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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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  #1  
Old 07-30-2012
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GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

We're thinking of adding a relatively fixed-mount chartplotter/sounder and a tiller-controlled autopilot to our Olson 30, but having a little trouble deciding. It seems this technology changes significantly each year, but it also appears that the current philosophy is that you are best off by sticking to one maker for both pieces of equipment. I was really leaning toward the Garmin GPSMAP 740 until I found out that they only make a below-deck autopilot. The more I've been reading about mixing manufacturers between the two (any number of threads on here and on the cruisers forum) it appears that this only brings up a whole bunch of problems of each system not talking to the other.

Since my wife and I sail short-handed quite a bit, and I'm wanting to do more solo-sailing, I think an autopilot is becoming more of a must rather than a "nice-to-have" item, but the selection narrows quite a bit for what we would like that isn't overkill. We will never need radar for this boat, and all we really would like is gps and chartplotting capability (with a display larger than the 5-5.6" that are right at one price point for the Garmins when you jump up form the 546s to the 740s). From what I'm getting out of the people at West Marine, Garmin and Raymarine are the best choices, but he favors Garmin because "Raymarine never answers their phones when you call for customer support". I am probably going to buy these through WM so I have some form of customer support, but the features and complexity of the comparable Raymarine unit (e7d) is just unreal... There's a great review from Practical Sailor that I was reading last night, so other than the complexity (much of it I'll never use, not just radar, but neither will I make use of the scanners or monitors until we move it to the next boat in 5 or 10 years, if it's still functional). We like the larger displays of this model, which is the reason we are looking at this level and not the smaller ones, since it will be supported by a Ram mount inside the companionway and swing into view when in use. For the moment, I'm leaning away from Garmin (unless I find all sorts of compelling evidence that different brands of tiller-pilots work smoothly with them) and more toward a Raymarine system.

Any help would be appreciated!

Ray

Last edited by Irunbird; 07-30-2012 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 07-30-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

I looked at all the units at the Annapolis Boat show last fall and ended up with the e7 for 2 reasons - the Garmin is touch screen only - no mouse, and the E7 has a longer warranty. As for the salesperson's comment about not be able to get through to support, he is full of crap. During launch season it is hard to get through, but most of the time there is almost no wait. You don't get an offshore call center, you get the Ray engineers. My only word of caution - the Ray guys will push you to buy SeaTalk when NMEA is cheaper, and they are much less helpful if you go the NMEA route. I have the E7 connected to a triducer so the depth is shown on the one display. I don't want my helm to look like a 727 cockpit.
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Old 07-30-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

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Originally Posted by jsaronson View Post
I looked at all the units at the Annapolis Boat show last fall and ended up with the e7 for 2 reasons - the Garmin is touch screen only - no mouse, and the E7 has a longer warranty. As for the salesperson's comment about not be able to get through to support, he is full of crap. During launch season it is hard to get through, but most of the time there is almost no wait. You don't get an offshore call center, you get the Ray engineers. My only word of caution - the Ray guys will push you to buy SeaTalk when NMEA is cheaper, and they are much less helpful if you go the NMEA route. I have the E7 connected to a triducer so the depth is shown on the one display. I don't want my helm to look like a 727 cockpit.
Now I haven't checked (I was reading quickly last night before dinner), but I would think a package comes with software (which I would guess would be Seatalk)- not true?

Edit- just looked at Seatalk products and it looks like it comes with all it's own network of plug/play components... more than just software!

Last edited by Irunbird; 07-30-2012 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 07-30-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

Seatalk is the Ray proprietary network cabling and connectors. No better, but costs more than NMEA.
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Old 08-02-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

Why does anyone connect their chartplotters to their autopilots?
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Old 08-02-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

So you can set it to steer to waypoints.
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Old 08-03-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

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Originally Posted by jsaronson View Post
So you can set it to steer to waypoints.
That's not YOU steering, it's a computer. I prefer to keep my head out of the boat.
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Old 08-04-2012
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Re: GPS Chartplotter/Autopilot selection

It's not intended for you to just program the system to steer to waypoints for an entire route (or even significant segments), but to give you time to do other things when shorthanded. Solo ocean racers use them all the time to do exactly that, though. These electronics still require supervision, and that also means keeping your head out of the boat as in pre-qualifying your programmed route. If you run into obstructions, you can't blame the electronics or the charting they rely on.
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