Rupert Holmes highlights some of the very best new marine products and award winners seen at METSTRADE 2022, Europe’s biggest marine trade show…
A key element of the METSTRADE 2022 marine show in Amsterdam is the DAME Design Awards, which recognise some of the most outstanding new pieces of marine equipment, tools or products each year. This year British companies took home many of the prizes, including the overall winner. Best Hybrid Solar System
The advent of personal locator beacons that send a distress signal via satellite communications using the same channels as EPRIBs, plus personal AIS beacons that can show the casualty’s exact position on a boat’s chartplotter, have transformed the chances of a person that has been washed overboard.
The two devices serve different purposes, but all too often you don’t wear both at the same time, limiting the chances of a quick rescue.
OceanSignal’s existing MOB1 personal AIS and PLB1 are two of the most popular products of their respective types in the market. Combining both into a single unit has long been seen as an obvious move, but there were both regulatory and technical challenges to overcome first.
OceanSignal’s chief technical officer, Simon Nolan, sits on the RTCM (Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services) committee and was therefore able to help the organisation steer a sensible course and the new unit is fully compliant with EU and UK regulations.
At the time of writing US Coastguard and FCC certification were still pending, so the unit is currently available only on this side of the Atlantic.
Technical challenges included battery life, which has to meet the requirements for a PLB (24 hours at temperatures of minus -20°C) while simultaneously maintaining AIS transmissions that suck energy out of the unit. As a result it’s a big step up in size compared to the existing MOB1 AIS only unit, at 200mm long.
Nevertheless it’s still designed to be fitted inside a lifejacket and has the same option to be set up for automatic activation immediately the lifejacket inflates.
But what happens if the jacket inflates accidentally when you’re on the foredeck, or a wave crest breaks over the cockpit?
You have around 50 seconds to cancel the PLB alert before the signal is transmitted to Coastguard MRCC rescue co-ordination stations.
After this time it needs be cancelled via a VHF radio call if within range, or by satellite call for boats venturing further offshore.
A further neat feature that isn’t yet incorporated in the individual products is a built-in NFC (near field communication) antenna.
This gathers data, including the number of self tests carried out and total number of actuations, that can be read by a smartphone app.
It also facilitates carrying out tests without the user needing to interpret subtly different flashing sequences of a small LED light.
There’s also Galileo Return Link Service (RLS) compatibility that gives a reassuring confirmation when your distress signal has been received.
Visible and infrared signal lights help rescuers home-in on the casualty at short range, both in the daytime and at night.
Ocean Signal also launched a new G3 EPIRB, while parent company ACR Electronics’ GlobalFix V5 AIS EPIRB received a special mention in the Lifesaving and Safety
Equipment category of the awards. Both units have AIS, RLS plus the NFC chip that allows communication with the smartphone app.
Both units are water activated when out of the bracket and float free brackets are also available.
Price: RescueME PLB3 AIS Personal Locator Beacon £429, ACR GlobalFix V5 AIS EPIRB £587, G3 EPRIB price TBC.
Watersports enthusiasts typically rely only on buoyancy aids, rather than full lifejackets that will support their head above the water in the event of becoming unconscious – as a result of hypothermia, for example.
This product radically changes that landscape – it’s a conventional buoyancy aid with 50N of flotation, along with features including a pouch for a PLB, back protection and integrated provision for a harness hook.
However, it also includes a 110N inflatable bladder that will transform it into a full 160N lifejacket. Inflation is via a manually triggered CO2 bottle, with an oral inflation tube as back up. It gained a special mention in the Lifesaving and Safety Equipment category.
Sustainability is a theme that’s gathering pace across the marine industry and it appears to be driven as much by customer demand as by changes in regulation. Groupe Beneteau, which builds 10,000 boats a year, is among many companies, large and small, leading the way.
For example it’s transitioning production of small parts such as locker lids and bathing platforms to using flax fibres and bio resins. The latter is also used for hull and deck construction of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 30, following a trial in 2022 with the Beneteau First 44.
However, the new DAME environmental award went to a small British start-up, Aceleron, whose serviceable and recyclable cobalt-free lithium-ion phosphate (LFP) battery addresses two common criticisms levelled at lithium-ion batteries – that it’s still all but impossible to recycle them and that a few unlucky early adopters have discovered that a single bad cell can spell the end of an entire expensive battery.
Boat owners have long relied upon the lead-acid battery to start their engines, run electric lights and, these days, to…
Do we still need pyrotechnic flares? Recommendations and laws for distress signalling in many countries are behind the times. VHF…
Aceleron’s Essential battery cell pack can be removed and swapped for a new one for around 20% of the cost of a new battery. The old cells are then sent back to the factory, where any duff ones are removed and the remainder incorporated into second-user batteries destined for use in the developing world.
Equally, if the battery management system fails the PCB can be easily swapped out for a new one.
The case is the same size as industry standard Type 31 lead-acid batteries, which makes for easy retrofitting. It also includes a carrying handle, non-slip feet on two sides, plus a display and network ports for monitoring.
It’s available in 12V (100Ah) 24V (50Ah) and 48V (25Ah) versions, all of which are rated for 5,000 charge/discharge cycles.
Unsurprisingly, the initial purchase price is higher than other lithium-ion phosphate batteries of similar capacity, but long term ownerships costs will be lower as the entire unit does not need to be replaced when the cells reach the end of their lifespan.
