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Old 28-12-2015, 19:18   #1
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Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

I plan to buy a new boat next year (40-50' sailing cat) and a big open question for me is the brand of navigation package. As it will be a clean slate, so to speak, I would prefer to have most of the major elements from one vendor but I am open to mixing and matching if that outweighs the benefits of one vendor.

If they were all equally reliable, I think I would go with B&G as I really like the sailsteer capabilities. However, B&G seems to generate more than the average level of noise about issues, constantly citing that issues are resolved in the latest release. I used to be in the software industry and these signals make me very wary.

My priorities are first reliability, second features and third budget. I plan to sail short-handed a lot, so I would like to get all the help I can from my nav system. Having read countless threads on this and other sites it seems that people quite often struggle with reliability issues.

I would appreciate getting reliability experience and opinions based on actual experience with recent offerings from Garmin, B&G, Raymarine and Furuno. I know that installation quality is a big variable and once again, I would ideally like to get a system that will work in the real world where installers are not perfect, so fairly straightforward to install and maintain is an issue for me too.

Thanks in advance for your ideas.

Hamish
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Old 29-12-2015, 07:38   #2
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

FWIW, my Garmin 2006C chartplotter is 13 years old and has always been flawless (and intuitively easy to use). Many miles and hours on it. I do have a backup system though.
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Old 29-12-2015, 07:46   #3
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Hello Hamish - these things change so frequently that bad noise about a certain range of products will likely be overcome by newer products next year. Regardless of which ever "big" integrated system you eventually select, I recommend you plan on having a backup GPS receiver that will at least tell you where you are. When I upgraded my system in 2009 from vintage 2001 stuff (pre-chartplotter days) I kept the old basic GPS and wired it through a toggle switch to serve as a backup to the new plotters. I also keep a portable Garmin 476C as a backup and use it routinely as an anchor watch - it takes far less power.

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Old 29-12-2015, 07:55   #4
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Try these guys. They do surveys once in a while. Panbo: The Marine Electronics Hub
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:25   #5
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

if you look at fishing boats and other professional types - they have a tendency to use Furuno - which probably tells you a lot about ruggedness, reliability etc.
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:51   #6
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Firstly, you'll likely get some great input on this if you post it over on Sailing Anarchy Forums.
That said, NKE is (as of last look) considered to be top of the line... with a price tag to match. And is used by a Large percentage of the solo racers, for both it's features, & it's reliablity. Including their autopilots.

Their equipment is Very tunable; to the boat, & for conditions. In addition to being self learning (of a boat's characteristics, when the proper package is purchased). And can steer to whatever function that you desire; Wind, Course, & a few others - along with dialing in parameters for how far (in degrees) it'll let you vary from whichever of those that you choose, or some others as well.
Although it'll take a bit of studying on your part to get it calibrated, & to use the higher end functions. But there's obviously factory support available to get you up to speed on it's use too, as well as it's setup & calibration.

And if you're going over to SA Forums, seek out some of the single-handed & double-handed sailors there. For their input on this topic in general, in addition to their thoughts on NKE's stuff.
I've got a user handle for one or two of them tucked away somewhere, but if you put up a post, as well as do some searching there, you'll get plenty of input. On NKE, as well as the other brands out there. And how hard, or easy it is to get them to talk to one another. Right down to guys who write their own code, if you're curious about such.

But along with your electronics, you need to be FULLY versed in how to navigate the "old fashioned" way. Meaning using ONLY; Charts, a Chart Guide, Sextant, Compass, Hand Bearing Compass, Starfinder, Watch/Stopwatch, Light List, Leadline, & Hand Plotting Tools (SIC).
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Old 29-12-2015, 13:04   #7
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Over the years we have used Furuno and Raymarine. We now have Garmin and would not trade it for either. It is easy to install and use. For their autopilot they use a Jefa linear drive which we have found to be very reliable and strong enough to handle our boat in most any conditions. We are full time cruisers so we use our instruments daily in harsh conditions.

