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Old 10-30-2017, 06:12 PM   #1
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Advice: Chartplotter, Radar, Depth Sounder

So I've inherited some functional but slightly dated electronics with our Bluewater 40. Everything seems functional (one depth sounder flaked on us midway through our maiden voyage but we had a backup so we just reset it and it started working again). Being the nerdy guy I am who also likes integrated things, this equipment is underwhelming. As a former (airplane) pilot the age of the gear makes me nervous when it's 1/8th a mile and you're in a shipping lane. Finally the helm is a bunch of bolted on stuff which flips the OCD switch in me.

I've been considering updating the basics: radar, depth sounder and GPS/Chartplotter. I don't need the latest and greatest but the boat and my wife and I could benefit from a serious upgrade. Over time I'd like to expand with an integrated auto pilot (the boat has a stand alone system now) maybe a second display, more monitoring, etc. To me this makes NMEA 2000ģ compatibility important.

I had considered an iPad based solution, but it seems like support for functions beyond chart plotting is limited or still in the Radio Shack category (AIS, Radar, etc). I like writing code but wiring up AIS through a Raspberry Pi isn't realistic for a working stiff with three kids. I'm also not convinced it's significantly cheaper in the long run when compared to an older system from one of the majors. Being able to connect and display on an iPad would be killer.

As far as the purpose built systems go...to be honest, the differences between brands (SIMRAD, Raymarine, Garmin, B&G, etc) aren't terribly obvious (as a tech marketing guy this drives me bonkers) and even the differences between a single brand's previous release or even two versions back when compared to the current release seems..."limited".

So, with all of that said I came across this today (thanks to an ad on this forum, you're welcome) and thought it might be a good way in: Simrad GO9 XSE Chartplotter/Fishfinder

My logic here is that by going back a version or two you can significantly lower the entry price point without giving up too much in the way of gizmo factor/technology. And given where my boat is coming from (our same GPS was recently listed on eBay as a "vintage GPS prop" and is looks like something out of Space 1999) updating to anything made in the last ten years would be amazing.

OK, with all of this said. Is my logic off? Am I missing something here? Going new puts you in the $10K category just to get started. I'm not planning to circumnavigate anything anytime soon so I'm wondering what other people think and have done to overcome what I have to believe is a similar conundrum.

All replies and advice is welcome. Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-30-2017, 06:24 PM   #2
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I'd tend to agree that the basic functionality is pretty much the same, but the user interfaces vary greatly in friendliness... depending on the end user. But when I go back in the market for the next boat if necessary, I will give Furuno first preference because the customer support I got, even after my equipment was out of warranty and a generation or two old, was superb.
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Old 10-30-2017, 07:27 PM   #3
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In my opinion, buying the latest technology might be more important than you think. Like computers and phones, this stuff gets obsolete faster than ever, and many companies don't do a good job of supporting their older equipment. In my opinion, Garmin is really bad this way. I heard of one case where a product only about 1.5 years old was "no longer supported."

I also just decided to upgrade my plotter and radar. I picked the new Raymarine AXIOM series for two main reasons...

1. They support Navionics, which I have used on my iPad and really like. So migrating to the Raymarine Navionics should be pretty easy. Raymarine used to have a not-so-good support reputation, but I have heard from several people that since they were bought by FLIR a few years ago, things have really improved.
2. They have a wi-fi radar, which means we don't have to pull the 20-year old thick cable and snake a new one, which would be a BIG hassle on my GB 32. They can install the new radome, pick the 12v supply off the existing thick cable, and just leave it in place. Easy-peasy (I hope! They start installing tomorrow!).

I also added 2-way AIS. Used it recently on a charter in the San Juans and found that it makes life easier, especially when there is a lot of commercial traffic around.

I saw recently that Garmin has bought Navionics. I hope that doesn't mean that Raymarine will, within the next couple of years, be prevented from selling/supporting Navionics on their chartplotters.

Anyhow, that's my 2 cents. Good luck with the new boat and the new electronics to go with it.

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Old 10-30-2017, 07:37 PM   #4
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We are in the same boat with the same feelings. A wireless radar and a dragonfly ff could be paired to a tablet. This is what is coming down the line eventually. We will be watching this thread with interest. Let us know what you end up with and how you like it
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Old 10-30-2017, 08:12 PM   #5
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I like the PC based chart plotter solutions. That can keep the cost down significantly. I'm using Time Zero Navigator, but if starting with a clean slate then I would look very closely at Coastal Explorer. They also have a great product to integrate NMEA devices.

