FEATURE - Top Gear

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The latest METS trade show in Amsterdam showcased some smart new marine accessories, reports jetsetting SCOTT FULLER

FEATURE - Top Gear
FEATURE - Top Gear

European boating is going green and digital! While this year's offerings from METS, the world’s biggest marine-trade show in Amsterdam, may take some time to filter through to Australia, local boaters should prepare themselves for more and smarter diesel-electric hybrid engines, improved DC generating systems and greater digital control of DC and AC appliances.

Also new to the market are a range of Apple iPad and iPhone remote control applications and monitoring systems. See our Top 20 App story this issue. Meantime, NMEA 2000, of which I first wrote about in this magazine two years ago, is now the norm and there are vast improvements in how data is displayed and being used. It’s also easier to understand now that many marine electronics are incorporating NMEA 2000 protocols and you can see them operating in real life.

In respect of hybrid engines, Beta from the UK and Steyr from Austria showed of their new green machines. The low-horsepower Beta 25 unit had a belt-driven alternator/generator, whereas Steyr continues to develop its integrated hybrid unit that is capable of charging batteries, operating the motor using these batteries, and also harnessing the extra battery power to assist when extra power is required.

One of the more interesting concepts for the mega-rich was a 20m swimming pool floating in the sea behind a parked mega yacht. The rim of the pool is made of pontoon floats that suspend a large shark proof net. Amazing. The instant Nautica pool from the eponymous RIB makers is available from Hurley Marine in Sydney’s Pittwater.

There was a mechanical bilge pump for dinghies displayed by the Scandinavians, which I believe was the cleverest product at the show. Imagine a dinghy tether and a small mechanical pump attached in the middle of this rope. Clear tubing runs from the pump to the bilge of the boat and every time the dinghy pulls against the rope the pump operates, keeping the bilge dry. A very clever device. (See www.drainman.nu).

For three years now I have been on the case of how older boats with analogue gauges can be brought up to the 21st century. Two products are going to make this happen in the near future.

Actisense are about to launch a device that converts analogue sender information to an NMEA 2000 data stream. In the case of my Mariner 43, I will be able to disconnect the flybridge gauges and run the wires into the Actisense converter. The Actisense device outputs a string of digital information that can be displayed on a smart-screen (for want of a better word, but in reality any device capable of displaying NMEA 2000 information).

Murphy, Lowrance, Raymarine all had methods of showing NMEA 2000 engine data, but it appears that user-defined templates of how the information is displayed are not yet readily available.

Murphy, for example, indicated that they would have to program the screen for you. Lowrance has set engine template displays, which in many cases will do most things for the outboard user. At the moment, larger cruisers with inboards might be able to show engine temperature, but not necessarily gearbox temperature on the same display page. Having got this far, it will only be a matter of time before boaters can design their own dashboard based on the codes that are generated by NMEA 2000 devices.

Then up steps an Apple iPad product called iSimon. Here is an ingenious boat-monitoring solution that can only get better. The iPad is ubiquitous, multifunctional, looks smart and is relatively cheap. When not monitoring your gauges you can be reading the newspaper, sending emails or looking at your Navionics charts. Your iPhone or iPad will display information generated by the Simon monitoring system. (Visit www.palladiumtechs.com).

There is also the huge opportunity for marine software developers to create simple NMEA 2000 display template software that enables the boater to design their own electronic dashboard.

This was so good I bought five Waveblades for my own business and have taken up a distributorship in Australia. Imagine a scraper oscillating 75 times per second in and out and side to side removing barnacles using the resonance (not scraping) of the blades motion.

The system is watertight, 12V, has a battery pack and can also be used by divers. Best of all, when a diver is cleaning a hull or prop, they are not pushed away when pressure is applied due to the resonance effect in removing the barnacles (i.e. there is no scraping or pushing with the Waveblade). This is a truly great product and will find application for DIYs who wish to clean their hull or slipways to improve efficiency or any other application where marine growth needs to be quickly removed. A commercial version is due out in a few months, but the standard version is very hardy. (Log on www.waveblade.com).

Australian companies were again well represented and included GME, FinScan, Power Dive, Marine Protection Systems, Muir Winches, MultiPanel, Aqualuma, TMQ, Ronstan, HyDrive, and SOS Marine.

Most of these businesses have been at METS for years and continue to do so as the show offers an excellent entrance into the European market. Any Australian marine component manufacturer could benefit from exposure here and the Australian International Marine Export Group (AIMEX) can provide a relatively inexpensive way into the show, logistics and coordinate your display in their group stand. (Check out www.aimex.asn.au).

On the engine front, Hyundai has launched a new range of marine diesels and attached them to MerCruiser sterndrives, while Marine Power, marinisers of GM diesels, has developed their own sterndrive. The former is already making inroads in Australia and we look forward to testing a Hyundai-powered boat, especially if it comes with the extended warranties of its on-road cousins.

Internal furnishing products continue to revolutionise the fitout of new boats and offer endless possibilities for upgrading your old boat. Products included new fabrics, mattress springing systems, lightweight composites, carpets, and even the loo has gone space age!

Exhaust systems are becoming lighter. New, higher temperature flexible hosing is becoming available.
Beautiful combination stainless steel sinks and gas stoves will set any galley apart... Italian of course.
Mini gensets abound. Yachts are, thus, getting more comfortable.

Australian company Aqualuma had yet another successful trade show at METS 2010. Its new interior LED light range really shone. (See www.aqualuma.com.au). American company Lumitec was also showing the latest in LED lighting systems. Particularly impressive were the new deck and engineroom lighting products.
(See www.lumiteclighting.com).

Digital power control to replace old or outdated circuitbreakers continues to improve. Australian company FinScan has just launched IntelliCORE for AC and DC power distribution. Its plug-and-play with all colour codes, wiring and plugs included. Simply unplug your old circuit board and connect the wires. There’s even a colour display included! Available for 12V and 24V boats. And it interconnects with FinScan's fingerprint reader for starting your engines. An award winner and very clever. (More at www.finscan.com).

Gotta hand it to the Dutch for a great product name called Birdshit Remover from a company called Shitstrip. No mistaking what they do!


Solar-panel technology took a step forward with a flexible panel sewn into a bimini top. Mini air-tanks with mini BCs will allow a quick look under the boat. Waeco has developed some new icebox chilling systems. There was even a lock that secures an outboard’s fuel connection making it impossible to attach a fuel line. The same company had designed a locking pull-start suitable for most outboards.

The New Zealander's had developed an acrylic roll-on non-skid paint, suitable for application on most surfaces.
Available in several textures and colours. (See www.kiwigrip.com).

That was my view of the 2010 METS show. Of course, Amsterdam is a great location once a year and there’s absolutely no truth to any of the rumours that middle-aged men behave badly there. If you are into boats, designing a boat, or considering upgrading your boat, then a visit to this trade show is a great thing to do.


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