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New Feature: Ben Ellison's Electronics Blog Has Arrived


We've got a new Blog feature for anyone interested in marine electronics. Senior Electronics Editor Ben Ellison not only contributes to our family of boating magazines, but he has a most excellent blog about electronics called Panbo. Panbo, by the way, has just turned 10 years old, and Ellison has been running it for the past nine.

(Click the Blog tab on our home page and you will be taken to Ellison's latest entries. One is a very detailed evaluation of the new Garmin VIRB handheld camera, complete with videos of the test. To save time just click here. Another post evaluates underwater LED lighting from Macris Industries. Click here. You get the picture.)

I've known Ben Ellison for 14 years, and although I've written a fair amount about marine electronics myself, I confess no one has a deeper understanding than Ellison of how this stuff works, how it's made and who's making it. Whenever you read an electronics story in PassageMaker, you can be assured that Ellison has reviewed it for accuracy and completeness. Beginning this year, you can expect to see Ellison in his role as a teacher, giving talks about radars, chartplotters and the whole array of devices that make cruising easier and safer.

Don't think for a moment, Panbo is an ivory-tower enterprise. Ellison, who lives in Camden, Maine, cruises and tests products on a 37 Duffy lobster yacht named, appropriately, Gizmo. In fact, Ellison's enterprise is unique in that it tests everyone's products and makes the evaluation public at no charge to the reader. Here is Ellison's history, as posted on Panbo. That's him disguised as the Gloucester Fisherman.

Well, sure, let's talk about me! I've lived in Camden, Maine, since 1971, when I bought a 1946 wooden sloop (same vintage as me) that was moored here. I was planning to sail around the world, made it. I did live aboard Alice for most of the 70's, ran her as a daysailing operation, and cruised twice to the Caribbean (with just a VHF radio and a depth flasher for electronics). During that decade I also worked on oil field boats off Louisiana, tried my hand at commercial fishing, delivered yachts and taught navigation/seamanship.

Abaco to New Bedford, April 1978

By the 80's, the boat had morphed into a home-built home and I even started a totally non-nautical business (which at least got me into personal computers early). I did keep up the deliveries and teaching, managed some boats, and in 1985 began a five year stint as director of the WoodenBoat School. I still get a pitter-patter when I visit there.

The 90's? Back to boat deliveries and teaching, a house addition, work for a tide prediction software company, and eventually a stint as editor of Reed's Nautical Almanacs. That job was more about marine software, and data manipulation, than sentences, which is partially how I transitioned into writing about electronics. I got started at Ocean Navigator in 1999 and became Electronics Editor at Power & Motoryacht in 2001, and then switchedover to the position of senior electronics editor at Bonnier Marine Group in early 2009.

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On Jan. 1, 2013, I switched teams again, returning in a sense to PMY and Sail, which are now part of the AIM Marine Group along with SoundingsPassageMaker, and Yachts International. I'll continue to write primarily for Panbo, whose content will be shared with AIM websites and publications, but I'll also work with AIM editors and electronics writers.

In 2013 I also plan to spend significant time aboard the 37-foot Duffy "lobster yacht" dubbed Gizmo, a near perfect platform for testing electronics along the beautiful coast of Maine and further afield. I'm proud to add that my work has received numerous honors in the annual Boating Writers International writing contest, especially the first place Original Online Content award to Panbo in 2011 and again in 2012!