Chosing a GPS/Chartplotter
I am considering a GPS/Chartplotter device, and getting lost in options.
At this point I somewhat narrowed the field down to:
Raymarine C80 and Garmin 3010 (but this is by no means final).
- I will use Raymarine autopilot, so I can make autopilot and GPS talk using Seatalk (and save one of two NMEA ports), also saves on wiring (I think I can directly connect autopilot control head to GPS, rather than running another NMEA cable).
Also, potentially, less issues in communication.
- Supports Navionics, which I prefer to bluecharts (because of price and coverage)
- Supports Raymarine radar
- Smaller screen, and it will be installed somewhat away from steering station, so size definitely matters
- Looks downright ugly (who designs those things).
- Bigger screen
- Looks slick
- Supports Garmin radar (over Ethernet-style network)
- Bluecharts (expensive, sell in small coverage areas)
- Will have to use NMEA to talk to autopilot (which leaves only one NMEA port free)
Raymarine C120 would solve the size problem but its too expensive and really way too big.
What would you do? Is there any other device I should be looking at?
I would recommend you get the Garmin 3210 instead of the 3010, since the price diffference is only $100 MSRP...and the 3210 has the entire coastal US detailed charts pre-loaded, which the 3010 does not have. Getting those same charts as chips or unlocked charts from the BlueChart G2 software would cost considerably more than the $100 price difference.
This would probably save you quite a bit of money if you sail in US waters.
If you can afford it, it would probably be wise to get the Garmin 4208 rather than the 3210, even though it has a smaller screen. The 42xx series is the lowest level of Garmin equipment that has both NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 support as well as built-in charts for the coastal US, Alaska, Hawaii and the Bahamas.
BTW, the user interface and software on the Garmin is far better IMHO than the Raymarine equipment. I've used both... but have installed Garmin equipment on my boat for that reason.
Given that most of the new equipment that will be coming out over the next few years will be phasing out the NMEA 0183 standard, since it has been superceded by the NMEA 2000 standard, it would probably be better to get equipment that support the new standard. Finally, wiring the equipment, especially with the NMEA 2000 standard is generally much simpler.
I know about NMEA2000 but I just don't like it. I think the standard may be useful for high speed boats, where data rates of serial may not be sufficient. But I have a sailboat. My main concern is convenience and saving electric power. Running ethernet bus does nothing for the latter (and not very convenient due to their weird wiring requirements - gotta use coax, all sorts of weird connectors that tend to fail, hubs - I have enough of that stuff at work). So NMEA2000 is almost a negative to me :) :)
But I do appreciate a point of the user interface, and preloaded charts might be a good way to equalize.
Ok, so say I get Garmin and use one NMEA interface to connect the autopilot. Now I want to connect DSC radio and depth sounder (and may be wind instrument one day) - how do I do that if there is only one NMEA 183 port left?
One more thing. Navionics vs. Bluecharts:
Here is the coverage for Caribbean:
Navionics - one package, $180 (http://www.jackrabbitmarine.com/Detail.bok?no=2822)
Bluecharts - 5 separate packages, each $322 for a total of $1600 (and there are separate detailed charts of Bahamas for another $600).
What about Lowrance? Are their instruments any good?
BTW, If you're using someone else's depthsounder and need to connect it via NMEA 0183... you're being an idiot... why ask for trouble when the Garmin supports its own sounder unit.
You get a Brookhouse MUX and a Seatalk/NMEA interface box and you should be able to deal with outputs.
Woot at Brookhouse can program your MUX to match your system requirements... or you do it yourself with a PC.
I've set up a NEMA network and use Euro style blocks. It's a drag, no connectors, but that's how NMEA 183 works.
BTW the only NMEA port on the Raymarine can be set for 4800 or 38500 baud and AIS works only with 38500. This system gets around that.
I like the Garmin and have owned them, but prefer the Raytheon. The C series will be fine for a stand alone. That would be my vote. But the truth is that most people will tell you to get what THEY feel comfortable with. Both units are good units. Garmin has come a long way, but I still like how you manuever with the Raytheon (probably b/c I grew up with them).
Thanks guys, all advice was appreciated and I will give it some more thought!
One point I would make is that you need to focus on more than price and coverage when selecting a charting plotter source. You need to consider WHERE you will be cruising. This is NOT an issue for US charts...but is definitely a major issue for the Bahamas and the Caribe and elsewhere. You need to ask cruisers who have cruised those areas about the accuracy of the charting brand for the area as there are HUGE differences depending on the mapping source. This was a BIG problem with the CmapNT carts in the Bahamas until they changed sources a couple of years back. It is STILL an issue with them in the southern caribe according to a recent post on another forum. The problem is not just Cmap...so ask others that have been to your cruising grounds with the same system. Even worse than paying a lot for charts is paying for ones you can't reasonably (not EXCLUSIVELY!) rely on.
Well, there are 3 chart types really - Navionics. Bluecharts and Cmap. I haven't seen too many Cmap devices, so that's pretty much out.
Between Navionics and Bluecharts, I personally liked Navionics because of the larger coverage. However it looks as though Bluecharts do better in Bahamas - they use Explorer charts instead of the usual government stuff (and I read a few people complaining about Navionics being way off). In the end, though, I don't think any chart will ever be perfect, so that's just one part of the equasion.
I am leaning the Garmin way now (since I realized Raymarine makes you buy gps sensor separately - I think this is just a cheap trick on their part).
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