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Join Date: Jul 2006
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Radar & CP
I have an Raymarine E80 dual helm system (color). It is all integrated. Before that I had the RLC 80 dual helm by Raytheon. It was ok, but its refresh was a little slow. The new Raymarine is top notch.
Go with the integrated unit. Are you really spending that much more money? It is a one-time budget/expense/right arm. I would definitely go with the chartplotter over just paper. If you are making a passage, it wil account for Cross Track error, instantly tell you where you are (or are not!!), and if you have an overlay, point out things that are there that should not be!! Many, many, many times I have been out at night in the ICW and found markers and signs that were not on the paper maps. An overlay will show you real-time distances and point out things that you cannot see at night/fog... easier than separate systems.
People have been cruising without CP & radar long before you or I were born and did just fine. However, once you have them, you will wonder how you ever got by without them. Don't lose your map skills though. Electronics can go out. A prudent sailor will always make 30 minute to 1 hour written observations on a paper map and plot his course to correspond with electronics. God forbid you ever have to go back to your last plot and dead reckon to port. Not having a last plot and doing it from guess work could be a whole lot worse though!!!!
The new E80 system can also track and map collision avoidance (with the proper autopilot and radar) for up to 10 vessels at a time. Other systems may have this availability too. In addition, you can get really cool 3-d shots or harbors and satellite photos of what you are going into.
The system is not THAT much of a power drain, all things considered. Set one unit as a master and you do not have to turn on the second (I think... might have to double check that one as I always have it on). Unless in a crowded harbor or out at night, I typically put my radar on an automatic timer to scan about once every 5 minutes or so. Saves juice. Also, I will tell you from expereince, that your autopilot will draw more than your radar ever dreamed of in a storm... so keep an eye on your batteries if you are letting the computer fight the seas.
There is also an option on Raytheon and Garmin for instant weather (realtime) downloads from Sirius and XM Satallite. Really cool stuff. Supposedly good to 200 miles offshore and shows you where the cells are and where they are moving. It is about 50 dollars/month for subscription.
I have used a small Garmin CP and FFinder on my little fishing boat, but that is the extent of my knowledge on those so I will withhold any comments other than to say I never had any problems with it.
Hope that helps. Keep your paper in a place where you can easily find them, but my guess is that you will hardly use them once you get used to the digital system.