As many readers may have noticed, last year SAIL’s annual Pittman Awards were one of the many things that had to be cancelled as a result of Covid-19. Due to the complete lack of boat shows, trying to gauge the state of the industry with so little opportunity to see what it was up to simply didn’t make sense. Fortunately, even as the world continues to battle the pandemic, we were able to get in a pair of stunningly successful boat shows in the United States this past fall, which meant it was game-on! Better still, as was also evident in the latest class of Best Boat winners the pandemic didn’t stop the marine business from doing what it does best—innovate. Not surprisingly, things continue to race ahead in the area of digital tech. However, there remain those fun little analog advances to remind us there will also always be a place for good-old common sense. As always, we think SAIL’s late products editor Freeman K. Pittman, for whom these annual awards are named, would be impressed.
PERFORMANCE GEAR By Adam Cort
Part of running SAIL’s Pittman innovations awards is occasionally having to decide the categories that fit some of our winners best. Case in point: B&G’s Nemesis “intelligent” sailing display, as it’s called. Charlie Doane claimed it’s a great piece of cruising gear. Ben Ellison thought it should be included in the electronics category. But in the end, Adam Cort won out and got to include it in “Performance Gear” based in its outstanding readability. Anyone who’s tried steering a compass heading on a dark and stormy night can attest to how vital it is that you be able to see where you’re going. Not only does it allow you to sail faster, but having to struggle to make sense of where you’re going quickly becomes fatiguing. In addition to being incredibly easy to read, the Nemesis, which can be positioned either vertically or horizontally and is available in 9in and 12in sizes, is a powerful sailing tool offering complete customization and a number of easy-to-use pre-set multifunction templates and dashboards based on your point of sail. Built-in Wi-Fi and a web browser enables full internet use and access to third-party web servers, making Nemesis the boat’s “point of integration” and reducing the number of required displays. Install Nemesis on an NMEA 2000 system for smaller boats or use NMEA 2000 over ethernet to utilize an existing network aboard larger vessels to simplify installation and reduce cabling requirements. Hands-free operation is possible via an Apple Watch, and the system’s high-definition IPS SolarMAX HD touchscreen is viewable from any angle, even with polarized sunglasses on. The list goes on and on. Oh, and for the record, the B&G Nemesis would be great to have aboard a cruising boat as well.
From $3,799. B&G, bandg.com
Vakaros Atlas 2 RaceSense
“All you have to do is race.” Such is the claim of Vakaros and the RaceSense feature found on its recently introduced Atlas 2 sailing computer. An upgrade of the company’s original Atlas, released in 2018, the Atlas 2’s GPS includes dual band, L1 + L5 GNSS reception, which adds a second set of signals in a different frequency to provide positioning accuracy to within just under 20in, an incredible feat by any measure. Complementing this extraordinary precision is a state-of-the-art magnetic compass coupled with an advanced motion sensor and adjustable damping to provide headings that are accurate to within 0.10 degree and deliver heal and trim angles. Then there’s the wizardry of the system’s RaceSense software, which allows the Atlas 2 to create a kind of “virtual racecourse” that is then shared wirelessly across an entire fleet to do things like run the start, enforces penalties, highlight boundaries and gates, and score the finish. No more need for a race committee. Just get together with a bunch of friends, cast off lines and, well, “all you have to do is race.” Customizable to do things like let you know where you are in relation to your polars, the Atlas 2 can also be wirelessly connected to a range of other sensors and wirelessly top off its batteries using any Qi compatible charging pad. Waterproof and ruggedly built the system is expressly designed to survive the conditions found aboard an aggressively sailed sport boat. A truly amazing piece of equipment.
Price NA. Vakaros, vakaros.com
Zhik OFS800 Offshore Jacket
Let’s be honest, for years now there have been a lot of really good foulweather jackets out there to choose from. What sets the jacket and smock in Zhik’s OFS800 range apart, though, are their truly magnificent hoods. Obviously, hoods are great. However, they can also be a pain in the way they block your view, especially when trying to do things like look aloft to check sail trim. To help solve this problem, Zhik has created what it calls its “head-lock” hood design to ensure the hood follows your head as you’re looking around. Then there’s the hood’s flexible, fog-resistant, anti-kink, 180 degree Hydrovision see-through visor. What a great idea! Anyone who’s ever had to reach up to get their hood out of the way to see what they’re doing when sailing or racing in dirty weather will immediately recognize the advantages of this setup. Developed with input from Team Akzonobel and 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race winners Dongfeng Race Team, the OFS800 line employs eVent membrane tech throughout to provide a combination of breathability and durability. In the jacket, articulated arm paneling, flexible neoprene wrist seals and photoluminescent Reflexite reflectors complete the performance package. The OFS800 jacket is available in black, “Flame Red” and “Acid Lime.” An OFS800 smock and salopettes are also available.
