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  #1  
Old 08-04-2008
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My first electronics upgrade - questions

I recently purchased a 1990 35 ft Holby Marine sailboat and have sailed her from CT to MD (as the first leg of our trip to NC) and found the boat to be everything I hoped for (see other threads). It handles and sails well and is very comfortable for the two of us. I am preparing to make my first (one of many I am sure) major upgrade in electronics and looking for general comments on my choices.

The PO generously outfitted the boat with a new compliment of B&G instruments (wind speed, direction, water speed, depth and fluxgate compass) all on a NEMA 1083 network. The instrument displays are above the companionway


as well as on the pedestal


The displays are a mixture of analog and digital. The digital are multi function H1000 displays that can be switched between a number of settings. For example, the depth display can contain a trace of recent depths, nice to know which way it is going, and the speed display can integrate both the wind speed and water speed to produce speed over ground.

What I am looking to add are an autopilot and a GPS chart plotter at the wheel. My current planned usage of the boat is coastal cruising and lots of singlehanded day sailing in coastal waters. The autopilot is to assist me in the day sailing for the most part. My selection is, no suprise, the Raymarine S1 wheel pilot, for its reasonable (if any of these prices are reasonable) price, ease of installation and appropriateness for that use. From looking at the manual it appears I can use the existing B&G fluxgate compass on its NEMA network and do not have to install a second compass just for the autopilot. I believe if I add a GPS chartplotter also on a NEMA network, it will use the GPS input to further assist the autopilot, but I have not confirmed that.

My selection for the chartplotter is a Garmin 3206, also no suprise other than the model. I think a 6" diagonal display should be sufficient at the wheel and I hate to crowd an already busy area. It also is an older model, so its price has come down some, but still maintains some future upgrade capability. The 3206 comes with all the US charts and offers the ability to add radar, weather, and additional charts.

In principle, all of these instruments will behave together on the NEMA network, but I would like to hear other's experience with mixing vendors. I have read thru the threads on instrument reviews, chartplotters and autopilots; but naturally not found mentioned the particular equipment that I have and intend to get. So I am looking for any comments on these selections and any input on other things I should consider before making the purchase.
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Old 08-05-2008
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I've had pretty good success with mixing NMEA 0183 gear from different vendors. The standard is old enough that most of the bugs have been worked out. I don't remember if the 3206 has the NMEA 2000 ports, but I believe it doesn't, and not getting a chart plotter at this time without NMEA 2000 capability would be a shame. Garmin makes good gear and has excellent customer service.
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My first electronics upgrade

Dog -
Well, thats a good point. I had not considered NEMA 2000 as I have only seen a little info on it. I will look into what Garmin has as options on their newer chart plotters. I am inclined to go with electronics that have been tried and tested and found reliable. I was not considering some of their new touch screen models for that reason (and price as well).

I will do some reading and research on NEMA 2000 to see if I can identify the potential advantages down the road. But my impression is for the kind of boat I have and the type of sailing I will be doing, I don't think I need to future proof it too much.

I would think newer equipment would be backward compatible to NEMA 1083, but I am not so sure as I think the physical network differences between the two are significant.

What do you see as the limiting issues for the 1083 bus system, being a single talker and multi-listener system. Is it that a chart plotter at the helm would not be able to communicate to a main chart plotter or PC at the Nav station?
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There's generally no need for chartplotters to communicate with each other IMHO. However, most of the manufacturers are moving away from NMEA 0183 since NMEA 2000 has been certified. It has a lot of good advantages. First, it has a much higher data rate than NMEA 0183. Second, it has standardized wiring color, type and connectors, which can simplify adding new gear in the future. Third, it can handle multiple talkers and listeners without needing to resort to a multiplexer arrangement. Fourth, if you get high data rate equipment, like a radar, it is simpler to network them to things like AIS, chartplotters, existing instruments.

A lot of newer equipment isn't going to be backwards compatible to the older NMEA 0183 standard, since many are now coming with just NMEA 2000. As time goes on, I see this happening more and more.

Of course, you could always just bridge the two data networks with a NMEA 0183/2000 data bridge type device. However, the chartplotter and radar should be able to exchange data at a higher speed IMHO. If you go with the Garmin 3206, you'll basically be limited to getting Garmin radar, not that their radar isn't good. BTW, IMHO, a 6" screen is a bit small for radar and chartplotter unless they're overlaid, and that can present its own set of problems in terms of readability.
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My first electronics upgrade

I have not really seen radar and weather overlayed on a GPS screen to know how cluttered that looks. Can you switch back and forth between radar view, weather view and map view? I really don't have any intentions, right now, to add radar and if I did I would interface it to larger screen device at the Nav station. But I have never used radar, so I don't know actually how you should use it.

We made the 5 day trip from CT to Md using a handheld GPS and paper charts. The GPS had no charts so it was just to keep track of our route. Even with due diligence on our part we still ran aground several times. Ran aground is a bit too harsh, we actually just bumped as we were traveling very slowly and looking for places to anchor in between channels. With this boat this is no problem as I just crank up the keel a few inches and we are off. So my feeling is that even with a GPS chart plotter there is still going to be confusion of where the channel actually is, especially when there are several that come together as we experienced, so it is no substitute for paying attention. So my feeling is that the 6" screen is enough to let us know where we are and the general lay of the land, so to speak, without having to fumble with paper charts at the wheel. But I could be convinced otherwise, as this is our first boat and all new experiences for us.
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My first electronics upgrade

I quess a step up to a model 4208 would address both your screen size (now 8") and NEMA 2000 compatibility issues. I will consider that. thanks
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overlays

We have installed Raymarine systems and Garmin systems all with similar features and it is easy to jump from one screen to another on the page menu. The weather will over lay on the Garmin with one button it is on or off. The Raymarine you need to change screens. At WM these are set up so you can see and compare which is best for you. Hope this helps. P.S. really great pictures!

Last edited by funsailthekeys; 08-05-2008 at 01:25 PM. Reason: addition
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My first electronics upgrade

Funsail -
Thanks, unfortunately where I am currently located it is over 2 hours to the nearest WM. Sounds like I need to make a trip one weekend.
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CapnRon,

Just a little more detail on NMEA 2000:
  • it is a true network, allowing for multiple talkers on the same backbone.
  • it is based on a marinized version of the CAN (IIRC - Control Area Network) BUS that is used in the automotive industry for things like dashboards, fuel management, and engine control.
  • as SD implies, it will supercede, and thus make NMEA 0183 obsolete in the near future
  • for marine applications, it can tie your GPS, Chartplotter, VHF, AIS, engine management (guages), autopilot, and RADAR into a single network with a single control panel.
  • many manufacturers have their own "brand" of NEMA 2000. Raymarine, for example, calls it "SeaTalk NG."

There is a great blog discussing the advances in this area available at Panbo: The Marine Electronics Weblog: Network & control

Oh yeah, belated congratulations on the georgous boat!

- Ed
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My first electronics upgrade

Ed,
Thanks,

Ron
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