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Old 08-21-2019, 01:39 PM   #1
City: Seattle
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Need new electronics

Hey all, i am in the process of purchasing my first trawler. If the surveys go well i will be the proud owner of 40' 1977 Puget Trawler. I am beyond new to the trawler life style. I have only owned a 16' open bow ski boat before. Anyways, All of the electronics are ancient. I am looking to install all new stuff. I am buying a 1977 because thats what i can afford, so please keep that in mind when giving suggestions. The main use of my boat in the short term is a live-aboard in a marina in Seattle with frequent overnight trips at anchor. I would eventually like to do the inside passage to Alaska (within 5 years) and down to Mexico (10+ years) down the road. My 2 questions are 1) What is a user friendly brand/suite that you guys can suggest, and 2) How often do these types of electronics usually last?

I appreciate all and any info that you folks can give me, Thanks.

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Old 08-21-2019, 01:52 PM   #2
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Jeff Cote writes for Pacific Yachting and is an annual seminar presenter at both the Seattle and Vancouver boat shows. He owns his own electronics (marine) business and has been doing it for some time now. I found this video useful and I went with Garmin even though I believe Furuno is better. I don't like software that isn't intuitive even if it is better, but your mileage may vary:


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Old 08-21-2019, 02:15 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Wanna-b View Post
Anyways, All of the electronics are ancient. I am looking to install all new stuff.

My 2 questions are 1) What is a user friendly brand/suite that you guys can suggest, and 2) How often do these types of electronics usually last?

1) There's a lot to be said for using the boat for a year or so before deciding what you really want/need/would like to have. We always like to have a few basics -- depth sounder, VHF -- working, but if some of the other stuff still at least works... you can maybe put off all the bells whistles and hooters that might be available from a new system...

Maybe if necessary augment with a tablet nav app...

2) There's also a lot to be said for an integrated system... but then knowing what individual components you need/want/would like helps inform how a system should be integrated, which systems could make integration easier, etc. Which leads back to 1, above.

3) You might find you need to spend money earlier on minor details... like keeping the new boat floating, engine(s) running, etc. Anyway, that also leads back to 1, above. Fix critical components first, fix or upgrade other important components next, etc... get around to nifty new electronics when you begin to recover from all that.

Can't speak to many brands, only have hands-on experience with a few. We like and use Furuno systems, but some folks say they'e not particularly user friendly. Many people say Garmin stuff is user friendly, but in my brief encounters their stuff has seemed no more intuitive (or not) than our Furuno suite. (Then again, I'm about as intuitive as a rock, so it almost never occurs to me to start with a new product without having already read the manual. Several times.)

In either (or any) case, usually as any system becomes more capable, it also becomes more complex... so knowing how to use a more-complex system often requires more learning and practice. And of course reading the manual is often a good exercise. And in the case of navigation, it helps to understand how navigation works (what is set and drift, why are they important, etc.), and why, without regard to electronics.

Furuno supports stuff forever (see the recent thread on their radars), whereas Garmin is said to support stuff for about a month. (OK, maybe longer than that; read some threads about Garmin.) Our 10 year old Furuno suite is still working fine and still supported by Furuno. I don't have any ownership experience with Garmin, so can't say. We've also had a few Raymarine components on an earlier boat. They worked well enough; we didn't have that boat long enough to know about long-term support. No experience with other brands.

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Old 08-21-2019, 02:51 PM   #4
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New Instruments

I faced similar circumstances when I purchased my 2001 Great Harbour a year ago. A friend with more experience than me suggest I make the new helm instruments closer to my last improvement, rather than the first improvement. It was good counsel. There is about a 100% chance that there will other necessary repairs and improvements that are identified during your initial months of ownership and first cruises. Some may be big $.

My 7-year old Simrad gear suffered intermittent problems, so I added a low cost backup nav system. I bought a Samsung S2 tablet with internal gps, installed the Navionics App and mounted it with RAM mounts on my helm cabinet. All in, about $400. The tablet and the Simrad agree about 99.99% of the time. Though it is plugged into my 12VDC system, an added bonus is that the tablet has an internal battery and can also run off my spare laptop battery bank. Even if I have a total electrical failure, my tablet gps chartplotter will run about 16hrs on the two batteries.

