Showstoppers

Five new products for the serious yachtsman.

On Course
The Skylight Binnacle model compasses from Ritchie Navigation ($2,959 for chrome, $2,798 for polished brass) house a 6-inch Ritchie Globemaster compass inside a 6-inch binnacle and feature red or green LED lighting for steering a course at night (available in 12 or 24 volts). The compass dials can be ordered as 2-degree with points or 5-degree without points. Ritchie Navigation, 781-826-5131; www.ritchienavigation.com

Sure Shot
The DC1200 ($500) from SeaLife Cameras is an underwater digital camera with a user-friendly design. Thanks to the five large, thumb-operated, "piano key" controls on the back of the camera and a big shutter button that extends forward with a fingertip-control lever, users can operate all aspects of the camera without ever releasing their grip. Four underwater shooting modes and 12 land-shooting modes should produce sharp, vivid images in a variety of light and visibility conditions above and below the surface. The DC1200 is waterproof to 200 feet, weighs in at less than 17 ounces and features 29 mb of built-in memory and a 25X zoom lens. The optional DC1200 Elite package ($900) comes with a digital pro flash, wide-angle lens and a travel case. SeaLife Cameras, 800-257-7742; www.sealife-cameras.com

Double Threat
The new Smartfind S10 automatic identification system (AIS) beacon from McMurdo ($349) measures in at 9.7 inches by 1.7 inches, weighs a touch more than 5 ounces and transmits both AIS and GPS signals to all AIS receiver-equipped vessels and land-based vessel traffic services within a four-mile radius. The Smartfind S10 will transmit continuously for 24 hours, updating position information regularly, and has a five-year battery life. The unit is waterproof to approximatey 197 feet and features a flashing LED light to assist with night rescue. McMurdo; www.mcmurdo.co.uk

Hold Steady
The new Side-Power series thrusters (prices range from $6,300 to $12,250) are equipped with the company's power control unit, which allows for proportional control of the thruster. Designed for yachts in the 30- to 70-foot range, the Side-Power series offers an easy-to-use "hold" function that sets a fixed amount of power output -— good for a quick touch-and-go at the pier or a holding position while waiting for a bridge opening. The system's control panel features a backlit LCD screen that displays information, such as battery status and amount and direction of thrust. The panel and thruster are linked together with an S-link control bus, designed to NMEA 2000 standards. The Side-Power thrusters are available in 12-volt or 24-volt models. Imtra, 508-995-7000; www.imtra.com

Lost and Found
The new SafeSea E100 EPIRB (price ranges from $519 to $649) from Ocean Signal was designed with an emphasis on battery life and user-friendly battery maintenance. According to the company, the E100 has the longest operational battery life in the industry, with the ability to operate continuously for four days. Also, the batteries used on the SafeSea E100 are classified as nonhazardous, so they can be replaced by the user, eliminating the need to return the unit to the manufacturer. The E100 features a 121.5 MHz homing beacon and an LED strobe light and is a Cospas-Sarsat device operating on a 406 MHz satellite band. Ocean Signal America, 978-277-1234; www.oceansignal.com

Where It's Heading
Ritchie Navigation's vice president of sales and marketing, Steve Sprole, has been in the compass game for a long time. We caught up with Sprole to talk about Ritchie's new Skylight Binnacle series and the state of the marine compass.

Ritchie Navigation, founded in 1861, made binnacle series compasses from the 1920s to the 1950s, before they went out of style. “Old ships’ binnacles were big structures with the wheel on it and the compass inside,” Sprole says. “But as boats had less space and got smaller, they started going to smaller binnacles. We’ve always had Skylight Binnacles in the back of our minds. Now we make them small but with all the stuff inside. The [Ritchie Skylight Binnacle] is about the smallest around, even though it’s got the skylight. Most people who have a classic yacht go for a statement, and it certainly is a statement when it’s on a boat.”

In a world of ever-expanding navigational technology, how does Sprole feel about the future of the marine compass? “I think we’re here to stay,” he says. “A compass is a staple; it is the basis of navigation, and probably always will be.”