At Professional BoatBuilder we focus obsessively on the technical and practical details of our trade, so it’s no accident that during the busy autumn and winter parade of boat and marine trade shows, the only two we take consistent notice of are tailored to industry professionals: IBEX (Tampa, Florida) and METSTrade 2022 (Amsterdam). Because both shows had been stunted or canceled outright in 2020 and 2021 due to the risks of COVID infection at in-person events, we anticipated pent-up demand, and a backlog of delayed product introductions would mean great things from the 2022 editions. But Hurricane Ian’s savaging of Florida’s Gulf Coast put a damper on everyone’s ambitions for IBEX. The canceled show left our editors with only METSTrade to satisfy our appetite for the new. It didn’t disappoint.
The unplanned but inescapable focus of the show was on sustainability, with multiple electric propulsion options, renewable-fiber composite materials, recyclable resins and production consumables, alternative fuels, etc. PBB hosted relevant live panel presentations including a discussion of renewable build practices using wood and natural fibers in advanced marine composites with flax-composites guru Friedrich Deimann of GreenBoats in Bremen, Germany (see PBB No. 188, page 60), and our Maine neighbors Eric Blake and Brian Larkin of wood-composite specialists Brooklin Boat Yard. I also led a discussion about one of my favorite new products of 2022 and winner of a DAME award at the show: Marineshift360 (see PBB No. 197, page 46). While a tool for calculating the carbon emissions of a boat from manufacturing, through use, to end-of-life disposal may not seem particularly exciting, in the current environment and with regulatory changes looming in Europe and North America, the importance of accurate life cycle analysis (LCA) for our industry can’t be underestimated. Ollie Taylor, one of the principals developing Marineshift360, explained the need for boatbuilders to use the tool (a basic free version exists at marineshift360.org) to help refine the analysis it can provide. He stressed the importance of accuracy in carbon calculations going forward, as builders selling boats into various markets will be required to provide an approved LCA. Legitimacy and ease of access and use are essential to making the tool work for the industry and to keep regulatory requirements from becoming unmanageable for boatbuilders. You can read more detail on the project in Taylor’s Parting Shot on page 72 of in this issue.
A perennial sustainability worry for boatbuilders is the use of tropical hardwoods. While trees are inherently renewable, cutting old-growth specimens in environmentally sensitive areas has led to restrictions on harvest and importation. But the properties of stable, durable wood like teak and mahogany are difficult for us to replace with “greener” alternatives. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for new options such as synthetic and cork decking material, and engineered wood products. At METSTrade 2022 I found Spanish company TMT Marine, which sells a thermo-treated American hard maple as an alternative to teak for many marine applications, especially decking.
Cut mostly in Michigan and processed in Indiana using a proprietary combination of heat and pressure, the straight-grain wood is quarter-sawn and subjected to a nonchemical process to stabilize it and match color acceptable as a teak substitute. Extensive testing in exposed environments suggests the wood has dimensional stability, durability, and skid resistance comparable to that of Burmese teak. Samples on the stand look and feel, if not exactly like teak, very similar without the sheen of synthetics or the instability of softer wood or some chemically treated options.
According to company representative Xavier Ardevol, the product’s main limitation is dimensional. “We cannot thermal-modify over 2″ [51mm] because of the risk of internal microcracks,” he said. But for decking of varying widths and thicknesses, veneers, and quarter-sawn and rift-sawn dimensional stock up to 2″ thick and between 7′ and 14′ (2.1m and 4.3m) long, TMT’s renewable maple seems a useful alternative, especially for American builders in the Northeast for whom the wood is a local product; they’ll just need to source it from a Spanish company.
TMT Marine, Pons 21, 07100 Soller, Illes Balears, Spain.
Smart Plug Pigtail Adapter
In 2007 SmartPlug revolutionized the world of marine shore power by redesigning the legacy shore-power plug system that had been around since the 1930s. Now, 16 years later, SmartPlug has become the gold standard in shore-power safety. Its latest product incorporates a polarity indicator built into a pigtail device that can be used with a variety of shore-power configurations and adaptations.
Available in eight of the most common configurations, the pigtail includes two LED lights, one red and one blue, that can alert a user to a shore-power fault after plugging in and energizing the pedestal’s power but before the vessel’s main breaker is turned on. It can recognize two potentially dangerous faults, L1 and neutral swapped (reverse polarity), and L1 and ground swapped. If a fault is indicated by the pigtail’s lights, the user knows not to start the power supply to the vessel. The beauty of this device is it’s passive; plug it in and you have an immediate indication of whether it’s safe to proceed. Smart Plug products are made in the U.S.
SmartPlug 2500 Westlake Ave. N., Suite G, Seattle, WA 98109 USA, tel. 206–285–2990.
Flexball Super-Flexible Control Cable
As a former marine mechanic who has replaced my share of shift- and throttle-control cables and troubleshot those that required too much effort to move, I couldn’t help but be drawn to this manufacturer’s demonstration display. It is made up of a 25′ (7.6m) cable, affixed to a vertical panel, and then routed into a series of twists and S-turns. I placed a finger on one end of the cable and pushed it with less effort than is required to open a compact car’s door. Intrigued, I studied the cable design and quickly noticed that unlike conventional cables, whose moving cores are round, the Flexball’s are made up of a series of flat plates, which slide on ball bearings surrounded by a spiral metallic wrap.
