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Old 29-07-2009, 16:18   #1
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Replacing All Electronics on 33' Sailboat

I am looking for advice, opinions and general input on replacing all the electronics on my 33' sailboat which was hit by lightning and all the electronics fried so I need to replace them. I have been away from any sailing for the last 10 years so I am not familiar with all the new marine electronics.

It had, among other things, a Stowe Navsounder 250 for depth and a STOWE Navigator 2 for boat and wind speed. I do not think it is even worth trying to look into repairing them but if someone has some ideas I'd like to hear them. I have the advantage of being an electrical engineer with quite some knowledge and practice of electronics.

So, I am looking at replacing pretty much all the electronics on the boat but my economy is like a black hole pulling the world economy down and my budget is severily limited. This means I would like to have a gradual plan where I can start out with the bare minimum and expand later.

Being able to use the depth and boat speed transducers would be nice as it would save some work and money but, again, I am not totally certain they are good so it might be better to just forget about that.

I suppose now everything talks to everything else and I understand the prevailing standards are SeaTalk, navbus and NMEA.

At this point I think the only thing I *absolutely* need is a depth sounder and it seems the ST40 is the simplest thing around. Wind speed would be nice and boat speed would come next. I looked at the ST60 combo but at about $1500 it just seems like way too much. Any thoughts?

I have an old Autohelm autopilot which I believe and hope is still working.

For navigation I can get by with a handheld GPS and my old paper charts.

For communications I guess I should look into getting at least a handheld VHF. I know this has changed quite a bit since I used VHF with the introduction of Selective Calling.

Later I would look into getting a radar to replace the Raytheon R10X which fried. I suppose this now is combined with chartplotter etc.

So, what would you recommend as a gradual plan to replace my electronics?
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:16   #2
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Start with the basics. Depth and a VHF on the masthead. If you run aground you'll need to call someone and with the depth sounder you might avoid it. Hand held radios are slightly better than shouting. VHF is about how high the antenna is. All the way up is where you want to be.

Before you dig too deep into the electronics you might dig into the electrical system too. One gone bad may leave problems on the other end. There is also the battery / charging system too. Some if not all of this is about running wire. Running more than one wire is easier with two. You really want all wires secured so they can't flop around and chafe. Look at your overall wire situation before getting too far. It's nice to just be certain.
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Old 29-07-2009, 17:48   #3
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Yes, I realize about revising the entire electrical system and I am working on that but my question is mostly about the electronics because I am not familiar with the new electronics.

Regarding the VHF, the old one is fried but I do not know if the antenna and its cable are OK. My guess is that it would be unlikely. I suppose the way to test would be to connect a new VHF transmitter and SWR meter. For now, while the boat is on dry land, I do not want to climb the mast. It will have to wait until I launch.

My main concern right now is to narrow down what instruments I might want to be getting.

(What do I need to do to get separate paragraphs? I'ts not working right for me unless I use HTML tags)
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Old 29-07-2009, 18:00   #4
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You haven't described how you want to use the boat. Are you racing, local cruising, long distance cruising, ???? Do you have a budget in mind? The range that you can spend on electronics today is mind numbing. Raymarine has a large part of the US sail instruments market and offer the basic instrument sets at a reasonable price. Some have a bias against their equipment. A step up for integrated instruments are the Nexus NX2 instruments. Better reliability and accuracy. Simrad is another one to look at.
Yes, you need a VHF.

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Old 29-07-2009, 19:13   #5
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Simrad is owned by navico they also own B&G,Eagle,Navstar,Lowrance,Navman. I have a Simrad tillerpilot and like the product but I needed a 6" extension, a fairly common part. It was on backorder for 3 months. I have a Navman depth/speed the control head went out under warranty. I contacted Navico and was told it was a common problem and for more than I paid for the entire setup they would replace the controlhead. The kicker, it was being reengineered and was on backorder for 6 months. Until Navico can provide an acceptable service/parts program I would be uncomfortable purchasing a product that may be out of service for 3 to 6 months because of Navicos inability to provide reasonable service. Hopefully this will improve as I like many of their products.
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Old 30-07-2009, 07:09   #6
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I had a similar problem (deciding what electronics etc) but for a different reason. I also have a small(ish) boat and did not want over-complex electronics.

This the route I took.

