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Old 13-02-2017, 18:53   #1
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Inherited Equipment & Options

Hello CF'ers,

I am trying to come up with a plan as how to best utilize the present electronics on my boat, most of which was installed when I purchased it. I do not have a chartplotter, but am thinking about OpenCPN. This list:

-Furuno GP32 GPS, NMEA 0183 capable
-Simrad AI50 Class B AIS, NMEA 0183 capable
-Tacktick (Raymarine) Racemaster in cockpit
-Airmar depth transducer wired to Tacktick Hull Transmitter
-Tacktick wind instrument
-ICOM M802 HF - wired to GP32 for GPS
-ICOM M324 VHF - wired to GP32 for GPS

There is also a broken paddle wheel transducer not currently wired to anything.

The only display in the cockpit presently is the Racemaster, with an integrated compass that displays heading, depth and with the recent addition of the Tacktick wind instrument apparent windspeed and angle. If I were to repair/replace the paddle wheel and hook it up to the hull transmitter the Racemaster would also calculate and display true wind and direction.

I have an idea of what I want to do, and there is a lot of good information out there, but the sheer volume of it boggles my mind a little. So I will write down my thoughts here in the hope of getting some feedback and perhaps suggestions.

The GPS and AIS units are a little old but work fine. Tacktick sells a wireless interface/bridge that would output the 0183 sentences for depth, heading, wind speed and angle. The AIS outputs NMEA 0183-HS.

So I was thinking to purchase the Tacktick NMEA wireless interface and a NMEA data multiplexer like the Actisense NDC-4 (which can handle the higher speed AIS data) and feed everything via USB to a nav computer. Does this sound like a worthy plan? Or would it make more sense to update the GPS and AIS with something more recent? Or something else?

With regards to the type of nav computer, I was just thinking of a laptop PC which I would also use for Sailmail. However, I just discovered openplotter and power is a consideration.

Thanks,
Jeff
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Old 14-02-2017, 04:24   #2
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Have you owned the boat long enough to use it with that electronics suite?

If not... I say do nothing, yet. Maybe add OpenCPN or use a tablet nav app, whatever... but otherwise, use the boat for a while with the existing set-up. After a while, your thoughts would begin to solidify...

Were it me, replacing the decent/working GPS and AIS units probably wouldn't be cost effective. They'll network, so I'm guessing they cause no particular deficiency issues. Ditto with the VHF, if it's a DSC-compatible unit. Or even if you decide to update, a back-up GPS and VHF can be very useful.

When we did an electronics refit, I did replace both existing radios... one of which was DSC-capable. The reason for that was so both (replacement) radios work exactly the same way... and that's turned out to be very useful for our situation... but at the same time, I can say the cost of that extra radio just happened to be chump-change in the grand scheme of that whole refit. Otherwise....

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Old 14-02-2017, 05:19   #3
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Real marine networked chart plotters are now so cheap, that there is hardly any understandable reason, not to use one, at least in the cockpit.

Basic functions which everyone except radical Luddites will want, to start with, are:

Wind
Depth
Boat Speed
Position
Chart display

To have this, you will only need to add a simple chart plotter (e.g. Zeus or Vulcan 7?) and a boat speed transducer. You will need an 0183 multiplexer to get multiple 0183 data sources into the plotter.

You might not care about getting the GPS data into the plotter, because the plotter will have a built-in GPS.

If any of these data sources outputs NMEA2000, don't be afraid of it -- it is dead simple to wire up a basic N2K network, and it can be worth it even if there are only two nodes on it. Will also be nice for future expansion.

I would add a secondary MFD like a B&G Triton or one of the Raymarine ones, so that you can see wind, boat speed, and depth all at the same time.

Then, at the nav table, use a laptop with OpenCPN. If you have room (and power) for a larger external monitor, this is very useful, because OpenCPN can actually replace paper charts for passage planning, if you have a good monitor. OpenCPN does not speak NMEA2000 -- it needs 0183 data. The chart plotter will multiplex all data going into it, and output it on 0183 -- and this is the best data feed for OpenCPN (via a simple 422 to USB adapter OR via WiFi if the plotter does it).

Powering the laptop should not be a big issue if you have a normal marine plotter in the cockpit. You will not be using it continuously.

