Electronics continue to stand out as a hotbed of innovation and advancement for the marine industry, with the four heavyweights pushing ahead with advances in radar, sonar and chartplotting devices.
Garmin, Furuno, Navico and Raymarine are stepping up ease of use, integration with boat and engine systems and wireless data sharing as they develop each arm under the electronics umbrella. And from a market share perspective the companies are trying to reach more boaters with lower-cost products that don’t break the bank, but deliver technology.
I’ve had the opportunity to test much of this equipment at boat shows and press outings where companies have rigged several boats with their gadgets.
Garmin was the most recent company to hold a media event. The Olathe, Kan., company in a matter of months has unveiled no fewer than seven major products. They include a new solid-state radar with Doppler technology, its largest marine multifunction display ever, an autopilot for small boats and two wearables — a marine GPS smartwatch and a sunglasses in-view attachment for streaming boat performance and environmental data.
Garmin held a three-day media gathering in early April at the Sea Isle Marina at the Marriott Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, outfitting four center consoles — 25- and 39-foot Contenders, a 42-foot Invincible and a 38-foot Jupiter — with its equipment.
“An event like this lets us tell and demonstrate exactly what we have in a relaxed, slow-paced atmosphere so the products can really be understood,” says David Dunn, Garmin senior manager of marine sales and marketing. Garmin had no public or media demos at February’s Miami International Boat Show because it did not know what to expect at the show’s new venue on Virginia Key. “We were unsure about how Miami would work, so we did not want to invest a lot of time setting up demos,” says Dunn. “We were unsure about water access, boat traffic, parking.”
Companies have concentrated on sonar development over the past three years, but they’re zooming in on radar now.
Garmin’s GMR Fantom 4 and 6 ($6,999-$7,499) are 40-watt solid-state, pulse-compression Doppler open array radars with MotionScope instant moving target detection and pulse compression for high resolution as well as close- and long-range detection (from about 20 feet to 72 nautical miles). When targets are moving toward you at a speed of 5 knots or more, they appear red; when they’re moving away or slower than 5 knots, they appear green.
“It’s simple and easy to understand,” says Dunn. “Many boaters simply find it hard to use radar, and this takes the guesswork out of reading radar. With broadband radar, you get less long-distance detection.”
MotionScope uses Doppler technology, which delivers a live view of the radar image, says Dunn. Two of the boats — the 25-foot Contender and 42-foot Invincible — were equipped with Fantom radar. I was aboard both boats to see how it works on the water. Bottom line: MotionScope stood out as the most useful new technology showcased at the event, heightening overall safety by simplifying radar with its green- and red-marking target detection.
The 25 Contender and Invincible were also rigged with the new GPSMAP 84/8600 ($7,399-$11,999). These all- in-one glass helm displays with 17-, 22- and 24-inch screens are equipped with faster processors (the Linux system is now in use) and have the highest resolution of any marine MFD on the market, according to Garmin. “This series has the fastest chart-drawing capability of any Garmin MFD,” says Dunn. With its “in-plane” viewing technology, users can see the screen from extreme side angles.
A single 8617 dominated the dash of the 25-foot Contender, and the console of the Invincible held a pair of the biggest units — two 8624s. The in-plane technology does indeed allow you to see from just about any position. I tested it on both boats. Another big-screen bonus: The 24-incher can be cut up into six views. At one point we were monitoring two chart plotter displays, a radar, a sonar (with CHIRP), an engine/performance and a boat data display.
Here’s a rundown of the other new Garmin products
- GHP Compact Reactor Autopilot ($1,099-$1,999) is targeted for single-engine outboard boats under 30 feet. The system minimizes heading error, course deviation, rudder movement and power consumption, says Garmin.
- BlueChart g2 HD accessory cards and downloads now include up to 1-foot high-definition fishing contours for greater bottom detail. BlueChart g2 Vision HD includes a feature that guides users in and out of ports and marinas.
- The GPSMAP 7400/7600 ($1,399-$5,999) now has a J1939 connection for receiving engine data.
- The PS21-TM Panoptix transom-mounted transducer with FrontVu for collision avoidance shows real-time obstructions with a 300-foot range. It will be available in the second quarter for $999.
- The quatix 3 GPS marine smartwatch ($599) streams NMEA 2000 data — such as boat speed, water temperature, water depth and wind data — from compatible on-board Garmin electronics. Like other Garmin GPS wearables, the quatix 3 is loaded with multisport functions for golfing, stand-up paddleboarding, rowing, swimming, hiking, skiing and running. It is readable in sunlight and water-rated to 100 meters.
- Nautix ($399) is a hands-free, in-view display attachment that streams performance, navigational and environmental data in the boater’s line of sight. It attaches to most sunglasses, showing speed, heading, water depth and temperature, wind direction, engine RPM and other data.
- The GTEMP10-TH through-hull temperature sensor ($99) has NMEA 2000 network capabilities, allowing it to be given a name in multiple installations. It’s compatible with the GPSMAP 7400/7600, 8000/8500 and 8400/8600 series; echoMAP CHIRP 5-, 7-, 9-inch series; and GPSMAP 5x7, 7x1, 8x0 and 10x0.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.