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Garmin in talks to buy Britain’s Raymarine

I know these rumours have been going on for some time – see my post last year – when Raymarines share price started moving…well checkout this Reuters article by by Purwa Naveen Raman and Savio D’Souza

…”Raymarine, which makes fishfinders, autopilots, marine radar and GPS systems for leisure boats, and rivals like Garmin and Norway’s privately held Navico are struggling to chart a course in a weak economy that has crimped demand for discretionary consumer goods they offer. “Raymarine gives Garmin the all-important original equipment manufacturer (OEM) footprint,” Panmure Gordon analyst Oliver Wynne-James said upgrading Raymarine’s stock to “buy” from “hold.”….

There is also a good article by Edmond Jackson at Interactive Investor here …

…”Relative to a share price of about 17p, which capitalises Raymarine equity near £14 million relative to £96 million net debt, the challenge is guessing what Garmin could pay. It is in a comfortable position with $959 million cash at end-June although it will be hard for Garmin executives to determine a worthwhile price to pay since a significant restructuring would likely be needed to integrate Raymarine.

Raymarine became over-stretched at the top of the economic cycle, assuming too much debt to acquire overseas distributors as a means to sustain earnings growth. After 500p in 2007, the shares collapsed from about 350p last year to just below 10p, with management recently admitting it is close to breaching bank covenants.

Ironically, the board has continued to assert that buying distributorships has been the correct strategy – despite the fact that the debit involved has destroyed shareholder value. Although other acquirers could become interested should Raymarine’s bankers appoint administrators, it looks as if Garmin is the only one currently capable of taking on the entire group.”…

You should have bought Raymarine shares last year instead of buying that new AIS 🙂


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RC400 – listen up all you “diehards”

RC400 on helmFollowing correspondence with one of the readers here I thought I would highlight this item in case you are one of the diehards who keep on using the ill fated RC400 handheld GPS/ Chartplotter abandoned by Raymarine….

The reader was having trouble getting his RC400 to boot past the usual globe picture and the warning message.

So I advised :
1. The usual reset procedure
2. Using the uprated NiMH batteries … Click here for the full description…

But what the reader found was that the Raychart 400 Software UpgrRC400ade v01.03.00 was what he was missing…once downloaded and installed the unit jumped into life.

So above are the 3 definitive thing to do if your unit is playing up…or are they?!…:-)


Taking the ‘search’ out of Search and Rescue

A bit late in the day I have been researching replacements for my Class B 121.5Mhz EPIRB which will be relegated to the grab bag and used as a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) in an emergency. Cospas-Sarsat ceased satellite processing of 121.5/243 MHz beacons 1 February 2009. These beacons will only be able to be detected by ground-based receivers and aircraft for example actually engaged in a SAR operation that had been initiated using the new systems.

A bit of internet research reminded me that the old analog system was accurate to around 20km (10.8nm) and that a SAR (search and rescue) operation would only be launched after two satellite passes – which could mean a delay of about 2 to 3 hours, often it would take 6 hrs to resolve the location by using multiple passes of the weather satellites system. The other factor to note is that the old 121.5Mhz system transmitted using about 75-100 milliwatts of power as opposed to the new beacons that are using 5 watts of power – a stronger transmission is a good thing in bad weather or storm conditions or when your location may be obstructed by things like cliffs!

New C-S System OverviewSatellites receiving the old analog 121.5Mhz and the new digital 406Mhz systems still use doplar shift techniques to try and resolve the location of the beacon. But the new system is accurate to about 5km (2.6nm) as opposed to the old 20km (10.8nm). The old analog system only transmits a tone so the SAR operation cannot determine what is going on until they locate the beacon and find out that it isn’t a false alarm or some errant piece of electronics like a set top box on TV! The new system transmits actual data digitally which can then be linked automatically to your registration data bringing up who to phone and details of your vessel and so on. In the UK you must register your 406Mhz beacon with the MCA

Is added GPS a useful feature?

If the unit you buy has the added facility to transmit GPS location data as well then the accuracy is even greater – about +/-125m. It isn’t as accurate as your chartplotter GPS simply GEOSAR Dec2008 smallbecause the transmission of the GPS data is limited by the message length of the protocol being used. Even if your beacon is destroyed in the emergency it only needs to transmit for a few minutes for the satellites to pick it up and resolve the location. Pretty damn good I think:-)

The main satellite system for picking the beacon’s signal is the SARSAT system, but in addition the geostationary GEOSAR satellites that cover more than 80% of the earths surface also pick up signals and can relay the GPS location data even though they cannot compute location themselves using the doplar effect.

