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Old 22-02-2013, 04:57   #1
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Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

I've been a reader of Panbo for years and found it to be a great site to get a birds eye view of developments in marine electronics. I'm not *in the market* for anything, as my stuff is still working fine and the B&G Hornet and Hecta which came with the boat has been working for 28 yrs now... and that makes it very old!

Over the years I've added to the basic equipment the mfg installed, changed VHF, went through Loran, to GPS, added radar and finally arrived at a MFD with radar, gps, chartplotter and AIS class C (receive only). I removed the weather fax and rarely use the SSC except on offshore passages.

Replacement is made for one of two reasons... a product fails (rarely for me) or a new development which merits the replacement or upgrade.

Interconnectivity seemed to surface as NMEA 183 and has now moved on to NMEA2000 or N2K... with some products working with both standards.

These days when I read PANBO, my source for what's the latest and greatest, the sheer amount of new marine electronics being brought to market is coming at a frightening pace I simply can't keep up with it and barely understand the technology. This stuff is not inexpensive either and one can hardly renew the equipment each year or two to stay current with the latest and greatest. And even doing a new install promises to be outdated by the time you've mastered all the new features, and vacuumed the sawdust from the cabin sole.

And now we have mobile devices which perform marine navigation (and entertainment) functions. Stand alone or integrated... this offers bewildering array of choices and options.

Many manufacturers seem to drop support of their older equipment which forces us to upgrade.

I am curious to read about other boaters experiences with marine electronics... long term owners.. smaller boats, larger ones, sail and power. When do you upgrade? How do you decide? What has been your experience? How long did this search take? How long and complex was the install? Are you pleased with the results? Do you have recommendations for those facing the need to upgrade?
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Old 22-02-2013, 05:55   #2
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

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Replacement is made for one of two reasons... a product fails (rarely for me) or a new development which merits the replacement or upgrade.

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Originally Posted by defjef View Post
And even doing a new install promises to be outdated by the time you've mastered all the new features, and vacuumed the sawdust from the cabin sole.
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Many manufacturers seem to drop support of their older equipment which forces us to upgrade.
I hear ya. Our Raymarine C Series "classic", ST60 components, and analog radome are working fine. Would I love a full electronics upgrade? Heck yeah! The price of some new systems is definitely high but doable for us when considering the extra features and compatabilities/integrations with iPads, etc. But with new product lines coming out yearly or faster, who wants to bite the bullet on the chance that a new "must have" technology will come out in 6 months? That, coupled with the fact that vendors like Raymarine drop customer support of their "old" systems as soon as a new one is online, causes potential customers like us to stand on the sideline.

In short, they either need to provide better support for "legacy" systems, or quit being so damn innovative!

Frank
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Old 22-02-2013, 06:19   #3
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

I hear ya Frank...

We clearly have passed into the era of continual upgrade and renewal. The N2K network does seem to tease us with the notion that we can pop the latest and greatest into the network... but yes... it's all very spendy and I doubt the interoperability is there as claimed. But who knows? It seems you have to be a guinea pig and find out on your own.

The dropping of support of older models is quite troubling because they cycle of newproduct releases turns perfectly good equipment into what amounts to junk.

All this new gear is fine... if the cost in $ and install time were not so burdensome. I welcome the new AIS gear which is a real value added safety feature in the electronics offerings.

Of course with installs... there is the whole issue with cabinet dimensions... especially for those who mount the gear into bulkheads. There does seem to be some level of standardization for the cockpit repeaters, but the rest of the equipment seems to come with no standard cut out dimensions. So it's not only a matter of snaking wiring through the boat, but mounting to a panel with a cut out which likely no longer fits.

These mfgs really need to get together and standardize the cutout dimensions and so forth because this is yet another barrier to upgrading.

And how about some standardization of cabling and pin assignments?

Wouldn't these encourage more of us to bit the bullet and upgrade?
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Old 22-02-2013, 06:33   #4
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I've had our boat for 5 years now. It was 8 years old when we bought it and it was equipped with a full compliment of Nexus Instruments and chart plotter, Furuno radar, gps, and a newer Garmen chart plotter.

