Regarding the article on recycling gear for cruising in the September 2018 issue, I found that an old Windows laptop, with an external GPS puck and running OziExplorer, makes a fabulous chartplotter. The software is just a hair over $100 and is capable of using NOAA charts, USGS topo maps, aerial photographs, and any other map that can be put in registration, using only latitude and longitude of a couple of points on the map.
Version 1.0.0 of Signal K, the Open Marine Data Standard has now been released, giving developers a stable platform to test and develop new open-source hardware and software for sailors.
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.
Finding good help in a far flung port may be easier as the Mariner Exchange app takes hold. The boating app sources marine services, separates them by type, and rates the vendor via consumer feedback.
I am a novice sailor, but after taking a few more courses, I plan to buy a 30- to 50-sailboat with a few other aficionados. Two questions: