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Old 30-07-2017, 02:54   #1
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My great Raymarine upgrade project

There are several threads about Raymarine, but I thought to create a separate one to discuss my particular project. It will be ongoing for a while, so I plan to post updates here. And who knows, perhaps others will wish to learn from it, and/or chip in with advice.

The starting point is a full suite of Raymarine «Pathfinder» electronics circa 2004/2005. This is installed on my flybridge yacht, a Cranchi Atlantique 48 (2005 model). Below are pictures of the current display units.

I have owned the boat only for one year (during which I got it shipped from Europe to Asia). It is now moored at Langkawi, Malaysia and will be used for coastal cruising around SE Asia.

There are RC530 and RL70C displays downstairs, and another RL70C on the flybridge. Those three units work together to show maps, sonar and radar imagery.

Next, there are dual ST60 Tridata and ST6001 instruments. Behind the scenes is a SeaTalk1 network, an S3G course computer, a fish finder unit, VHF and some other bits and pieces from the same era. The radome is an old analog type.

So what is wrong with this fine vintage setup, I hear you say..?


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Old 30-07-2017, 03:07   #2
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

Actually, almost everything is wrong:
  • The old displays are tiny, and not so good in many ways. I believe far better displays are now available – and have been for many years.
    Especially on the flybridge, a big high-brightness unit would be helpful. As is evident from the pictures, there's plenty of space for good size MFDs both upstairs and downstairs.
  • Maps for the old units are hard to come by, and expensive. They can only use C-MAP NT+ chips (not even the «wide» type)... hence each chip does not hold much data.
    As the boat was recently moved to a new area, new maps are now needed anyway... Hence this is probably a good time to upgrade.
  • The autopilot is defective. Some experts have looked at it and agreed the problem is a lack of power output from the course computer. It may not be cost-effective to try and fix the old S3G. It cannot be done locally (I have asked around).
  • The depth sounder is slow and unreliable. When approaching a shallow anchorage, even at low speeds, the system is so slow to catch up with actual depths that it is virtually useless. Frequently it is unable to suggest any depth at all, perhaps due to muddy bottoms or silted water.
  • The radar stopped working recently. Not that I have been using it, to be honest. (Might be an easy thing to fix - I have not yet had it investigated).
  • The boat will need AIS to be installed. This is a requirement in Singapore and other places where I will go.
So, there is the starting point.

Going forward, I'd like to stick with Raymarine gear in general. (Let's not start a debate here about what brand is better... There are many other threads for that.)

I would like to have some really big size displays, with more features than the old gear... but otherwise do not need the latest and greatest of everything.
  • At one extreme, I could get all new kit, probably ... and then have no money for beer for the next decade.
    This would easily cost some 20,000 USD, mainly due to the big screens desired. It could perhaps be done in stages.
  • At the other extreme, I could declare all fixed nautical electronics to be obsolete, leave the old kit where it is as a kind of museum, and then just aim to use a couple of tablet computers in future, with Navionics apps and OpenCPM etc...
Probably I'd like to find a middle path, though...

It seems there is a lot of nice kit on the second-hand market. For example, an older 12-inch display unit like the classic series C120 or E120 can be had on eBay for less than 1000 USD. A later-generation e127 or something would cost more, but not as much as those all-singing, all dancing Axiom units...

I think this could also be a great learning opportunity... Sourcing and putting together a set of good value components would be a way to learn about my own boat and become well prepared to deal with future issues.

Probably I could do most of the installation work myself, but I also know some experts that are available to help.

Again, the boat is at Langkawi now - which is convenient because it's a duty-free island. Items can be shipped from all over the world without attracting taxes.

In a few days, I plan to post more details and plans.

Feel free to make suggestions :-)

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Old 30-07-2017, 06:52   #3
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

I did a similar upgrade 18 months ago. Stayed with all Raymarine gear. I have a sailboat and I'm of Scottish descent, so you know I was budget-aware.

The whole project was initially driven by a desire to have AIS on my chart plotter. I did end up splurging on the Raymarine XM Weather receiver, which has worked well on the East coast of the US. However, now that I can get weather on the InReach, I would skip the XM Weather unit.

I thought I wanted a 12" display at the helm, then I realized I could install a smaller, less expensive display and use the integrated WiFi to relay the display to an iPad.

The only thing I can't do from the iPad is control the autopilot. But that's because I kept my old autopilot and connected it to the new electronics. I think the new autopilots are controllable via WiFi.

I also kept my analog wind, depth and speed transducers and used a converter to connect them. The only issue I had was the wind unit and that was solved with a software update.

I also opted for C-Map charts, rather than the included stuff. I've been using C-Map for years and I have confidence in them.

Hope this helps.
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Old 12-08-2017, 22:46   #4
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

Thanks to Jibstay for the input and ideas :-)

Now I have decided to try to get the old autopilot repaired. I have sent it to "The Service Centre", Wareham, UK. They charge a fixed price to inspect and evaluate it (GBP 55) and we'll take it from there.

So that is, hopefully, one issue out of the way...

As far as I understand, there is not much benefit from upgrading the autopilot, except for the option to control it by wifi.

Here is a picture of the troubled old autopilot...

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Old 12-08-2017, 23:44   #5
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

Moving on... I think it would be wise to focus on AIS now.

This installation will be needed fairly soon, because I will be sailing where a class B transponder is mandatory.

It is also my impression that an AIS kit does not really need connecting to everything else on the boat... so it should be possible to deal with this without ending up on that slippery slope where everything needs upgrading.

