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Vol 46 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2021

2020 Year in Review Chum Lines Fish Stories Fishing Well is the Best Revenge Ship to Shore The Galley Issue Photos
Ship to Shore

Article by Capt. Steve Katz

New and upcoming products and technology
What’s Trending for 2021

In this annual article we often review the newest electronics and technical products from marine electronics companies and specialty manufacturers in the marine sector such as Furuno, Garmin, Ray Marine and Simrad. The product life-cycle is geared toward the fall and winter boat shows for new product introductions. This year and next are a lot different without the typical boat shows and hyped in person product demonstrations. Many new products were introduced this year during virtual events or just a simple press release; it looks like much of the same for this upcoming boat show season. New products and updates are still underway, though their introduction will be different this winter season. Keep an eye out for manufacturers’ press releases and social media for new product announcements.

We could not review trending products without mentioning scanning sonar!

One electronic fishing product that is not new but gaining popularity exponentially is sonar, not the traditional fish finder but commercial sonar, using a large retractable transducer that can look all around the water under the boat, like underwater radar for fish! These systems were designed for commercial fishing applications and have quickly made their way onto sportfishing boats once people realized their unique capabilities. Many boat owners are convinced of the usefulness after seeing other captains locate, track and catch tournament winning fish they marked with the sonar. The Furuno and Koden products are currently the most popular Sonars systems. The hardware cost for these sonar systems range in price from $17,000-$80,000 – though one tournament winning fish can easily cover the cost of a Sonar system.

These two Sonars work differently and here is how they do it:

The Koden system (KDS-6000BB) has one transducer enclosed inside the tube that lowers into the water beneath the bottom of the boat. The transducer rotates in a predetermined arc, up to 360 degree – sending and receiving sonar signals in a horizontal based adjustable pattern, to mark fish in a large area in the water column beneath the boat. The data from the transducer is processed and displayed on a screen, in a similar fashion to a marine radar system, showing the boat in the center and echo returns in a radial pattern around the boat.

The Furuno Omni system (CSH-8LMARK-2) is similar but made up of many stationary transducers enclosed within the tube that also lowers into the waters beneath the bottom of the boat. These multiple transducers each send and receive a signal, almost simultaneously, painting a picture that is basically a live 360-degree sonar view of the water around the boat. This type of system is more expensive than others since it is comprised of numerous transducers and associated transceivers. If you have ever looked at the working end of this system in the engine room, you may notice the large bundle of 14 cables, each one of those cables contains multiple wires connecting the transducer elements to the multiple transceivers enclosed in a large cabinet, basically 14 sonar systems combined into one!

When cost and size requirements are not an issue, the Furuno Omni is the choice for most sportfish boats. If the Omni is too large for the boat or budget, a system like the Koden will also produce fantastic results unavailable with any other type of sportfish sonar system.

See and be seen!

AIS (Automatic Identification System)

By now most sportfishing boaters know about the AIS system to see and be seen electronically by other boats. AIS is a widely used maritime identification system, one of the best navigational and safety systems since the invention of maritime radar.

One confusing point about AIS is that there are two basic types of hardware, one that receives ONLY and one that receives AND transmits. While most commercial vessels are required to transmit and receive, typical pleasure boats (except for extremely large boats) are not required to transmit AIS but certainly can transmit. Adding to the confusion is the numerous types of AIS hardware available in a wide variety of price points.

The least expensive option available is having AIS capabilities built into a traditional VHF radio. AIS signals operate within the VHF frequency band and therefore add minimal cost to a new VHF radio.

If you do not need a new VHF but want to receive AIS data, a standalone AIS receiver can be added to most helm electronic packages and can optionally share your existing VHF antenna to receive the signals over the air.

