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Old 15-06-2016, 05:40   #1
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Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

For the last 20 years I have been day sailing on a 19' sailboat. My last cruising boat was a 28' Hunter. For navigation I used a chart, parallel ruler, dividers and binoculars. Loran was an exciting new development that I could not afford. My autopilot was made of surgical tubing. I just bought a 2005 Hunter 33' sailboat. It has speed, depth and wind direction, compass and a handheld GPS. The last few weeks, I have had the good fortune to be able to accompany a couple of delivery captains on some long distance deliveries. I was amazed at how simple and easy navigation is with modern electronics and an autopilot. I am considering the Raymarine EV 100 for an autopilot for my new (to me) boat. I would like to eventually add a chart plotter, but I am confused with the array of electronics out there. Things I do not know: Does a chart plotter already have GPS? Can all chart plotters be linked to autopilots? And a million other questions I don't even know to ask! The last vessel I was on seemed to have the autopilot, GPS, AIS, depth sounder, wind speed and direction, and speed over ground all linked to the chart plotter display. I would like to eventually do some of that with my boat, so I want to buy equipment with the right capabilities. I realize the scope of what I want to know is more than can be accomplished in this forum. What I am hoping to get is information on sites, books or other information sources where I might learn what I need to know. And yes I will keep the parallel ruler, charts, etc. One thing the delivery boat skippers pounded into my brain was the need for a belts and suspenders approach to navigation. They demanded constant referencing back to paper charts, maintenance of a log, etc. As one skipper put it "One day your electronics will die on you. Probably at the worst possible moment. You better know exactly where you are on a chart and how to use it to get to where you need to go." Would appreciate any help you members could give. I know there is a wealth of information on this site!
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Old 15-06-2016, 05:57   #2
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Jack.
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Old 15-06-2016, 06:35   #3
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Hi Jack (a greeting one should never used when meeting a friend at the airport) and welcome to the forum.

Yes new electronics can be daunting and can be further confused by loose usage of the terminology. Here's a few things that may help.

1. Chartplotter. This generally means a display that shows the chart AND your position on the chart which means, yes a GPS is built in.

Some chart plotters will only be a chart plotter but others will be part of a system and called an:

2. MFD. Multi Function Display, which means you can connect all kinds of other stuff to it and see it all on the same screen. This usually means depth, speed, wind, radar, AIS, etc. Some will also interface with an autopilot.

3. Interfacing. The two extremes:
- All separate, stand alone devices. You can buy almost all of the boat electronics and separate, unconnected devices. Chart plotter, radar, speed, depth, autopilot, AIS.
- Totally integrated. You can buy one or more MFDs (one at the helm, one below at the nav table is common) and lead all the data to the MFD. So you can have everything working together.

Both options offer advantages and disadvantages. Standalone obviously offers more redundancy and generally easier to install and set up. Integrated gives a lot of control and options for programming but comes at a cost ($, complexity, learning curve).

You can start with a basic MFD/chartplotter and add options as requirements, time and budget allow.
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Old 15-06-2016, 06:56   #4
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Practical options for sailboat electronics are B&G, Raymarine, Garmin and Furuno.

We are currently replacing all our instrumentation with B&G. Realistically it was a shortlist between B&G and Raymarine. We chose B&G primarily because they offer an integrated forward scan sonar. We are cruisers not racers or day sailors. Otherwise either would suffice.

Garmin are more focussed on fishing and Furuno have a great reputation but are more aligned with the commercial sector and are priced accordingly.

We are replacing what was best of breed 12 years ago but had no integration, ludicrously small screens, horrible user interfaces, high power consumption and distributed all over the boat.

We are installing chartplotter, 4G radar, forward scan sonar, AIS, DSC VHF, all sensors like GPS, gyro, diagnostics and wifi access for non safety critical access while not underway. We have 5 levels of redundancy down to paper charts and celestial navigation.

The replacement B&G system has a much better UI, is integrated, consumes much less power. It also allows for more looking around and using our mark one eyeballs. This is a key point. These integrated systems are proven in the maritime and aerospace environments to confuse operators who depend fully on them. They are still AIDS to navigation.

We have also built a new custom helm because the space claim for the human machine interfaces are larger than previous generations of these systems.

