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Old 06-02-2011, 21:11   #1
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Integrated System Advice

While working on the cat design I have decided to do most things with a one brand, integrated approach in terms of any systems rather than a mix and match approach. So regarding the instruments/GPS/Radar/etc I feel that the Raymarine Seatalk(ng) system seems to be modular enough and from what I read seem (from feedback on the net) to be relatively ok and robust. So I have come home to this forum to check this finding (Raymarine modular systems are ok) with those who actually use them and/or other similar modular integrated systems.

So I would love to hear if you believe that there is either somethign fundementally wrong with purchasing the Raymarine system or if you can recommend an altermnative intergates modular system that offers better value (for money) and (for functionality).

Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-02-2011, 21:55   #2
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I suspect this will be a popular thread - lots of different views around.

I question your conclusion that you should stay with one brand. Putting together a system today I would argue strongly for building up from NMEA200-compatible modules, wherever they came from. One of the SeaTalk variants is NMEA2000, but does not use the recommended DeviceNet connectors. Simnet (from Simrad) is also NMEA2000 compliant but again with proprietary connectors. These different interfaces can easily be interconnected with an appropriate adapter cable.

There are many good reasons for keeping an open mind on this: choice, cost, and access to best-of-breed products to begin with. Price out black box modules, like AIS, GPS and electronic compasses, and you will generally find better products at lower prices from other than Raymarine (or other big names). (Disclaimer: AIS still requires NMEA0183)

I chose the Furuno MFD8 as my GPS/chartplotter/radar display (and scanner); it has a standard DeviceNet connector. Raymarine would be another good choice. In fact most of the current multi-function displays will do just fine. I bought a Simrad AIS (AI50) because it fit my requirements at that time, although today I would probably just buy a Class B AIS black box. My main GPS is a $65 USGlobalSat NMEA0183 receiver. The autopilot is by Raymarine, the knotmeter (and the future depth sounder) by Airmar, the compass and network wiring by Maretron, a USB interface by Actisense (MUCH cheaper than marine models), and in the future a wind instrument from either Airmar or Maretron. If I wish I can buy an interface for my new Volvo (from Volvo) and also have access to the engine information.

So why do you want to paint yourself into a corner with a single supplier?
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Old 06-02-2011, 22:08   #3
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I should have added that all of the information is available on the single Furuno MFD and my USB-attached computer. The AIS has its own display, but as noted I would skip this in the future. The autopilot has its own display/controller, but is fully integrated with the other instruments. In fact the autopilot is using the superior solid state compass from Maretron rather than the gyro fluxgate compass included in the package.
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Old 07-02-2011, 18:21   #4
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AIS still requires NMEA0183
not so Rays ais500 is fully seatalkng(nmea2K ) compatible and works as such with teh E and C-wide MFDs.

I would not agree with your assesment of the "openness" NMEA2K products. too many sensors need their own manufactuers displays to set them up. see Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog for the many trials and tribulation of hetrogenous 2K networks. Its too early in the development cycle.

I;d stay with Ray,

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Old 07-02-2011, 18:44   #5
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excellent thread

Thansk for the input...
I was hopign that the thread would gather opinions and that is great. Many thnaks all...keep them coming...
Mick
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Old 07-02-2011, 19:38   #6
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I haven't been down this road yet, but I've been looking into it. I always try to avoid getting locked into a proprietary network like Raymarine. They'd like to get you committed with a jucy entry level system and then your stuck buying everything else from them in the long run and pay more for less.

When the time comes I will go with an open industry standard like NMEA 2000 and Furuno.

The fact that West Marine pushes Raymarine and not Furuno is your first clue. Commercial boats tend to go with Furuno for good reason.
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Old 07-02-2011, 21:04   #7
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I slightly miswrote about AIS and NMEA2000: the necessary PGNs for AIS Class B were published (finalized) a year and a half ago and some, but not all, N2K AIS and MFD devices have been updated to support them. A lot of folks are stuck with using NMEA0183 because one side or the other doesn't support N2K AIS PGNs fully. I was trying to note a potential pitfall.

It is relevant that there are such pitfalls whenever products from multiple vendors are integrated. Proper research needs to be done before assembling any modern system. But I think there is a lot of scaremongering going on, not the least on Panbo's site. Please note that the folks that are encountering difficulties are assembling networks with dozens of sensors and multiple displays (often 30 or more nodes), and even then they usually succeed in getting them working after some effort. Looking at the comments on Panbo a lot of people have working N2K systems, and there were several comments about Maretron and Furuno having robust N2K support (which mirrors my experience). There are also comments about Raymarine being very helpful in updating firmware to solve some problems with some of their products - all of the major brands are committed to making this work. It is still early in the N2K evolution but I think now is an excellent time to jump in. BTW most depth sensors, and many speed sensors, are OEMed from Airmar and can often be sourced directly.

I remain convinced that a modest investment in research will yield a more capable and less expensive system than by sticking with one brand for the entire system. If you want a solid-state wind system then your choices are Maretron and Airmar (also sold by Furuno); otherwise you can use the flimsy spinning cups. The $65 GPS I use is more capable than any "marine" GPS I have used (and they cost $200+). I have an Airmar paddlewheel knotmeter that directly connects to N2K; unfortunately their ultrasonic speed sensor isn't N2K (yet). I am currently using a Raymarine autopilot but will probably switch to Navico because it is much less expensive and has the same torque - I don't feel at all limited to one brand because I know any can be integrated with N2K.

That said, going with one brand, and particularly one like Raymarine with a wide selection of modules, isn't a bad choice as long as you can get the capability you need in that way. It should reduce any concerns about interoperability. Just count on paying more and not always having the best-of-breed product.
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Old 07-02-2011, 21:46   #8
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I think the complexity of the system and the sailor's capabilities in solving connection problems comes into play here. Are you confident about getting things working out of the box, or are you going to become best friends with Tech Support?

That said, I reject the trend toward system integration somewhat because I dislike single points of failure. Basically, I want a separate depth sounder, an autopilot divorced from the GPS (which I consider an actual hazard), a GPS that feeds to PC-based navigation, and a stand-alone RADAR that can output to a PC or other monitor and can integrate a separate AIS. The AIS can display as an overlay on the PC or can be read alone or in conjunction with a Class D VHF.

I like the Maretron and Airmar gear, but it's maybe beyond my needs.

Now, two concepts rule me here that most folks don't have. One, the sailing helm is on the aft deck. A fluxgate compass and a simple plotter with speed, lat/lon and basic, non-chart info can be displayed here. As we have a pilothouse, not only do I have helm room for all this crap, I can put the RADAR display on a drop-down armature. It's like the helm of a fishing boat.

Were I equipping a sub-40 foot aft cockpit sloop, I would in fact have a different set of priorities, but I would still want a means to monitor all those outputs on a PC at the nav station...and that can get tricky.
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Old 08-02-2011, 02:27   #9
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Alchemy - I agree with your points. I would point out that I had no issues with setting up my system in terms of hardware problems. Calibrating the compass took some computer savvy which might be beyond some but I wouldn't consider it a big issue. If electronics and computers are not your thing, and you don't have a friend who can help you, then this would be a stretch for many.

I agree with the desire to keep independent instruments. The trade-off is with the value of integration. Sharing information increases the capability of most modules. These networks are isolated so I'm not worried about a problem somewhere on the network taking out everything else (lightning excepted). I have found the GPS to autopilot connection useful but agree that it is also a potential disaster if not used with great caution. As for redundancy, I try to put in as much as possible. My computer can be used with its own GPS and OpenCPN and nothing else, or I can connect it to the N2K bus and 0183 inputs. All of my communications gear shares another GPS and is isolated from all other instruments, the MFD has a dedicated GPS, and the AIS has its own GPS and display with crude world chart. Barring a problem with the GPS system itself I feel I am pretty well covered - but of course I have paper charts, trailing log, swung compass, sextant, etc. I could buy MaxSea to display radar on the computer as a backup to the MFD - too low on the list for now. BTW I don't see the open source software as sufficient to use a PC as a proper 2nd station yet, although it covers a lot and is being actively developed.

My little boat is too small for multiple stations, and I have few sensors compared to the folks on the Panbo site. Personally I would feel comfortable assembling a two station solution with the basic sensors; it would be a substantial increase in complexity however. Tackling a larger system than that still requires substantial knowledge and trouble-shooting ability.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:22   #10
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Pointless.

As long as the components match the same network (say NMEA2k) you can mix and combine and get the best features of any brand.

To me, sticking with one make is a no-no. You will end up with the best radar and the worst wind instrument or the other way round. And you will spend big bucks on components that are crap too.

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Old 08-02-2011, 07:06   #11
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I went through the same process when doing my refit. I replaced all the ancient electronics with new equipment and searched all the available brands to find the most bang for the buck, and overall durability.
" recommend an altermnative intergates modular system that offers better value (for money) and (for functionality"
During my years of commissioning new yachts I have found Simrad to be consistantly ahead of the curve in R&D and the best at trickle down technology pass through from their commercial equipment. Since Nacico bought them they have been merging a lot of components from Northstar and others. They have the best small radar out there, there auto pilot was always the best, and they have numerous add ons like XM Weather, and AIS so you can build a comprhensive system that all works plug and play with no adapters and interface cables. They also have cool interface abilities like running a video cable from my nav staion chart plotter to my salon 32" lcd tv to use it as another monitor. I can sit and eat lunch in the salon and watch my progress and the target data on the radar overlay on a 32" screen. Good luck whatever you choose, but the one brand theme saves a lot of hassel.
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Old 08-02-2011, 07:12   #12
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To me, sticking with one make is a no-no. You will end up with the best radar and the worst wind instrument or the other way round. And you will spend big bucks on components that are crap too.
I really dont think thats true, all the big 4 stuff is comparable in terms of performance and reliability. Ray is ahead in autopilots for the money in my opinion.

The fact is that is the system software that determines the value you get out of a network, Simrad NSE intregration with its autopilots for example, irrespective of Nmea2k , thats is always going to give you the best ummph for your money, ie similar manufacturers equipment, Equally Rays AIS500 and its integration say with C90W.

Its not really about hardware anymore. You need to evaluate the software integration not just the network.

BTW "The network is isolated" is not really the issue in Canbus, error packets are replicated accross the network an errrant node can cause quite a severve degradation on a canbus network, ( Certainly until a BUS_OFF event occurs).

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Old 08-02-2011, 07:25   #13
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I agree with Barnie to a point, but unless you have prior experience integrating NMEA2000 systems you will be frustrated by the incompatibility of connection systems between manufacturers. I doubt if transparent interconnectivity will ever exist, it didn't in NMEA0183, there was never a common color coding for the data wiring between brands and it won't happen with NMEA200, there will always be the need for some kind of adaptor or the need to splice cables.

The other issue will be customer support from manufacturers that will baulk at customers requesting technical support for troubleshooting systems that integrate multi-brand systems.




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Pointless.

As long as the components match the same network (say NMEA2k) you can mix and combine and get the best features of any brand.

To me, sticking with one make is a no-no. You will end up with the best radar and the worst wind instrument or the other way round. And you will spend big bucks on components that are crap too.

barnie
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:59   #14
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I really dont think thats true, all the big 4 stuff is comparable in terms of performance and reliability. Ray is ahead in autopilots for the money in my opinion.
OK, and as you can see in the post above, somebody else thinks Simrad is way ahead in radar.

I say pick up the best of each pack and make sure they talk the same language.

There is no one single best make around and IMHO much of what the big4 make can be gotten cheaper and will work seamlessly and flawlessly on NMEA.

BTW the big4 is probably the big6, or 8 or whatever. There is a lot of great equipment around, not just 4 brands.

If Ray / Simrad / Furuno will not talk to each other, they have a problem. Go for equipment that will share and link with everything. Garmin interfaces well and so does Standard Horizon, and so on and so forth.

Proprietary protocols are there to bind one to a make - after all, most owners cannot connect the simplest wiring so the plug'play is the only option for them anyway. But it is NOT the best way, only the easiest one. Being the easiest, it will also be the most expensive.

I have had big4 equipment onboard break down in a dramatic way - Ray instruments NOT watertight, Simrad interface buttons stuck, I have also had non-4big equipment perform great in the most demanding conditions.

To each they own, but if the owner is a bit technical, mixing and matching can be a very good option.

b.
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Old 08-02-2011, 13:00   #15
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BTW - the thread was INTEGRATED.

My bets: Furuno or Garmin.

;-)
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