I went to several boat shows to come up with some cool holiday gift ideas.
I found great bargains on boats, but since I don’t think anyone is going to get me one of the beautiful Aldens I saw at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show for $2 million or $4 million, I’ll concentrate on some of the more modest things I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree (hint, hint boss).
Radar is arguably the most important item you can add to a boat, other than a knowledgeable, responsible skipper. I’ve been using radar for more than 30 years. I started with analog units and then had a Vigil radar from the U.K., followed by modern digital radars from Raytheon, Furuno, Si-Tex and Raymarine.
Modern digital radars have magnetrons that emit a pulse of microwave energy from a rotating antenna, which then returns to the antenna. The timing from emission to return and the rotation of the antenna determine the distance and bearing to the target. The target appears as a blip on the screen at the appropriate range and bearing. The blip is smeared across the screen covering an angle that depends on the horizontal bandwidth of the antenna, which is a function of antenna size.
Pulse radar cannot send and receive at the same time. It is good at picking up echoes at some distance, but close in, the displays are cluttered with “noise” that can be controlled and suppressed to some extent, which leaves something to be desired.
Enter Navico with its broadband radar (selling under its Simrad, Lowrance and Northstar labels). Broadband radar is frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW), as opposed to pulse. Techno babble notwithstanding, broadband radar offers significant benefits to small and midsize recreational boats.
• Impressive short-range target discrimination: If the demonstration can be believed, its target resolution is truly mind-blowing. The range selection runs from 1/32 mile (about 190 feet), which is darn close-in, out to 24 miles.
• Instant “on”: Because there is no magnetron to warm up before transmitting, the radar is ready to go when the “on” button is pressed.
• Low power draw makes it a good bet for small boats and sailboats.
• The unit sells for about $1,700. Then you connect to your display of choice.
In a practical vein, Rescue Tape is a good gift. It deserves a spot in your boat, car and home. Rescue Tape is a “self-fusing, non-adhesive silicone tape” that seals leaks in water and fuel lines and hoses. It also can be used to repair electronics and wiring.
Stretch the tape and wrap it under tension, and it starts curing to make an air- and watertight seal that resists salt water, fuel, oil, acid solvents and UV radiation. The manufacturer says it has a 720 PSI tensile strength, is resistant to 8,000 volts per layer, withstands heat up to 500 F, and stays flexible down to minus 85 F. It comes in eight colors as well as clear. Unlike duct and electrical tapes, it doesn’t get gummy or leave a sticky residue.
For more information: first-look.com
DUAL-PURPOSE PORTABLE NAVIGATION
Garmin usually comes up with something that befits the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room. The 640/620 is a really good idea, especially for small-boat owners. It’s a portable GPS map/chart plotter. Mounted in a car or truck, it provides turn-by-turn directions and verbally identifies oncoming streets. Mounted in your boat, it provides BlueChart coastal charts on the 5.2-inch (diagonal) touchscreen. The more expensive 640 comes with preloaded city maps and coastal charts. The 620 supports coastal and land navigation, but these require chips that must be purchased separately.
In both models, turn-by-turn directions and spoken street names are provided. Both models come with a marine swivel mount and power/data cable, but the 640 also includes an automotive mount and power/data cable. The 640 can provide XM WX satellite weather, as well as XM satellite radio, with the addition of a Garmin XM antenna, which, of course, is sold separately.
Think about it — you can trailer your boat to a new destination without getting lost or asking directions, then navigate the waters to that secret fishing hole. And it’s all in one unit.
My sincerest apologies if there are other manufacturers that offer this type of technology. I was not aware and did not see it in Newport.
Happy holidays, and let’s hope for a new year with jobs and money in the bank.
This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.