Marine Electronics

Best Battery Monitor Test Update

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.

12-volt Battery Gauge Testing

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.

Riding the Wireless Technology Wave

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.

Angies List for Boaters

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.

Printing Your Own Charts While on Board

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:

Marine Weather Forecasting

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.

Eliminating Radio Interference from Fridge Compressors

Im a marine installer and weve come across another boat with a radio-frequency (RF) issue coming from a Frigoboat refrigeration system. The boat started with two Danfoss compressors and when one was replaced recently, the SSB whines when the new compressor is running. Weve run though the normal RF isolation procedures, but havent had too much luck yet. It seems like RF leakage might be a good topic to explore. What really works to solve it? What installation procedures are necessary?

Highlights From Annapolis 2016

When we plan what to put in each issue of Practical Sailor, we ask ourselves, Whats new in the sailboat industry? But of equal importance is considering the products that have weathered the test of time, evolved into a better product, or arrived in the marine market place from a non-marine manufacturer. This years United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md., had answers to all of the above.

A New Spin on Dependable Crimps and Splices

Our test focused primarily on the small-wire connections tensile strength, with and without solder, but we also looked at their durability under tough environmental conditions. We tested the pull-out strength without solder and the pull-out strength of soldered connections at 400 degrees by heating the connections in an oven to simulate overheating conditions. We tested fatigue by spinning a 6-inch length of splice wire at 650 RPM in a simple device that we called the wire-fatigue whirligig. Finally, testers soaked all samples for four months in salt water to accelerate corrosion, and then, we repeated the fatigue test.

Small Wire Connections: Part II

Connecting two standard-size wires is pretty straightforward: Grab a ratchet crimper, adjust it to fit the crimp connector, strip the two wires to fit into the butt connector, slide the wires into the connector, and squeeze the crimper. The required materials are readily available: butt connectors for inline splices, ring connectors for terminal blocks, and a dab of anti-corrosive grease for the bolts and rings. Done right, these connections can survive some extremely tough conditions. In a recent test of anti-corrosion greases and connections, we demonstrated how these connections can last up to five years in the worst bilge conditions.