1st as we were heading offshore I upgrading to an MFD and decided on a Lowrance HDS 8 mounted near the helm. The speed sender was no longer working so I replaced it with a tri-ducer, upgraded the Nexus Server and added a new multi display Nexus instrument. I added an ICOM AIS receiver connected directly to the MFD and to my laptop running Open CPN. I added an Iridium sat phone connected to my laptop through a docking station and external antenna for weather through e-mail. Lastly I added an ICOM HF receiver as a backup for weather.

2nd, after a Pacific crossing I opted to replace the radar with a Lowrance BR24 to reduce power consumption and have radar at the helm. I added an Actisense nmea183 to 2000 converter to get heading data to the MFD for radar chart overlay. I also replaced my VHF with a SH GX2000 and bought a SH GPS equipped handheld GPS as a MOB device. I had my wind transducer repaired but have had to disassemble it a couple of times to lubricate the bearings. The HDS MFD's card ader failed but was promptly replaced under warranty.

3rd, after threading my way through traffic in Hong Kong, I decided to replace the ICOM AIS with a Digital Yachts AIS transponder. I needed to add a second VHF antenna but it came with it's own GPS antenna. I also replaced the Nexus flux gate compass which I thought was failing but it turned out it was a faulty connection. The BR24 radome flooded and it was upgraded to a 4G unit at no cost other than shipping (to Palau).

4th, as two of my older Nexus displays were failing I purchased a Raymarine i70 display which will be driven by the nmea 2000 network.

Now I'm in the market for a nmea to wifi converter so that I can get instrument data on my phone or ipad but that can wait for the right product to come along.
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Old 22-02-2013, 06:44   #5
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

Michael,

WOW... you are keeping current.. pun intended.... What has the approximate cost of these upgrades? You've done the work yourself?
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Old 22-02-2013, 06:54   #6
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For those of us not willing to upgrade instruments but wanting connectivity between devices there are devices like the ShipModul mini plex that can "translate" Ray to NMEA and even host PCs or iPads.

I haven't bought it yet, but my research so far is making me lean that way

Bill
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Old 22-02-2013, 07:03   #7
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

We seem to be approaching a place in the market choices which leaves most with only the option to step into the future of connectivity between instruments.

Wouldn't a wireless network make sense with 12v units perhaps with battery internal battery back up? Can we look forward to a wireless future?
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Old 22-02-2013, 07:11   #8
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

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Originally Posted by defjef View Post
I am curious to read about other boaters experiences with marine electronics... long term owners.. smaller boats, larger ones, sail and power. When do you upgrade? How do you decide? What has been your experience? How long did this search take? How long and complex was the install? Are you pleased with the results? Do you have recommendations for those facing the need to upgrade?
I'm no luddite but, I also don't jump on the latest technology at the boat shows either. Sometimes the technology leaves me as was the case with my Kings 8001 Loran unit. But, even after the Coast Guard shutdown the Loran transmitters I am still trying to find a use for it:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: INSTRUMENTATION PROJECT PART ONE: Plan A
Even if it was only the weatherproof case. That said I will also remove technology that is not working out as I expected it too:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: INSTRUMENTATION PROJECT PART TWO: Rethinking the Paktrakr
I also stopped using a wind speed unit on top of the mast after having to get it repaired every couple of years. Now I pretty much rely on my cheek and feeling when it's time to reef.
Sometimes I will build what I need as with the above electric propulsion instrumentation project. I'm also thinking about building a wind vane unit that will fit my boat the way I want it too.
My goal is always Keep It Simple Sailor and not always depending on technology exclusively. As Greg Brown sings:

"It's a drifting time, people fascinated with screens,
No idea what's on the other side."

Greg Brown - Billy From The Hills - YouTube
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Old 22-02-2013, 07:28   #9
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

On our boat all the electronics we got with her are still here. 10 years of life out of used electronics, not bad at all. All new electronics performs without a cough.

The sole exception is our NASA SSB receiver that stopped half way into a passage and we got fixed up by a technician in Martinique, with some help from a hair dryer.

Now I also work for other owners and this often involves fixing, replacing or integrating systems. Again, no issues, when we do things on our own.

