Raymarine's H6 System Unites Control at Your Helm

By putting everything on multiple LCDs, Raymarine's H6 System gives you total control.

The increasingly capable and complex electronic systems that serve your navigation, entertainment and security needs have until recently consisted of components from a wide variety of manufacturers. Now along comes Raymarine's new H6 Navigation/Entertainment/Security System to offer the yacht owner a pre-engineered single source system designed to equal or exceed the capabilities of many of today's custom systems. In Raymarine's world, one size fits all-and fits well.

How does it work? The H6 system simultaneously serves two vessel navigation and control stations, each equipped with multiple high-resolution, sunlight-readable 15-inch diagonal LCD monitors. Each monitor screen can be configured independently in single- or multi-window format. The system's navigation sensors include radar, sonar (with independent fishfinder and digital-depth capability) WAAS/EGNOS GPS, boat speed, wind speed and direction plus NAVTEX (requires optional receiver). Images from up to four closed- circuit video (CCTV) cameras can be shown, with automatic or manual sequencing between cameras. A central computer manages all navigation functions, with backup reliability from the entertainment system's separate computer.

The H6's multimedia entertainment system includes a full spectrum of high-quality video and audio and serves both a central large-screen, surround-sound theater environment plus audio and video for up to seven other locations. Video programs originate from the system's DVD player or from the vessel's satellite TV system. Video can also be fed to the navigation monitors (a potentially distracting option that should, however, be used with due care). The system's optional Internet connection allows remote monitoring of the yacht, with the CCTV cameras functioning as webcams. The H6 system's Lifeline crew safety system provides a means for continuous monitoring for the presence on board of those carrying the Lifeline module. The only elements outside the system are the properly separate communication functions performed by the yacht's VHF/DSC, HF/SSB and satellite equipment.

Those multiple 15-inch LCD screens at each helm station comprise the primary user interface for the navigation portion of the system. The displays used in the H6 are unique to this system and can support screen resolutions up to 1024 x 1024 (SXGA). The controls located on the LCD screen bezels are used to adjust the display and once set will rarely require attention. The navigation sensors and the on-screen data they provide are controlled via trackballs similar to those employed by air traffic controllers to manage their complex display screens. Commands from the trackball module flow seamlessly from one screen to the other with no need to select which screen is to be addressed. Use of the trackball to select the data sources, control the operating modes and choose the display mode eliminates the need to touch the LCD module, a great advantage when operating in a seaway.

Display configurations include a wide variety of multi-window choices in addition to the full-screen display of information from a single navigation data source. Although the choices seem almost endless, most navigators will doubtless quickly settle on those few configurations whose selection will depend on the operational mode of the vessel. Preset modes are available for planning, maneuvering, harbor, coastal piloting and offshore passagemaking and anchoring. The maneuvering mode, used primarily when docking, shows rudder angle, leeway and depth on one screen while one of the CCTV cameras shows the activity of the line handlers. The coastal piloting display includes a chart plot plus depth, speed, wind and compass heading information. Coastal passage adds a split-screen radar image. Offshore passage presents a full screen of radar information plus waypoint, cross track error, speed, wind and compass data.

The entertainment program sources of the H6 include video and audio from the system's DVD/CD player plus a feed from external video sources such as CCTV when at a dock or from the vessel's satellite TV system. The primary viewing/entertainment area is equipped with a large screen plasma display and a five-channel (plus subwoofer) Dolby 5.1 audio system. Audio is also supplied to a four-speaker array at the upper helm station. Video feeds with stereo audio are available for up to seven additional locations (at present all viewers will see the same program). The 12-channel, 50-watt per channel audio amplifier is a serious piece of hardware and can consume as much as 720 watts of 24-volt DC power-enough to drown out that boom box blasting away on an adjacent boat.

The Lifeline monitoring system includes a clip-on, key-tag size transmitter module for each person likely to be on an exposed deck. The transmitters send a signal to the monitoring system every 10 seconds. Two receivers constantly monitor the signals from each of the transmitters and will sound an alarm in the event the signal from any transmitter is missing from the received sequence. The alarm action includes automatic recording of the vessel's position at the moment the signal loss is noted, aiding the helmsman's efforts to return to the point where the person wearing the Lifeline transmitter fell overboard.

All in all, this is quite a system, and Raymarine is confident that yacht owners will benefit from the extensive proving effort that has gone into it. Making a complex mix of devices work in harmony with one another, always a challenge, is especially difficult in a yacht's physical and electrical environment. In a typical system that may include as many as 30 modules, "plug and play" becomes more than a highly desirable goal-it is an essential goal, and one that the H6 has achieved. The fact that data-language conversion, interface-debugging interference and timing problems have been addressed at the factory should ensure a quick, painless installation.

Contact: Raymarine, (800) 539-5539; www.raymarine.com.

It's All in the Wrist

Dick Tracy would be envious of Garmin's new Foretrex 201 Personal Navigator By Chuck Husick

The saying "the world at your fingertips" takes on a new reality when Garmin's new Foretrex 201 Personal Navigator is on your wrist. Not much larger than some oversized wristwatches, (3 1/4" x 1 3/4" x 11/16") this miniature WAAS-enabled GPS receiver will be welcome on any boat, especially sea kayaks, canoes, sailing dinghies and small inflatables. Powered from its built-in rechargeable (typical 15-hour operating time) lithium ion battery, it will provide a useful backup for the yacht's externally powered GPS. The physical contrast between it and the first shoebox-size Magnavox GPS I used on a boat in the early 1980s is further emphasized by the price difference, $10,000 in 1980s dollars versus $150 today.

The Foretrex may be small, but it is not short on features. With the exception of a stored chart or map, it provides just about every capability found in a full-size GPS. The animated figure on the map page creates a track of your movements. The relative location of any waypoints that you have entered appears. You may orient the map for north up or heading up, and it lets you zoom the scale over a reference range of 20 feet to 800 miles. Walking about the deck of a boat with the scale at the 20-foot setting creates an outline sketch of the boat's shape on the screen. The navigation page presents a compass window showing present course, plus two selectable content data windows. The 29 data choices available cover just about everything you are likely to think of, except perhaps a phone book. The extent of the program choices built into this device is best illustrated by the fact that the owner's manual requires pages 7 through 53 to explain all of them. If it's GPS-related and you want it, this gadget will very likely do it. Contact: Garmin Intl., (800) 800-1020; www.garmin.com.