S/v GeWil
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Old 29-12-2015, 16:56   #8
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

I've been sailing my latest sailboat beneteau Cyclades 51.4 all over the carribean for the last going on 4 years and I like to say I trust God, NOAA and my Garmin 740s coupled to a garmin radar 18 HD. The autopilot depth and wind are Raymarine. Paper charts for backup just finished 4day night crossing from Bonaire to St Croix. Everything worked like they were supposed to and they have been working for all this time.
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Old 29-12-2015, 19:34   #9
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

I think there are actually two slightly different questions to ask/answer.

The first is how buggy and flakey a particular product line is. No amount of return and repair will fix the bugs. You just need to wait and hope the manufacturer eventually fixes them. In my experience, Furuno is pretty good about this, and Navico (Simrad, B&G, Lowrance) is particularly poor. I have no meaningful experience with Raymarine or Garmin.

The second question is about how often the hardware brakes. This is not software bugs, but actual broken hardware. In my experience this is rare with all the products I've owned. In fact, I don't think I have ever returned a product for an actual hardware failure. All issues have been software related.

Another consideration is how long a particular vendor supports the hardware. This includes software updates, and over time more importantly it includes repair services. Increasingly, the trend appears to be that once a product is no longer being sold, and the warranty has run out on the last one, the vendor stops supporting it. At that point, you can't get repair, and can only replace with something new. In my experience, Furuno keeps supporting their products the longest of everyone, by far.

Then of course there is what you like and don't like, and what features you want. I really like Furuno's radars, but I'm not crazy about their chart plotters.
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Old 29-12-2015, 20:10   #10
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Hi Hamish,

I have not read all reply, so forgive me if I double up.

In the last 5y I lived aboard and from Europe to Carib to Australia.
I bought my boat new in France and because of reliability fame, I bought all Furuno gear (multifunction display, radar, AIS, autopilot) and just sold her.

After 5y, how will I set up my new boat:
  1. Navigation gear on laptop using OpenCPN software + additional 23'~25" monitor for 'you-beaut' chart disply.
  2. Garmin Radar integrated with OpenCPN
  3. Generic AIS tranceiver integrated.
  4. Furuno autopilot once again to OpenCPN
  5. Wind gear by Furuno and, you guessed it, going to OpenCPN.
  6. A Multiplexer to "join" all equipment and distribute it to WiFi. (I was going to get one from Wout Beekhuizen, www.brookhouseonline.com , but run out of time when I was in NZ).
  7. Once on WiFi it is usable from tablets and smartphones as well.
  8. Android smartphones and tablets running OpenCPN for Android
  9. Spare laptop with spare GPS dongle etc etc.
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Old 31-12-2015, 01:03   #11
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Quote:
Originally Posted by spiv View Post
A Multiplexer to "join" all equipment and distribute it to WiFi. (I was going to get one from Wout Beekhuizen, www.brookhouseonline.com , but run out of time when I was in NZ).
Another one is here: iKommunicate
They offer a WiFi module that will also integrate with your WiFi booster antenna.
I have backed this product Kikstarter campaign, so I will get one soon.
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Old 31-12-2015, 04:50   #12
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

For the best reliability of all, good old-fashioned paper charts are the one I'd recommend
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Old 31-12-2015, 08:32   #13
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Re: Navigation System Reliability Experience Sought

Just my opinion but I think that the most important issue is software and how all the little bits and pieces communicate with each other. When you stick to one supplier this is not generally an issue except when adding more bits later that usually require a software update to support them. As I really do not believe that any one manufacturer is way out in front of another when it comes to hardware then the other issues become service and support. When you travel around the world the one manufacturer that has dealers everywhere is Raymarine although Furuno and Garmin seem to be well represented but not anywhere near as much as Ray.

When we bought our boat 6 years ago we upgraded most of the hardware including e series chartplotters (now g series) digital radar, gps x 3, dsc - vhf, sol auto pilot and AIS but we kept the old transducers operating on sea talk. There were no issues in building the new comm system and integrating everything together so that the old seatalk, new ng and high speed work!! It would be even simpler with all new stuff.

We have never had a problem in 6 years with well over 25,000 nm under the keel that wasn't operator error and those issues were easily sorted out over there help desk that can be reached by either phone or e mail. I believe they even have a forum that you can post to and they will respond there. This also allows you to review other peoples questions and answers to there problems.

Did have a Garmin chartplotter as well on the old boat which worked well but as I said, Ray is everywhere that you could possibly want to sail.
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