Sister ship to Ernest Hemingway's Pilar at the Miami Boat Show
The 1933 Elhanor, restored by Andy Garcia for the coming movie "Hemingway and Fuentes"

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love – Ernest Hemmingway

It was this blogger’s first trip to the Miami boat show and it didn’t disappoint. February 11 – 15th, 2016, was the 75th anniversary of this famous show at an all new venue at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin. With 1.2 million square feet of exhibitors and 500 plus sail and power boats on display, it’s a boat nut’s paradise. There were logistical challenges though. Getting to the main venue was problematic with massive lines for buses and water taxis. Transportation improvements will have to be made for next year. Thank you Uber!

Although I can’t really cover all the products I liked, I’ll give you a brief rundown of some of my favourite products….

This is the year of doppler solid state radar, with Furuno and Garmin both announcing their brand new entries at the show. They both introduced ground breaking doppler radar at the same time, which leads one to believe there are secrets being leaked. Garmin’s Fantom is a 6 foot open array at US$7,499, almost three times the price of Furuno’s NXT 24″ radome.

Furuno nxt radome

Even though it’s very unofficial (but it’s my blog), I’m giving the SIGNAL Kool best of show award to Furuno for their “Target Analyzer” feature (doppler shift). Garmin calls theirs “MotionScope.” Solid State (no magnetron) radar units have now been introduced by all the major manufacturers (Navico, Garmin, Furuno, Raymarine), but perhaps the best comes last. Moving targets over 3 knots (towards you) in a different colour. Game changer, so handy, so well done, end of story.

Furuno radar target analyzer feature

Raymarine only just recently introduced their solid state Quantum chirp radar which is about US$1000 cheaper than Furuno @ US$1599. Sadly they already have to play catch up. Quantum seems as good or better compared to their traditional open array units at near to medium range, and you can’t fry brains with it either. With instant startup and low power requirements, solid state radar seems to be the wave of the future. Check out Ben Ellison’s much more detailed analysis here.

Digital Yacht iKommunicate

I loved the fact it was the first public debut of the iKommunicate Signal K network gateway which decodes most NMEA data to a tablet and Internet friendly format. Nick Heyes from Digital Yacht showed me the newly designed production electronics board and gave me the full rundown which I will more fully discuss in a coming article. I backed this product on Kickstarter, so I have a vested interest in its success. iKommunicate gets the SIGNAL Kool most promising product award. My only issue is that it will only be uni-directional initially. I was hoping to be able to put data back on the N2K network for chartplotter viewing.  Luckily the firmware is easily upgradeable via a connected wifi router, so this feature should come later.

Icom was showing off its recent ic-m506 VHF radio. They have greatly improved noise cancelling. Icom’s best new feature is the automatic two minute recording of the last vhf call. If you miss something on the radio (e.g. LAT / LONGs) you can rewind it and play it again. They have also redesigned the menu system (new models to come) to make their VHF radios easier to use.

v360 action camera

If you like waterproof video cameras (IP67) the US$449 v.360 HD action camera was on display and showing off video recording in 360 degrees. Apps for iPhone and Android devices allow you to view the full surrounding HD video. Swiping the screen left and right views all the action in any direction. It does time lapses and 360 panoramas as well. This is a pretty cool product, but I read on CNET that you have to be really careful not to scratch the outer lens which protects it like on a small lantern. If you set it in a permanent position on the top of your boat using a GoPro mount, you could create some wow!  It will look silly on your head though.

Throw Raft

A new auto-inflating personal throwable floatation device was on show. The TD2401 from ThrowRaft costs US$129 and is approved by the US Coast Guard as a Type IV device. No Canadian approval yet. Its compact size allows it to be thrown much farther than a ring buoy or square cushion. It provides 20LBS of buoyancy and can be reused. It is somewhat similar to Mustang’s water rescue stick (some models on recall), but has a handy holder for mounting to your boat.

Just when I thought I was ready to relax on the beach I stumbled (Citi biked) across Yachts Miami Beach which magically has the same dates as the Miami Boat Show. This is primarily a brokerage show with just about every manufacturer represented with used and new offerings. A jaw dropping mile of boats (10 city blocks) for sale really took my breath away. If you want to drop US$100k or US$10 million there is a boat to discover here.

Manatee at Yachts Miami Beach

I also discovered that manatees like to drink fresh water from marine hoses.

The 92 foot EB Viking Convertible was IMHO one of the nicest boats there and probably tops the list of my all time favorites. It’s so “over the top” with its skybridge and 2,635 HP power plant. It was annoying they wouldn’t let me drive it.

92 foot EB Viking convertible

Back down to earth I spent quite a bit of time pouring over the brand new 43 foot Leopard power catamaran making its first public debut. I really like this boat and hope to charter it in the British Virgin Islands next year. The boat has masses amount of deck space with a huge flybridge and a nice three or four cabin layout. Party on!

Leopard power catamaran 43

On the electronics front the Leopard 43 was equipped with Raymarine digital switching on an aSeries display which I played around with. This is a great way to reduce the clutter at the flybridge helm and is way easier to use than tons of manual switches. Leopard had spent some time customizing the screens and really did a nice job. You can control and monitor everything digitally including underwater lights and nav lights as well as air conditioning. You can also see fuel and water levels, engine status, alarms, etc. I thought better of touch screen horn honking. I didn’t want to get kicked out.

Leopard Catamarans digital switching

The next evolution it seems, particularly for charter companies, is to add a Signal K gateway to the NMEA 2000 network and then centrally monitor the fleet from headquarters. This will happen at some point.

Thank you to The Moorings / Sunsail and Leopard Catamarans for their fine hospitality and letting me tour all the sail and power models on display. It sure is hard to head back to cold and rain after such a fine week in Miami!

– Safe Boating –

Robertson and Caine 25th Anniversary Party
Robertson and Caine (Leopard Builders) 25th Anniversary Party