Testing Smart Phones at Sea

Practical Sailor tests a cross-section of PDAs, pocket PCs, and smart phones between $100 and $800. Palm OS and Windows Mobile software were included. Readability, functionality and practical application were foremost considerations. Reliability, weather resistance, and batteries were also considered. We evaluated Palm Phones Palm Treo, Hewlett Packard iPAQ, Palm PDA Palm TX, Active Captain MobileSource, Memory Map Navigator, and Ozi Explorer CE. Testers compared the mobile devices to a handheld GPS specifically designed for navigation, the Garmin Oregon 400C.

Is the SEND Device Message Loud and Clear?

Sometime around 1:30 a.m. April 28, while participating in the Newport-to-Ensenada Race, the Hunter 437 Aegean sailed directly onto the rocky cliffs of North Coronado Island off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Fellow racers came upon pieces of the boat and reported their findings to the U.S. Coast Guard. The bodies of three crew were discovered with the wreckage. The body of the captain was recovered 16 days later. Contrary to news reports stating there “was no sign of distress” aboard Aegean, an SOS distress call went out from one of the crew—but by the time the Coast Guard learned of it, it was too late. Someone sent a distress alert form the captain’s personal SPOT Connect, a portable satellite emergency notification device (SEND) that delivers SOS messages and vital information—ship’s position and user identity—via Globalstar satellites to a third-party emergency call center.

Mailport: July 2013

A few issues ago, you had a short article on deck hardware (blocks, traveler, cars, etc.) that included Garhauer, and you mentioned that the manufacturer offered individual parts and complete systems that allow conversion from on deck to cockpit adjustment of the car position. We recently installed the EZ adjustable genoa car system from Garhauer and are very pleased with the results. This equipment fits on existing traveler tracks, is easy to install, and performs as advertised.

Feature-loaded High-end Marine Handheld VHF Radios

Practical Sailor tested eight high-end marine handheld VHFs from three manufacturers: Cobra, Standard Horizon, and Uniden. Among those tested were two updated Standard Horizon VHFs, the HX500S-LI and HX600S-LI, and three of the companys latest floating VHF radios, the HX750S, HX760S, and HX850S. From Uniden, testers evaluated the MHS450 and MHS550. They also tested the Cobra HH425 LI. These feature-rich handheld marine radios, priced from $130 to $350, were tested for transmitter power, frequency accuracy, frequency stability, receiver sensitivity, audio output, and audio quality. They also were submerged in fresh water, dropped from 4 feet onto concrete and batteries were left on for 15 hours to test battery life.

Mailport: June 2010

The June 2010 issue featured letters on subjects such as: spiders, addition of color to handheld electronics, DIY boatyard recommendation and propane fridges.

Marine Electronics: Practical Sailor Tests Portable Depth Sounders

Ordinarily Practical Sailor is loathe to apply a $100 battery-operated solution to a problem easily solved with a chunk of lead and some 3/8-inch line. However, portable depth sounders take the leadline to the next level. Resembling small flashlights, these handheld sounders are designed to be portable, easy to use, and reliable. They are good tools for probing creeks and narrow passes in a dinghy, and also can serve as backups to a primary sounder. This series of tests took a look at the Hawkeye 22PX from Norcross Marine and the Speedtech Depthmate SM-5A. On-the-water testing comprised a series of six tests in specific locations. Each unit was tested in murky shallow waters with a soft mud bottom; moderately clear waters with grass bottom; and clear waters with sand bottom. Testers also evaluated whether the sounders could read through hull materials, their durability and waterproofness, and whether their digital displays could be read in bright sunlight and at night.

Gadgets Powered by the Sun

Testers recently took a look at two portable solar-powered chargers for small electronics-one of them is new to the market, the Secur Solar Sun Power Bank 4000, and the other, Davis Instruments SolLight SoliCharger 2000, is an updated version of a product we reviewed a few years ago.

Top-of-the-Line VHFs Packed with Multi-function Features

The fixed-mount marine VHF radios tested for this review go beyond the basic capabilities of moderately priced VHFs. The waterproof VHFs include features such as integral high-wattage hailers, multiple remote microphone connections, and the capability to store MMSI numbers. They also meet Class D standards for DSC functions, with two separate receivers-one for voice communications and a second to continuously monitor channel 70 for DSC calls. The five VHF radios tested were the Icom M504, Icom M604, Standard Horizon GX5000S, Standard Horizon GX5500S, and the Raymarine 218.

Portable Sailing Tools for Tracking and Tuning Boat Speed

Practical Sailor recently spent a week experimenting with three handheld products geared toward performance sailors. These portable tools are for tracking and improving sailboat speed. Unlike conventional portable GPS units, which have relatively small displays and deliver a wide range of navigational data, these products display large digits that can be read from a distance, and the view options are limited to those that relate exclusively to speed and racing performance. Practical Sailor tested the Speedwatch and two GPS units, Velocitek SC-1 and SpeedPuck. These instruments make good training tools for young sailors and will give all around-the-buoy sailors the ability to quickly quantify performances.

Useful and Fun Nautical Apps for iPad

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.

Hot Water Heater Installation Tips

To keep pipe joints from leaking, use Teflon tape or pipe joint compound, and remember that hose barb-to-hose connections are much easier to make drip-proof with a hose clamp than the same connection made on a threaded pipe stub.