Man, I’m soooo glad Spring 2021 is here, because 2020 was one helluva year. Without beating things to death, it will sure be nice to actually do any chores relating to boating (or honey-dos so you can do the chores related to boating) and get back on the water.
So, what’s transpired since the boats went up on the hard? Besides the obvious? Well not much, since the pandemic put pretty much of a stop to the boating gear segment but, apparently, had a positive effect on the sale of boats. Which may mean more boaters out on the water in 2021 – and not all who have a clue what they’re doing. A word to the wise, that!
News You May Have Missed
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, the biggest news to come out in boating was the February 2021 introduction of a 600-horsepower 7.6-liter, V-12, the Verado 600 by Mercury Marine. No, that’s not a misprint. This came on the heels of Volvo-Penta announcing in November 2020, that they were discontinuing the Seven Marine line (the Corvette LS9 V-8 block powered the 627-hp version) they’d purchased a year-or-two ago. The new Merc has some very unique features besides all the
electronic bells and whistles (joystick, etc): the lower end of the motor – the gearcase and business end — is all that turns; the top end remains fixed. The motor also sports a two-speed automatic transmission. The first ones should be available in the late spring; base price will start around $77,000.
Other news you may have missed includes that the NOAA “has announced the phased shutdown of its traditional paper and raster chart production system. Cancellation of traditional NOAA paper nautical charts, RNCs, and other associated raster chart products will begin in 2021 and will be completed by January 2025. Use NOAA ENCs for the most up- to-date information.” They’ll continue to offer the weekly Local Notice to Mariners, but they’ve been doing that solely by computer for a while, so nothing new on that end. Tide and Tidal Current predictions are available through NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) online services: Tide Predictions: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/tide_predictions.html. Current Predictions: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/noaacurrents/Regions.
Along the lines of missing things, Peconic Bay boaters should note that Great Peconic Bay Lighted Buoy 24 has been permanently disestablished (Coast Guard-ese for “it’s no longer there”). It’ll affect charts 12354 and 12358.
Severe shoaling is present in Moriches Bay along the Long Island Intracoastal Waterway in the vicinity of Moriches Bay Buoys 24, 26, 27, 28 and 29 extending the entire width of the channel at nearly all tide levels. The area from Buoys 24 to 29 is only navigable at the operator’s risk. The most severe area of shoaling can be found between buoys 26 and 28 and is less than half the charted channel depth in some areas. As per the NOAA: “Mariners should be aware that the Aids to Navigation in these areas are unreliable due to shoaling and mariners are strongly advised to seek alternate routes.”
Mariners should also be aware of, “dangerous shoaling conditions exist in the Fire Island Inlet and vicinity. Shoaling challenges with water depths of less than six feet have been identified in the vicinity of buoys 3, 4, 5, and 6 as well as between buoys 6 and 8. Mariners should exercise extreme caution when navigating the channel.”
Lastly … with boating season opening soon, remember that the water is still chilly (My butt! It’s still cold). The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reminds boaters that PFDs are required to be worn by all boaters on recreational watercraft less than 21 feet in length — including motorboats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, rowboats and sailboats — until May 1 on New York waters.
Now … on to some gear that we like for 2021.
In late 2020 Garmin introduced the new GPSMAP 7×3, 9×3 and 12×3 series (numbers connotate the display size). Higher resolution displays, all the expected bells and whistles, we’re used to (touch screen, side-to-side glass, NMEA 2000 connectivity, etc.). The sonar combo versions (xsv series) offer built-in support for 1kW traditional CHIRP sonar so anglers can see superior target separation up to 1,000 feet below the boat. These new combos also have built-in support for Ultra High-Definition SideVü and ClearVü scanning sonars featuring Garmin’s new high-contrast vivid color palettes, making it easier for anglers to distinguish fish from structure. The sonar versions (xsv series) have suggested retail prices ranging from $1099.99 to $2899.99, while the non-sonar versions having suggested retail prices of $999.99 to $2699.99. To learn more, visit garmin.com/marine. For a larger screen (get a bigger boat!), you’ll want to check out their 8616, which won NMEA’s 2020 award for best Multi-Function Display. MSRP is near $6000. See https://www.garmin.com/en-US/
FLIR Systems announced the Raymarine Axiom+ just before the start of summer 2020. The Axiom is their seven-, nine- and 12-inch display unit with a quad-core processor, is 25-percent brighter than previous models, has a touch screen, new charting and a ton more. Each model includes a three-year warranty. MSRP is $799 for a basic seven-inch model (with North American charting) to around $3000 for a 12-incher with North American charting. Go to https://www.raymarine.com/multifunction-displays/axiom-plus/.
Other awards coming out of the NMEA show (which was held virtually for 2020, and is scheduled to be held in Anaheim, California, in late September 2021) were Furuno’s DRSDNXT solid state Doppler radar (I like Furuno’s Target Analyzer which uses different colors to denote whether a radar target is moving at you or away from, etc. Pretty neat). The DRS4DNXT is the first Furuno radar to utilize their exclusive RezBoost Beam Sharpening, providing an incredibly detailed Radar image with more targets and less clutter. This 24-inch radome unit is Furuno specific and MSRPs around $2100. This isn’t the first time this has won an NMEA best of … and it just keeps getting better.
For the fourth year in a row, ICOM took home Best VHF Radio award at the NMEA event. The radio is a 25-watt power output with a 30w listen back-hailer, built in foghorn, can be had with AIS (or not), is NMEA 2000 and 0183 capable, IPX8 waterproof (one meter for 60 minutes) and much more. MSRP is around $900 to $1000.
