Product Review: Fujinon TechnoStabi TSX1440 Binoculars

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite sailor, or just to gift to give to your boat: Fujinon TSX1440 binoculars are awesome. They are good for ALMOST everything. Need to scan the horizon for flocks of birds to lead you to feeding tuna? Pick out that buoy against a busy background when entering a harbor? See what kind of fish they are catching on that other boat? How about what lure they caught it on? They make great birdwatching binoculars, and are even great for stargazing—even from the deck of the boat at sea. They are a great navigation and safety tool, and provide hours of entertainment as well.

Fujinon TSX1440 Stabilized Binoculars.

Normally, the highest magnification considered useful on a small boat is 7X. Higher power binoculars are not usually much benefit on a boat–especially a small boat. The problem is that high magnification amplifies the movements of the boat–and your hands–and the image jumps around so much it is completely useless. Technology has come to the rescue with stabilized lenses. These systems use electronics to measure the movements of the binoculars, and then moves the lenses and prisms to compensate. A good pair works like magic.

NOT “simulated” this is an actual through the binocular comparison of the scene with and without the Fujinons to give you an idea of the kind of maginification and field of view you will actually see.

If you are looking for a pair of stabilized binoculars to use on a boat, the key specification to look for is the “vibration correction range.” Many stabilized binoculars have correction ranges less than 1.5 degrees. These are really only useful for correcting hand-shake while standing on land. Great for a birdwatcher looking to use a more powerful pair of binoculars without a tripod, but not close to good enough for use on a wave-tossed boat. Three degrees is the minimum useful on the deck of a boat, and more is better. The Fujinon TSX1440 has the widest range that I know of on the recreational market of +/- 6 degrees. There is also the Fujinon TS1440 at a slightly lower price that offers +/- 5 degrees of stabilization. There are other, cheaper, stabilized Fujinons available, but the requirement they use disposable CR2 mercury batteries that are difficult to find overseas took them off our list.

Like most optical equipment, the manufactures have pretty tight control over the distribution chain, and finding a discount below the “standard” price is rare.

It is hard to describe how well this stabilization system works. When you push the button turning on the stabilization, the binoculars buzz for a second, and then suddenly the image snaps into place. It feels perfectly natural. Even in the lumpiest Gulf Stream chop you can hold these spot on the target and have a crystal clear view. Panning is smooth and natural. The optical engineers at Fuji did an AWESOME job.

The Fujinon TSX1440 takes four AA batteries. We use rechargeable Eneloop batteries from Panasonic, and they work great. It simplifies life a lot to be able to use batteries that we share with all the other things on the boat. We haven’t timed it for ourselves, but the official specification on rechargeable batteries is 22 hours of operation. That’s exceptional.

Did I mention the TSX1440 binoculars float? And are waterproof? The case and strap they come with are good. Not spectacular, but totally serviceable. If I expected to use these as birding binoculars, or for horizon scans for feeding birds I’d get a chest harness like this:

A simple chest harness to keep binoculars close at hand without the weight from a neck strap.

The ergonomics are a bit different than other binoculars, so they do take a bit of getting used to. For the first couple of days we had them, we kept holding them upside-down. The focus knob is also in a different place than other binoculars. Nothing with either of these is wrong, they are just different than you might be used to and will take some adjustment.

The eyepieces adjust for the distance between your eyes easily. My eyes are rather far apart, and these are quite comfortable.

If you wear glasses (as I do), you twist the eye cups and they collapse to bring your eyes closer to the lenses. Simple, and easy. You get good, full image, visibility with glasses. If you do not wear glasses, the eye cups are excellent at limiting stray light, and setting you up at the right distance from the lens for the optimum view.

There are a couple of things that are intrinsic to the higher power binocular that take some getting used to. The field of view is quite narrow (210 feet at 1000 yards) so sometimes getting the image centered on the object of interest takes a bit of searching. Depth of field at the higher magnification is a lot narrower, so you do spend a bit of time focusing the image to bring it as sharp as possible. At night, the image is not nearly as bright as we see through our Steiner Commander 7x50s. This is the most important thing that makes them our “second” pair of binoculars, and not our first.

One odd thing: There are two separate buttons. One for “power on” and a separate button to engage the stabilization mechanism. Why this should be is a mystery to me. The binoculars only do ONE thing! Why would you need two buttons?

Another minor annoyance is the lens cover. On the eye side, the design is great. The cover is attached to the strap, and is usable no matter what the distance between the eyepieces, an excellent design. On the objective side, the lens cover looks like an afterthought. It works, but… it’s not attached in any way, and will be easy to lose. Just not a design that matches the overall quality of the unit.

These do not replace a good pair of traditional 7×50 marine binoculars, but they do compliment them nicely. The wider field of view, and the much better night time performance of the 7x50s make them the choice for a boat that only has a single pair. In the time we have had them, the Fujinons have become a favorite on Harmonie. Although they are expensive, this is definitely a category of products you DO get what you pay for.

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links we get a small commission, but it never adds to the price you pay. We have never accepted payment upfront for a favorable review, and never will. All the products we recommend are products we use and like. Our reviews are all as honest as we can make them. We rarely post negative reviews, because we just don’t think they add a lot of value.

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This was Fun…

We do not regularly follow a lot of YouTube channels, but there are a few we touch base with once in a while.

“Super Yacht Captain” has frequently provided an entertaining education about a part of the marine world we don’t directly participate in, but do see the periphery of. This episode was fun for us because it was the first time he was in what we consider OUR part of the world. Very interesting for us to see it from a very different perspective.

The boat yard they are headed to is exactly where we have Harmonie serviced every fall. We have made this exact trip over a dozen times now.

It was especially fascinating to see these guys who usually haunt the French Riviera wax on about how amazing the Fort Lauderdale waterfront was. It took a couple layers of waxy indifference off our eyes, and we will look at it with a new perspective when we are down there again in a few weeks.

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Gulf Stream Phobia

The Gulf Stream is the elephant in the room for everybody sailing the East Coast of the United States. If you are head from south toward the north, it can be your best friend, taking days off your passage time if can stay in the fastest moving water. Of course, for those heading south, the key is to avoid the current as much as possible.

The Gulf Stream roars between Florida and the Bahamas on its way north.

In addition to being a source of “free” extra boat speed, the Gulf Stream is the source of a HUGE amount of what we consider to be unnecessary angst among sailors. Especially sailors looking to cross from Florida to the Bahamas who have been indoctrinated with what seems to be an almost irrational fear of this patch of water.

Certainly, conditions in the Gulf Steam can be very uncomfortable, and certainly dangerous for small boats, when the wind blows hard from the north. And the longer the wind blows the nastier it gets. Certainly in a strong Northeast gale NOBODY wants to be in the Gulf Steam. But…

Here’s the thing: if you are on the Florida coast between Port St Lucie and the Keys you don’t need a crystal ball or a professional meteorologist to tell what conditions in the Gulf Stream are like, you go down to the beach and you LOOK! It’s right there! If you see a horizon line that is rough and lumpy and looks like there is a herd of elephants marching along, wait another day. If you are not sure, do not dither and fuss, waiting for “perfect,” but pull up your anchor and start sailing. If it gets too rough for you TURN BACK! The water behind you (that you have already sailed through!) is just as calm as it was before.

This past spring we had done our weather analysis, and saw a good window to head north. We left the harbor in West End, Bahamas and jumped into the Gulf Stream and were having a great time cranking out the miles. On the radio there was endless chatter about the Gulf Stream forecast from the best known and most respected meteorologist and sailing guru in the area. (All you sailors in the Bahamas and Caribbean KNOW who I am talking about.) His recommendation was, “Absolutely do not cross the Gulf Stream today! The next good window will be next week.”

We are sitting in the middle of the Stream having a great sail, looking around us, and thinking, “What the…???? I am glad I am not paying for that forecast!”

We totally understand that comfort and safety are not just important, they are vital. However, new sailors hear so much about the terrors of the Gulf Stream and they have no real background with which to sort out the reality from the hype. So many people seem to not understand that you can poke your bow out there, have a look, and come back if you do not like what you find, without endangering your crew or your boat. It is really the only way you can learn for yourself what conditions YOU and your boat are comfortable sailing in.

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Continuing south

After a stop of a couple days in Hilton Head visiting family we are making a short hop (about 60 miles) south to Brunswick Landing Marina where we will be based for a few weeks. Part of the time is just waiting for the 15th of the month when our insurance allows us to move further south, and partly we will be working with a couple of clients on their boat projects. There is also the probability for a delivery job in November as well.