So how do you choose a 406Mhx beacon for your boat?

The choice is then between Category I (auto deployment) and Category II (manual deployment) 406Mhz beacons…and also units with or without GPS.

I have prepared a small table of units available in the UK market below. Click on the images for a larger view.




Clearly I think you should get one with built in GPS, and if you can get a 16 channel GPS all the better. I dont think the CatI auto deployment is worth the extra money…


Naval Oceanography, Google Share Information on the World’s Oceans

NGDC topography 15minThe National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) provides scientific stewardship, products and services for geophysical data describing the solid earth, marine, and solar-terrestrial environment, as well as earth observations from space. It is their work on the marine geophysical data or bathymetry that is of interest to me. Bathymetry is the study of underwater depth of the ocean floors. A bathymetric map or chart usually shows floor relief or terrain as contour lines (called depth contours or isobaths), and may additionally provide surface navigational information.

It is this information often shown in 3D that many of our marine chartplotter suppliers are using as a way of impressing us to buy their expensive chartplotters and other products. Of course the NGDC are not alone in adding value to all this data and the reason I started to look into the source and uses of this data was the announcement from Google of the extension of their Google Earth initiative to include bathymetric data

Most surveys of navigable waterways in the United States are performed or commissioned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, for inland waterways, and the National Oceanic andAtlantic-trench Atmospheric Administration for oceans.

Coastal bathymetry data is available from the National Geodetic Data Center. Bathymetry data is often referenced to tidal vertical datums of MSL or MLW.

The picture on the right shows a bathymetric chart for the North Atlantic trench for example. All thanks to the US Navy sonar surveys – and the US taxpayer of course:-)

I am very excited by the news that the US Navy will share information on the worlds oceans with Google.

“….From Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) — The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) entered a cooperative research agreement to share unclassified of information about the world’s oceans through the new version of Google Earth launched Feb. 2.

The unclassified bathymetric data sets, sea surface temperatures and ocean current US Navyinformation from NAVOCEANO are incorporated in the new version of Google Earth, launched today.

As part of the research and development agreement, the Navy has received Google Earth Enterprise licenses which provide for technical support that will enable the Navy to better search, view and prepare products from their extensive oceanographic data holdings…..”

This is one huge boost to the trend for many amateur and not so amateur people all over the world who have been laboriously trying to use a variety of data sources – and now Google Earth – to display bathymetric data for our ports and other areas of sailing interest.

People like Peter Minton who over the past year has mapped all the islands from Papua New Guinea to the west coast of South America. This is an enormous piece of voluntary effort that involved over 10,000 island polygons. For example, Ailuk Atoll is made up of 57 small islets or motus. To accomplish this Herculean task Peter used the software from Global Mapper and Landsat ETM+ as base imagery.

Have a look at Peter’s own web site here . I just love his slogan “Enhanced Vector Shorelines of the World – One Island, One Coastline, One River and One Lake at a time….”

People like Peter are not alone however …as this post from the Googleplex (Feb 2009) shows…

“…the latest release of Google Earth, making features like Ocean, Historical Imagery, and Touring available to Google Earth users everywhere.

We’re happy to open up these new worlds of exploration to our Enterprise customers, with new releases of Google Earth Pro and Google Earth Enterprise also available today. This is a tremendous advance for organizations who work on — or under — the Seven Seas, or who have archives of historical photos and data that they’d like to make more accessible to their employees.

People who use Google Earth Pro, the workplace edition of Google Earth, will see the new oceanographic data, historical imagery, and other features through their connection to Google’s public globe of satellite imagery, maps, terrain & 3D buildings. With today’s release of the Google Earth Enterprise 5.0 client, customers can start to realize the benefits by layering their own private data on top of the Google-hosted Ocean or Historical Imagery via KML. Google’s public data about the world’s oceans and images from the past should give a glimmer of what’s possible….”

This work is being master minded by Bryan Atwood, Product Manager, Google Earth Enterprise.

