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First PowerMonkey now Freeloader

FreeloaderJust like the PowerMonkey that I reviewed and have used on my boat, for the past year, the FreeLoader is a power pack that can itself be charged using a solar panel.

Freeloader is a portable charging system that can power any hand held device anywhere, anytime. Freeloader takes power from its solar panels, the supplied Supercharger or via its charge cable that plugs into a computers’ USB. Once charged, Freeloader RucksackFreeloader’s internal battery can power an iPod for 18hours, a mobile phone for 44 hours, PSP for 2.5 hours or a PDA for 22 hours.

I can verify the the Powermonkey works fine having used it since August 2007. But it looks like this company have a number of other products in the portable solar device market. See the Solar Technology website – they even make solar toys like helicopters!

Its good to see so many alternative energy products coming on to the market now. It will mean that they will get more and more powerful and efficient – and maybe one day all this product development will result in real hybrid or even totally solar powered boats. I will be posting on that subject soon.

If your are wondering how to workout what size of solar panel to buy for a specific purpose on your boat there is a simple calculator and explanation on the Solar Technology web site.


Weird electric mooring lines

38-M-12110“An easier life for boaters everywhere – that’s what Engbo is about…” A company called Engbo has come up with the Engbo Maxi model 38-M Electric Mooring System.

This is a system comprising a hollow deck cleat, and under deck electric winch and a special mooring line with a ball at the end (to stop it dissappearing into the hollow cleat). It even has a wireless remote control!


Hmm…the idea is to make mooring easy, but is this not a complex solution to simple task? I would have thought it was increasing the risk of failure by snagging during the critical tasks of mooring or casting off. Sureley it is not an advance even if it appears to be labour saving…thoughts?…


Using light instead of electricity…

USG1A422-150exThe innovative Actisense USG-1-485 can be used to protect your laptop from sudden voltage spikes while connected to your boat’s serial wiring system. The traditional NMEA 0183 is often offered as a serial port connection when most modern PC’s and laptops only have USB nowadays.

Up till now all you had to do was buy a suitable Serial/USB convertor such as the one I reviewed here, or buy a multiplexor such as the one I reviewed here.

This device does it differently – light is used to transfer the data signals between the serial port and the USB. The device gets its own power from the laptop’s USB port. Installation is easy using the supplied CD that will create a “virtual serial port” on your laptop.

The only problem is the price …£80!


“No Ais” – on Raymarine C and E Series

DSC01879It is annoying that the Raymarine C and E series which have an AIS interface have no displays to show whether AIS is actually working but has no data to display.

Both these displays simply say “No AIS” in the top right hand status corners of the screen. From the software developers point of view they probably would say indignantly that this language is consistent with the message displayed before the GPS Fix is obtained – in other words “No Fix”.

But the difference is this:

1. “No Fix” means the GPS is still obtaining satellite and the chartplotter is calculating the position of the boat. After few minutes if no fix is still displayed you know the GPS is not working and you need to fault trace. So the passage of time adds another piece of vital data that helps you decide that something is wrong (assuming the USA has not declared war and switched off the whole GPS system!)…whereas…

2. “No AIS” means two different things –
a. the AIS is fully functional, is receiving transmissions, but there are none to display, or
b. the AIS is NOT fully functional, is NOT receiving transmissions, and you need to due some fault tracing…straight away

This means you can set sail unaware that the AIS is faulty – but you would be totally aware if the GPS was faulty.

Please Raymarine, do something about AIS error detection – a suitable button could live nicely on the MARPA/AIS settings toolbar.


Optimising fuel consumption..Garmin’s take

cf-mdHaving written already on the subject of fuel consumption and even carrying a picture of a friend’s power boat on this blog..I thought I would continue this worrying trend by writing about Garmin’s nice little flow meter – the GFS 10

This not only displays the current fuel level (based on initial reading less flow) but comes up with a single “Economy” reading (in nm/gal) that will have power boat skippers skipping with delight. This help a skipper see his nm/gal consumption automatically therefore taking into account current sea conditions, power applied, and speed over the ground. You can then have a good stab at optimising throttle position to give the best fuel economy. You can also connect up one sensor per engine.cf-sm

So if you have the GMI 10 marine instrument display then you can connect up the GFS 10 fuel sensor using NMEA2000 – other GPSMAP 4xx and 5xx series units require Garmin’s own CANet™ connection.

Specs for the fuel sensor:
Maximum flow rate: up to 50 GPH per engine
Minimum flow rate: 2 GPH
Maximum back pressure: 0.5 PSI at 20 GPH/1.0 PSI at 40 GPH