I'm Southbound Again: Miami Boat Show Preview

New offerings from Icom, TackTick, and Maptech-- as well as the Lightspeed 32 (left)-- top Tony Bessinger's must-see list for the 2007 Miami International Boat Show

GearUpMiamiBoat

Like most people who live in the Northeast, by this time of year I'm fed up with winter weather. Luckily enough, there's a huge boat show in Miami Beach this week that, as a new products and electronics editor, I simply must attend. I'll be spending most of my time in Miami inside the air-conditioned sterility of the Miami Convention Center instead of on the water, but at least my daily commute will be warm. For boating journalists, one of the big draws of the Miami International Boat Show is the electronics hall, a huge area in the convention center dedicated solely to the latest in marine electronics. Heaven. In the two days I'll be at the show, I've got appointments to visit with 20 manufacturers. Here's a preview.My first appointment is my only on-the-water demonstration. Along with some fellow scribes, I'll be taking an evening cruise with reps from FLIR, a company that makes infrared imaging systems. FLIR, which stands for Forward-Looking Infra-Red, gives users a far crisper, easier to discern image, than do light-enhancing technologies. Add to that mix image stabilization and telescopic capabilities, and you've got a great way to keep track of navigation aids, MOBs, and even the competition. For now, FLIR products are restricted to larger boats, as the turret that houses the sensing unit is a tad bulky, weighing eight pounds and measuring 7.3" by 4" by 8". But I have a feeling it won't be too long before they come out with smaller versions. In fact, they market a handheld unit, the FlashSight, to police departments. Let's hope they come up with a waterproof version soon. www.flir.comIcom's handheld and mounted VHF radios have long been favorites of ours, but their latest, the M34, may actually have a negative impact on their bottom line. Unlike any marine handheld on the market, the M34 floats. I've dropped at least three handheld VHFs into the drink over the years, so I'm looking forward to retrieving the next one that slips through my hands, rather than watching it disappear beneath the waves. The M34 isn't available to consumers yet, but I'm hoping there will be a demo floating around in Miami. www.icomusa.comI'll also be visiting with TackTick, checking out the latest version of their Racemaster solar-powered instruments, looking at the latest navigation and racing software from Nobeltec, Fugawi, Maptech, B&G, and scoping out the latest plotters from Northstar and Lowrance. Maptech's excellent i3 touchscreen plotters have proven incredibly popular since their introduction, and I may have some breaking news from them about more portable versions next week. I plan on ending my list of appointments on the docks of the sailboat side of the show, where the Lightspeed 32 is docked. I'm looking forward to a firsthand account from Lightspeed's Hunt Stookey of the Fort Lauderdale to Key West feeder race, a 160-nautical mile trip made by Lightspeed in a little of 10 hours last month. Stookey's carbon cat took line honors in the race and won on corrected time in both class and fleet. www.lightspeedboats.com