Depending on the intended service, the cable terminals or end fittings can be made from zinc-plated steel, brass, or stainless steel, while the internal blades are made from AISI 304L stainless steel. End fittings can be of conventional threaded design, or a rack for use with a pinion. Cables come in three diameters, which utilize jacket outside diameters between 11mm and 21mm. The manufacturer also offers a range of end fittings and jacket clamps that will be familiar to any marine industry professional.
Flexball Italia S.r.l., Via San Luigi, 13/A, 10043 Orbassano (TO), Italy.
Mechanical Products’ Integrated Branch Disconnect and Circuit Breaker
For systems installations, saving space is critical, especially in today’s vessels with their complex and sophisticated electrical systems; valuable space for mounting must be used wisely. That’s why Mechanical Products‘ wares, which are made in the U.S., caught my attention. The space-saving design includes a push-to-reset-type circuit breaker, with ratings available in 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, and 70 amps (others available upon request), and up to 32VDC, which is ideal for accessories and branch-circuit (but not starting) applications.
Switches carry a slew of test ratings including ignition protection, IP66 and IP67, CE, combined UL1107 and UL1077, and 1107, MIL-STD-202, ABYC E-11, among others, and they can endure between 3,000 and 5,000 cycles (depending on current rating) under full load at 24VDC. The oblong, compact switches with mounting holes have a rugged feel and a maximum mounting diameter of just 2.5″ (64mm).
Mechanical Products Co., 1112 N. Garfield St., Lombard, IL 60148 USA, tel. 630–953–4100.
Scanstrut ROKK Wireless Nano 10W
As the use of smartphones and tablets for onboard communications, navigation, and wireless control of CAN bus systems grows, the ability to secure and charge those working devices while the boat is under way becomes essential to safe operation. Scanstrut, a U.K. company specializing in mounting and charging options for marine electronics and components, had some of the best solutions I saw on the show floor. In the past I’ve admired the company’s mechanical grip mounts for phones and tablets and the weatherproof USB cable charging ports, but the clutter of wires required to keep a few essential devices charged becomes a liability on an open center-console running at speed. The little Nano 10W combines that easy-release grip mounting with wireless fast charging for 12V to 24V systems while occupying the least amount of precious real estate at the helm station. This charging technology is now compatible with any phones set up for wireless charging, has the added safety of a thermal cutoff if your device starts to overheat, and it functions through nonmetallic waterproof protective cases.
Scanstrut shines when it comes to water-proofing and ease of installation. The Nano is no exception. With simple, clean mounting hardware and a drilling template included, builders can secure the unit quickly with four screws. And there were other practical installation solutions that caught my eye, including a waterproof cable penetration unit for multiple cables. The DS-Multi looks like a time-and-worry saver for builders running cables from solar panels, lights, and navigation electronics through the top of a pilothouse. The solid rubber seal block comes undrilled, so installers custom-cut penetrations for the wires they need to accommodate.
Scanstrut Inc., 7 Pequot Park Rd., Westbrook, CT 06498 USA, tel. 860–308–1416.
Resqlink AIS Personal Locator Beacon
Personal locator beacons (PLBs) have been around for years. I take one every time I travel. More recently, personal Automatic Identification System (AIS) rescue devices have also become popular. PLBs are satellite based, sending an alert to a rescue coordination center thousands of miles away, while AIS devices are local, sending a short-range signal via VHF (or line of sight range, as the “transmitter” is at water level), which is usually reserved for vessels. The dilemma for users has been deciding whether to rely on professional, potentially faraway assistance, or rescue from a local vessel. ACR Electronics’ Resqlink now provides both global and local rescue options in a single unit.
The transmitter is oblong and narrow and can be worn on foulweather gear or a PFD (it can be triggered automatically by an inflatable PFD). Using near field communication (NFC), the Resqlink can be polled via an app and smartphone, to confirm it is working properly, without wearing down its battery.
If you are in the water awaiting rescue, it’s good to know whether someone is on the way, and the Resqlink affords users this peace of mind using RLS (Return Link Service), which acknowledges with a flashing blue light that a rescue coordination center has received the signal. The Resqlink includes visible and infrared strobes to speed rescue once support assets are on scene.
ACR Electronics Inc., 5757 Ravenswood Rd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 USA, tel. 954–981–3333.
While Hurricane Ian forced the cancelation of IBEX in 2022, a lot of us were in the Tampa Convention Center setting up our stands until the evacuation order came down. So, there was a sort of unofficial IBEX that happened on the show floor without carpet, air-conditioning, or clean khakis. It was during that sweaty weekend that I saw the latest collaborative composites and lighting technology from French company Guardtex and Structural Composites (Melbourne, Florida). I ran into Guardtex COO Jean-Côme Mazière, who had introduced me to Kanvaslight in 2021 (see “Lighting Up Canvas,” PBB No. 193, page 12). His new LamLight technology is a logical evolution of Kanvaslight, an application of fiber optics woven into flexible textile material to provide light in dodgers, biminis, and seat cushions.
Mazière explained that Guardtex worked with Structural Composites, using the latter’s CoCure resin to encapsulate a layer of Kanvaslight textile as a ply of laminate material in a composite structure. The result is a finished laminate surface that can have custom light patterns—imagine a boat name or logo or subtle courtesy lighting—appear without cutting holes or mounting protruding hardware or components. And because this is fiber optics, no electricity flows through the structure, only light that has been introduced into the fiber in a central light injector.
The new LamLight tech, which received a design award for Most Creative Application at CAMX 2022, is being further refined for specific marine, aeronautical, and swimming pool applications of illuminating composites.
LamLight, 360 East Dr., Melbourne, FL 32904 USA, tel. 813–852–0333.