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Sea Surface Temperature

For years I have said that marine electronics should be made by marine companies for durability and for the specific applications. But now you can't deny the crossovers as we bring smartphones and tablets onboard our boats and we take charts and recorded fishing trips off the boat and work with them at home.

Many marine chart companies have embraced the smartphone craze and now Raymarine becomes the first and largest hardware builder to tie iPads and wireless connections into their new product line.

If you haven't seen it, the Raymarine e7 broadcasts and receives over WiFi and Bluetooth so you can wirelessly connect their remote control, a sound system, an iPad, and many other devices.

Not only embracing the Apple innovations, Raymarine software gives it a big hug. The e7's touch screen responds to your finger's sweeps, pinches, zooms and drags in the way that you expect from your smartphones and tablets. If these moves cause problems when your boat is bouncing across the waves, any function can still be controlled by buttons and a round pad control. Other brands have included these touch screens, too, diving in or at least wading.

So my question is, "Would you bring an iPad aboard your boat?" Would you use it as a second station, perhaps by the transom when you're letting out lines while looking for fish on your sounder screen? Would you use it on shore to look for weather and fishing spots, and then bring it on the boat to load the info into your MultiFunctionDisplay? Wouldn't you like to have your MP3 music library playing on your boat while you're cleaning and fixing things?


5' Contour Chart

THE ISSUES

Although AT&T is advertising a waterproof tablet, no smartphone or tablet is totally safe around salt water. Unlike the biblical tablets, these tablets are not made of stone, and they will sink, get scratched by salt crystals, and connectors will corrode.

Fortunately, there are waterproof baggies with a metal clamp for the top, there are Otter Box cases that allow you to use the tablet through the casetop, Pelican Cases to totally protect and float the phones and tablets while not in use, and at least a half dozen brackets that swivel, protect and immobilize these mobile devices.

There is no disputing the fact that a smartphone or tablet is good for a backup plotter and a nearshore call for help. If you worry about battery power loss from too much bait well use, or engine problems, etc., then you would be glad you had at least a mobile phone or handheld VHF. However, you have serious range limits and durability issues if you carry a cell phone instead of a waterproof handheld VHF and built-in 25-watt VHF radio.

Obviously, an iPad can't be your only plotter since it doesn't have outdoor brightness, dimming screen for night use, or connections to a sounder transducer, radar, etc. If you wear polarized sunglasses, then the iPad screen goes black when held in portrait mode. Turn it to landscape and the image reappears. The new Raymarine screens, and other brands as well, have overcome the polarization problem with special coatings.

An iPad or smartphone often needs a connection to the Internet. In fact, early versions do not even have a GPS. Pre 3G, they got their position from the cell tower. You may think you'll be close enough to the beach, but remember that cell towers are actually, by FCC charter, aimed at land and not aimed at water. The Gulf of Mexico on-water cell companies for the oil business actually make sure that the land-mobile companies don't get the on-water business and vice versa. There's good reason that they don't overlap since you wouldn't want your mobile phone to roam onto the higher-priced cellular network by accident.

A big problem for the Coast Guard when they receive a cell phone distress call is that they can't triangulate the location of the caller. There aren't towers on the side away from the coastline and there's usually only one tower that reaches the phone out on the water. There is still an increasing number of distress calls being made over mobile phones. Shamefully, only one out of ten DSC VHFs are programmed or wired to make a DSC distress call.

Speaking of roaming, there are still many areas near the coast where cellular voice calls and slow data are available but high-speed Internet access is not to be found. Coverage maps are very deceiving since the guy who draws the map is just trying to show that the beach highway has coverage.

If voice calls and at least slow data are really worth it, perhaps because you're taking a trip to the Keys or the Bahamas where cellular phone coverage is not good, then you should know satellite phones are dropping in price. Globalstar is influential here because they lowered prices while their service was out of whack, and now they're almost back. Marine-satphone.com rents a Globalstar satphone for $27 per week, for instance. Data speeds are much lower on these satphones than smartphones, but it's practical to use SMS, text-only e-mail, grib weather files, etc.


Route: Texas to Cripple Rock

APPLICATIONS

Functionally, I get a kick out of everything you can do with the little three-button wireless remote control that you can get for your Raymarine e7. Besides autopilot control, you can adjust stereo speaker volume, instantly mark waypoints, zoom in on the charts, or change the range display on the fishfinder. You can mount the remote on your steering wheel or wear it around your neck.

To exchange Raymarine's data, video, and audio with Apple devices, use the RayView app. Navionics charts are also compatible with Android devices and C-Map now has an Apple app.

If you're looking at chart apps for a tablet, there are others, like iNavX and Fugawi's Xtraverse. These are not free, either. Tide charts are not included. The iNavX app can use Navionics charts or Hilton's Realtime Fishing charts.

For SKA boats, Navionics and C-Map have a huge advantage because of their fishing charts. You need to study which region and options you want before you buy. If you want tides only for the present day, Marine Day Tides is a free app.

For specific harbors, you can usually get a fishing report from the local newspaper site, and certainly you can subscribe to Roffers, Fishhead and others. I also like the WFN fishing log app.

There are lots of weather apps, but Weatherbug has camera shots of conditions in many locations. By luck, there's a beachfront restaurant in my area that has a camera pointed at the beach and waves. Occasionally there are girls in bikinis in front of the camera, if you're wondering why they would broadcast video of waves.

It's not so nautical, but you should know about Pandora music for any Internet devices. There's a free app with minimal ads, and a pay app for a minimal cost. You tell Pandora what kind of music you enjoy and they play that and similar songs.

There's no doubt that Apple, Android, and all their friends are stowaways on your boat. I would suggest that you go with the trend, starting now if you haven't already. There's no doubt that the advantages are greater than the problems.


Water Color (Chlorophyll) Chart





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