For me, given that Furuno own half of the TZ company (MaxSea), it was easy to add Furuno radar. The signal is via ethernet, so with a switch it can be fed to multiple devices/locations. This route is the 'bolt on' and aesthetically challenged approach, but you could easily fabricate a console where stuff is built-in.

I think the space is still evolving quite quickly, and would add/upgrade only to the extent you require. Stuff gets superseded fairly quickly, and ownership changes and this together with product rationalisation can lead to limited parts availability way before time that you might expect.
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Old 10-30-2017, 08:53 PM   #6
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We just completed a job similar to Oldersalt, adding a Raymarine Es9 "head" unit and a Quantum (cabled) radar. I think upgrading to the latest does indeed make sense, as the newer software, screens, and processors are well ahead of the older stuff. After installation, I connected my unit via wi-fi to my hotspot, and it downloaded and upgraded every Raymarine piece on the network. Networking it together was simple, and I would certainly consider Raymarine again in the future. Their customer service does indeed answer the phone!

To save money, we purchased our gear when rebates were in effect. I buy online at the lowest-cost reputable seller, with free shipping and no sales tax. This usually involves several transactions, but saves hundreds of dollars.

The time and or expense of actual installation is not something to overlook. Maybe buying later-model gear will save you from another install in 4-5 years. My last outfit was 10 years old. We have about 3 days of technician labor in our current setup.

You will be using this gear every hour you are underway, so the planning you are doing is the right path.

This is our third boat with AIS capability. I highly recommend at least receive capability for the 1/8 mile and shipping lane scenario you describe. You may then correlate radar contacts with AIS contacts and make appropriate arrangements via VHF, quickly.

Would be happy to discuss further details, or take you underway, if you wish.

Best Wishes
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Old 10-30-2017, 11:15 PM   #7
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Consider attending Pacific Marine Expo. Seattle November 16-18.
All the electronic mfg's will have booth's there.
I'm shopping to update my stuff as well.....Or there's the 2018 Seattle Boat Show.
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Old 10-30-2017, 11:27 PM   #8
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We have had Raymarine on our last 5 boats now. I have had excellent customer service. They will take the time that is necessary to help me with whatever problem I have had. I bought a DSM300 in 2005. I had it on a 46' that I sold but removed it before I listed the boat. I installed it on a 22'CC and had it there for 6 years before I had any problems. I heard that there had been issues with the DSM300s so I called Raymarine. Long story short they replaced it no cost after I had owned it for about 8 years.

2 years ago we bought our current boat and I replaced pretty much all the electronics with Raymarine. I have an e127 with a 4kw radar. Love it. It has wifi so I can sit below with my ipad and plot the next days course. We do not have a lower helm. It took me about 4 days to install the MFD, AIS, radar, 2 VHFs and new power to them. I searched the internet for the best prices and found Anchor Express. No association just happy customer. They have a flat rate shipping of $10.99 which compared to another vendor shipping quote of $153.00 and their prices were also lower on the components. I also got a $500 rebate from Raymarine.
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Old 10-30-2017, 11:34 PM   #9
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I really like coastal explorer but I donít trust windows based computers. Have had my machine reboot right when I need it most. I feed AIS, Autopilot, gps, depth all into my coastal explorer. It will do radar overlay if you buy their radar.

With Raymarine you have an incredible resource with their support forum. I am amazed at how backwards compatible there equipment is. There software is not were their recent advances have been. An e90w runs very similar software to their new axiom, but their hardware has really improved processing speed. When selecting older Raymarine you need to ask, do you need WiFi and how heavy do you do radar overlay.

I have had amazing luck integrating equipment from different vendors through both NMEA 0183 and 2000. Presently I have a Raymarine MFD and radar with Furuno gps, b&g depth, coastal AIS, and simrad autopilot. The autopilot and gps are 25 years old but nothing newer works any better. The MFD are pre WiFi, 9 inches that I picked up for $800 each. I donít really need WiFi but if you were to buy a single station system with WiFi you could use an iPad at your second helm and save money.

