Reviews

I test and review equipment and devices in real-world scenarios and only publish a review after having decent time to evaluate things. I do not work for a vendor, nor am I paid for any of my reviews. I pride myself on having accurate, in-depth, and straightforward reviews for others to benefit from. You can read my Review Policy for details on how I conduct things.

Rule iL500 Portable Pump

I’m always looking for a good pump, since the nature of having a boat is having to stave off water being in the boat at some point.  I have a couple of manual bilge pumps, and of course a couple of powered ones permanently installed in the right places.  But you can always use something more portable. While doing some random searches, I stumbled across a great idea from the folks at Rule – the iL500 Portable Pump.  It’s a portable pump that is submersible, can be used in-line, has battery clamps for quick use, comes with hose and a nozzle for spraydowns, and can be used for both water and diesel. I think it’s a great pump to have around when you happen to be away from the dock and need to get water out of somewhere hard to reach, or if you want to use the included nozzle…

BioSok

My previous engine had a meltdown before I had it removed, and that included dumping a huge quantity of watery oil into my bilge.  Ever since then, oil makes it’s reappearance almost weekly within the bilge.  I suppose I will never get rid of it completely… I’ve tried all sorts of things, from absorbent pads, to simply sucking it out with a high volume pump, and disposing of it appropriately.  Nothing seems to work that well, at least not until I found BioSok. It’s some sort of powdery looking chemical that reacts to oil and fuel, and pulls it into it, then uses some microbes to eat off the oil.  I ended up buying two of the cloth socks, and one small bin of powder.  I used the powder directly throughout the bilge on the surface to get the oil that had been in there for a while since the…

Boatsense Problems

I’ve had the new Boatsense Remote Vessel monitoring solution installed for a week or so now, and have had a few problems with it. First, the company that manages it did some sort of firmware update to it, and it now sends me pages at random times (usually at 1-3AM) with gibberish in it. They have looked at it and believe they can repair it. Then, it started paging me that my battery is low. I tested the battery just to be sure with a very accurate multimeter, and found no problems. After repeated emails to the manufacturer, they finally conceded today to sending me a new unit, but not until I expressed my frustration at being paged at random hours, and again reiterating that I expected not to pay for all of the pages beyond the 20/month limit. They theorize that the voltage component in my current device is…

Shipmodul NMEA multiplexer

While redesigning my navigation system, I realized that I wanted several instruments to share information with my chartplotter, while also being able to share information between themselves. In addition, I also wanted a PC to be able to receive information from these instruments. After some investigation, I found a whole product line of NMEA multiplexers from Shipmodul.  I chose the MiniPlex-42BT.  This version allows for 4 “talkers”, compatibility for SeaTalk and AIS, several “listeners” depending on your configuration, and Bluetooth support for your computer. My goal was to connect my Tacktick NMEA interface, autopilot, chartplotter, AIS receiver, VHF radio, and my PC all to the same system.  After a lot of trial and error, and using MPXConfig from Shipmodul which allowed me to see the exact traffic passing through my multiplexer, I ended up with a slightly modified configuration. Most notably, I was unable to connect my AIS receiver to…

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,…

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…

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 –…