When looking at installing new kit to a boat, the cost to value-add comparison is probably the biggest decider of whether or not someone goes ahead with the installation. Miah Dixon reviews the implementation of some new tech in the NZ Fishing News Billfisher, and asks the question, “was it worth it?”
A few months ago, we at NZ Fishing News were introduced to the new CZone Contact 6 switching system. The Contact 6 is BEP Marine’s solution for small to mid-size vessels. It offers six 7.5A outputs per panel, but most importantly, it levels up the amount of control you have over your vessels systems.
We’d been chatting with BEP Marine about the new system, and made the call to install it into our Billfisher 735 project boat Fishing News.
A C Zone Contact 6 switching system has been fitted to Fishing News, giving the skipper a lot more options than with a conventional primary toggle panel.
When new kit is added our boat, we are usually given a full run through of how it works direct from the experts – something not every boatie has access to. With that in mind, when reviewing this piece of kit, I posed a few questions to myself, answered by the BEP team and time on the water with the product…
A ‘digital switching system’ is the next step up from your traditional binary ‘on/off’ switches. Rather than binary toggles, we installed two six-way panels, with each button accommodating what would have previously been a standard on/off switch. This change allowed us to upgrade our basic boat functions into much more capable ones, and we found that it’s the small things that have made a big difference.
Take, for example, windscreen wipers; with a standard binary switch, your wipers are either on or off, and in our case, we had to time the ‘off’ switching to park the wipers in the right place. Using the switching system, we’ve programmed a single button to set the wipers on a slow speed, fast speed, and then turn off and park out of the main view of the helm, controlled by pressing the button one, two, or three times.
The next ‘upgrade’ that comes from a digital switching system is the ability to programme ‘modes’ – preset groups of systems that are all engaged with the press of a single button.
Aboard Fishing News we have established different modes for day and night cruising, day and night fishing and overnighting. Each member of our team operates the Billfisher in a different way. As a result, when installing new kit, it needs to work for all of us. The modes we established are all set up with the ‘essentials’ of each type of boating/fishing so we just press the button and go.
Each mode is customised and will change the likes of the internal lights and electronics (dimming, brightening or changing colour), navigation and anchor lights (on and off), the timing on the bilge and livebait tanks and monitoring of the battery levels.
As a safety system, the Contact 6 adds an extra layer of protection to prevent you from being stranded or sunk. The system is constantly monitoring the voltage of our house and start batteries, triggering an alarm should they run too low, allowing us to either turn off any non-essential kit, or turn over the engine and take it for a run to charge it up. The Contact 6 system can utilise any data supplied by the other equipment on the boat, so we have programmed it to turn on the navigation lights any time the engine is running and turn them off when it’s not.
It’s one thing to have all the tech set up for you – it’s another to know how to use it.
On our Billfisher, we run two screens – a 15” Furuno TZ Touch 2 and a 4” Mercury Vessel View. CZone is interfaced with both of these screens, but we primarily use the larger of the two to control the system – this means we can use both the physical buttons next to the steering wheel or the touchscreen on the digital interface.
The CZone controls integrate as another screen option on your multifunction display (MFD). Just as you can split a screen with a chartplotter and sounder view, you can also add in a CZone interface. When operating the boat, particularly in changing light, I run a half chartplotter, quarter sounder and quarter CZone split. This gives me access to key functions for operating the vessel, as well as my usual navigation data.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a tech nerd and can work my way around most new systems fairly easily, but you really needn’t be to operate this. Setting up your own customised CZone screen on your MFD is as simple as moving the icons around on the home screen of your phone.
In BEP’s own words, “CZone takes care of the little things, leaving more time for the user to focus on what they value” – in this case, more focus on fishing, than setting up for it. Having used the system for a while, I’d have to agree.
If this process has taught me anything, it’s that it is one thing to know what’s on your boat, and it’s another to have full control over it. The Contact 6 has changed the way I operate our Billfisher. It has allowed me put more focus on getting to, finding and catching fish, than getting the boat ready for the day.
My next plan for this system is to set up modes for specific types of fishing (straylining, softbaiting/slow-jigging, livebaiting and trolling) to truly home in on the fishing capabilities of the boat.
If you’re looking to upgrade your boating/fishing experience and take full control of your vessel, then this system is well worth considering. Regardless of whether you’re operating a six-metre tinny with a few gadgets or a high-end fishing machine, the Contact 6 can be a valuable addition to your boat.
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