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NMEA Boater Blog
Best marine wireless devices for 2019

Wireless technology is everywhere, and boats are no exception. At Marine Electronics Journal (MEJ) hardly a week goes by that we don’t receive at least a couple news releases from companies that are rolling out a new piece of electronic wireless wizardry. Some of these products help boaters navigate more conveniently or better, while others are tied to onboard communications, entertainment, fishing, system monitoring or another function entirely.

Below are eight wireless devices that are worth a look. They’re part of an exercise MEJ does every year as part of our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.
The Best & Brightest list includes 16 categories of electronics, from AIS (Automatic Identification System) and autopilots to radar and satellite TV. Last week we looked at radar. Next week we’ll tell you about eight other remarkable wireless devices.

The free all-in-one ActiveCaptain app provides a powerful connection to your Garmin chartplotter, charts, maps and the community for the ultimate connected boating experience. Wherever you are, you’ll have unlimited access to your cartography, the ability to purchase new maps and charts and access to the Garmin Quickdraw Contours Community. Connect to the ActiveCaptain community for up-to-date feedback on marinas and other points of interest. Smart notifications on your chartplotter screen keep you connected with everyone else. Users can also plan a trip or pre-fish a lake, and ActiveCaptain will automatically sync with your chartplotter. Even view and control your chartplotter from your smartphone or tablet while you’re on the water.

Designed to fit in the palm of the hand, the Simrad WR10 Wireless Pilot Controller remote provides complete boat control, no matter where boaters are on the vessel. The WR10 is compatible with the full Simrad autopilot line and is comprised of a small, lightweight waterproof Bluetooth base with micro-C connections and pairings for up to four remotes. Offering a 98 foot range, the remote has clearly marked keys and an LED status light for fast and accurate autopilot access. A mode button allows boaters to toggle through pilot modes. Two dodge keys are used to program turns in 1 or 10 degree increments. There is also a Pilot Standby button and a large Auto key.

NavLink is a NMEA 2000 to WiFi gateway.  It creates a WiFi network on your boat with all the NMEA 2000 data ready to be utilized by apps on iPads, tablets, smartphones and PCs.  Simply connect to the NMEA 2000® backbone and connect your device via WiFi and utilize real-time GPS, instrument, engine and AIS data with your favorite apps.

A truly intuitive system, Dockmate allows boaters to easily operate electronically controlled engines, bow and stern thrusters, anchor winches and horns from anywhere onboard with a small handheld device. A pocket-sized extension of a boat’s controls, Dockmate can mimic a compatible accessory’s response time and feel for a seamless user experience or be customized to meet the specific preferences of individual boaters. Using the included software, installers can make adjustments to throttle to ensure improved response time and boat handling to meet challenging docking conditions, such as high winds or strong currents.

Furuno’s 1st Watch Wireless Radar is the world’s first wireless radar that you can access directly from your iOS devices. Now you can bring the radar display whenever you go, even put it on the iPhone in your pocket. Since the display is untethered, you are free to roam the vessel while maintaining full situational awareness of your surroundings. Plug in the radar, set up the free app and you're good to go. Familiar gestures make it a breeze to use; you can even use two iOS devices simultaneously. The app has been created with simplicity and efficiency in mind, providing reliable information that is easily accessible. Installation is simple with its compact and lightweight radar antenna. Mount it, plug in the power cord and you're done. 

Fishidy, a brand of FLIR Maritime and Raymarine, is a location-based fishing app and online community of over 1 million users that features interactive mapping technology, data-rich fishing maps, and social networking to help you identify the most productive water and navigate straight to local fishing hot spots. The latest app release incorporates a strengthened map-based user experience, downloadable maps for offline use, and a new Fishing Insights feature that delivers all the knowledge necessary for you to make smarter fishing decisions. Find which species to target based on peak activity levels, optimal conditions, and local tips that give you the best chance of catching more fish, more often. Fishidy also offers data synchronization with Raymarine Axiom multifunction displays.

The W2K-1 is a compact and low-power NMEA 2000 to WiFi gateway with voyage data recording—a unique two for the price of one. It can transfer data from an NMEA 2000 backbone to any device (e.g. laptop, tablet or smartphone connected to it via WiFi). It has built-in conversion of NMEA 2000 messages into NMEA 0183 sentences, thus allowing a wide variety of vessel data (position, speed, course, wind speed, depth, engine data, AIS messages, etc.) to be shared with NMEA 0183-compatible applications running on connected devices.  All the data received can be logged to its internal micro SD card for later downloading. W2K-1 is equipped with diagnostic LEDs, internal antenna, full certification, is packaged in a rugged IP67 case and has the legendary Actisense reliability built in.

Wave WiFi delivers dependable and cost-effective solutions for onboard Internet access. The Wave WiFi MBR550 combined with a Rogue PRO DB delivers both performance and reliability in a compact package that works well on many types of boats. The MBR 550 is a multi-source auto failover router with an internal access point and built-in universal SIM slot. The Rogue Pro is a dual-band WiFi transceiver with built-in Ethernet converter and antenna. This versatile combination gives boaters dual-band WiFi 2.4 GHz and 5.1-5.8 GHz along with SIM-activated cellular data. The MBR550 can be set to automatically default to WiFi when available, then cellular when out of WiFi range and easily connects to third-party satellite systems for offshore use. Wave WiFi’s browser-based Graphic User Interface provides easy access and control. 

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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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