Multifunction display manufacturers have pushed their products through a dramatic evolution in the last five years as they try to keep pace with technology that we take for granted in our other electronics. Better interfaces, screen resolution, and the ability to download useful software apps (beyond navigation) are just some of the improvements. Most of the major vendors are on their third generation of touchscreen interfaces, higher resolution displays, downloadable software, remote music control, and other functions far afield of what MFDs performed five years ago.
We have an ACR Global Fix EPIRB and an ACR Aqualink PLB. We had the EPIRB battery replaced 5 years ago in the USA, and it is time again to do so. We are currently in New Zealand and have been given a quote of close to $350 to replace the EPIRB battery and $120 for the PLB.
Keeping batteries fully charged is a science that cruisers have to master sooner or later. If todays high-capacity AGM batteries arent managed properly, valuable amp hours in can permanently trickle away through sulfation, as we saw in our test of AGM batteries (See Fighting Sulfation in AGMs, PS May 2015). Good battery management means complete re-charging that matches the charging profile of your battery, and this means an accurate sensing of battery voltage. As we saw in our recent report on battery monitors (see Best Battery Monitor Test Update, PS October 2017) a good monitor will also keep track of temperature, as this can be a limiting factor in charge acceptance rate.
Back in our October 2016 issue we looked at eight battery monitors and compared features, installation needs and overall usability. Unfortunately, we overlooked the Smartgauge made by Balmar. Thanks to our readers input we got our hands on one of these recently and ran it through the same test regimen we applied to the other eight monitors.
Our test gear comprised a ProMariner ProNautic 12-40P battery charger; West Marine-branded, flooded-cell, deep-cycle battery with a 75-amp hour rating; and two 120-volt, 70-watt incandescent light bulbs powered through a Heart 140-watt DC to AC inverter. This setup created a 12-amp DC load on the battery. We confirmed voltage and current draw using a Fluke Model 867B graphical meter and a Blue Sea Systems Model 8110-amp clamp/multimeter.
A number of the electronic devices that we tested this year are wireless products that interface with smart phones and tablet computers. Many of these products will also connect with the ships existing marine networks (NMEA) and hardware, and we encourage using these more robust connections for long-term cruising.
Over the last few decades, theres been exponential growth in the availability of accurate weather forecasts and the net result is safer voyaging. Government spending on weather data gathering and forecast development has soared. Satellites and data buoys have filled in some of the oceanic gaps caused by an absence of weather balloon sampling at sea. State of the art, algorithm-driven, model data and ensemble-based forecasting have turned electronic guesswork into a better understanding of atmospheric volatility. The net result is an increase in the validity and reliability of marine forecasts and a trend that has stretched 24-hour forecast accuracy into 48- and 96-hour time frames. So, if anything deserves the label don't leave homeport without it, it is todays, better than ever, marine weather forecast.
The experience of the owners of the 14-year-old, six-man, valise-stored Avon liferaft pictured here reminds us of the importance of following the manufacturers inspection schedule. With air leaking from the seams and through the fabric itself, the raft is a graphic example of how even a professionally serviced liferaft that remains dry in its hard canister can deteriorate to the point of becoming worthless.