Reviews

We test and review equipment and devices in real-world scenarios and only publish a review after having decent time to evaluate things. We do not work for a vendor, nor are paid for any of our reviews. We pride ourselves on having accurate, in-depth, and straightforward reviews for others to benefit from.

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Raymarine Axiom and Lighthouse 3 first impressions

By Steve Mitchell | Jun 14, 2017

Grace is mostly a Raymarine boat in terms of the key components responsible for navigation. The chart plotter, auto pilot, and helm instrument displays are all Raymarine, paired with sensors and devices providing data from many other vendors such as Maretron, Vesper, and B&G. Choosing Raymarine was deliberate back in 2015 when I bought Grace as I was looking for a very integrated suite of components that could automate the most frequent tasks on the boat while underway.

Raymarine impressed me with the quality of hardware and software at the time, and the frequency they have come out with updates and enhancements to Lighthouse 2, their chart plotter operating system. They also had a great wheel-based autopilot that has been very reliable while underway. Recently, they announced Lighthouse 3 and the Axiom family of chart plotters. I have had the 9″ version of the Axiom for a few days, and these are my first impressions.

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Raymarine LightHouse II v19.03

By Steve Mitchell | Apr 26, 2017

I chose Raymarine for Grace when we bought her in 2015 (see my network design here) because of how impressed I was with their MFD usability and software update frequency. I started getting worried in late 2016 when that frequency dried up, but a few days ago they released an update that hopefully signals future releases until LightHouse III is ready for older MFDs.

v19.03 is available on the Software for Raymarine site and appears to be focused on a few feature improvements, and indicated that upgrades were available for a lot of the hardware I have on Grace. Strangely, only two items needed to be upgraded according to my eS75 MFD – the MFD itself and the Evolution Autopilot ACU-100 unit.

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Surface Pro 4 is a great boat computer

By Steve Mitchell | Apr 19, 2017

I’m always on the look out for a compact, well performing, easy to use computer for the sailboat. Over the years, I’ve used some rugged tablets, laptops, and other creations, but none have been able to run the software I need while still being easy enough to use. I have been a hardcore Mac user for the last 6 years, and while my MacBook Pros have been great, the best software for navigation doesn’t run natively on the Mac without major compromises.

After purchasing a new laptop for my spouse, I found the Surface line from Microsoft, and have fallen in love with the Surface Pro 4.

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Yacht Devices Voyage Recorder – a black box for your boat

By Steve Mitchell | Mar 3, 2017

With the huge network I have on Grace, capturing everything that is going on in a useful form is sometimes difficult. For individual trips, I usually grab the track points off of my Raymarine or take a screen shot to remember things by. While at anchor or at the dock, it’s harder to gather info to do analysis or just show what was going on. In the past I’ve used Kees Verruijt’s great canboat system to dump raw NMEA 2000 via a linux machine to analyze later, but converting them to something useful has always been a challenge.

After installing a Yacht Devices Text Display last year, I noticed they had a product that might help me with my constant quest for getting data off the boat – the Yacht Devices Voyage Recorder. The product records all data off of your NMEA 2000 or SeaTalk network to an SD card. The resulting files can be copied to a computer and analyzed in various different ways – generate maps of your travels, look at performance of your boat, create a polar analysis, and more.

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A boat vacuum that sucks

By Steve Mitchell | Dec 2, 2016

I admit, I’m a bit OCD, and hang out with other folks who are as well. We like the boat as clean as possible when we’re hanging out at anchor or at the dock. While we’re underway, we tend to make a mess – food being prepped below, things going back and forth, and general use. Having a good quality vacuum is critical, and up until now, all of the options sucked, or rather, didn’t suck enough.

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Amazon Echo Dot is perfect for the sailboat

By Steve Mitchell | Nov 1, 2016

I’ve had an Amazon Echo at home for some time and love it. It is used mostly for controlling our Philips Hue lighting (15 different zones/lights) and our Sonos sound system, plus a bunch of scenarios and other home automation niceties. I’ve been wanting an Echo Dot for Grace but missed out on the original release. I was able to snag one recently, and have it doing a few things on the boat, with some cool plans for the future.

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Best drink holder ever?

By Steve Mitchell | Aug 18, 2016

It seems like I have been in a perpetual search for ways to hold cups, glasses, cans, and other drinks while underway. That’s why I was very excited after hearing about a new universal drink holder made by Zarcor.

They are the manufacturer of a number of other products that you should definitely look into if you have a boat. My favorite project this last year was replacing my cockpit hatch boards with custom doors which they made. This new universal drink holder is made of the same high quality Star Board material, crafted with a few neat tricks to help your drinks stay on board.

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iKommunicate unboxing and install

By Steve Mitchell | Jul 6, 2016

Back in January 2015, I stumbled across a fantastic open source project called SignalK that promised to help boating nerds like myself gain access to the data from all of the instruments on the boat.

In October 2015, Digital Yacht announced a Kickstarter campaign for a product called iKommunicate Gateway, a hardware product with NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 connectivity, a web interface, and leveraging SignalK. Mine just arrived, and having spent so much time using SignalK on my Raspberry Pi, I was very excited to get it unboxed and running and see the differences.

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Yacht Devices Text Display showing wind details

Yacht Devices Text Display review

By Steve Mitchell | Jun 8, 2016

Power is something every captain agonizes over while away from the dock. Instruments, lights, refrigerator, autopilot, and everything else take a toll on battery capacity, especially while on anchor overnight. I had been searching for a simple instrument I could leave on all the time which would give me quick glance at NMEA 2000 network data while down below.

The Yacht Devices Text Display fits that need almost perfectly, with a few improvements needed.

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