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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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  #1  
Old 03-04-2012
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Fixed mount GPS....

One of the features I was enamored with when I bought my new fixed VHF a few years ago was a display that would show my GPS location. That is now about as slick and new as a "flip-phone".

Nevertheless I continue to use my 2AAA handheld for speed over ground info and as a backup to traditional nav methods. I would like to get a fixed GPS that uses a better antenna, and can plug into my VHF's screen.

Any suggestions? Cheap and basic, or are there functions on these things that I don't even know I'm missing? Currently I Navigate with binos, compass and paper charts (and like it that way) so I know very little about what electronics are current.

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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

I have the Lowrance HDS-5M and it's pretty powerful with a nice high res display. The competitors offerings look good too. With nice high res units available for $500 to $600 with NMEA 2000 networking, doesn't seem to be much point going cheaper.

I've had cause to contact support at Garmin, Lowrance, and Standard Horizon recently, and SH were outstanding. Garmin were OK, and Lowrance were at the bottom. Based on this experience, I'd take a good look at SH next time.
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

We have an SH 180i (internal antenna) mounted at the helm. We've been quite satisfied with it, and I can also attest to SH service being pretty good. We required a SW upgrade soon after purchase and it was provided at no cost.

The resolution is not as good as some of the newer ones, and the screen is only 180mm diagonal but it's much better/brighter/bigger than our old G Map76.

It can, of course, communicate over NMEA but I think it's just 0183..
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Faster View Post
We have an SH 180i (internal antenna) mounted at the helm. We've been quite satisfied with it, and I can also attest to SH service being pretty good. We required a SW upgrade soon after purchase and it was provided at no cost.

The resolution is not as good as some of the newer ones, and the screen is only 180mm diagonal but it's much better/brighter/bigger than our old G Map76.

It can, of course, communicate over NMEA but I think it's just 0183..
When I looked into it last summer, the NMEA 0183 interfaces seemed to be universal (so you can supply position data to a DSC VHF, for example), but NMEA 2000 is confined to the latest models. I chose the Lowrance as it had the highest res. display available for the price. You have to pay a couple of hundred extra for the same res from Garmin. However Garmin's AIS, DSC, and NMEA 2000 are better implemented.
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Old 03-05-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

I went with the Lowrance HDS7 for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the resolution is incredible. It's crystal clear and bright, even in direct sunlight. Next, I intend to install the Lowrance 3G Broadband radar system, which interfaces directly with the HDS7 using a simple, inexpensive network connection. (I sail a fair amount at night.)

The other advantages I found included: Powerful depth finder that can shoot through any, solid fiberglass hull with very little loss of sensitivity, outstanding navigational menus that are easily accessible, full engine instrumentation display, great split screen options, lots of overlay information for navigation, depth, water temperature, time, and pretty much anything you'll ever need to know, all on-screen right at the helm. Lowrance GPS Plotters are completely waterproof and submersible to 100 feet, which provides peace of mind when the weather gets really nasty and everything is doused with saltwater.

I sincerely believe the instruction/user manuals for ALL GPS Plotters suck--bit time. Most were obviously written after the device was manufactured as an afterthought, and it appears that most were written in a language other than English, then translated.

I'm not familiar with the service departments of Garmin and others, but I have used Lowrance's service about 5 years ago. They replaced a defective unit for me even though the warranty had expired by three months.

Good Luck,

Gary
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Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
Any suggestions? Cheap and basic, or are there functions on these things that I don't even know I'm missing? Currently I Navigate with binos, compass and paper charts (and like it that way) so I know very little about what electronics are current.
MedSailor
Hey,

Some of the 'new' features available in chart plotters are:

Tide and Current display. You can see tide and current prediction information for any area at any time. This was new about 10 years ago.

Map display - you can see an electronic display of a paper chart with your boat displayed in the center. The screen will look like paper but you can zoom in, pan the display, etc. This was new about 10 years ago.

Satellite Display - You can see a 3D like display of the area you are sailing in. Some of the displays will show the bottom contour as well

SONAR Integration - Many new plotters have integrated SONAR / fishfinder units. This allows you to 'see' the bottom and determine if it is sand, mud, rocky, etc. This makes selecting an anchor and anchoring location easier

Touchscreen interfaces - no more confusing buttons and knobs.