As you all know by now Google Earth provides a 3D view of earth that you can zoom in and out of, comprised of compositing satellite imagery into one skin. The counterpart to that product is the 2D Google Maps, which can be viewed from within a web browser. The KML specification developed by Keyhole, dubbed by Atwood “the HTML of the geographic web,” is an XML type format that describes geospatial data, which allows you to see your data on top of different platforms. Recently KML was submitted to OGC and will be approved in the next month or two.

Funded in 2000 by In-Q-Tel, a company that identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), Keyhole was a separate company, acquired by Google in 2004. As a result of that purchase, in 2005 Google Earth was released.

In-Q-Tel is a CIA funded agency..

“..Throughout much of the last fifty years, the CIA has operated at the cutting edge of science and technology. From the U-2 spy plane to the CORONA satellite, CIA’s “wizards of Langley” earned a reputation for bold innovation and risk taking, working in advance of the private sector and other branches of government. Much of CIA’s technology success was a result of identifying gaps and opportunities….”

Naturally IQT partners with many other US Government agencies such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and DoD’s Defense HUMINT Management Office (DHMO). now the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC).

This symbiotic relationship between the US Gov, Google and private enterprise is so interesting. And this post builds on my post that reminded us how dependant we are on the grace and favour of US Government agencies for good old HF radio…never mind GPS and the Internet itself !

I am not really that bothered that the US Govt is the funding source and the major source of the initiatives behind geospatial technology – combined with Google of course as a major channel to private enterprise and world wide adoption and, of course, dependence.

Have a look at the excellent work at this “visualize Singapore” blog called SinGeo. This just shows how data from Google Earth can be be used to greatly enhance many types of activity not only sailing using the coastal and bathymetric data now being made available.

Singapore marinachannelsc

The work being carried out by OGC to standardise the interfaces and KML scripting language and their strategic partner scheme that is helping to develop the businesses of companies such as PCI Geomatics will simply challenge the incumbents in our marine industry (yes, Raymarine! ) to up their game and also to reduce prices.

I am really just selfishly wondering how and when I will be able to get all this fantastic information on a device on my boat for Free…yes I am really that selfish…:-)


Is it time we did not have to depend on the “Grace and Favour” of the US Coast Guard and Dep of Defence?

It is just over a year ago that, thanks to the feedback of the cruising community around the world, the future of HF radio services was saved!

You may recall that the U.S. Coast Guard’s issued a notice dated April 18, 2007, soliciting public comment on the need to continue providing high frequency (HF) radio broadcasts of weather forecasts and warnings via:

(1) Radiofacsimile;
(2) voice; and,
(3) Simplex Teletype Over Radio (SITOR)

This was issued by C.S. Johnson, JR.,Captain, U.S. Coast Guard, Acting Assistant Commandant for Command, Control, Communications, computers and Information Technology – well that is one powerful CIO job!.

The notice stated that in summary:

“…The Coast Guard is soliciting public comment on the need to continue providing high frequency (HF) radio broadcasts of weather forecasts and warnings. Public comment is necessary in order to assess the demand for the HF radio broadcasts of weather forecasts in each of three forms: (1) Radiofacsimile;(2) voice; and, (3) Simplex Teletype Over Radio (SITOR), also known as Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP).

The infrastructure necessary to provide these services has exceeded its USCG HFlife expectancy; the equipment is no longer manufactured, repairs are difficult to accomplish, and spare parts generally are not available. Because of the very significant costs involved to continue these specific HF radio services, the Coast Guard requires information on the extent to which these services are used by the public and what alternative services are being used or are available to obtain weather forecasts and warnings.

Luckily after an outcry the US Coast Guard concluded that:

“The responding public collectively perceives that the USCG HF broadcasts are essential to their safety. There is no viable alternative to the USCG HF broadcasts because present alternatives are perceived by the public to be out of financial reach. Also, marine weather forecasts available through these alternative sources may not guarantee the same level of accuracy, timeliness, and/or sufficiency as provided by the USCG HF broadcasts…”

Should we not have a separate mandate for the sailing community that protects it’s interests on a formal basis rather than leave it to the discretion and judgement of professional staff who may have many other challenging objectives and other more powerful stakeholders to satisfy?

What about the US GPS network?…when will that run out of “grace and favour” ?