$779. Zhik, zhik.com
CRUISING By Charles J. Doane
Scanstrut ROKK Wireless Nest and Catch
Smartphones are now fully enmeshed in the lives of cruising sailors. Beyond providing another avenue of inshore voice communications, they are increasingly relied upon not only for electronic navigation, but for managing and controlling boat systems both remotely and while aboard. As a result, keeping phones charged up while sailing has become increasingly important. Users looking to escape the tyranny of charging cords have long enjoyed having wireless phone-charging pads in their homes, and Scanstrut has now devised a pair of fully waterproof alternatives for mariners. Its ROKK Wireless Catch is a simple open-faced charging pad, with a nonskid charging surface and fiddles all around to help hold your phone in place. A sister-product, the ROKK Wireless Nest, is even more secure—a little charging cave, if you will, that you can install in a bulkhead or pedestal. It is designed to drain properly and more fully contains your precious slab ‘o glass than a mere charging surface. Both products can stand blasts of fresh or salt water and can plug into both 12- and 24-volt electrical systems. Both also feature something called “Intelligent Foreign Object Detection,” which allows them to distinguish between your phone and any other items you might accidently drop into them, so you needn’t worry about wasting power charging up your wallet or car keys.
$105 to $115. Scanstrut, scanstrut.com
Temo-450 Electric Outboard Wand
For cruisers who are used to rowing their tenders from place to place, but still occasionally pine for a boost of motorized propulsion, Temo-450 will seem a godsend. Think of it as an electric bicycle for the boating set—or, more accurately, as an electric sculling oar with a propeller at the end. The body of the oar, which telescopes in length from 4ft 3in to 5ft 6in, contains a 290W lithium-ion battery pack and 450W brushless electric motor. The latter powers a three-bladed 6.7in propeller and can generate up to 26.4lb of static thrust, enough to move a boat weighing up to 1,100lb (or a light inflatable with three people aboard) for up to 80 minutes at a moderate cruising speed. The motor can drive in both forward and reverse, and is controlled by a simple ergonomic trigger integrated into the oar’s handle. All told the device weighs less than 11lb and can be fully charged in about 3 hours via either a 12V or 220V connection. The French-built Temo is designed to operate optimally when deployed at a 30-degree angle and mounts on a simple oarlock socket that can be installed on the transom of most any small craft. Available accessories include a carrying case and a special pair of handcuffs for locking the motor to a boat when not in use.
$1,690. Temo, temofrance.com
SAFETY By Adam Cort & Ben Ellison
ACR ResQLink View RLS PLB
When things go wrong at sea, anxiety can be a major impediment to handling the situation well, and an all-too-common source of anxiety is safety gear you’ve never fully activated before. What does that flashing LED on my PLB or EPIRB mean again? For several years, the small digital screen on the ACR ResQLink View Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) has been helping in this regard, providing reassuring information like beacon transmit status and your Global Navigation Satellite System (GNNS) position, if fixed. The View display also makes the allowed regular testing more definitive and satisfying. More recently, the Return Link Service (RLS), which earned a Pittman Award for the Galileo GNNS system in 2020, has been integrated into ACR’s new ResQLink View RLS model to take beacon reassurance to a whole new level by putting the results in writing. Specifically, when “EMERGENCY RLS MESSAGE RCVD” scrolls onto the screen, you’ll know that your distress message has been received and localized at a Cospas-Sarsat ground station and forwarded to the appropriate government rescue agency. You can now relax a bit, confident in the knowledge skilled help is on its way. Note: while it’s taken longer than expected to approve RLS use in some countries, the U.S. is expected to join Europe, Canada and many others in early 2022.
