Wannabe Sailing Bum
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: SF Bay Area
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Opinion of B&G with New Raymarine E120/4kw radar
Just completed a 3 day trip from San Francisco to San Diego. This is the first time I've had a chance to thoroughly field test my new Raymarine E120 and 4kw radar. I used a NMEA2000 interface unit to integrate my 2002 B&G wind, autopilot and depth gauges with the E120.
First off, the E120 is a really nice unit. I opted for the larger display mounted on center line in the aft section of the cockpit simply because I wanted to be able to run the split screen mode (radar and plotter) and still have a good visual on both.
I had created my waypoints from SF to San Diego ahead of time using the Raymarine v6.0 software on my laptop. Even though I am very good on computers, it took some serious getting used too in order to figure out everything. I also had to close the program and re-open several times in order to clear waypoints I tried to delete or move. That may be because I'm using the software with Vista, which is not yet supported. However, I'm pretty sure it's just because its Windows, and would exhibit the same symptoms if running on XP.
Once on the boat, I simply plugged my laptop into the "network." Simple network cable like you use at the office is located at the Nav Station. I am required to change network settings (IP Address and DNS Name), which I guarantee would stump 95% of the sailors out there; my Dad being one. Once connected, the E120 automatically picks up the waypoints I had created. That's a nice feature.
However, once under way, I found it very difficult to use the E120 to move waypoints for long distance legs. Instead of modifying them at the E120 in the cockpit, I would head below and move them on the laptop. BUT, I could only do this if the "GO TO" waypoint and autopilot were disengaged. If I tried to move any waypoints on the laptop while connected, the program would hang indefinitely. I instead would unplug from the network, move the waypoints, plug back in, then re-engage the "Go To" waypoint and autopilot. VERY VERY FRUSTRATING! I also was not able to get the radar screen to work on the laptop.
Additionally, if trying to modify the waypoint we are going to, a mysterious "N" symbol would appear at the vessel icon. We scoured the manual trying to find out what this thing is. It is not in there. In order to get rid of it, we'd have to power off the unit. That's a pain when the radar has to cool down before shutting down.
The 4kw radar is pretty amazing. While nearing Long Beach at 2am, I MARPA'd a large object 8nm dead ahead. The target was traveling at 21kts and coming straight at us. I altered course by 5 or 10 degrees and kept an eye out. It's pretty amazing how fast he closed that 8nm gap. Passing 1/2nm to starboard, I thought about how nice it would be to have AIS so I could call on VHF to make sure he saw me. I didn't bother calling him simply because there are so many commercial vessels in that area.
After the trip, I sent two questions to Raymarine via their web based service. I did receive responses within 30 minutes, and the answers were accurate and thorough. And, when responding to ask another question about the answer, I also received a prompt response. So I am pleased with my initial support experience. As it turns out, the mysterious "N" is a response the E120 is receiving back from the NMEA interface. Apparently that "N" will go away when the buffer clears in the NMEA unit. Hmm, not sure how long that will take?? We had the "N" on the screen long enough to look through the manual and take some pictures of it.
Another issue was with power. I've recently upgraded every part of my power system, which consisted of a larger house bank, prosine 2000w inverter/100amp Magnum charger, much larger cabling. At night, the screen would flicker from the low light position to the ultra bright and back to low light. Raymarine says this is likely due to variations in the DC power delivery, which may have been caused by the alternator charging the house bank as we are drawing from it (really not sure). I'll add a power conditioner in line to see if it corrects the issue. It's really annoying losing your night vision when that screen brightens on you. I swear it's bright enough to see it from space.
So in summary, I would say that the E120 is a very nice unit, with some great features. The menus and such take some getting used too, but are generally pretty basic once you understand them. I'm not all that pleased with how the B&G and Ray gear talk to each other when navigating. The wind and depth seemed to work fine, but again, navigating was troublesome. I suppose I'll swap out the B&G gear in the future so there is no NMEA interface.
Hope this is helpful for anyone shopping new systems.