VHF of your choice - I chose Icom as it is good middle of the road equipment but I suggest any reasonable VHF (not hand held) will surfice.

Sounder - I have never liked Raymarine or Navman (but that is not important) and I chose a Furuno Smart Sensor. This is a Airmar transducer with just a NMEA output - all the electronics are built into the transducer body. You can chose to have depth and temperature or depth, STW and temperature output. Being Airmar, it is a quality unit (IMO).

However you have to display the data on something so for that I chose the Furuno RD30 remote display. Again being Furuno, it is a quality unit (IMO).


This display will accept a wide range of sensors (NMEA data) including GPS, wind sensors, heading data etc. I have not worried about most of these but it is nice to know that I could input the data at a future date if I wanted to.

I already had an old GPS unit that had a small screen and a NMEA output so that is plugged into the RD30 and I have all the GPS info displayed on the RD30. BTW, it has 5 screens that all all completely programmable by the end user so you can display whatever data you prefer.

You could of course, just get a small second hand hand held GPS (with a NMEA output like most of the Garmin units) and push that into this RD30 display. Or even find a stand alone GPS engine with a NMEA output if you really want basic.

Anyway that is all I ended up with - VHF, Smart transducer (depth, temperature and STW all in one package), GPS and a RD30 to display the info. The beauty of this package is that I can add other sensors if I wish to in the future.

Yes it is basic but that is how I like it; my fall back position is a magnetic compass, trailing log (Walker) and leadline .
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Old 30-07-2009, 21:06   #7
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Thanks Wotname, that's the kind of info I was looking for and I will look into the instruments you mention.

I also want to start with the most simple arrangement possible but want to be able to expand as needed/wanted/afforded.

I keep my boat on the Chesapeake, just south of Annapolis, and only use it for some leisurely cruising so my needs are minimal.

In fact I sailed almost a whole season with the depth sounder not working and that is the only instrument I feel I really need but even then I managed without it. Even the VHF I feel is nice but not indispensable.

Having the depth sounder unit output NMEA directly I guess can be a good idea. I also already have a GPS unit with no display, just outputs NMEA0183. I suppose I could integrate that in the same display. Are these displays programmable? I'll have to look into it.

I have a question about displays. I have always like the monochrome LCDs because no matter how much light there is you can see them well. My experience with phones, laptops, etc with active color screens is that they are worthless in sunlight. What is the common display these days and how do they perform?

Another issue is that the VHF and some other instruments were located in the nav station belowdeck and I had to run down to use them and run up again. Is there a practical way to have them at the helm station but removable?
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Old 30-07-2009, 22:02   #8
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Sounds like similar first steps are emerging to what I did when I bought my boat with its electronics in a derelict state. As a precaution, I brought a waterproof handheld VHF, handheld GPS, and made a lead line to get the boat home.

Then fitted a B&W fishfinder good to 700 metres, a 25W permanent mount VHF, and a handheld GPS (B&W display). Could consider whether you need a remote mike, particularly if the unit is mounted below and you do not have a handheld VHF.

Then I found my old VHF worked ... it was the arial that was shot :-). But anyway, I had everything I needed at this point.

Then I got an EPIRB & chartplotter. I know you are not looking at a fixed mount GPS (nor do you need one), but modern VHF come with DSC. While you can set up a handheld to send the position via a NMEA signal, IMO it is worth wiring a cheaper, permanent mount plotter so the DSC distress signal goes out with your position. (I often want the handheld GPS - with its many waypoints - around my neck.)

As you say colour displays can be hard work to read, and they drain more power.

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Old 31-07-2009, 02:08   #9
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Do take a look at the new color chartplotter displays. The good ones are quite readable in direct sunlight, and the color can really help with charts and radar display.

Be aware that there are several flavors of NMEA, the most common is NMEA-0183, and the "new, improved" NMEA is NMEA-2000, which has been gaining traction. If you go Raymarine, then you will probably have a mix of Seatalk and NMEA.

Many modern chartplotters will interface to a radar (which you can add at a later date), Unfortunately, most radars use a proprietary interface to the chartplotter, so you will want to plan ahead.

I like having individual cockpit displays for depth, wind, and speed, but being able to hook them up to a chartplotter is also nice.

If you want a chartplotter / radar, where will you put it? For daysailing it is probably best at the helm, but others will make the case that it belongs below. I have one at the helm and another at the navstation, which works well for the type of sailing I do.