The only system we aren't replacing yet is the autopilot. Eventually we'll add an integrated autopilot. There have been numerous issues on forums relating to these systems. Hence our caution.

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Old 15-06-2016, 09:22   #5
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

This is a good problem to have, because you are clearly familiar with traditional pilotage and can bring that to bear in how you make use of even basic electronic chart plotting displays.

While your sailing ambitions play a role (do you wish to sail to places you haven't been, in marginal conditions, and for which you have charts both paper and electronic, or do you want to sail in familiar waters?), there's nothing wrong with baby steps: a paper chart and a handheld GPS giving lat/lon is fine. A chartbook is fine, too, although one notated with NOTMAR info about new breakwater construction or depth notices is better. But of course, the chart plotter's display is only as current as the day it was compiled.

I would avoid expense and complication. I would incorporate a cheap, easily read small plotter that could take two inputs: depth and AIS and display them as overlays. If you see a 8 foot depth over a bank, but your properly offset sounder reports six, you've learned something useful early. Could be tidal, could be shoaling, could be dumped debris, could be crappy inputting at the plotter factory that day, but you've been alerted by the mismatch, arguably faster than you could with a paper chart. Most plotters can create alarms for this sort of thing; same with AIS "close approaches".

The fad for new features continues apace, but you can get last year's plotters at a discount in many cases. You'll have to learn which chart package (even the free, included ones) are best for your area and type of sailing, and that may dictate your choice. The interface of "old school knobs" versus "soft buttons" will also play a role, as will your eyesight. Crew on more up-to-date boats and see what you like. There's reams of choice, but it's a frill that's nice to have, like A/C in a Canadian car: to the schooled paper chart sailor, it's not strictly necessary.
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Old 15-06-2016, 09:29   #6
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

The thing with electronic instruments is they cannot be trusted all of the time. I've had my AIS show me to be on the wrong side of an island in the Baja area. I've had my Navionics charts show islands to be a few miles from where they really are. Even my depth sounder sometimes gives a misleading
reading. Learning when to trust instruments takes some experience.
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Old 15-06-2016, 09:30   #7
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

I was in the process of upgrading my Garmin when a friend suggested I consider just using Navionics on a tablet. My initial thought was how can a $600-700 solution compete with a $2000-3000 solution.
in addition..the battery is self contained...I can have all my other sailing software on hand.
it's not an integrated solution...but the install is trivial. Please...what am I missing? Unless I get some help here...I'm at serious risk at saving money and stopping my local marine store of meeting their quarterly revenue!!! :-)
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Old 15-06-2016, 10:05   #8
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Whatever brand you choose (mine is Raymarine), stick with one brand. The various components plug together, talk to one another without too much headache; you have one phone number to call to solve problems. And the tech guy can't blame the problem on the other guy's hardware.

I would never rely on a tablet alone for navigation. They're great, I use one for 'checking in' When I'm below decks. But, they are not waterproof, not designed for a marine environment, can't be seen in the bright daylight, they have limited battery life (10 hours?) and need recharging . A standalone system is hooked into the ship's power system, and as long as the boat has power, your system has power . But as of mentioned above, keep that paper chart nearby.

Most important, for me, is that a navigation system has sensors that plug in: depth, wind, radar, weather, speed, tempature, AIS, autopilot, and can show all of them on your screen. They offer night vision cameras, engine sensors, danger alarms, and more (yeah $$$, and I don't have any of that stuff).

Happy sailing
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Old 15-06-2016, 11:08   #9
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rough Magic View Post
Whatever brand you choose (mine is Raymarine), stick with one brand. The various components plug together, talk to one another without too much headache; you have one phone number to call to solve problems. And the tech guy can't blame the problem on the other guy's hardware.

I would never rely on a tablet alone for navigation. They're great, I use one for 'checking in' When I'm below decks. But, they are not waterproof, not designed for a marine environment, can't be seen in the bright daylight, they have limited battery life (10 hours?) and need recharging . A standalone system is hooked into the ship's power system, and as long as the boat has power, your system has power . But as of mentioned above, keep that paper chart nearby.

