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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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