On the other hand, I would like to avoid getting a separate display for the AIS. There are enough displays on the boat already, and the planned upgrade to better MFDs will probably allow for showing AIS data combined with maps and radar imagery. In the mean time, it would be fine to use a tablet or laptop to display AIS data.

I guess this means, the ideal choice would be the Vesper Marine XB-8000....

This would not only give great AIS transponder functionality, but also broadcast the signal to multiple tablets or smartphones on the boat, where it can be combined with mapping. The details tend to get complicated, but I understand OpenCPN for Android would be a good option. For more details:

It seems the Vesper will interface with all sorts of devices over NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, WiFi and USB... and it is getting great reviews all round.

Probably my only question about the Vesper is: Will modern Raymarine MFDs happily receive AIS data from it, and overlay this on maps etc?


Another obvious option could be to go with a Raymarine AIS transponder. The current model is the AIS650...

I guess this is also a fine product, and it would likely interface well with the other current and future Raymarine gear on this boat.

The AIS650 does not have wifi, but the built-in NMEA multiplexer "simplifies integration with legacy Multifunction Displays, VHF radios and 3rd party devices".. which sounds useful.

More immediately helpful is that it has a USB 2.0 port "for plug-and-play connection to PC based navigation systems".

Am I correct to assume, unless/until I upgrade to modern MFDs, I could use a laptop to display AIS data from this unit, via USB? How well does it work with OpenCPN and other popular software?

One practical benefit of the Raymarine transponder is that it comes with an integrated antenna splitter, making installation easy. (With the Vesper, a separate splitter would be required... or a separate antenna of course.)

Yet another option could perhaps be the previous generation Raymarine unit - the AIS 500:

This can be had second-hand for a bit less money. I wonder if this one would be compatible with the latest Raymarine MFDs... and what else would be the difference versus the 650.

Finally, I know there are also far cheaper AIS options out there... I have not researched them, as I guess it would involve various compromises.

How would you proceed here? Is it best to get a Raymarine unit for a Raymarine boat .. or is the Vesper really as superior as many say?
Alternatively, would it perhaps be wise to focus on the MFD upgrade before AIS?
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Old 13-08-2017, 02:46   #6
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

Correction: It seems the old Raymarine AIS500 unit included a VHF splitter, while in the later, greater AIS650, this feature has mysteriously gone missing.

Raymarine will now sell a separate, nicely designed splitter unit for USD 250 or so. How naughty...!
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Old 13-08-2017, 04:45   #7
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

You're more than welcome. I've received so much help online, so I'm happy to contribute whenever possible.

I went with the AIS650 from Raymarine mainly to avoid any integration issues with my new Raymarine e7 chart plotter.

I originally wanted to use a separate antenna on the stern rail for the AIS, with a switch that would allow me to select either the masthead antenna, or the stern rail for the AIS or VHF. The idea being that if I lost the mast, I could switch the vhf to the stern rail antenna. In the end, I ran out of time and used a splitter. I do have a spare VHF antenna for emergencies.

One nice feature of the AIS650 is that I was able to program the MMSI myself. I understand that some units have to be configured by a dealer.

I realize you're not in the US, but for those that are, the free MMSI you can get from BoatUS is for US waters only. I went through the process to obtain an international MMSI. I also obtained an international VHF license at the same time.

Best of luck with your autopilot and the rest of your project.
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Old 01-10-2017, 00:45   #8
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

I am doing a similar project so I will follow your story.

I am starting with a Raymarine Axiom Pro 9" with Navionics Gold. I too am looking at the AIS650 - mainly sticking to Raymarine for compatibility.

I looked at the Axion Pro 12, but it's just on the market, quite pricey and bigger than we need right now. Will submit pics when it turns up.

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Old 01-10-2017, 04:31   #9
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

I have done much of the same last year and early this year , not using the latest and greatest equipment but still much better than was in there

I ran new Seatalk ng (N2K) backbone
2x RL70C were replaced with 1x E120w and 1x E90w , connected to the STng backbone
Radar was replaced with a 418HD , connected to the E90w through SThs
connected 'old' equipment (st6000 displays and S400g auto pilot) to the E90w using the Seatalk / NMEA0183
Vesper Marine XB-8000 plugged into the STng / N2K backbone and be able to use wifi and using a Raymarine VHF splitter next to the XB-8000

by running the STng / N2K backbone and combining it with the older Seatalk / NMEA0183 I could leave a lot of older and still working displays and AP in place and still run new equipment as well , I can now operate the AP from the plotter screens , have all info from the NMEA0183 on the plotters as well , share maps and data between the 2 displays and have Radar on both screens as well

I am quite happy with the set-up , the only 'wish' I still have is connecting my Simrad VHF to the system but as the VHF does not have an NMEA0183 output I will live without it

here's some of what I did , I need to upgrade that page ;-)
Navigation upgrade | SV Blue Pearl
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Old 01-10-2017, 05:02   #10
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Re: My great Raymarine upgrade project

ReneJK brings up a couple of important points in his post.

You should be aware that Raymarine networks are not completely compatible with NMEA2000 and in fact even Seatalk1 and SeatalkNG are not compatible with each other. You can get all these to work together with additional adapters from Rarmarine but it is a bit complicated if you aren't handy with electronics. A Raymarine tech should be able to do this easily.

For AIS I highly recommend the Vesper equipment. I understand your reservation about having more displays but you could keep the Vesper Vision 9000 below and output the AIS data onto the network. The Vesper has a very good anchor drag alarm feature which might be handy to keep below.

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