same elements as our past reviews of the Garmin 740s and Ray e7D chartplotter-sounders: installation, screen visibility, environmental tests, and plotter and sounder functions.
In the February and March 2012 issues, we looked at navigation software that allows sailors to use the Apple iPad as a functional chartplotting device. With more than 140,000 apps available, there are hundreds more apps suitable for onboard use. Testers tried out more than 400 weather apps, knot-tying apps, several just-for-fun apps—like Trip Lingo Pirate Edition—and apps for document storage. This report covers more than two dozen of our most used and favorite sailing-related iPad apps.
With many of the 38-million-sold iPads winding up on board boats, it’s no wonder there are hundreds of iPad apps that are well suited for the sailing life. This begins Practical Sailor’s three-part series on those apps. Part 1 of the series reports on PS’s field tests of multiple navigation apps—using raster and vector charts—to see how well they perform and how they compare to traditional navigation software. They review looks at the top performers: iNavX, iPad Navionics, and Charts & Tides.
Practical Sailor tested four small-screen chartplotter-sounder combo units priced from $700 to $1,500: Raymarine A70D, Garmin 740S, Lowrance Elite-5, and the Humminbird 798si. While there was a disparity in what features the units offer, the plotter-sounders were similar in terms of the GPS-based functions. Testers looked at ease of installation, ease of use, screen visibility, resistance to fogging, and water/spray resistance. They also compared features including price, man-overboard functions, waypoint and route storage, available charts, chart interface, and user interface. This article focuses on the electronics' chartplotter capabilities. The December issue will include the report on the devices' sounder functions.
Fogging screens, water intrusion, poor visibility in bright sunlight, and slow redraw rates are the most common complaints we get regarding plotter-sounders. Better construction, new screen technology, and faster processors in our current crop of units seems to have addressed these issues. None of our products experienced serious problems during our environmental testing. Our tests focused on four key elements:
Not every sailor has a selection of local sailmakers to choose from. He or she must instead rely on Internet research and phone conversations to find the best sail for the best price. As most of the world’s sail production takes place in a handful of high-volume production lofts abroad (China, Sri Lanka, and Africa), U.S. sailmakers have taken on the role of sail designers—rather than sailmakers.
Practical Sailor Chandlery: August 2011. This month reviews a tiller, tool toter, and smart-phones.
Practical Sailor editors evaluated Digital Waves Visual Passage Planner software, which is based on the U.S. Pilot Charts and lets users plan a voyage based on historical weather patterns. Testers used the software to recreate the 1888 historical passage by Joseph Conrad. Conrads passage from Bangkok to Singapore, aboard the iron barque Otago, took an excruciating 21 days. By plugging in waypoints, location and time of year, testers were able to see wind, current, sea state, water temperature, and air temperature along Conrads route. Visual Passage Planner showed the average wind speed and direction, as well as the number of days of calm, for the area and time of year. The software is an interesting tool for passage planning, but because it uses historical rather than real-time data, it shouldnt be compared to true weather-routing software like the weather-routing module from MaxSea, which uses a boats polar data to evaluate real-time routing.
Practical Sailor contributor and bluewater cruiser Joe Minick details the benefits of an onboard Wi-Fi computer network on a cruising boat, and explains the easy DIY setup that connects multiple electronics to the Internet via a client router. Beyond the usual benefits, one that is particularly useful to sailors is that an onboard network allows networked devices to share GPS, NMEA instrument information and other navigation data using software like GPSGate from Franson Technology and Handheld for Mariners. Minick used the Engenius EOC2610 from Keenan Systems and the D-Link DWL G700AP in his setup, which has served his crew well as they cruise the Med. The ethernet-based system is similar to the the Bullit2 systems PS tested from Bitstorm and Wave Wi-Fi.