This has also allowed me time and experience to better determine what I want for my replacement helm instruments. I am installing those now - Garmin. I expect (hope) to get 8-10 years use before replacing.
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Old 08-21-2019, 03:01 PM   #5
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I would agree with those that say to wait. Get some experience before you spend $10k on a new electronics suite.

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Old 08-21-2019, 04:37 PM   #6
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Welcome aboard. Congrats on your new boat. Personally I like Raymarine because of the great customer service they have given me over the years.
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Old 08-21-2019, 05:03 PM   #7
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Seconding what's been said by some with more trawler experience than I have (just starting third year with our first trawler - and boat of this size). The boat's electronics were minimal and ancient: VHF, depth sounder, knotmeter, and old Garmin 182 navigator (all working fine). And an ancient Raytheon radar that wouldn't stay on-line.

I immediately started salivating over all the whiz-bang chart plotters and MFDs, etc. before I finally calmed down and took a realistic look at my near-term 'mission.' Next spring will be moving the boat from Lake Michigan home to New England via the Lakes, Trent-Severn Waterway, and NY canals - basically coastwise navigation to the canals and then not much need for much of that stuff. I did buy a new Furuno radar which I'm sure will be useful for coasting and traffic awareness, but in retrospect I probably could get by even without that for the trip. I should probably add that I've done a lot of coastwise sailing navigating by eyeball and was a quartermaster in the Navy, and am comfortable with paper charts and pilotage.

Maybe more to the point: In getting the boat ready for the trip, I've found plenty of other things to spend money on!!

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Old 08-21-2019, 05:25 PM   #8
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Wait++. Learn to use what the boat has, what works and doesn't work, what you like and don't like and why. Replace what you absolutely have to in order to be safe and confident in your nav and anchoring. While doing that, learn what's out there. You have time. Use it to your advantage.

Congrats on the new boat. Learn to enjoy it.
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Old 08-21-2019, 05:56 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Wanna-b View Post
My 2 questions are 1) What is a user friendly brand/suite that you guys can suggest, and 2) How often do these types of electronics usually last?
Am 3/4's the way through a full refit of our boat and will leave next year on an open-ended cruise (PNW, Central America, eventually to Florida). I made these decisions about 7-mos ago so there may be some changes in the market. For better or worse, can only speak to my decisions for how I plan to use the boat.

I ended up going with a Simrad 4G radar system with MFDs. I am not much of a fisherman, so did not spend the extra money on a forward/side-scan transducer. I did look at fancy open-array radar systems but decided against the extra expense at this time despite the long range cruising plans, though I have to admit, I lust a bit over a dual radar setup for safety and could see adding a modest open array but at some point, I just had to say 'enough.'

I decided against Furuno due to expense and I found their user interface clumsy, especially when refreshing firmware. Raymarine, in my opinion, is a bit proprietary and has had a spotty record over the years. I did not look that closely at Garmin, but I probably should have. In the end, I have to confess, I made much of my decision for Simrad because I wanted the display input to be a 'wheel,' an actual knob versus touch-screen or rocker-pad. Reason for wanting a wheel is I find touch-screen difficult if there is any movement. That narrowed the choice to Furuno or Simrad. I like tinkering with this stuff, so also have PC-based Coastal Explorer and OpenCPN running, as well as Navionics on Android Phone and Tablet, all of which are capable of being primary navigation tools, but are not as intuitive and integrated into the boat/autopilot so no need to impose a nerd-curve on crew. Simrad also runs Navionics native on their MFDs, so it integrates into tablet display.

Because our cruising will be off-grid in Central America, I installed IridiumGO for satellite access to weather. PredictWind subscription has very good route planning and is accessible via Satellite or cell phone. OpenCPN has the ability to drag in GRIB files, though its definitely a bit nerdy to use. OpenCPN also has the ability to import routes built in GoogleEarth for areas where charts are highly suspect or difficult/expensive to procure (parts of Mexico).

