Visiting The Gizmo Guru

Last weekend we had a pleasant break from our re-power project while visiting some good friends in Camden, Maine and giving a slide-show to some members of the Ocean Cruising Club.

While there, our friends suggested that we visit Ben Ellison, author of Panbo, the popular blog on marine electronics, on his aptly named motor boat Gizmo. Ben was very welcoming and we had an interesting chat about forward scan sonars and his upcoming test of a unit from Interphase. We also talked about the convergence of electronic cartography and cruising guides, a subject of considerable interest to us as the authors of the Norwegian Cruising Guide.

Ben Ellison of Panbo

I have to confess that, although I made my living in the high tech field for some 30 years, I’m ambivalent about the explosion of gadgets on boats and worry about the dangers of over reliance on them.

Having said that, and even though I’m generally more interested in the seamanship aspects of voyaging, I read Panbo regularly to stay up to date and because Ben writes well. So if you want to know everything, and I do mean everything, about what is going on in the marine electronics industry, you may wish to put Panbo on your regular reading list.

Further, if you are thinking of actually spending some of your hard earned cash on marine electronics, then reading Panbo could really help you make the right buying decision. Just don’t end up with four radars on a 40-foot boat, like Ben!

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

4 comments… add one
  • Colin Apr 22, 2010, 12:32 pm

    Hi John

    We had an Interphase TwinScope unit on our last boat for many years and liked it a lot. Even though ours was an early version it had some good features. I’ve seen more recent units and they seemed much more intuitive – the old unit was complicated and didn’t have the most logical command controls when moving between screens, for example. But the screen display and the ability to scan a sweep of the seabed ahead was useful, especially in narrow channels.

    The only drawback for an aluminium hull was the bronze stem of the transducer – when we last looked they were still using that version which ruled it out for us; also the transducer was fixed, and would therefore have been vulnerable for a boat like our OVNI when drying out. Like you we have opted for the Echopilot and like it a lot, but I’d have to say that the Interphase has more features that we’d have liked.

    Either is well worth having, though!

    • John Apr 22, 2010, 2:51 pm

      Hi Colin,

      I agree, the fixed transducer is a deal breaker for us. One of the many things I like about the Echopilot is that you can withdraw the sensor easily and also that the exposed part is designed to sheer off without damaging the through hull if it is hit. Thinking about the hole that the Interphase might leave if torn out of the hull is sobering although I’m not sure if Interphase have designed in any intentional weak points to obviate this danger?

  • Jon Amtrup Apr 22, 2010, 3:00 pm

    Hi Phyllis and John,
    it would be interesting to learn more about “We also talked about the convergence of electronic cartography and cruising guides, a subject of considerable interest to us as the authors of the Norwegian Cruising Guide.”
    Please share your thoughts 🙂

    Best regards, Jon

  • Peter Bateman Apr 23, 2010, 11:08 am

    I used an Echopilot. Great piece of kit that provides great peace of mind. 5 star. Hard to beat.

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