You should get AIS data out of your AIS box into the plotter so that you can see AIS targets on the map display. An NMEA2000 connection will probably be best for that, but beware that there were some problems in the past with non-standard NMEA sentences for AIS. If that doesn't work, then you will need a high speed 0183 connection, and you will have to multiplex the low speed 0183 connections probably through the AIS unit, because the plotter will only have one 0183 input and it can't listen both high and low speed at the same time. So that means that you will have to connect the 0183 talker from the multiplexer to the 0183 listener port on the AI50. Then the AI50 talker port goes to the 0183 listener port on the plotter, which must be set to 38,500 baud. NMEA2000 will of course be simpler. if it works with this combination.


What I have, just for fun, on a much larger boat used for long distance ocean cruising:

2x 7" B&G Zeus plotters, one at the helm and one at the nav table
B&G 4G radar
Black box AIS connected into the network via N2K
Ultrasonic boat speed (Airmar CS4500 with Actisense box to convert data to 0183)
Airmar N2K depth
Echopilot forward-looking sonar
Maretron ultrasonic wind instrument
Backup Raymarine mechanical wind instrument
B&G autopilot
6x Triton MFD's (1x at helm; 4x at scuttle; 1x at nav table)
1x Maretron DSM250 MFD at nav table for engine, tank, temperature, weather displays
N2K fuel flow meters, temperature sensors, engine function harness.
Maretron ultrasonic tank level instrument for black water tank, N2K.
Nav table laptop with 23" 4K monitor and OpenCPN, both with hard wired 24v DC power supplies.
Sony waterproof tablet computer running GoFree to repeat plotters and allow control of radar etc., running also EDO Instruments
M604 VHF with command mike in cockpit
M802 SSB with Pactor III


Future upgrades:

Class A or the new improved Class B AIS
Replace Echopilot with networked FLS
Add additional Maretron DSM150 at helm for engine, temperature, tank, weather displays
Seatalk to 0183 converter for mechanical wind instrument
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Old 14-02-2017, 06:57   #4
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

I see this as a little like what boat should I buy, as in the most critical thing is budget.
So, how much you willing to spend, or is it more of a I want to spend the least possible but not sacrifice safety?
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Old 14-02-2017, 07:45   #5
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

I'm with Ranger 100%. Do nothing, just sail the boat. If you want a plotter, use Navionics on a a smartphone with a Garmin handheld backup. I absolute guarantee you that what you decide to do if you wait will be different, and better, than what you decide to do now.

FYI, the paddlewheel is only going to give you speed through the water, it's not used in any calculations of true/app wind speed. That is derived through GPS, and if you have it an electronic heading compass (not necessary, but makes reading more accurate).

Do you have a modem for your HF? No modem, no sailmail.

The longer you wait the better your solution will be; technology marches onward and downward in price. If it were me I would wait then rip the whole instrument package and replaced with N2K stuff, with chart plotter. The functionality of the current generation of wind/speed/deth instruments and displays, for example, just blows away what you have.

Another reason for waiting is that you'll learn a lot about what information you use in different circumstances...use cases if you will. That will bear on where you put instruments/displays and how you integrate them. For example, if you do longer passages and you have a wind vane/AP, you likely will want your instruments near the companionway as opposed to the helm so you can sit in shelter and still monitor what's going on.
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Old 14-02-2017, 08:07   #6
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Give the existing setup one season's use, unless it breaks and you absolutely must have it. You may find replacing the various pieces as they fail to be a better solution and the need for integration is largely...unneeded.

An example of this on my previous boat was a $99 Eagle monochrome fishfinder I installed. It was basic and I used it on the "big numerals" setting so I could view it from the tiller, but it worked fine, had shallow alarms that came in handy and did the job. What I also had aboard, however, was a 1973-era British "cathode-ring" sounder (yay, fathoms!) that never STOPPED working and, for the few times a year I would try it out, also remained accurate.

There's no harm and much benefit in keeping middle-aged gear, in my view, unless one's sailing is very ambitious. I have a corollary: never buy Year One of any gear: why should you be someone else's beta tester?
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Old 14-02-2017, 08:53   #7
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Two suggestions:

Level 1 would be to get a cheap chart plotter such as the Garmin DV44 for $199, integrate this with your AIS and the radio and you are in business. You do not need the multiplexer, you can run AIS at 4800 baud.

Level 2 would be to first select an autopilot, then the chart plotter then the rest. Figure $5K new, $2K used.

One correction to Suijin's post above. You need to have that padwheel working to get true wind from the apparent wind measured.
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Old 14-02-2017, 09:59   #8
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suijin View Post

FYI, the paddlewheel is only going to give you speed through the water, it's not used in any calculations of true/app wind speed. That is derived through GPS, and if you have it an electronic heading compass (not necessary, but makes reading more .

For good order - true wind is calculated with STW, not SOG. With SPG you get ground wind, not true wind.