Dutch yacht designer Andre Hoek, chairman of the DAME award judges, says: “…we commend Aceleron’s efforts with modern battery technologies to break an unwelcome norm for whole products to be disposed of when just one component is broken.”
The boom in working from home, combined with our growing use of data in spare time, has put a fresh spotlight on being able to maintain, where possible, the same standard of communications when on board a boat as we enjoy ashore.
However, this can be a significant challenge in popular and sheltered safe havens tucked into steep and winding river valleys with poor mobile phone signals.
Equally, even city centre marinas can suffer problems as a result of the signal being degraded by the sheer number and density of yacht masts.
Devices that significantly boost both incoming and outgoing signals can therefore make a huge difference to the quality of voice calls and data transmission rates.
This device from Raymarine won the DAME awards Marine Electronics and Software category. It’s a multipurpose marine mobile router equipped with Raynet
Ethernet ports, mobile broadband connectivity, and onboard wifi. The system will automatically switch between marina wifi and mobile networks and allows multiple users with phones, tablets, laptops and the boat’s own instrument system to get online.
It can be interfaced with Raymarine’s mobile app to gain remote access to a vessel’s Raymarine network, and allows remote geofenced monitoring of the boat’s location in real time.
The unit is a part of the company’s new Yachtsense digital switching and remote monitoring system, so features include low-voltage digital switching/monitoring channels that can be used to control and monitor onboard lights, pumps and other electrical devices.
As an aside, don’t expect the roll-out of 5G data services to improve mobile data speeds for boating enthusiasts. The faster data rates of 5G are achieved through using shorter wavelengths, but these have an intrinsically shorter range for a given output power.
Many of today’s 3D printers are surprisingly inexpensive devices, with many being privately owned or available for use via community programmes such as MakerSpace and Hackspace centres.
Even basic 3D printers are capable of producing accurate and strong products, but a key stumbling block is obtaining digital plans in the correct format.
French marine equipment manufacturer Karver Systems has put a range of them online via its sharing centre for products ranging from fender hooks through rope storage to mooring cleats.
There’s even a three-part lashing block with a safe working load of 300kg. It’s a great idea that earned Karver one of two special mentions in the DAME awards.
Historically, emergency VHF antennas had only a short and stubby antenna, which may limit range, especially if a sailing boat is well heeled.
Shakespeare improved on this a couple of years ago, with its inflatable Galaxy INFL8-5 VHF antenna and full-length aerial (PBO test, June 2021).
Seaview Progress, a spin-off of a firm producing roll-up carbon fibre antenna for broadcast and the military, is now using the same technology to produce a 2.5m long marine VHF emergency antenna with a 3/4 wave dipole antenna embedded within the laminate.
It’s made of totally durable materials that can be stowed indefinitely in a drybag. The company also produces a roll-up boat hook made of the same material.
It takes only seconds to unroll and add the hook to the end, which is tested for a load of 100kg – far in excess of what even the strongest athlete could apply.
A range of accessories includes soft and hard bristle deck brush heads. When not in use it packs away into an impressively small and light-weight package, making it ideal for pocket cruisers and dayboats.
Prices: emergency VHF antenna £190, boat hook £80.
This French company’s second special mention was for this easy set-up for rigging an inner forestay for a heavy weather or storm jib on boats with roller furling genoas.
An efficient headsail will transform any boat’s behaviour when sailing in strong winds with the breeze well forward of the beam when most deep reefed furling headsails have a very inefficient baggy shape.
With a smaller, very flat cut sail, the boat will heel less, especially in gusts and steering will be easier, making the boat a lot more comfortable. At the same time, the increased boat speed means you will also spend less time in unpleasant conditions.
The Karver Jammer Staysail Kit is designed for use with furling sails that incorporate their own textile forestay, so there’s nothing in the way of tacking the genoa in lighter winds.
It could be hoisted on a conventional jib halyard, but Karver recommends a halyard lock that will reduce movement (and therefore wear) over the sheave, especially for larger boats.
Tensioning is simple – there’s a 3:1 tackle on the base that can be taken directly aft to a winch, using a snatchblock if necessary to create a fair lead. Once taut, the cleat built into the unit means this line can be taken off the winch and coiled up out of the way. It’s available in two sizes to suit boats from 30-50ft.
Changing robes for outdoor swimming and watersports enthusiasts are not new products.
However few can match Rooster Sailing’s Aquafleece Robe, which is intended as an ultimate product and is especially suited for off season use.
It’s oversized, warm and versatile, with a waterproof, windproof and durable Aquafleece outer fabric shell, while the deep teddy-fleece lined inner shell – made from recycled polyester – can be removed for quick drying.
It won the DAME awards Clothing and Crew Accessories category.
Prices: Junior Aquafleece Robe £125; Adult Aquafleece Robe £150
This is another example of a simple idea that can produce a useful tool. Anyone who keeps a boat on a fore and aft mooring, or who uses lazylines for mooring in the Mediterranean, will be familiar with the problems associated with the slime and other marine growth that forms on ropes that are permanently wet.
It’s unpleasant to handle and can rapidly transfer large amounts of muck to both decks and clothing. The Boatasy Line Cleaner is designed to fit over any line and will clean the bulk of fouling off with just a few passes.
In testing it was found that the three turns of the sharpened inner edge of the spiral was the ideal configuration, with each one taking progressively more dirt as you push it along the rope.
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