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Zodiac, Everglades among award winners

Five new products were judged the best at the Miami International Boat Show

Five new products were judged the best at the Miami International Boat Show

Marine electronics that extend cellular phone range and deliver more accurate compass readings caught the eye of judges in this year’s Innovation Awards, along with a fishing boat, an inflatable, and a sailing catamaran that eliminates steps on the bridge deck.

“There was a great crop of new products at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, especially among the new consumer electronics that were on display,” says Roger Marshall, president of Boating Writers International, which sponsors the awards with the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The awards were presented Feb. 17 at the Miami Boat Show.

Electronics entries were so strong that there were two winners in that category.

Digital Antenna won an award for its DA 4000MR mobile repeater-amplifier, which extends cell phone range up to 50 miles by amplifying the cellular signal. That translates into fewer dropped calls and clearer reception. The repeater is about the size of five CD cases stacked on top of each other, weighs 12 ounces, and is wireless (no cables to the phone). The dual-band repeater can field multiple calls through multiple service providers simultaneously in the 800- and 1900-MHz range. The system includes an outside and inside antenna. The outside antenna receives the signal from the cell tower and sends it to the repeater, which amplifies it and sends it through an inside antenna to the cell phone. The system isn’t designed for open boats.

The other winner in the electronics category, Maretron’s SSC200, is a solid-state gyro electronic compass that has no moving parts and uses magnetometers to sense magnetic fields so it can compensate for them. The compass delivers 1-degree heading accuracy even as the boat rolls and pitches up to 45 degrees, and 1-degree roll and pitch accuracy in static conditions, resulting in stable, accurate readings in hard turns and rough seas.

“By turning [the boat in] a circle at the onset of a voyage, the unit measures deviation and sets up accurately with no more action required by the user,” says BWI judge Bill Pike. Maretron says the compass is a good headings sensor for use with autopilots.

The Moorings 4000 catamaran, winner in the sailboat category, has a single-level bridge deck with no steps. After two transom steps, there are no deck level changes in the cockpit or saloon. Designed by Morelli & Melvin and built by South African builder Robertson & Caine, the 4000 is unusual. “Most catamarans have cross beams that crews must step over to get from bow to stern,” says judge Zuzana Prohaska. “[This cat] has been designed without these beams by using a honeycomb floor that stiffens the entire hull and allows it to be one level throughout the yacht.”

The Everglades 290 Pilot, industry icon Bob Dougherty and son Steve’s offshore fishing design, took top honors among fishing boats with a batch of new features. It includes an open pilothouse — with hardtop and curved windshield — that can be buttoned up in bad weather and a transom seat that folds into a box that lifts up for access to batteries and other equipment. Judge Lenny Rudow was impressed with the integrated tracks for attaching canvas, and the tackle station with running salt and fresh water. The windshield also has wing vents and windshield wipers. Everglades had previously won an innovation award for its RAMCAP construction, which uses a vacuum process to sandwich fiberglass around a shaped structural foam core instead of injecting foam into the cavity between the hull and deck’s fiberglass walls.

Winner in the small boats and tenders category was Zodiac’s Cadet, recognized as the first inflatable tender designed to carry heavier 4-stroke outboards and still get up on plane fast, perform well and maintain stability under way. Judge Chris Landry says he liked the inflatable’s tapered tubes and innovative running strakes under the hull, which kept the boat directionally stable. “Small inflatables tend to scoot around, but the Cadet runs really well,” Landry says.