You also need STW for sail trim - to understand performance.

It's really important data, and SOG is no substitute unless you're sailing on a lake with no currents.


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Old 14-02-2017, 14:09   #9
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

The Tacktick may not work well, depends on your mast height. Therefore, I think ranger 42c's advice is good. Do not change anything till you've used what you have for a while.

Ann
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Old 14-02-2017, 14:27   #10
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Wow, thanks for all the replies and suggestions!

I have been sailing with the current setup plus a GPS-enabled tablet I already had placed under the dodger running iNavx with the electronic charts for the local area (Sea of Cortez). Also have paper charts I refer to.

I realize I could do nothing and be fine using the current instruments standalone, setting waypoints in the Furuno GPS (like I do now) and using the display on the AIS. However, I would like to take advantage of the equipments' networking capabilities to bring everything together in one view under OpenCPN. I would like also to take advantage of wireless technology to remotely display everything in the cockpit (really, anywhere in the boat) without have to drill holes and run wires to a display (say, using a nav computer and VNC to a waterproofed tablet via Wifi?). I have tiller steering and therefore no instrument cluster one might expect on a wheel so I'm looking to mount a display under the dodger.

The only piece of gear I currently have that supports NMEA2000 is the Simrad AIS but I'm more inclined to use its 0183-HS functionality into a multiplexer that supports the higher speed given that the NMEA2000 implementation is dodgy given it's vintage (according to experiences I've read about) and that it was designed to work with the proprietary SimNet.

Ranger: Yes, have been. Done nothing yet except add the wind transmitter at the masthead. Considering replacing the (non-Class D) m304 VHF since it doesn't have the second receiver for DSC so you have to actually be monitoring channel 70 to receive a DSC call. Would keep the m304 as backup.

Alchemy: You're right; not looking to replace any of it now (except the paddlewheel). Rather, I'm looking to use what I have already to its maximum benefit. Integration is a personal preference.

Pizzazz: The specs I've read about the AI50 says it will only output at 38400 baud for 0183(HS). Got a reference that indicates otherwise?

Suijin: Yes, that is what I've been doing. Not in a terrible rush, but need to decide what I am going to do in about six months time. Already have modem and Sailmail working. I do have a windvane (Monitor) but no autopilot. Was thinking that I would hook up a tiller pilot to the windvane and use that as an autopilot in light winds or when motoring.

Dockhead: Yes, I want STW and am thinking about getting one of those fancy ultrasonic transducers to replace the broken paddlewheel. Since chartplotters have gotten cheap I will look at them but I am really sold on OpenSource (former software developer) for the main chartplotter. The Actisense multiplexer is designed to take the high speed AIS output and can output it separately to a separate port on a PC or combine it onto the 4800 output. The multiplexer has software that overwrites old data with newer data if the 4800 output gets overloaded. A really neat piece of kit.

I made a simple diagram and attached it here of what I have currently to help visualize.

Thanks.
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Old 14-02-2017, 15:07   #11
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann T. Cate View Post
The Tacktick may not work well, depends on your mast height. Therefore, I think ranger 42c's advice is good. Do not change anything till you've used what you have for a while.

Ann
Thanks Ann, but too late..it's already up there! I did consider that but my mast height is relatively short at 44' above waterline.
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Old 14-02-2017, 16:26   #12
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
For good order - true wind is calculated with STW, not SOG. With SPG you get ground wind, not true wind.

You also need STW for sail trim - to understand performance.

It's really important data, and SOG is no substitute unless you're sailing on a lake with no currents.
Dang, you are correct. I never knew that and thought it counter intuitive until I read the following. Interesting reading, and worth it to get the most out of your instruments and understand precisely how they work:

http://www.ockam.com/docs/WhyPaddles.pdf

My apologies to all for the false information.
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Old 15-02-2017, 05:47   #13
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by berferd View Post
...ICOM M324 VHF
Then later in your sketch you identify the radio as an M304, which is most likely a radio qualified for DSC only to the obsolete RTCM SC-101 standard (used only in the USA).

I'd upgrade the radio to a Class-D DSC radio. They're not very expensive; about $200 will get you one. You'll get a DSC radio that is much easier to operate and will also have a NMEA output to feed data to a chart plotter so you can plot the position of other vessels from their DSC transmissions to you.
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Old 15-02-2017, 06:26   #14
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by continuouswave View Post
Then later in your sketch you identify the radio as an M304, which is most likely a radio qualified for DSC only to the obsolete RTCM SC-101 standard (used only in the USA).

