Boats, toys, vendors, manufacturers, and ...um... skimpily clad deck ornaments! What is there not to like? This year was not like prior years for us; instead of drifting aimlessly through every display of every aisle of every floor, this time we targeted information on specific products. Well, we did wander the small booth aisles on the main convention center floor and all of the Strictly Sail venue before ending the day as volunteers at the SSCA booth. We gathered information on lots of stuff but the two most useful to share are about satellite phone and radar.
GlobalStar Evolution II satellite phone plan - This is a $40/month unlimited voice, text and data plan with a home area of North America and the entire Caribbean. We thought that sounded perfect for us... until we talked to the GlobalStar representative. He said satellite availability is about 70% of each hour at any given point in the home area which we could probably live with, but then came the problem: the last set of satellites launched in December have the exact same problem with reaction wheels as earlier ones and satellite longevity will be short. It is up in the air if the investor backing the project will fund yet another batch of satellites given the repeated problems. Even if more are launched, once complete coverage is available, plan prices will probably jump to the competition's in the $1 to $2 per minute range. Sigh.
Navico Broadband 4G Radar - I already knew this was likely to be the radome we wanted because of its low power and instant on features but it still needs a display and control unit. The choices I talked over with the program manager from Navico were narrowed to the tried and true Simrad NSE8 or the new touch screen NSS8 or the economy fish finder style Lowrance HDS8 Gen2. While he was careful to not show bias, for me his most telling statement was "until the Gen2 the Lowrance was slower". The NSS touch interface was smooth and looked intuitive but I have personal reservations about the technology. The HDS8 is $500 less than the NSS8 and $1000 less than the NSE8 unit. The HDS8 is in a slightly smaller package and it uses less power than the Simrad units. Yesterday I ordered the HDS8 Gen2 unit with the 4G radar.