$469. ACR, acrartex.com
ICOM M94D Class-H VHF with AIS
Class-H VHF radios with built-in GPS receivers and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) offer a number of safety and navigation features not found in conventional audio-only handhelds, making them especially valuable aboard a tender or small sailboat lacking fixed electronics. For example, a Class-H can place an automated distress call that provides your position and ID to all nearby vessels. It can also be used to guide you back to a saved waypoint or just-created person overboard position. Now comes the Icom M94D, which has upped the Class H ante by including an AIS receiver as well. Besides plotting vessels with AIS transceivers and alarming you about any dangerous ones that may be coming too close, an M94D can make a direct DSC call to a target vessel’s bridge. Similarly, if you save a known boat’s MMSI number in the radio’s DSC directory for easy direct calling, its AIS icon will be marked as a “Friend” on the plotting screen and can even be made available as a go-to waypoint—making for a handy way of finding your mothership in a dark anchorage, or a distant committee boat as you are making your way toward the start line. The M94D is also loaded with high-end handheld VHF features like 6W output, active noise cancelling, favorite channel scanning, and positive flotation. $300. Icom, icomamerica.com
Sirius Signal – C-1002
Anyone who has ever tried firing up any kind of Coast Guard approved pyrotechnic rescue flare knows what they’re like—hot, nasty and basically the last thing in the world you’re going to want to have to deal with in what is already, by definition, a pretty hairy situation. In recent years, a number of companies have come out with various electronic strobe-type “flares” in response to this issue. However, with its new C-1002 two-color electronic Visual Distress Device system, Sirius Signal has taken this kind of safety gear to a whole new level. The world’s first electronic flare to meet the new USCG safety standard for this kind of kit, the C-1002 comes equipped with no less than 13 incredibly powerful LEDs to make it brighter and more powerful than its competitors by an order of magnitude. An included Sirius Signal App for iOS & Android cell phones can also be used to do things like perform system checkups or provide instantaneous SOS notifications and location to first responders, towing services and other designated contacts. Overall design and construction quality are outstanding, with a ruggedly built, waterproof case that floats in an upright position. At full charge the C-1002 provides an incredible six hours of runtime, four hours more than required. Look for this impressive piece of gear to set a new standard for non-pyrotechnic flares. $299. Sirius Signal, siriussignal.com
ELECTRONICS By Ben Ellison
Balmar MC-618 Regulator with SmartLink
Many sailors have a love/hate relationship with their external Balmar multi-stage regulators. Their ability to maximize a boat engine’s charging output while also treating your battery bank well is highly appreciated. However, using the system’s built-in magnetic reed switch to modify the many possible settings for a new alternator or battery type can lead to loud cursing. The new MC-618 solves this issue with aplomb while also integrating nicely with Balmar’s relatively new SG200 modular battery monitoring system. For deep and easy tweaking or monitoring of the 618, you use the Balmar SmartLink app on a phone or tablet connected to the SG2 Bluetooth Gateway. Check real-time charging status or make simple regulator modifications on the bright 2in SG2 display, which tracks battery bank voltage, current flow and state-of-charge. Multiple gauges, regulators and SG2 SmartShunts can also share data and 12/24v power over a simple four-wire SmartLink cable. Moreover, the SmartShunt can purportedly determine a battery bank’s true amp-hour capacity as it ages—a rare but valuable metric called State of Health. The MC-618 can still be programmed with the included magnet-tipped screwdriver, but few sailors will ever use it.
$330. Balmar, balmar.net
Digital Yacht NavAlert NMEA 2000 Monitoring System
Modern instruments and multifunction screens are generally good at displaying the wide variety of navigation and boat system data that it is now possible to stream over an NMEA 2000 network. However, they are often weak at the kind of audio and visual alarming that can help a skipper avoid information overload. With this in mind, Digital Yacht has stepped into the breach with a network module that can monitor any N2K value, be it depth, waste tank level, stuffing box temperature, whatever. Alert and alarm parameters are set up using a phone or tablet browser with NavAlert’s Wi-Fi connection, and the system includes a loud waterproof flashing buzzer with a built-in mute switch. Moreover, NavAlert outputs detailed alarm messages that will pop up on some displays, like Garmin’s, and in the works is another N2K-powered module called NavChat that will provide voice alerts in plain English. NavAlert also supports a dedicated MOB button that will activate a return-to-MOB routine on most chartplotters, plus advanced AIS collision avoidance and anchor dragging screens that can run on your browser screen. Manage all boat alarms in one place, reap the benefits in several ways.
