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Old 31-08-2015, 13:59   #1
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Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

We need to buy a complete new navigation system for our yacht - chart plotter, radar, autopilot, sounders, instruments, etc. Besides buying a robust and reliable equipment we are also looking which brand have the best worldwide support. We are now in Trinidad & Tobago, will spend the next 2 - 3 years in the Caribbean and then through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, heading towards Asia calling on the islands along the way - finally heading back to South Africa.

Which brand offers the widest worldwide support. Meaning, which brand have the most distributors, dealers and agents worldwide who can work on their products?
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Old 31-08-2015, 16:19   #2
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

I think you are looking at it wrong. Better to ask about bulletproof systems and installations. In the Carib you can find someone to work on any of the major brands and once through the canal, none.

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Old 31-08-2015, 17:25   #3
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

There really isn't any world-wide support for any of it.

Very little on current electronics can be fixed in the field. If it is fixable at all, it will need to be sent to a central repair facility. Almost always, it will simply be a replacement unit. Don't count on many far-flung places having replacement gear on hand for you. Definitely don't count on any component repair being done.

Most manufacturers will force you to go through the country/region of original purchase for warranty work, so you will be SOL there. However, anything that goes wrong anywhere in the world is a freight/air shipment away from a replacement on your dime.

DON'T count on warranties when you leave the area you purchased it from. At best, you will be on the hook for onerous shipping and handling charges, not to mention customs, etc.

Almost all problems are in installation, so do like SVNeko says and get a bulletproof installation and well-designed system of whichever gear you choose. This is really your only assurance once you venture out.

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Old 31-08-2015, 17:42   #4
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

I agree with the above. However if you do a search you will find which manufactures offer the best customer service. Some standouts I often see are Vesper, Standard Horizon, ICOM.
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Old 31-08-2015, 18:07   #5
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

The four major contenders in recreational marine electronics are all very similar in terms of support. There's not a significant difference in their approach, competence, or ability to remotely repair and troubleshoot. They are:

RayMarine
Garmin
Navico (Lowrance, SIMRAD, B&G)
Furuno

Other manufacturers like Maretron and AirMar are very good but much smaller and generally not complete in their offerings.

I have gear from all of them except Furuno on my two boats. In my opinion, Navico gear is the most problematic, and RayMarine has the best over-the-phone technical support. Maretron was excellent with out-of-warranty free replacement of a suddenly failed device. I'm not sure why they decided to replace it for free when it was out of warranty, but I'll take it. None of my Garmin or Airmar devices have ever had any kind of failure, so I don't know anything about their support. I count that as a good thing.

Navico (B&G) has been frustrating to deal with and generally unresponsive to bugs in their gear other than to tell me to wait for firmware updates that will fix the problem.

Like everything else on a boat, if you want it to be reliable, you need to learn how to work on it yourself. The major interconnects (NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, and Marine Ethernet) are reliable when installed correctly, but NMEA 2000 is a bus-topology which can lead to strange problems that are difficult to troubleshoot, such as a device malfunctioning in ways that cause symptoms in other unrelated devices.

Read through the installation rules for the systems that you have on your boat, which are all available in the install guides on the manufacturer's website. Most troubleshooting actually comes down to taking devices off the network to determine which one is malfunctioning.

It helps a lot to perform the installation yourself--then you know the system and you've learned the rules for cable length, network topology, etc. For NMEA 2000, you'll want to carry some spare cable and field-installable connectors, a set of spare terminators, and a spare T connector or two. For marine Ethernet, a spare cable and a spare switch would be wise albeit costly.
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Old 31-08-2015, 18:50   #6
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

One thing I like about the Furuno Navnet chartplotters is that for a nominal cost they sell you a harddrive that has all the charts for their system on it. That way when you need a new chart package you don't have to do a painfully slow, maybe multi-day, download of the chart. All you need is to pay for a key you can via e-mail.
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Old 01-09-2015, 05:34   #7
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

Thank you for your valid points and some which I did not think about. Appreciated.
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:05   #8
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

Furuno has outstanding customer support. Their equipment is also very rugged. It is used by a lot of professionals. It's more expensive than the other brands but you get what you pay for in this case.

I have been using mostly Furuno on a research boat for almost 25 years now. I have also been using various other brands on a fleet of smaller research boats. Garmin holds up well.

Been a moderator here for many years and the brand that keeps coming up with the most trouble seems to be Raymarine, both with the hardware and the customer support. It's clearly not professional grade stuff.

In my experience customer support is not all the same....it varies like the wind.
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:20   #9
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
Been a moderator here for many years and the brand that keeps coming up with the most trouble seems to be Raymarine, both with the hardware and the customer support. It's clearly not professional grade stuff.
It is also the most widely installed user-base, so it is difficult to separate absolute numbers of problems from relative ones. Also, the current Raymarine is not the same company than the old one (or the one before that).

