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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After last year's first official trip and a rescue where I spent almost 2 hours on the VHF radio with the Coast Guard, I made it a priority to upgrade Grace's capabilities to be more safe and usable. That experience was early on in Grace's life with me, and the VHF radio, cabling, and antenna were absolutely abysmal. I also wanted a DSC capable radio for my crew to use in case of an emergency because of it's ease of use. After a lot of thinking and considering, I ended up going with B&G's V50 base along with an H50 wireless handset, a VHF splitter, and updated VHF antenna from Vesper.
I am perpetually looking for better lights on Grace, both inside and out. Many of them are either too bright, the wrong color light, or require too much wiring to install. I stumbled across the Mantus Snap-On Light randomly a few months ago and love the portability, easy install, and light quality that it provides.