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Growth of marine electronics onboard

Published on December 22nd, 2021

In his State of the Sport in 2020 report, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck made three observations when considering the health of sailing:

• When the cost in time and money to participate exceeds the pleasurable benefit, people seek alternative activities.
• Better isn’t always best, as the natural inclination for improvement slowly eliminates those that choose not to chase the rising bar.
• We are capable of evolving toward extinction.

This view comes to mind when considering the growth of onboard electronics. While the pursuit is safety, the path is cost and complexity. Does this make boating more inclusive or exclusive? Judge for yourself in this report from

Ben Ellison has been sailing out of his home base in Maine, USA since the 1970s. In the early days he cruised to the Caribbean with “just a VHF radio and a depth flasher for electronics.” Today he is one of world’s foremost technical editors specializing in a marine electronics scene that is completely unrecognizable from when he first started out.

Following the DAME (Design Award at METSTRADE) Jury meeting this year, we caught up to talk about some of the emergent trends in marine electronic design and how we have probably never plugged so many DAME entries into a power socket to assess their use. This enhanced level of automation carries significant benefits, but also demands great discipline in the way it is designed, which is where we start our conversation:

“Electronics are moving well beyond navigation and the helm, to systems like power distribution, watermakers, domestic services and extensive monitoring on and off the boat,” Ben observes. “All of which is good stuff, but it can be very confusing to operate unless it integrates well, and the user interface is clear. I look forward to the day where it’s all bit smoother for people to use.

“The ultimate object of all this electronic control must be to make boating safer and more fun. That means of course you can more easily operate the boat safely and spend less time fixing things too – though some of us find that part of the challenge! – Full report

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