Sailing south today is delightful. Sunny, although cool, and a light but steady breeze from the north. We are not setting any speed records, but any day sailing is a good day.

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A Day’s Difference

This morning finds us on a completely different ocean than we had been sailing on for the previous two days. Instead of flat, sunny, and blue, it is now lumpy, gray and overcast. We are just coming around Frying Pan Shoal, off Cape Fear, NC.

The weather briefing I gave Karen at the start of her watch last night was to expect winds to be steady in direction and slowly and steadily increasing from 8 knots to about 20. Almost all of that was “rather accurate”.

What actually happened was the wind went from a mild mannered 8 knots from the northeast pushing us at 5 knots through the water to 27 knots howling from the northeast moving us at almost 9 knots—in about 90 seconds.

We have been doing this long enough now that it takes us about 3 minutes to reset sails suitable for the new conditions and we are off and running. At least to start with, it is a fast and exhilarating ride on flat seas. Over the next few hours, the waves do build and toss us around a bit, but nothing very uncomfortable. Over the course of the next couple hours it settled down to a steady 18 to 20 knots and our large headsail is now pulling us along on a deep reach at better than 7 knots.

Since we left the Chesapeake we have been moving with a fleet of well over a dozen boats that has moved in a tight cluster down the coast. In the lighter winds the slower boats have been motoring, and the faster ones sailing. The sudden change in conditions have quickly scattered the fleet. The catamarans have all shut off their motors, and finally get to use their speed advantage, and the monohulls spread out with the bigger, faster boats quickly leaving the smaller ones behind. The few boats left nearby are all of a size similar to us.

We had planned to spend our time in Hilton Head at anchor, but the weather for Friday and Saturday is supposed to be quite gnarly, so we just used the satellite phone to make a marina reservation. Taking advantage of the miracle of modern technology!

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A Special Light Show

We are sailing south about 15 miles off Cape Hatteras . It’s three o’clock in the morning, and very dark. The ocean is phosphorescent, glowing bright green everywhere it is disturbed. The wind is light, but enough to keep us moving.

We have a lot of company, more so than we are used to on an ocean sail. Within 10 miles there are at least a dozen other sailboats moving in the same general direction as we are, all migrating south to various destinations. But the real entertainment for this early morning watch is much closer to the boat.

A few minutes ago, an odd sounding splash got my attention, quickly followed by several more, and then the sharp “Puff!” of a dolphin’s breathing. We see enough of these amazing animals they have almost become routine, but having them around the boat in the pitch dark is still something special. You can’t see the fast moving animals themselves, but the bright glowing green they leave behind as they play around the boat is mesmerizing. Brilliant green comets twist and turn around the boat in a complex high speed dance. It is other worldly to watch.

Up to now, our progress has been faster than expected, with very favorable winds. The wind has clocked around, and we are now sailing nearly downwind. It is comfortable, but not especially fast. The forecast has the direction unchanged, but strengthening during the day tomorrow, so hopefully we can pick up the pace a bit.

We expect to be arriving off our destination of Hilton Head Island in the afternoon of November 4.

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Migration underway!

As we were weighing anchor this morning at sunrise large flocks of Canada geese and cormorants took wing headed south. I guess they noticed and figured if we were leaving, so should they! Other than a bit chilly, the conditions are perfect. A west wind at 6 to 9 knots has us moving at 5 to 6 knots. As expected, the bay is crowded with boats who also are moving south.

There are several organized rallies that are leaving this area who provide professional weather briefings for those sailors who haven’t the background to do that for themselves, a very valuable service. But it seems that a lot of these boats missed the point of the reason to leave today instead of yesterday.

Yesterday’s weather was light winds from the south, which would have meant a slow and tedious sail down the bay, or a day of motoring. So what are most of the boats out here today doing? MOTORING! Anybody planning to motor the length of the bay should have left yesterday! Very much an example of following the herd instead of thinking. But, it’s safe, and I hope they are all having fun!

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A Journey of 1000 Miles…

… Begins with a single step.

OK, we are not going 1000 miles (only 600), and our initial move is a bit longer than a single stride, but we are officially underway.

Annapolis Harbor always has beautiful boats!