Look at the power consumption, your battery capacity, and charging capacity. It sounds like you've got a handle on this, but I suggest doing the math.
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Old 31-07-2009, 02:55   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GS3 View Post
................. I also already have a GPS unit with no display, just outputs NMEA0183. I suppose I could integrate that in the same display. Are these displays programmable? I'll have to look into it.

Yes and yes. Download the operation manual from a Furuno website - I was very impressed with how versatile the display was. There a 5 pages (screens) and each one can be user programmed to display whatever packets of data is available.
Quote:
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I have a question about displays. I have always like the monochrome LCDs because no matter how much light there is you can see them well.

The RD30 is a monochrome display (with backlighting). I have only just fitted mine but so far I have found it very readable. It is mounted externally in the companionway bulkhead and I can read it anywhere in the cockpit.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GS3 View Post
Another issue is that the VHF and some other instruments were located in the nav station belowdeck and I had to run down to use them and run up again. Is there a practical way to have them at the helm station but removable?
One way is to use an Icom VHF with a Command Mic. The base unit is below and functions normally and the Command Mic is plugged into the unit with about 20 ft of cable. This speaker/mic has all the functions of the base unit (volume, channel change etc) except for the DSC functions.
There are probably similar systems from other manufacturers but I have never looked into them.
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Old 31-07-2009, 07:05   #11
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Thanks for all the info.

I have an old hand-held GPS which can hold one route with waypoints. I also have a GPS receiver which outputs NMEA0183 and has no display or input. Rather than have a display which only outputs the coordinates as supplied by the GPS receiver it would be better if the display could process information and hold waypoints, routes, etc and calculate bearing to next waypoint etc. Is this possible? Does it make sense or is it better to buy the entire thing new and forget about the receiver I have?
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Old 31-07-2009, 19:12   #12
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I am looking at different families of instruments but I can't quite figure out the basic differences. What's the basic difference bettween ST40 and ST60?
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Old 31-07-2009, 21:17   #13
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Thanks for all the info.

I have an old hand-held GPS which can hold one route with waypoints. I also have a GPS receiver which outputs NMEA0183 and has no display or input. Rather than have a display which only outputs the coordinates as supplied by the GPS receiver it would be better if the display could process information and hold waypoints, routes, etc and calculate bearing to next waypoint etc. Is this possible? Does it make sense or is it better to buy the entire thing new and forget about the receiver I have?
The RD30 will only display the data the GPS provides on NMEA bus, it isn't a chart plotter or route / waypoint manager. It will process depth data to the extend of keel offsets and depth alarm setting etc.

It you are looking for a CHEAP GPS / display option, how about a second hand GPS (hand held) that outputs NMEA 0183, ver 2. There must be dozens around that will hold routes and waypoints.

Most of the old aviation ones do and although the GPS screen is way to small, the important data (lat/lon, STW, Track, ETE, ETA, Distance to waypoint etc) will be displayed on the big(ish) RD30 screen.

I have run mine with a 1997 Apollo handheld and several very old Garmin units.

However new is always nice if there is enough boat bucks to go around .
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Old 04-08-2009, 09:59   #14
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I sailed the Caribbean for 8 years with a 20 year old Sitex GPS (that would do LORAN too), Datamarine depth and speed, an old VHF, a cheap GPS, and charts. Just because the gear isn't new doesn't mean it needs replacement.

When the displays in the Datamarine started to fade I called and got replacement displays that I installed. The cost was far less than newer or new ones. The GPS wasn't a plotter, it would read lat/long, COG, Speed, and that was about it. Used, but recent, paper charts got me from Florida to Grenada. Even the cruising guides were less than new.

When I sold the boat 10 years later the instruments still worked. I'd rather buy working but last year's electronics as spares than pay for the newest stuff. The biggest concerns I had were that the transducer thru hulls were the same size - and they were. The displays, however, weren't but they never failed me.
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Old 04-08-2009, 10:11   #15
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What is your overall budget?

What instruments do you consider mandatory?

Which instruments do you consider optional?

What is your philosophy about integrated systems?...yes or no?

How good are your computer skills?

Are you interested in learning celestial navigation?

How important is it for you to be able to communicate out on the ocean?

Where do you plan on taking your boat and for how long?

All of these things matter in figuring out what would work for you.
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