Base Simrad system with 12" MFD, bronze transducer, and 4G Radar was around $5k when I purchased (BOE Marine in Maryland was great to work with). Given what $5k purchased 10-years ago, I consider this to be a bargain. I added a couple MFDs and the aforementioned IridiumGO antenna, so am in for more than that. Was pretty easy to install, though that really depends on your boat configuration. Because the old Furuno was such an energy hog and the cable to the antenna is so fat, installing new was pretty straightforward.

How long will it last? Not as long as the old Furuno CRT that I pulled out with over 25-years on it. I'm guessing in 7-8 years it will need replacing, mostly because the technology has advanced. Could likely stretch beyond that, but there will likely come a point where safety compels an upgrade even if obsolescence does not.
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Old 08-22-2019, 09:27 AM   #10
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I’m not disagreeing with the wait people. However, if you are in a hurry and you are comfortable with hooking up NMEA 0183 equipment, you can score on eBay. Most of my electronics have lasted 20 years.

Furuno, Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad(B&G) are all fine suppliers.
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Old 08-22-2019, 04:14 PM   #11
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That settles it, I’m gonna wait and get settled before outfitting it to cross the world😂. I really appreciate all the info, thanks
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:39 AM   #12
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"I’m gonna wait and get settled before outfitting it to cross the world��"

Great choice , when something finally craps out I would purchase a stand alone , perhaps hand held version.

Gps, VHF , what ever, will work as a great backup for an expen$ive super complex system for your world cruise.

Remember , many new complex systems are out dated by time you have it shipped to you.
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Old 08-23-2019, 10:00 AM   #13
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I agree with waiting. I also strongly suggest you join a club. Depending on the club you will often get the benefit of a network of cruising, navigation and maintenance in addition to the social side. Find a group that you are comfortable with. Very few Yacht Clubs are the Blue Blazer standing with a cocktail type. Some have a cruising focus, others have their own moorage.
With your goals, you should look into predicted log contests. These are navigation contests that will hone your skills from simply laying a course into your gps and following the lines to knowing exactly when you will arrive using only your chart, compass and tachometer.
Whatever you do, use your boat. It’s good for both of you.
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Old 08-23-2019, 11:15 AM   #14
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Shop eBay. There are often newer used electronics. Keep looking and you will find what you want eventually. Prices can be really low from some sellers and high with others. Usually if an item does'nt sell, the seller will drop the price.

Good deals on Craig's List but the buyer has to be more careful since there is no returns or guarantees. If the seller can not demonstrate the item to be working, walk away. Or bring your own battery to test.

Lots of boat owners upgrade electronics when something new comes out and sell the old one on eBay.

Don't be afraid to message the seller with a lower price.

Anything you buy from eBay is guaranteed by eBay. If you buy something that does'nt match the description or is defective, you will get your purchase price refunded plus you will get reimbursed for shipping - both to you and the return.. Even if the listing states "no returns", eBay will refund if the item does't match the listing.

I bought a used Furuno FCR 1100 on eBay when it was 5 years old. The seller took it out of a boat purchased recently and replaced it with a MFD integrated system. He thought the radar was a 4 kw model. I recognized the radar for what it was and purchased it for $1,300. The FCR 1100 is a 11 kw commercial color radar and sold for $19,000 when new!
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Old 08-23-2019, 11:28 AM   #15
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Buy a large ipad pro. I just switched over from an older Garmin, system and it's amazing.
I have a 12.9" ipad pro ($500, $100 lifeproof waterproof case, $50 dash mount)
with timezero iBoat nav , ($100 for the charts and radar/AIS modules on the app),
I connect it to a Furuno 1st watch Radar via wifi ($850 - they're on extreme sale right now),
and a quark electronics AIS receiver ($150).
Full system: $1750

The system blows me away. The functionality and quality of the app is far better than any chartplotter I've ever seen, and you can get that without the radar/AIS for just $650 on a 13-inch screen.

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ais, auto-pilot, electronics, radar, radio

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