The not so noble exceptions from the above:
- equipment installed by the so called 'authorized dealers' some of which were found but a bunch of under-trained ignorants,
- equipment not run-in (not configured, or not installed) properly - wrong data input, no calibration, etc..

So, in my experience, electronics are mostly decent quality and nearly always straightforward to set up and run. Read the installation manual and follow the instructions therein and you are fine, most of the time.

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Old 22-02-2013, 08:31   #10
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

I replace existing technology when it breaks. I adopt new technology when I am firmly convinced that it will add a safety or convenience factor that is worth the cost. I don't EVER add new technology, or replace existing, just because something newer is available.

(And, yes, I still have a plain, old cell phone that's not much good for anything but phone calls, a television that doesn't "do" HD, and a home PC with only a single-core CPU. They all serve my purposes more than adequately.)
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Old 22-02-2013, 09:19   #11
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I fully agree with denvered01, like in many other cases one must know when to say when. How much do I need to sail safely and enjoy reasonably comfortable life aboard.
On my boat we have the usual suite of sailing electronics minus the speed transducer which constantly got calcified/broken/out of calibration. The only new equipment added was AIS class C and a WiFi antenna connected to a router inside the boat. Yes it will be nice to see all the data on the IPad screen and have the engine information and tank levels right next to it, but do I really need it?
My suggestion is to decide what you really need and buy/install it. Try to get the most out of what you buy (go for multi function display and preferably colored ones).
The main chart plotting system on my boat is open CPN I have an IPad which runs InavX as backup, and I found an app (free) which allows me to connect the IPad to the PC and get the AIS info as well. For me that's where I draw the line. I let the new technologies/gadgetry mature first before I even think about looking into it.
Happy sailing all.
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Old 22-02-2013, 09:32   #12
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

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I replace existing technology when it breaks. I adopt new technology when I am firmly convinced that it will add a safety or convenience factor that is worth the cost. I don't EVER add new technology, or replace existing, just because something newer is available.

(And, yes, I still have a plain, old cell phone that's not much good for anything but phone calls, a television that doesn't "do" HD, and a home PC with only a single-core CPU. They all serve my purposes more than adequately.)
I agree entirely. Unfortunately, however, at least with Garmin, once a device is declared "obsolete" one is screwed in terms of repairs or updates in very short order. E.g. our chart plotters are now both "obsolete" and one cannot get charts for them current beyond 2008 or, in some cases, even unlock codes for older charts. To obtain updated charts, one is virtually force into buying replacement equipment which is not "backwards" compatable with other older gear and requires entirely new wiring/links. Very frustrating.

FWIW...
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Old 22-02-2013, 09:43   #13
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

The people who market marine electronics want you to think you need the latest and greatest advancements. Bull poop. You have to distinguish the difference between what you need and what you desire. Maybe except for AIS, there is nothing new over the past 15 years that you absolutely need, only desire.
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Old 22-02-2013, 09:48   #14
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

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with Garmin... our chart plotters are now both "obsolete" and one cannot get charts for them current beyond 2008 or, in some cases, even unlock codes for older charts.
Frankly, this pisses me off no end, as far as the current state of the market in chartplotters. When, oh WHEN, will someone finally offer a quality chartplotter, with a good, daylight-readable screen, that uses the freely available charts published by NOAA, instead of ONLY working with their proprietary (and very expensive) charts? I would love to get in on the ground floor of such an enterprise, because I really think they would corner the market in no time flat, and make a boat-load of money.
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Old 22-02-2013, 11:08   #15
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Re: Drowning in New Marine Electronics Technology

jef, welcome to the world of "honorary Scotsman".

If it still works, or can be made to work, and a new one doesn't offer me some compelling new reason to buy it? I'll just stick with the old stuff, thank you. You know, where I've already learned the menus or quirks, and my fingers know where and how to poke the buttons, in the dark.

"New and improved" often means the new half gallon of orange juice, which contains only 56 ounces. Or the new pound of coffee, at 11 ounces. Electronics? OK, they can't shrink the ounces but some of the stuff sourced from the cheapest supplier gets outright scary. Like those Icom radios with the mic cords crumbling because someone in a plastic factory wasn't paying attention.

Nah. If it works, I'll keep it. Same as my favorite socks.<G>
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