Most important, for me, is that a navigation system has sensors that plug in: depth, wind, radar, weather, speed, tempature, AIS, autopilot, and can show all of them on your screen. They offer night vision cameras, engine sensors, danger alarms, and more (yeah $$$, and I don't have any of that stuff).

Happy sailing
I second all the text above!!!
Anyway - in the end money is important. If you have limited funds I would suggest to start with one MFD/chartplotter & VHF/DSC from one of either Raymarine/B&G or Garmin (Furuno is great but the prices are too high in my opinion). Basic sensors are wind and depth/speed (modern sensors combine speed & depth).
Next come Autopilot then if you sail at night: AIS.
Later radar and all of 'nice to have' gadgets like temp. camera, Sirius weather radio etc.
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Old 15-06-2016, 11:53   #10
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

I endorse all the above but if you really want to ease in slowly and cheaply can I suggest using a smart phone (android or iphone) and download an app with charts like navionics which costs just a few ten's of dollars. That will give you all the charting functions you need. NB. This doesn't give you sonar of course only the chart depths.

Then upgrade to a fixed system with a multifunction plotter that connects to all the other whizz bang functions. Expect this to run into thousands of dollars.

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Old 15-06-2016, 12:35   #11
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

I like to keep it basic. When I cannot see the bottom, I want an echosounder. I like ST40 best - big figures easy to read from the helm.

A gps is nice but not always required. My fave is Gar 72/76 unit (now 72H or 73). Lost one, one died, buying another one when going sailing next.

I like plotters on big boats where it can be a long walk from the helm to the main nav area, but in small boats I never use plotters unless it is pitch black, I see nothing and I have to move the boat to another anchorage. Then I go with a netbook or now more often with a tablet.

Ah, yes, I think a DSC VHF is nearly an obligatory piece. There are DSC handhelds now too so it is easy to sort out on any boat.

b.
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Old 15-06-2016, 12:50   #12
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

Quote:
Originally Posted by jackjb53 View Post
For the last 20 years I have been day sailing on a 19' sailboat. My last cruising boat was a 28' Hunter. For navigation I used a chart, parallel ruler, dividers and binoculars. Loran was an exciting new development that I could not afford. My autopilot was made of surgical tubing. I just bought a 2005 Hunter 33' sailboat. It has speed, depth and wind direction, compass and a handheld GPS. The last few weeks, I have had the good fortune to be able to accompany a couple of delivery captains on some long distance deliveries. I was amazed at how simple and easy navigation is with modern electronics and an autopilot. I am considering the Raymarine EV 100 for an autopilot for my new (to me) boat. I would like to eventually add a chart plotter, but I am confused with the array of electronics out there. Things I do not know: Does a chart plotter already have GPS? Can all chart plotters be linked to autopilots? And a million other questions I don't even know to ask! The last vessel I was on seemed to have the autopilot, GPS, AIS, depth sounder, wind speed and direction, and speed over ground all linked to the chart plotter display. I would like to eventually do some of that with my boat, so I want to buy equipment with the right capabilities. I realize the scope of what I want to know is more than can be accomplished in this forum. What I am hoping to get is information on sites, books or other information sources where I might learn what I need to know. And yes I will keep the parallel ruler, charts, etc. One thing the delivery boat skippers pounded into my brain was the need for a belts and suspenders approach to navigation. They demanded constant referencing back to paper charts, maintenance of a log, etc. As one skipper put it "One day your electronics will die on you. Probably at the worst possible moment. You better know exactly where you are on a chart and how to use it to get to where you need to go." Would appreciate any help you members could give. I know there is a wealth of information on this site!
I'm a strong proponent of Raymarine (and have since become a Raymarine Dealer and Certified Installer).

IMHO, Raymarine has the best auto pilot solutions. Their MFDs and instrumentation are easy to use, and yet highly programmable and customizable.

For your boat, and EV100 wheel pilot will be economical and work great. (It will make some noise in operation, which if that is an issue, you could switch to a linear drive below deck, at a much higher cost.)

For an MFD, I would recommend an e or es series (touch screen and keypad control), and a 7" screen.

If you do not require sonar (for bottom contour and weed display), I would recommend the es7. If you do require sonar, the E7D.