At 15:00 this afternoon we dropped lines at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard, and moved out into the South Anchorage off the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Sometime around midnight the wind is forecast to swing to a favorable direction or the start of our trip. It will likely be a crowded trip south in the ocean. Tomorrow begins the best weather window in the last two weeks, and it is a narrow one. Boats that don’t get underway quickly will have to wait another 10 days or so for the next one. We are expecting a crowd!

The forecast is for a fast and fairly easy trip. We will not have much chance to dally, because we’ll want to be settled in before the next front comes through, but it it looking like all downwind from Annapolis right on to Hilton Head, SC, our first port of call.

From Hilton Head, we will hop down to Brunswick, GA for a few weeks, then to Fort Lauderdale in early December, and from there we will be headed over to the Bahamas near the end of the year.

Our short motor this afternoon was the first real underway test of our engine since we replaced the engine mounts and realigned the drive train. It was AMAZING. Smooth as glass. Over the course of years the drive train had gotten rougher, and noisier a little at a time, so slowly there was no short term change to notice. Now it is so smooth you do not have any change in the feel of the boat when you engage the transmission. This is a good thing, but is also a bit disconcerting and will take some getting used to!

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Road Trip for a Project!

On the road to pick up our anchor chain.

We have been a bit quiet–but busy–during our stay here in Annapolis. A couple significant projects were done, and a bunch of minor ones.

Avoiding Weak Links

The road trip project was our anchor chain. It was inexpensive chain when we bought it, primarily (we have since learned) because the galvanized surface was applied by electrogalvanizing instead of hot dipping. After two and a half years of service, the galvanizing was gone from much of the length of the chain, and it was actively rusting. The rust was not (yet!) severe enough to impact the strength, but is was certainly bad enough to make a mess on deck every time we hauled the anchor.

Electrogalvanizing is the process of using an electric current to plate a thin layer of zinc onto steel. It gives a nice smooth surface, and is quickly and easily done, but the layer of zinc that results is very thin. The resulting product is generally not recommended for highly corrosive environments. Certainly there are not many environments that are more corrosive to plain carbon steel than soaking in salt water! “Hot-dipping” is literally soaking the clean steel in a vat of molten zinc. It results in a much thicker, although rougher and less attractive surface. Live and learn: Do not consider anything except the hot-dip process for galvanizing anchor chain.

When we bought the existing chain about two and a half years ago, I had looked to find a place to see if we could have the old chain regalvanized, but had no luck with finding an economical source. This time I found Baltimore Galvanizing. In their shop 300 feet of chain and the anchor would be priced as a “small job” and be charged the shop minimum of about $300. Compared to $1800 for new chain, this was sounding pretty attractive. Especially considering we could throw in the anchor and have it done as well.

We were lucky enough to have a friend visiting us who had that most valuable of things a friend can have: A pickup truck! We loaded the chain and the disassembled anchor onto Aras’ truck and drove the 45 minutes to the back corner of an industrial section of Baltimore and left the chain with them, and were promised about a week’s turnaround.

Loading about 550 lbs of anchor and chain.

A week (and a day) later… it was done. By this time Aras has left, so we needed to rent a truck to pick up the finished project. Back to the marina, and we load it into the dinghy so we can easily load it back onto Harmonie.

Our dinghy had no problem with the 400+ pound payload of completely rust free chain.

The anchor did not really require regalvanizing yet, having been hot dipped when it was made, but it was showing some wear, and we could add it to the job for no extra money, so why not? On the anchor, we decided to replace the bolts rather than have the old ones reglavanized. The original bolts from Mantus were Grade 5 galvanized bolts. We replaced them with “structural bolts,” also galvanized, and Grade A325. A325 steel has the same strength specifications as Grade 5, the primary difference is the bolts have an unthreaded shoulder, which increases their shear strength.

Reassembling our 105 pound Mantus anchor.

There were about a dozen places along the 300 foot of chain where the zinc coating had “glued” together the links enough that they had some trouble going through the anchor windless. A couple whacks with a hammer, and those came free easily. The significantly rougher, lumpier surface of the hot-dipped chain compared to its old electrogalvanized finish means the chain does not “flow” as well and makes a significantly taller, steeper pile as it comes into the chain locker. This really isn’t an issue on Harmonie because the Amel Super Maramu has almost 4 feet of fall beneath the chainpipe. This should get better with use, as normal friction in handling wears off the larger lumps and bumps.