$360. Digital Yacht, digitalyachtamerica.com
Garmin Surround View Docking Cameras
To achieve its ambitious goal of eliminating all horizontal blind spots while docking, Garmin Surround View is engineered into a sailboat’s design as carefully as its standing rigging. Six compact stainless-steel cameras rugged enough to survive life embedded in a vessel’s topsides are precisely arrayed around the hull’s perimeter with the video from their semi-fisheye lenses all streaming to a powerful central image processing unit. In this way the person at the helms gets a synthesized bird’s-eye view all the way around the hull for situational awareness plus the ability to zoom in on any one of the six optimized individual camera views. The system can also overlay a visual bumper and/or range lines, while the forward views will no doubt be handy when anchoring or mooring(and perhaps capturing close-up video of frolicking dolphins!). While Surround View is currently available only to boatbuilders, with several new cruising catamaran installs expected to launch this spring, Garmin hopes to eventually offer an aftermarket installation program as well. Note, you cannot use the system’s bird’s-eye view to check sail trim, although an advanced version with masthead cameras seems possible.
Price NA. Garmin, garmin.com
SYSTEMS by Jay Paris
Mastervolt MLI ULTRA 12/1250
Mastervolt, while one of many companies now offering lithium-ion batteries, stands out with its new MLI Ultra 12/1250, thanks to the battery’s extensive combination of features. As the name implies, it is a 12-volt 1,250 watt-hour battery employing a set of Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) cells, the kinds of cells generally considered among the safest currently available. These cells, along with a proprietary Management Battery System (BMS), all come inside a waterproof housing that weighs 33.1lb and it expressly designed to serve as a drop-In replacement for Group 31 and 49 batteries. The BMS’s self-learning balancing algorithm ensures the optimum use of each cell and provides information via NMEA2000 Czone and Masterbus communications on the battery’s overall state. Connect the communication cable to any supported Mastervolt charger and the battery automatically configures the charger to match the battery. An integrated switch also disconnects the battery cells in the event of any kind of abnormalities. Protection is provided for over voltage, under voltage and over temperature as well. The battery will deliver up to 200 amps continuously and has an integral heat pad powered by the connected charger to ensure maximum charging performance in freezing temperatures, a useful feature for boats laid up over the winter up North. The battery has a lifespan of over 2,000 cycles at 80 percent depth of discharge and can be recharged in under 60 minutes.
Price NA. Mastervolt, mastervolt.com
Kanvaslight by Guardtex
Guardtex’s Kanvaslight is a flexible illuminating material woven out of Polyester and PPMA optical fibers that weighs 2.38 ounces per square foot and can be pre-integrated into the textile assembly of your choice. Options include everything from Sunbrella to similar fabrics that can then be attached to the fabric of, say, a bimini top with needle and thread or using Velcro, zippers or magnets. (When installed the Kanvaslight fibers can be safely folded along with the structural fabric.) Two different light “injectors” are available to power a range of widths and lengths up to 8ft. These include a Standard 15w 12 to 24-volt DC model and the Mini 2.5w 5 to 16-volt DC iteration. The Standard weighs 17.6 oz; the Mini weighs 2.8 oz. Both produce 2,700K warm white. Variable RBG lighting is also as an option as is dimmable control via a smart phone. The injector environmental limitations are between 5 and 95 degrees F, so careful placement might be required for use under tropical conditions. Note, there is no electricity flowing in the fabric itself. The company’s website illustrates dozens of different uses, each one seemingly more fun than the last.
Price upon request. Guardex Inc., kanvaslight.com.
RemigoOne Electric Outboard
Remigo, a company based in Slovenia, clearly did some thinking outside the box when it came time to develop its eponymous RemigoOne electric outboard. Most other electric outboards share an overall configuration much like that of their fossil-fueled cousins. However, the RemigoOne consists of pretty much just an aluminum fin with an airfoil section thick enough to contain the unit’s batteries, controls and propeller drive. The fin can also be slid up and down in its two-part mounting bracket to adjust for depth. The outboard weighs 26.9lb (32.5lb if you include the bracket) and decals on the sides of the fin are reflective to provide improved visibility at night. The system’s batteries can be charged with either of an AC or a DC charger. Charge times range from three to six to 12 hours depending on the charger you go with. Videos of the RemigoOne in action (our judging panel did not get a chance to take one out for a spin) show truly spirited performance with a pram and more than might otherwise be expected when used aboard a lightweight daysailer with a crew of three. According to Remigo the system’s thrust is comparable to a conventional 3hp outboard. Range is up to 14 miles at a half-speed of 3 knots.
Price NA. Remigo d.o.o., remigo.eu