Letters to Practical Sailor, October 2010. Subjects include an owner's comments about MacGregor boats, digital maps, teak cleaners, props and adhesives.
After testing the 12-inch Garmin 5212 touchscreen and the Raymarine E120 multi-function displays in August 2008, Practical Sailor pitted the newest big-screen chartplotter, the Simrad NX45, against its well-used Garmin, the subject of a long-term test on one of Practical Sailors test boats. For this head-to-head test, we looked at day and night viewability, functionality, user-interface, and price. We also looked closely at the software that each uses: Garmin uses Bluechart g2 software, Simrad C-Map MAX, and Raymarine Navionics.
Practical Sailor editors pored over the dozens of products reviewed in the previous months to find the best of the best sailing gear, products that are worthy of the designation Gear of the Year. This years editors choice list includes a rugged rope clutch (Spinlock), a grippy ratchet block (Ronstan), feature-filled VHF handheld radios (Standard Horizon and Cobra), high-quality nesting cookware (Magma), a proven paste wax (Collinite), an ocean-ready first-aid kit (Adventure Medical Kits), a reliable LED bulb for cabin lighting (Imtra), an economical ice box conversion kit (Frigoboat), an innovative ultrasonic tank sensor (BEP Marine), cold-weather gloves (Gill), and an easy-to-install Wi-Fi booster (5mileWiFi).
Sailors looking for a chartplotter who tend to stray from the beaten path or those who spend a fair amount of time fishing may want to consider a combination chartplotter-fishfinder. Our last look at plotter-sounders named the Garmin 545s the Practical Sailor Best Choice for combination chartplotter sounders. This review compares the Garmin to the new Raymarine A50D. Testers looked at display unit features, plotter features, and sounder features. The Raymarine unit uses Navionics cartography and can interface with AIS devices.
Practical Sailor’s annual wrap-up of the year’s best sailing equipment looks at our favorite top-rated products from November 2007 to November 2008, including the Facnor furler for light-air sails, Scad Solo external holding-tank sensor, Pelican Recoil LED flashlight, and Adventure Medical’s first-aid kit for coastal cruisers. In the boat maintenance category, Interlux’s Micron 66 bottom paint and Spray Nine’s waterline stain remover garnered Editors’ Choice picks. Foulie sets (jacket and bibs) by Gill and Helly Hansen were tapped as Practical Sailor Editor’s Choice in apparel, and a host of marine electronics made the list, including the Icom CommandMic III remote mic and Garmin GPSMap 545s 5-inch chartplotter sounder. Jeppesen was recognized for its top-notch electronic chart updating services. Other top gear picks were the Acco proof coil mooring chain and the Achilles HB315-LX fixed-transom inflatable dinghy.
The test field includes devices with 5-inch display screens that provide chartplotting capabilities and information and show detailed bottom contours on a single display screen. These combination fishfinder-chartplotters are fitted with high-powered sounders. Practical Sailor tested units for day and night visibility. Each plotter was tested with live GPS fix information. Chartplotter user-interface was tested by examining actions such as creating waypoints, building routes, and changing map ranges. Units tested were the GarminGPSMAP 545s, which uses Garmin’s Bluechart g2; the Lowrance LMS-525C DF (a Navico brand), which has an NMEA 2000 GPS sensor, uses Navionics cartography, and is capable of interfacing with a Lowrance radar; the Raymarine A60/DSM25 combo; the SI-TEX Colormax SE; and the Standard Horizon CP180.
The across-the-board capabilities of the Standard Horizon CPV550, including VHF, GPS, and color chartplotting, required an extensive series of tests. Practical Sailor editors subjected the VHF to temperature extremes, radio frequency power output, frequency accuracy and power usage tests. We tested the huge 12-inch color display and rated it for user-friendliness and viewability under a variety of lighting conditions. We found the entire unit rugged and easy to read, with a wide range of capabilities. It performed on par with the best VHF radios, best chartplotters, and best GPS units that weve tested.