We scoured the Miami International Boat Show to find the latest and greatest in marine electronics. This year's offerings knocked our boat shoes off!
The annual Miami International Boat Show, held in February, is the launch ramp for a whole new generation of hot new marine electronics. Every year we go to the show to get the lowdown on the latest and greatest so we can tip you off on products that will soon be on the market. This year once again provided a bumper crop of awesome new gear.
In the "holy mackerel" category, this year we had Raymarine Docksense. This docking-assistance system utilizes five FLIR cameras mounted down the sides of the boat and on the transom, which can provide a form of digital depth perception. (The cameras were originally designed for robotics, which also requires depth perception.)
A CPU and the Raymarine Axiom DockSense app stitch the visual images together and utilize GPS and an attitude heading reference system (AHRS) to create a radar-like view on the multifunction display (MFD) screen, flashing an indication as the boat draws close to a piling, dock, or other solid object. When you get within a few feet of the object, the system then creates a "virtual bumper" — and actually stops the boat from moving any closer. DockSense is probably best described as a "collision avoidance system."
Standing at the helm of a Prestige 460 motoryacht, after the Raymarine reps assured us we couldn't possibly smash into the dock, we tried doing everything as wrong as possible to make it happen. We shoved the joystick back when the transom was approaching the dock, but 3 feet from impact, the boat slowed itself and then stopped. We tried turning the joystick to smack the bow into a piling, but DockSense again deployed its "virtual bumper," and making contact was impossible. Meanwhile, the system also compensated against striking anything solid due to the effects of wind or current in addition to intentional operator error.
If you're one of many folks who gets stressed when putting the boat into its slip, this system could be a godsend. DockSense is expected to be available only on new boats as a factory-installed option for the immediate future, so no consumer pricing information is currently available. However, several manufacturers are considering offering DockSense, and a Boston Whaler 330 Outrage at the show was also equipped with the system.
See more at Raymarine.com
JL Audio M6 Series Speakers
JL Audio's M6 series of speakers was on a number of new boats at the show, and these really caught our eye — mostly because of the dancing lights they produce. Equipped with LEDs (and an RGB controller that lets you choose color and intensity) the 6.5-, 7.7-, and 8.8-inch coaxial cones light up to the beat while providing low-distortion bass and superior frequency response. Silk dome tweeters are tuned via the rear cavity, and are enclosed behind slat or spoke grilles.
$429–$799 | jlaudio.com
Shakespeare Galaxy Infl8
Shakespeare has a VHF antenna with a very unusual twist: It's inflatable. The Galaxy Infl8 is intended for use in emergencies, and it won an industry Innovation Award in the safety category. For normal stowage, it packs into a pocket-sized pouch, and when activated, a CO2 cartridge inflates it to a length of 5 feet. The 3 dB antenna can be deflated and reused; has hook-and-loop straps so it can be secured to masts, outriggers, and other parts of the boat; and comes with a pre-soldered PL-259 standard VHF radio connector and 20 feet of cable.
$149 | shakespeare-ce.com
Si-Tex SP-11OC Autopilot
Si-Tex is known for its autopilots, and with the SP-110C, color is now in the mix. Like the SP-110, this unit has a 4.3- inch control head, comes paired with a nine-axis electronic compass and hydraulic pump, has virtual rudder feedback capability, and can be used as a standalone or in conjunction with compatible chartplotters. Unlike the 110, however, the 110C has a bright, full-color LCD that’s viewable from various angles. Also new is the incorporation of graphic presentations including a rudder angle meter and compass steering display.
$2,199 | si-tex.com
Raymarine Element Fishfinder
Raymarine's Element is a new fishfinder ideal for small boats and anglers who want a potent fishfinding, chartplotting solution without spending big bucks for a fully networkable MFD system. The Element has a button-based interface, which is very intuitive. We started pressing buttons and figured out the menu in a matter of seconds. It comes with multiple sonar styles including DownVision, SideVision, RealVision 3D, and CHIRP HyperVision. Even though this is a relatively inexpensive line, the Element series comes armed with quad-core processors for blazing-fast response times and instant redraws. It also comes Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled and is compatible with cartography from Raymarine's Lighthouse LNC2, Navionics, C-Map, and charts offered on the Raymarine Chart Store. The Element even has RealBathy self-charting capabilities so you can create your own ultra-accurate underwater maps as you fish. All units in the series are NMEA2000 compatible and can be used to display engine data or interface with your VHF. 7-, 9-, and 12-inch units.
$879–$2,549 (including transducer and chart bundles) | raymarine.com
SiOnyx Aurora Night Vision Scope
SiOnyx took the industry's Innovation Award in the electronics category with its Aurora, and when we tried out this new night-vision scope, we were thoroughly wowed. Unlike other night-vision products, the images it provides aren't black-andwhite or that eerie green aura, but instead are actually color. The manufacturer says this is possible by enhancing infrared sensitivity with its XQE CMOS sensor via a proprietary laser process that produces the ultimate in lighttrapping pixels. The scope costs significantly less than some competing night-vision gear, has Wi-Fi connectivity, a USB port, and a rechargeable Li-ion battery. Added bonus: The SiOnyx has a built-in video camera (720p) so you can record your nighttime adventures on a micro SD card. Double added bonus: The Aurora is rated water-resistant to IP67 standards.
$799 | sionyx.com