BRIGHT SPARKS 418 - Sydney iShow

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There’s no slowing the evolution of onboard electronics, this year’s Sydney boat show unveiling a raft of trick new gadgets and systems

BRIGHT SPARKS 418 - Sydney iShow
BRIGHT SPARKS 418 — Sydney iShow

The sun shone, the pontoons thronged and in the halls the electronics drew punters like moths to a light. The major trends at this year’s Sydney International Boat Show included LED backlights on navigation screens and television systems, increasing use of wireless and Bluetooth in marine products, and amazing colourful and informative imagery on charting.

Continuing the trend of land-based technology migrating offshore to boats, more smart phone integration and the ubiquitous iPad inclusion in marine systems was apparent. Also, mainstream computer terminology was being bandied about with the in-vogue "cloud computing" being used by salty, dyed-in-the-wool boaters. Whatever next?

Next, says technical director from Jeanneau, Erik Stromberg, will be integration of all onboard systems. Well, that’s what he told me during our chat onboard the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379, making its global debut in Sydney, but more about that next month. However, his words may be a warning to some manufacturers who continue with proprietary systems and architectures — integrate or remain isolated — as this increasingly fast technological evolution sweeps across the decks of our boats.

One major manufacturer who’s now just swept across the decks of Bavaria Yachts is Garmin that showed off its latest multifunction displays on the new Bavaria 45 and 55 at the Sydney show. Securing a global OEM deal with Bavaria is a major feather in the US manufacturer’s cap. Onboard the new Farr-designed Bavaria 45 was installed the GPSMAP 5008 multifunction display (RRP $3500) that can also use the excellent BlueChart g2 Vision 3D charting. Along with this touchscreen plotter was something Garmin is not so widely known for, their VHFs.

But this may change soon because the US manufacturer along with several other major players including Raymarine is adopting more wireless technology. The new Garmin GHS20i VHF handset integrates with their VHF 200 (which was installed on the aforementioned Bavaria 45), and VHF 300 series radios via the GWH20 wireless hub, which can also use Bluetooth.

The unit has a backlit LCD display, soft keys, a rotary knob for volume, squelch and channel selection plus an inbuilt speaker mike for use in loud environments. A handy feature is the intercom function allowing you to communicate with the base station. Other key functions include DSC distress. Powered by an efficient, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, Garmin quote 18 hours battery life. It debuts this month.

Elsewhere in the show Raymarine were causing quite a stir with a raft of wireless gear and a nifty 7in hybrid touch plotter, the e7, aimed at small craft. The e7 can be controlled remotely by a new app for the iPhone and iPad. Alternatively, the e7 can be wirelessly managed (and with Bluetooth) by the new RCU-3 handset — it’s a simple three-button unit that can hang around your neck or clip to the wheel for basic functions such as waypoint marking, switching between screens and volume control for the music system.

Also on display was the replacement for its ST70 instruments, the i70, p70 and p70R. Comprising the main controller unit — the 4in i70 which displays a variety of information — from the p70 autopilot units (the p70R is for powerboaters). A powerful feature I enjoyed playing with on the i70 was the AIS display, very useful information on a small cockpit readout that works well thanks to the incredibly bright (700nits) LED screen.

Charting software is another exciting space at the moment as increasingly powerful processors on laptops with accompanying memory increases allow big number crunching. So I was particularly interested to check out the brand-new version of MaxSea Time Zero (version 1.9.6), a product I’ve used successfully on yacht deliveries. However, it’s a very feature-rich software (with the base Navigator module selling for $1000), so takes a bit of learning but the rewards are good.

The new version does some smart number crunching including calculating real-time bathyscope information for 3D representation. The modularised design means you only pay for what you need, so for instance bluewater sailors would do well to check out the latest Routing Module (RRP $400). Its Weather Module is powerful, allowing you to create and download customised NOAH GRIB files containing an 11-part meteorological file, which can include wind speed, pressure, temperature, weather at altitude, and more.

It was fun working with this GRIB then clicking to video mode to watch a moving display of the changing direction of the challenging East Australian Current, and no, it doesn’t just stick to the coast!


1). Show time at Sydney is great opportunity to touch and feel the merchandise and there was plenty on offer both dockside and in the halls.

2). Garmin’s new GHS 20 and GHS20i VHF handsets.

3). Emma demonstrating that’s she much more than a pretty face for Sea-Doo by using her iPad2 to list all product information.

4). Raymarine let us punters twiddle the knobs on their new i70 series readouts and the e7 hybrid touch plotter for smallcraft.

5). Bavaria’s new 45 has Garmin factory fitted (inset), as do all their boats now.

6, 7). Raymarine’s e7 (photo 6) hybrid touch plotter can be controlled remotely by a new app for the iPhone and iPad, or alternatively, be wirelessly managed (and with Bluetooth) by the new RCU-3 handset (photo 7).

8). The brand-new version of MaxSea Time Zero (v1.9.6) from Furuno is a great way to track the East Australian Current, but it’s powerful modularised system suits racers and cruisers alike.


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