My name is Steve Mitchell and I write about marine electronics, technology, and internet connectivity. You can join my newsletter and get access to new articles and tidbits, check out my current boat Rendezvous, or just learn more about me and the site.

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Latest Articles

AIS receiver

I was going through a major overhaul on my navigation system and decided to install an AIS receiver. There are only a few of them out there, and some of them are way overpriced for the featureset. After reviewing a bunch of online reviews, I choose the Smart Radio SR162 and the Smart Radio VHF Antenna Splitter both sold by Milltech Marine in the U.S. After a few questions to the folks at Milltech, who answered same-day with detailed technical information, and copies of the newest manuals, plus some tips, I ordered it direct.I chose the SR162 over the SR161 since I sail and motor in a congested, busy area, and want the assurance of both A and B channels used for AIS being caught by my systems. The SR161 only listens to the A channel, which limits the amount of boats it “hears” in busy areas. The manual online…

Garmin GPSMAP 5208 Chartplotter

Part of my navigation systems overhaul was to replace my handheld Garmin 76C GPS with something larger and more reliable, fixed mounted, that could drive my autopilot and allow me to see electronic maps as well as plot courses. At first, being in the computing industry for my day job, I started looking at a PC solution.  There’s lots of very well thought out software out there, and a lot of it doesn’t require expensive charts or hardware.  However, I was not comfortable trusting my entire navigation to a PC knowing what can happen to them both in general use, as well as on a boat.  One of the other concerning things was power draw.  Although a laptop can run and use a low wattage charger, I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of inverters and such running all of the time to keep my navigation system going. In the end,…

Navigation system overhaul

I decided it was time to re-wire and re-tool my entire navigation system.  I’ve written articles on parts of each of these, and they’re linked below.  Here’s a general overview of what I had, and what I wanted to do.  I started with: Raymarine ST2000+ autopilot with wireless remote Tacktick wireless instruments for depth, speed, GPS, wind, compass, heading, including NMEA interface Handheld Garmin 76 GPS Uniden VHF radio with wireless remote None of the systems above really worked well together, other than the Tacktick instruments and the autopilot.  I used those two to sail a specific set degrees off of the wind when under sail.  The purpose this process was to increase the capabilities of the system, and make sure everything talked with everything else.I ended up with: Raymarine ST2000+ autopilot with wireless remote Tacktick wireless instruments for depth, speed, GPS, wind, compass, heading, including NMEA interface Uniden VHF…

Coastal Explorer

I was looking for PC based navigation software – there’s a lot of choices out there.  Eventually after reviewing over 50 of them, I found one that had all of the options I wanted, was very well written, and had lots of good reviews online – Costal Explorer by Rose Point Systems. The program itself is moderately priced, and will run on most modern Windows operating systems.  Being a Mac user myself, I also have it running in a virtual machine without any problems.  The interface is well designed, which is one of my biggest complaints about all of the other options.  Rose Point thought a lot about this area, and it really sets their product apart from others out there. Maps are available online for free from NOAA – links are provided within the software. If you want to review the features, head over to Rose Point Systems website…

New cabin lights

My existing cabin lights were in need of being replaced.  They were a mixed match of various manufacturers, mostly halogen, and very good at sucking a lot of power.  A couple were older flourescent lights that didn’t work at all.  All of the halogen lights got too hot to touch in about 5 minutes, and while they provided a lot of light, they were mostly reading or spot lights, so the remainder of the cabin was relatively dark. I wanted to use both LED and flourescent lights in my new design for power saving purposes, and I wanted the majority of them to be able to switch from normal cabin lighting mode to night vision mode.  I ended up with three different types of lights based on needs: Adjustable LED light with both white and red color for reading/nav area LED Reading light for reading area Flourescent and LED light…

Uniden UM625CBK VHF radio

Most people have a decent VHF radio on their boat – it’s pretty standard equipment for everyone.  My current radio was going bad, and really didn’t have the features I needed for saftey reasons.  I went out to investigate some of the newer features of the radios out there, specifically: DSC – digital selective callingGPS – interfaces with on-board GPS for location information and when distress calls are made/come inExternal mic/handheldsDistress calls I am a “no wires” kind of guy, and one of my initial criteria was that the external mic/handheld must not have a hardwire connection to the base unit.  That limited my choice to basically one major manufacturer – Uniden. I ended up reviewing solutions from Icom, Standard Horizon, and a few others, but kept coming back to the Uniden.  I ended up purchasing the Uniden UM625CBK with a WHAM x4 remote. Installation was straightforward and easy –…