If you want to transmit AND receive, you will need an industry regulated stand-alone piece of hardware. The AIS system is an international regulated system, allowing it to be compatible with vessels from around the world and therefore the transmitting hardware is also regulated. A transmitter must have its own GPS antenna but can share an existing VHF antenna or connect to a specialized AIS antenna for optimal performance.
The AIS systems that transmit were originally classified as Class A and Class B and now a new standard is available - Class B+. These systems are often stipulated by regulations for the size and type of commercial vessel. The Class A systems are powerful and expensive designed for the largest regulated commercial vessels. Class B systems are less powerful and less expensive for smaller less regulated vessels and voluntary installations often found on Sportfish boats. The newest internationally approved system is the Class B+ AIS systems.
The Class B+ AIS systems, fitting in-between the two current offerings is sometimes referred to as Class B SOTDMA or Class B 5W. Why is this new offering important to Sportfish boats? The Class B+ has over twice the transmit power and range of the original Class B, now 5 watts which doubles the transmit range to 10-15 miles. Most important for Sportfish vessels, the Class B+ uses the same technology of the Class A AIS for sending messages – it has the same top priority when it comes to reserving a transmission time slot in the AIS airwaves, guaranteeing that it will always be able to transmit, even in busy AIS congested waters. For fast moving boats this is important as a missed Class B transmission can result in a vessel moving a long distance before it next manages to send a transmission.

NOTE – if you are wondering if your vessel is required by the USCG to have an AIS system, you can review the regulations here:

Protecting the Underwater Goods

Foulfree and Lightspeed
Many boaters are familiar with the unique coating Propspeed, used to inhibit growth on underwater running gear. The Propspeed product is applied like a paint but results in a smooth surface that marine growth does not seem to stick to, keeping your underwater running gear clean and operating at optimum performance.
Oceanmax, the makers of Propspeed, make similar specialty products, though much easier to apply, called Lightspeed for coating the metal of underwater lights and Foulfree for coating the working face of depth transducers.

Foulfree was designed by industry-leading engineers at Propspeed and Airmar as a certified transducer coating, Foulfree releases marine growth, reducing the maintenance needed to keep transducers clean and streamlining water flow. Up until now, the only solution to keep marine growth from fouling a transducer face was regular cleaning and or the application of a water-based bottom paint. Neither of these solutions were great, but we learned to live with it. Based on the generally acceptable performance of the popular Propspeed product, this new Foulfree product introduced in 2020 will should eliminate the need of constant maintenance of the transducer faces between regular haul outs.

Fouling on the face of transducers can reduce their sensitivity, bottom-echo returns and positive fish targets. Transducers also perform best with minimal turbulence over their surface during operation. Foulfree is a specialized foul-release coating that is biocide-free and does not poison marine growth. Once cured, Foulfree forms a super-slippery surface over the transducer, preventing marine growth from attaching to its surface. Offering a long service life – it lasts a minimum of 12 months, with an even longer life span in cooler climates.

“Foulfree is an exciting new coating specifically made to enhance the performance of transducers,” said Chris Baird, CEO, Propspeed. “Bringing together our revolutionary product design and working with the experts in transducer functionality from Airmar, we are able to offer boaters around the world a new solution to an age-old problem and improve sonar performance for anglers and cruisers alike.”

Lightspeed is the first transparent foul-release coating specifically developed for underwater lights. Underwater lights generate light and heat, creating environmental conditions that favor marine growth.

Conventional antifouling paint designed to prevent marine growth on hulls and running gear is unsuitable for underwater lights as it is not transparent. Lightspeed is a clear silicone-based product that rejects growth from marine fouling, including barnacles, oysters, mussels, seaweed and algae. Lightspeed adheres to all types of surfaces regardless of whether they are metal, polymers, plastics or glass. An application coating of this product is designed to last about one year and can be used to recoat the light as needed during the next haul out.

Electrosea CLEARLINE™ System

How often do you need to clean the seawater cooling systems on your boat? Seawater is the most popular way to cool refrigeration systems, air condition systems, stabilizing systems and other on-board heat generating equipment. Even the newest cooling systems using a freshwater loop have a seawater heat exchanger that needs to be cleaned. Microorganisms living in seawater can attach themselves to the seawater plumbing systems, causing a buildup of marine growth and eventual restriction of flow and even stoppage of water flow. This is very dependent on the location of your boat and the use of your boat, but most sportfish boats suffer this issue no matter how they are used or maintained. Over the years many ideas and techniques have been tried to reduce or eliminate the growth but most sportfish crew schedule regular cleanings to keep their systems at maximum efficiency. These regular cleanings are time consuming, expensive and there is always a chance of damage when removing and reassembling manifolds, piping, valves etc.