I'd upgrade the radio to a Class-D DSC radio. They're not very expensive; about $200 will get you one. You'll get a DSC radio that is much easier to operate and will also have a NMEA output to feed data to a chart plotter so you can plot the position of other vessels from their DSC transmissions to you.
Yes, you're right, it is the M304 I have presently and yes, I am going to replace it with a Class-D (probably M324) given they are not prohibitively expensive.
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Old 30-09-2017, 14:46   #15
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Re: Inherited Equipment & Options

Dockhead et al,

Many thanks for taking the time to explain everything and also for the suggestions. It's decision time for me.

I looked at the Vulcan 7 and other chartplotters. It turns out that the Vulcan has built in support for the Simrad AI50 specifically and supports the pre-standard messages, so no 0183 yoga required for the AIS. Industry consolidation paid off on this one!

The Vulcan 7 will also export its display to a tablet via its built-in WiFi.

Attached is my proposed design with the changes from the original colored in green. I want to put all the NMEA 0183 sentences out on WiFi for OpenCPN/iNAVX but have not yet figured out how to do that.

I am also considering adding the B&G ForwardScan sonar unit since it is supported by the Vulcan 7 but have not yet researched it.

All comments welcomed!

Thanks,
Jeff


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Real marine networked chart plotters are now so cheap, that there is hardly any understandable reason, not to use one, at least in the cockpit.

Basic functions which everyone except radical Luddites will want, to start with, are:

Wind
Depth
Boat Speed
Position
Chart display

To have this, you will only need to add a simple chart plotter (e.g. Zeus or Vulcan 7?) and a boat speed transducer. You will need an 0183 multiplexer to get multiple 0183 data sources into the plotter.

You might not care about getting the GPS data into the plotter, because the plotter will have a built-in GPS.

If any of these data sources outputs NMEA2000, don't be afraid of it -- it is dead simple to wire up a basic N2K network, and it can be worth it even if there are only two nodes on it. Will also be nice for future expansion.

I would add a secondary MFD like a B&G Triton or one of the Raymarine ones, so that you can see wind, boat speed, and depth all at the same time.

Then, at the nav table, use a laptop with OpenCPN. If you have room (and power) for a larger external monitor, this is very useful, because OpenCPN can actually replace paper charts for passage planning, if you have a good monitor. OpenCPN does not speak NMEA2000 -- it needs 0183 data. The chart plotter will multiplex all data going into it, and output it on 0183 -- and this is the best data feed for OpenCPN (via a simple 422 to USB adapter OR via WiFi if the plotter does it).

Powering the laptop should not be a big issue if you have a normal marine plotter in the cockpit. You will not be using it continuously.

You should get AIS data out of your AIS box into the plotter so that you can see AIS targets on the map display. An NMEA2000 connection will probably be best for that, but beware that there were some problems in the past with non-standard NMEA sentences for AIS. If that doesn't work, then you will need a high speed 0183 connection, and you will have to multiplex the low speed 0183 connections probably through the AIS unit, because the plotter will only have one 0183 input and it can't listen both high and low speed at the same time. So that means that you will have to connect the 0183 talker from the multiplexer to the 0183 listener port on the AI50. Then the AI50 talker port goes to the 0183 listener port on the plotter, which must be set to 38,500 baud. NMEA2000 will of course be simpler. if it works with this combination.


What I have, just for fun, on a much larger boat used for long distance ocean cruising:

2x 7" B&G Zeus plotters, one at the helm and one at the nav table
B&G 4G radar
Black box AIS connected into the network via N2K
Ultrasonic boat speed (Airmar CS4500 with Actisense box to convert data to 0183)
Airmar N2K depth
Echopilot forward-looking sonar
Maretron ultrasonic wind instrument
Backup Raymarine mechanical wind instrument
B&G autopilot
6x Triton MFD's (1x at helm; 4x at scuttle; 1x at nav table)
1x Maretron DSM250 MFD at nav table for engine, tank, temperature, weather displays
N2K fuel flow meters, temperature sensors, engine function harness.
Maretron ultrasonic tank level instrument for black water tank, N2K.
Nav table laptop with 23" 4K monitor and OpenCPN, both with hard wired 24v DC power supplies.
Sony waterproof tablet computer running GoFree to repeat plotters and allow control of radar etc., running also EDO Instruments
M604 VHF with command mike in cockpit
M802 SSB with Pactor III


Future upgrades:

Class A or the new improved Class B AIS
Replace Echopilot with networked FLS
Add additional Maretron DSM150 at helm for engine, temperature, tank, weather displays
Seatalk to 0183 converter for mechanical wind instrument
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