Some people are driven by lowest cost, some by processor speed, some by looks. I really canít find anything wrong with any of offerings from simrad, Furuno, Raymarine, b&g, or Garmin.

That said each has trended in slightly different directions and this might make the difference on what you choose, for instance b&g is more oriented to sailors.
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Old 10-31-2017, 06:54 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstream345 View Post
Going new puts you in the $10K category just to get started.
Not necessarily. There are some good deals out there. I'm looking at at a 9" Raymarine Axiom MFD (with GPS and Navionics) for $1050, their wifi Quantum radar for $1199, and reusing my DT800 depth sounder module ($300 if I had to buy a new one).

That's a completely new, latest-generation, 1-station system for $2549 and it should be an easy DIY install.

Plus Raymarine now has a rebate deal - $500 back if you buy an Axiom and Quantum. So $2049. Less what you can sell the existing equipment for.

My point with this example is it is possible to install new, integrated systems for a lot less than you might think.
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Old 10-31-2017, 10:37 AM   #11
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I really like coastal explorer but I donít trust windows based computers. Have had my machine reboot right when I need it most. .
My laptop based navigation equipment on several different laptops has been very reliable. this has been the case for both W7 and XP. But I have never ever used the laptops for anything else. Dedicated units per protocol it is called.
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Old 10-31-2017, 11:05 AM   #12
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Really glad I asked this question here..so many great perspectives. I certainly appreciate the upgrade/backward compatibility/support need to be on the latest and greatest. Also will attend the upcoming shows and make sure I'm searching more broadly for the best deals on the latest brands.

I am certainly leaning toward a "integrated system" (Radar, Sounder, GPS, MFD) to jump start the upgrade and use the Wifi/iPad when I'm up on the flybridge.

Good stuff.
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Old 10-31-2017, 11:06 AM   #13
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Not necessarily. There are some good deals out there. I'm looking at at a 9" Raymarine Axiom MFD (with GPS and Navionics) for $1050, their wifi Quantum radar for $1199, and reusing my DT800 depth sounder module ($300 if I had to buy a new one).

That's a completely new, latest-generation, 1-station system for $2549 and it should be an easy DIY install.

Plus Raymarine now has a rebate deal - $500 back if you buy an Axiom and Quantum. So $2049. Less what you can sell the existing equipment for.

My point with this example is it is possible to install new, integrated systems for a lot less than you might think.
Any links you could share would be appreciated (here or via PM). Thanks!
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Old 10-31-2017, 11:27 AM   #14
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Any links you could share would be appreciated (here or via PM). Thanks!
Raymarine Marine Electronics has details on the MFDs and radar.

The Axioms seem to be selling at full-list. Defender has the wifi-only Quantum radar for $1199.

The rebate program is detailed at Fall $500 Savings Event | Raymarine by FLIR

I can't say that this is the best setup for your needs but it does demonstrate that you don't need to spend anywhere near $10K.
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Old 10-31-2017, 12:56 PM   #15
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Being an engineer, i'm with the OP when it comes to networking and the OCD aspect. I know someone else complained about Garmin, but we have all Garmin equipment on a NMEA 2000 network and we absolutely love it.
Actually back when we were shopping, we were warned away from one of the other biggies (don't remember if it was raymarine or simrad) because they quit supporting an older version of their equipment... not to get into a debate about which supplier is best; you will likely find supporters for all of them.
Anyway, our equipment is about 7 yrs old and we have great support from Garmin. The NMEA is very handy because earlier this year i was able to build an SD update card using Garmin's website for free to update the operating system. Then when i put it in one chartplotter, it automatically updated every Garmin piece on the network.
Also I have a friend that always uses Garmin blue software on an iPad (which looks just like our chartplotter anyway)... but we don't like too much clutter so we're trying to avoid any equipment at the helm that isn't installed; working okay so far.
As for AIS, you'll find some that will say it isnt necessary but it was the first thing we had added and very happy with it; perfect example of how handy it can be when you were cruising into heavy fog- get a full transceiver so those other big guys out in the fog can see you too.
Again with AIS; there were cheaper AIS units but we went with Garmin because as we learned later, any time a SW update becomes available, all units on the network can be updated at the same time. I assume this would be true for whatever main supplier you choose to go with.