Integration with IPhone / IPad / Andriod devices - the plotter screen can be sent to a phone or other device. You can control the device from anywhere on the boat

Integration with RADAR - the radar and plotter information can be overlayed on the same screen to make it easier to figure out what you are looking

Integration between VHF and Plotter - for sending and receiving DSC messages including distress.

Networking between other instruments, like autopilots, wind speed and direction.

The more you spend the more features you get. On the low end, for $300 or so you can get a small (3.5" display size) color chart plotter / sounder. For $3000 and up you can get a 10" unit with radar.

Go to a marine store and look around. See what you like, what you want, and what you think you need. Decide on a budget and then look around some more.

Good luck,
Barry
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  #7  
Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryL View Post
Hey,

Some of the 'new' features available in chart plotters are:

Tide and Current display. You can see tide and current prediction information for any area at any time. This was new about 10 years ago.

Map display - you can see an electronic display of a paper chart with your boat displayed in the center. The screen will look like paper but you can zoom in, pan the display, etc. This was new about 10 years ago.

Satellite Display - You can see a 3D like display of the area you are sailing in. Some of the displays will show the bottom contour as well

SONAR Integration - Many new plotters have integrated SONAR / fishfinder units. This allows you to 'see' the bottom and determine if it is sand, mud, rocky, etc. This makes selecting an anchor and anchoring location easier

Touchscreen interfaces - no more confusing buttons and knobs.

Integration with IPhone / IPad / Andriod devices - the plotter screen can be sent to a phone or other device. You can control the device from anywhere on the boat

Integration with RADAR - the radar and plotter information can be overlayed on the same screen to make it easier to figure out what you are looking

Integration between VHF and Plotter - for sending and receiving DSC messages including distress.

Networking between other instruments, like autopilots, wind speed and direction.

The more you spend the more features you get. On the low end, for $300 or so you can get a small (3.5" display size) color chart plotter / sounder. For $3000 and up you can get a 10" unit with radar.

Go to a marine store and look around. See what you like, what you want, and what you think you need. Decide on a budget and then look around some more.

Good luck,
Barry
Uhhhh.... wow. Yeah.... I figured there was a whole world of electro-gizmos out there. I'm no Larry Pardey but chart-plotting-rada-sonar does sound like a bit much for my taste.


I guess I should have stressed the "Cheap and basic" part of the question a little more in the OP. We're 6 years or so from departure on the big trip and I figure the best thing to do about getting a chart-plotter (if we even get one) is wait for things to get better and cheaper. ie buy one in 5-6 years time.

For now I was thinking of something that would give me lat-long and SOG that I could plug into my VHF so I'll display those fancy numbers for me also. Anyone know of or recommend any really basic fixed units? Is there a black box without display that I could use to hook into the VHF?

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Old 03-06-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

Apparently this one is available with NMEA output... looks like less than $100 with cable kit.

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Old 03-12-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
...For now I was thinking of something that would give me lat-long and SOG that I could plug into my VHF so I'll display those fancy numbers for me also. Anyone know of or recommend any really basic fixed units? Is there a black box without display that I could use to hook into the VHF?...
Sorry to respond late - I just saw this thread.

I use a Garmin 18x LVC to feed my VHF/DSC/AIS radio. Currently $64 at
Amazon.com: Garmin 18x LVC GPS Navigator Unit: GPS & Navigation Amazon.com: Garmin 18x LVC GPS Navigator Unit: GPS & Navigation



You can also splice the wires to feed its output to additional devices. I decided to get fancy and fed it (and the radio's AIS output) to a Bluetooth transmitter so I can pick up the GPS coordinates from any Bluetooth equipped laptop or tablet. Alternatively, you can buy wireless GPS pucks that output Bluetooth directly, but you need the hardwire output to get it to your VHF.

Hooking up a GPS to your radio is much more than a convenience to read long/lat and SOG on its display. It also activates your DSC function, so that pressing the "Distress" button will automatically transmit your GPS coordinates to all other DSC radios. It could save your life.
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Old 03-12-2012
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Re: Fixed mount GPS....

If your VHF will accept NMEA input, and display the relevant GPS data, all you should need is a "GPS Smart Antenna". A "smart" antenna is essentially a complete little GPS unit without a screen, rather than an antenna per se. You just wire 1V power into it and wire its NMEA output into you radio, and you're set.
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