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Old 01-09-2015, 09:24   #10
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

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Originally Posted by Revelations View Post
We need to buy a complete new navigation system for our yacht - chart plotter, radar, autopilot, sounders, instruments, etc. Besides buying a robust and reliable equipment we are also looking which brand have the best worldwide support.
If you are looking for telephone support then Furuno is best, Raymarine second and everybody else is a mile away. Of course you need to be able to do the work yourself based on the instructikns you get.

Vesper has the time zone issue but they provide very good support by email.

If you are looking for "technicians" that will go to your boat be prepared for endless disappointment.

All that is about work that does not require parts. When parts or replacement of a unit is required my usual choice is to work through the USA toll free number and provide a US address, then have a friend in the US forward to the boat. Americans are very demanding customers and they get better service!



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Old 01-09-2015, 09:44   #11
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?


....sextant, pocket watch (or digital wrist watch), couple of triangles, ruler, divider or compass, pencil, rubber, paper charts. you can make your own plotting sheets (there is paper everywhere, couple of pounds in Sainsbury's or Tesco for 500 sheets).....last for decades and best worldwide support wherever you go.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:37   #12
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
There really isn't any world-wide support for any of it.

Very little on current electronics can be fixed in the field. If it is fixable at all, it will need to be sent to a central repair facility. Almost always, it will simply be a replacement unit. Don't count on many far-flung places having replacement gear on hand for you. Definitely don't count on any component repair being done.

Most manufacturers will force you to go through the country/region of original purchase for warranty work, so you will be SOL there. However, anything that goes wrong anywhere in the world is a freight/air shipment away from a replacement on your dime.

DON'T count on warranties when you leave the area you purchased it from. At best, you will be on the hook for onerous shipping and handling charges, not to mention customs, etc.

Almost all problems are in installation, so do like SVNeko says and get a bulletproof installation and well-designed system of whichever gear you choose. This is really your only assurance once you venture out.

Mark
This is also a caution in my view against MFDs and/or "integrated" units. If you have the space at helm or nav station, I prefer discrete units that speak a common (non-proprietary) language that report to a PC screen kept out of the weather than some overpriced single screen. It's bothersome to lose wind speed, or rudder angle, or tach, or even GPS; it's quite another to lose the single screen that reports all of that. Tablets and netbooks are much cheaper. To me, the heart of "bulletproof" is redundancy, which is why I carry a lead line and a sextant, a ship's clock, a compass and a current almanac. Not because of Luddite tendencies, but because some guy soldering at Raymarine's Chinese factory doesn't care about navigation the way I do, and to assume otherwise is imprudent.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:41   #13
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

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It is also the most widely installed user-base, so it is difficult to separate absolute numbers of problems from relative ones. Also, the current Raymarine is not the same company than the old one (or the one before that).

Mark
To be fair, the most widely installed user base is going to be weekend, fair-weather, short-haul sailors, for whom the closest they'll ever get to a lagoon in a Fijian dependency is a coconut with a paper umbrella-type drink. So Raymarine "issues" reflect that they are nominally light-duty. Offshore people, well off soundings and with no SeaTow in sight, tend to go for better, less widespread gear. Like windvanes!

It's like Apple phones: Very popular, but crap phones. The only time I hear static, voice drops and a particularly "down a well" voice quality, I know it's a iPhone. But they take beautiful pictures!
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:50   #14
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

By far, the most popular brand of electronics we see out cruising far and wide is Raymarine. While I don't like most Raymarine gear, I don't view it as light-duty or much different than other name-brand equipment. We own a Furuno chart plotter and that is certainly not bullet-proof or much different than any other brand - regardless of the high esteem in which Furuno is held by many.

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Old 01-09-2015, 10:55   #15
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Re: Navigation equipment. Best woldwide support?

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
This is also a caution in my view against MFDs and/or "integrated" units. If you have the space at helm or nav station, I prefer discrete units that speak a common (non-proprietary) language that report to a PC screen kept out of the weather than some overpriced single screen. It's bothersome to lose wind speed, or rudder angle, or tach, or even GPS; it's quite another to lose the single screen that reports all of that. Tablets and netbooks are much cheaper. To me, the heart of "bulletproof" is redundancy, which is why I carry a lead line and a sextant, a ship's clock, a compass and a current almanac. Not because of Luddite tendencies, but because some guy soldering at Raymarine's Chinese factory doesn't care about navigation the way I do, and to assume otherwise is imprudent.
It irronic as you made the exact point for why I went with a "system" with MDF. In the system I built, all BUT the plotter data is available on any of the devices (zeus2, tritons, laptop). I can loose my MFD and I don't really care. I can loose my laptop and I don't really care. I can loose my tritons and I don't really care. Its all redundant and true redundancy comes from a hybrid system.

I also disagree about a "Screen out of the weather". Descisions are made at the helm and the last thing I want to do is go down below to look at a screen for some data. I want it right in front of me when I need to make a snap descision!
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