Overall, this was a very satisfying project. We spent less than 25% of the price of a new chain, including the truck rental, and we have a chain that should give us years of service before needing to repeat the process.

Keeping the Cold In.

The most time consuming of our projects was a complete replacement of one of our old chest freezers. The original box as constructed by Amel was not very well insulated to start with and after more than 25 years the insulation was saturated with water from condensation. The result was we consume a lot more power keeping it cold than we should and we also had problems with keeping food fully frozen.

The new freezer compartment was insulated (mostly) in vacuum panels, and was basically constructed of a box of 5mm epoxy coated plywood, a layer of insulation, and a second inner box of more 5mm epoxy coated plywood. Easy to build with strong, inexpensive, good looking, and readily available materials. Hinge and latch hardware were reused from the original.

The vacuum panels we used for insulation are made by Panasonic for high tech building and refrigeration insulation. Panasonic claims they will have at least half their insulating capacity remaining 12 years out. One inch thickness of these panels is rated at R60, roughly the equivalent of a FOOT of high quality polyurethane foam. The do require care in installation to be sure they are not subject to any kind of mechanical damage that could puncture the skin. Also, they are available in a limited range of sizes, and can not be cut or trimmed, so designing something to fit in an existing space can be a challenge.

Shiny, new, and a perfect fit. For those of you who might not have seen these, the line is run up to a hook overhead to hold the lid open for easy access.

In addition to the greatly improved insulation, we designed a double gasket system to make sure the warm air stays out, and the cold air stays in, where they belong. A system of plastic baskets also helps organize the food storage, and allows excellent circulation of cold air helping to avoid the warm spots that plauged the old box.

A tight fitting lid, double gaskets, and baskets all help to improve efficiency.

From Here

As cooler autumn weather takes hold, it is time for use to begin our southern migration. We will start moving in four or five days down the Chesapeake Bay. We will most likely pause at Norfolk, VA and hold for weather. From there, to Hilton Head, SC, then to Brunswick, GA, then to Fort Lauderdale, FL, then to the Bahamas at the end of December. From there, we really do not yet have firm plans.

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A Flurry of Fixes.

Our project list is shrinking as we dive into things.

Our shore power extension cord had a bad plug, that over-heated and needed replacing. Not a complex or difficult project, but an important one.

With that done, we attacked a couple of Rule #1 violations. To refresh your memory, the Three Rules of Boating are:

  1. Keep the water out of the boat.
  2. Keep the people in the boat.
  3. Don’t hit anything.

All Amel boats are built with the expectation that they will always comply with Rule One. We strive to keep it that way, both for the good of the boat, and our own comfort. So any leak is an issue that needs to be addressed because we do not tolerate leaks of any size or location..

First up was the aft cabin hatch. The plastic lens was coming unglued from its frame, and had started to leak. Since this was right over the foot of our bed, this was a priority. The lens was removed, cleaned up, and reglued in place with silicon.

Reglued, and leak free.

Next on the Rule One list was the overhead hatch in the saloon. This was replaced when we had major repairs made in this area two years ago. We have been happy with the style and function of the hatch, except in severe conditions the gasket leaked. Not good. See Rule One above.

We contacted Vetus, the manufacturer. As you might expect their first response to a warrantee inquiry was to claim that the installation was faulty. Rather than try to argue out that right off the bat, we figured we’d replace the gasket for a few dollars. We got the part number for the replacement gasket, and ordered it in.

Hmmm… the new gasket looks NOTHING like the original! The factory gasket was solid rubber with a shape molded to match the frame. It was held in place with a arrow shaped extension that fit into a matching groove in the frame. The new gasket is a round, hollow, stick down gasket. It looks like a generic replacement gasket.

After considering our options, I decided that we would try the new gasket. We’d surely be no worse off than we started, even if it leaked a bit. It took quite a bit of fussing to get it fit into the hatch frame, but it did go in. A test after the install with high pressure spray from the hose showed: NO LEAKS! Success! Hopefully it stays that way for a while.

Finally, we had two screws (from the 200+) that we installed as part of our window project that dripped a bit. We got those fixed up as well.

Now we charge on to other things, major and minor…

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