I don't recommend A series (touch screen only) especially for sailboats. (Touch screens are awesome under calm conditions in the cabin, not so great when the boat is pitching and its raining.)

I assume the depth speed and wind are ST60+ series. There is some value in integrating the wind system with the plotter and autohelm. Can be done now or later. Requires a module and a few wires / connectors.
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Old 15-06-2016, 14:04   #13
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

the area I sail is well covered with electronic charts which I use with a laptop, and a simple plotter. However paper charts provide the essential big picture which I use with a Yeoman Plotter. Linked to a handheld GPS it gives a good position on a paper chart and at minimal cost. Regardless of usefulness and convenience of all other systems, I would not want to sail without. If you are familiar with navigating on paper charts, it is a valuable transition to the more integrated systems.
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Old 15-06-2016, 17:26   #14
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

33ft boat / generic name brand sonar (waterproof) / larger screen size are easier on the eye but harder on the pocket


generic name brand plotter (waterproof) / larger screen size /same as above if possible same brand ( matching instruments)


you already have chart skills / steer and drift navigation for backup


your vessel may have a transducer moulded to the hull for the sonar / if not you will need to fit one ( transducer can have speed , temperature ,forward scanning capabilities) depending on the amount of cash you want to spend


we have small screen matching electronics (due to small size of boat) a wind speed gauge bought from chicago on ebay meant for hurricane chasers
a plastic hall effect spinner on the backstay , a length of tinned bell wire
attached to a pushbike catseye speedo reads in mph has an accurate clock has
survived three cyclones (near misses thankfully) and still working beautifully


if you read through brochures carefully to work out integration of electronics can
save you a lot of work later on


most tinnies these days have chart plotter with built in gps / split screen sonar
with transom skimmer transducer and all sorts of bells and whistles in the one unit
works well for tinnies ( small space) one mistake /batteries short / miscue with the oars etc and you loose all your instruments. seperate instruments are safer


our backup system is open cpn on laptop with built in gps / we print charts in A4
size from the plotter / we have AIS and we use the open cpn to view the AIS targets / possibly not the safest system if the laptop is not on to save power the
AIS is still giving our position out / we close the lid and the machine goes into standby / to check for shipping open the laptop lid /the machine boots up and upgrades the targets / works alright for us


vhf radios are available with AIS receivers and DSC built in another space saving option / but the same problem as above / if the radio fails you loose all 3 instruments (comes down to space and cost of equipment)


80nm south east of cape leuiwin on a heading for kangaroo island sa we were hit by lightning effectively wiping out you beaut electronics including nav lights and radios / we use backup system handheld gps /tilly lantern (kerosene) for light and torches / we detoured into streaky bay south australia purchased a basic gme vhf / jury rigged a gps to get the plotter going / soldered some globes to wires to get the nav lights going continued on to port lincoln for some more minor repairs and replace the led nav lights / continued on to north haven yacht club south australia and with help from that club we were able to slip the boat and safely repair lightning damage (some roves blown through the hull /the bobstay took most of the discharge to water) then continued on a little bit wiser a lot poorer with all sorts of backup systems on our backup systems and met a good group of yachting people


excuse getting off the track a bit / a good example of what can happen / it's hard to prepare for everything


good luck with your new boat
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Old 15-06-2016, 17:26   #15
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Re: Need advice on nav electronics...my last chart plotter was a parallel ruler

I won't add much as most of the above is enough to go make a decision.

BUT, Welcome to CF

The only thing I would disagree with is whether GPS is a priority. In my opinion it is. For a start, your DSC is pretty useless if your radio has no idea where you are. And your chart plotter won't know where you are either without GPS. But as others have said, most MFD now have a built in GPS. They don't work fantastic in a steel boat though (which is what mine is). Though I've noticed my new Raymarine e9 worked with it's inbuilt gps quite well before I put an external gps arieal on it.

And I think in this day and age the claim that 'electronic' navigation is unreliable is not 100% true. It's not going to suddenly shut down and leave you blind. BUT, it's very true that the accuracy of charts in plotters are at times quite inaccurate, so I'd still recommend a good paper chart when in areas your not familiar with. Even in this 'Western' neck of the woods, boats are still running aground when blindly following their chart plotter. Usually in the dark.
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