This is stuff that – if you’re doing some basic upkeep and replacements on your boat – you might want to look at.
For starters there’s Accon’s combo rod holder and cleat from Accon. This has been available for a while now, but is still a good idea. It’s a flush-mounted rod holder with an integrated pull-up cleat that’s both convenient and snag-free. The six-inch Cleat/Rod Holder Combo is available in three versions to hold rods at 0-, 15- and 30-degree angles. Crafted from polished 316 marine-grade stainless steel, it’s exceptionally strong. Independent testing verified this product can withstand loads of up to 11,000 pounds. A barbed fitting on the bottom allows a drain tube to be added. SRP is $96.42; www.acconmarine.com.
This one is a no brainer, Seasucker makes a huge variety of wares suction-cup mounted gizmos to hold things without having to drill. This one is called the Waste Band and holds plastic shopping bags (which are hard to come by in New York) or 13-gallon kitchen bags for garbage disposal. Available in black or white, the small Waste Band costs $79 and the large, $129.
Protect your pumps, hoses and whatnot that run propulsion, auxiliary and generator motors from getting jammed up with whatever’s in the water column that shouldn’t be getting into an engine with a Raritan Raw Water Strainer. Comes with a #16 mesh strainer that can be removed for cleaning, is less than 10-inches high and just over seven wide, and retails for $195.
Speaking of clogs … clogged drains on a boat can range from annoying to hazardous. Beckson Marine’s G-2 Baitwell Gravity Drain Assembly features a unique cone shape with 72 angled drain holes, virtually eliminating debris from obstructing a free flow. Aside from bait and livewells, it’s perfect for coolers, cockpits, anchor lockers or any situation where water collects.
Compact at only 1-9/16″ W x 3-1/8″ L, the G-2 drain is made from a rugged synthetic polymer that won’t rust. It fits standard 1/2″ hosing onto a barbed fitting. It includes a plastic washer and threaded nut, and two rubber gaskets. MSRP for the Beckson is $25.20; www.beckson.com.
The JBL Click Bluetooth wireless controller from Prospec Electronics adds fingertip control of music and call functions to any Android or iOS smartphone. Quickly mounted on a steering wheel or handlebar, the waterproof device allows the user to stay focused on driving instead of reaching for their cell phone. It controls the smartphone’s play/pause, next track and volume up/down functions. When the phone rings, users can accept a call and hang up when finished, or reject it—all while keeping their hands on the wheel. It’s waterproof to IPX5 (can resist a sustained, low-pressure water jet spray) standards. It has a power-saving mode that lengthens the life of its included CR2032 battery to up to 10 months before needing replacement. Available from Prospec Electronics, it costs $39.95; www.instagram.com/prospecelectronics; YouTube: bit.ly/2wQmJWz.
Tired of that eight-foot long you-can-have-it-in-any-color-as-long-as-it’s-white pole used by your VHF? How about Shakespeare’s 5226-XT Galaxy VHFMarine Band Antenna in black? That’ll do the trick. Supposed to be stronger than regular VHF antenna, so it’s ideally suited for mounting atop your T-Top, tuna tower, hardtop, whatever. Shop around for this … it’s available from between $200 and $300. Shakespeare: https://shakespeare-ce.com/marine/product/5226-xt-vhf-marine-band/.
If you do any night fishing or boating, you’ll love Hella Flood Lights. The HypaLUME LED floodlight comes in AC or DC models with a choice of close-range, long-range or extra-wide lenses. Built for years of hard use, it features a corrosion-resistant, non-stick aluminum housing, durable Grilamid lens fully resistant to impact, vibration, chemical and UV damage, a heavy-duty stainless-steel mounting bracket which enables a vertical angle adjustment of up to 140 degrees. DC-powered models operate at inputs from 22 to 50V, consume 260W and produce 25,000 lumens. They have a five-year warranty. MSRP starts at $1,800; Hella Marine; www.hellamarine.com.
If you’re into single-handed boating … even only occasionally … you might want to check out Emerald Marine’s Alert2 Portable DIY MOB Alarm System. It’s called the DIY because you can install it yourself and it can easily be moved vessel to vessel. It’s ideal for inland and coastal waters, and can protect two people. It is comprised of an ALERT2 Man-Overboard Receiver and two ALERT418 compact, water-activated transmitters worn on a PFD. It can be configured to shut down your engine, which I think is the most important function for a single hander. If you go into the water wearing it, it immediately triggers the ALERT receiver, which sounds a piercing alarm. As noted, it can be wired to stop engines, as well as set a chartplotter waypoint and/or into a ship-wide notification system. A video of the system at work on a tugboat can be viewed at bit.ly/AlertPortable. Emerald Marine Products; www.emeraldmarineproducts.com.
I’ve been fond of “suspender” PFDs every since I got one a few years back (a Mustang self-inflatable). You can literally forget you’re wearing them which is one of the bugaboos about wearing a PDF … nobody likes them because they’re clumsy and hot to wear. The Bombora Wanderer addresses this problem. It’s worn around the waist, and users forget they have it on. But with the pull of its CO2 activation handle, it instantly inflates to a US Coast Guard-approved Type V PFD. Weight is 23.2 ounces and it’s meant for users 16-and-older with chest sizes from 30 to 46 inches, and is CO2 activated. It costs $99 (a CO2 re-arming kit costs $25). It’s available in a wide variety of colors. A video is available at bit.ly/BomboraWanderer. From Bombora, www.bomboragear.com.