Created by an inventive boat owner, using his own Florida based sportfish as a R&D platform, the CLEARLINE™ System by Electrosea is an “ingenious solution to the barnacle problem is not to remove them—but to prevent them growing in your raw water lines in the first place”. The system incorporates a specialized sea strainer that uses a small amount of electricity, regulated by a computerized control unit with external sensors to monitor the seawater system. This control system can even integrate with sophisticated boat systems such as OcotoPlex used on Viking Sportfish boats. The specialized strainer is an electrochlorinator, producing controlled amounts of chlorine from the seawater itself. This low level of chlorine is compatible with copper nickel, titanium and other marine alloys at the same time eliminating barnacles, biofilm, and marine scale from growing inside the seawater piping systems. The chlorine level is similar to that found in tap water. Customers starting with a descaled or new seawater system have reported little or no growth during regular scheduled maintenance.

New Products for 2020

Navigation Electronics

There were new product releases this year by the top marine electronic manufacturers, not necessarily just in the top-of-the-line products. Check out Garmin’s GPSMAP 7x3, 9x3 and 12x3 chartplotter series, Furuno NavNet TZTouch 3 multifunction display with built-in CHIRP sonar and Simrad’s Evo3s. The new Furuno SCX20 NMEA 2000 Satellite Compass is a great addition to any electronic package to provide super accurate heading information for most any brand chartplotter/multifunction display and autopilot – allowing removal of the often-finicky fluxgate heading sensor associated with most autopilot systems.

Seakeeper 1

By now, most boaters have heard and seen the Seakeeper system in action, a gyroscopic device used to stabilize the rolling motion of most any boat. Seakeeper has recently introduced the smallest Seakeeper unit in the line-up, a Seakeeper 1, a good fit for boats between 23-30 feet. This small unit, weighing 365 lbs. and about the size of a deck cooler, can fit easily under the helm seat or other small space, adding stabilization using 12-volt battery power, creating a stable fishing and boating platform for the smallest of boats.

Other marine electronics

Every year The National Marine Electronics association, (NMEA) holds a product award competition voted on by the 700+ member companies of the NEMA. This list is a good barometer of products worthy of review by Captains and boat owners, since the award is a vote of confidence by those who manufacture, sell, install and service the equipment. This year the following products won awards of excellence:

Marine VHF—ICOM M605
Radar—Furuno DRS4DNXT Solid-State Doppler
Satellite Communications Antenna—KVH TracPhone V3-HTS
Multi-Function Display—Garmin GPSMAP 8616xsv
Multimedia Entertainment—Fusion Apollo RA770
NMEA 2000 Sensor—Furuno SCX20 High Precision Satellite Compass
Autopilot—Garmin Reactor 40 with SmartPump v2
Satellite TV Antenna—KVH TracVision UHD7
Fishfinder—Furuno DFF3D Multi-Beam 3D
Marine Camera—FLIR M364C
AIS—Vesper XB8000 smartAIS
Marine PC Software—Nobeltec TZ Professional V 4.1
Remote Monitoring—GOST Apparition SM GPS XVR
Wi-Fi /Cellular Device—KVH TracPhone LTE-1 (tie)
Wi-Fi /Cellular Device—Wave Wi-Fi Tidal Wave AC + Cellular (tie)
Marine Apps-Utility—Garmin ActiveCaptain
Commercial—Furuno FAR2228BB 25kW IMO Radar
Marine Specialty—Maretron N2KBuilder – NMEA2000® Network Design Software (tie)
Marine Specialty—Furuno "Deep Impact" DI-FFAMP High-Power CHIRP Amplifier (tie)
Garmin was voted as NMEA Manufacturer of the Year; this award is available to a manufacturer who has demonstrated superior support of their products by all who install and service their products in the field.

Whether safety, maintenance or just a desired upgrade, there are numerous new technologies and products that will help keep your boat in good condition and help to provide owners, captains and anglers a safe and productive fishing trip... Stay Grounded! §

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