Of course you know what all this means: we will need to see photos as you transform your helm station. including before and after...
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Old 10-31-2017, 01:14 PM   #16
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Consider attending Pacific Marine Expo. Seattle November 16-18.
All the electronic mfg's will have booth's there.
I'm shopping to update my stuff as well.....Or there's the 2018 Seattle Boat Show.
Also: ditto on this idea! We did this at a couple Trawlerfest shows and it really helps to not only see the displays but see how the buttons or touch interfaces work...
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Old 10-31-2017, 02:26 PM   #17
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Integrated systems are attractive because they are - well - integrated. But there are a couple of down sides to be aware of.

Much of the integration uses proprietary protocols between devices, and as such it only works with components from the same vendor. This is great if all the elements that make up the system are excellent, or at least meet your own desires and expectations.

But if one of those elements doesn't meet your needs or expectations, then you suddenly have a big problem because you can't just swap it out for the equivalent device from another manufacturer who does have a good product. It's all or nothing.

In my opinion, each of the big vendors excels at some things, and it's so great at others.

My preferred approach is to pick best of breed for each device, and integrate to the extent possible with industry standard protocols. You get the integration you need, but forfeit some of the flash and glitz. If you want navigation tools, it will work well. But if you want to impress your friends, not so much.
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Old 10-31-2017, 02:31 PM   #18
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In addition to visiting vendor's booths at trade shows, look at some of the forums and online info about people's hands on experience with the different vendors. Trade shows will be all happy thoughts and wondrous technology. But that doesn't always translate into reality. Read Cruisers Forum, The Hull Truth, Trawler Forum, and just google XYZ problems where XYZ is the vendor of interest. I think you will see some pretty clear patterns emerge.
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Old 10-31-2017, 02:56 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstream345 View Post
I've been considering updating the basics: radar, depth sounder and GPS/Chartplotter. I don't need the latest and greatest but the boat and my wife and I could benefit from a serious upgrade. Over time I'd like to expand with an integrated auto pilot (the boat has a stand alone system now) maybe a second display, more monitoring, etc. To me this makes NMEA 2000ģ compatibility important.

I had considered an iPad based solution, but it seems like support for functions beyond chart plotting is limited or still in the Radio Shack category (AIS, Radar, etc).

My logic here is that by going back a version or two you can significantly lower the entry price point without giving up too much in the way of gizmo factor/technology. And given where my boat is coming from (our same GPS was recently listed on eBay as a "vintage GPS prop" and is looks like something out of Space 1999) updating to anything made in the last ten years would be amazing.

OK, with all of this said. Is my logic off? Am I missing something here? Going new puts you in the $10K category just to get started. I'm not planning to circumnavigate anything anytime soon so I'm wondering what other people think and have done to overcome what I have to believe is a similar conundrum.

Yes, but you'll be familiar with Moore's Law... so even new stuff today isn't "new" all that long.

And integration is easier to do with new (right now new) stuff than it is with older products which may or may not be available, may or may not be supported, etc.

How long have you been using what you have? Long enough to have developed a really good feel for where you want to be? If not, maybe keep working on that...

But if you do know, work out your list of all the capabilities you will want, then shop (theoretically) all the major manufacturers for their specific products (the whole suite for each) that meet your requirements...

Then ask about those solutions, go see the bits and pieces at shows, etc.

If it helps, often the electronics installers will be quite candid about what works, what breaks, what can be serviced, what can't be serviced... We did a "market survey" or semi-local installers, then from among the top three we did a "product survey" (of a mostly integrated system, so we had professional recommendations for the whole magilla before we went on to Step Two (the money part).

FWIW, we like an installed solution for everything, and then a laptop version of the plotter... and then some nav apps, too... so we have layered redundancy and so forth for most everything.

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Old 10-31-2017, 04:40 PM   #20
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I'm looking at at a 9" Raymarine Axiom MFD (with GPS and Navionics) for $1050............................................. ...

Plus Raymarine now has a rebate deal - $500 back if you buy an Axiom and Quantum. So $2049. Less what you can sell the existing equipment for.

.
I certainly can not fault the choice of a Raymarine Axiom except for one little detail, It has no knob for zooming in & out! Both the eS127 & 128 have knobs for zooming on the chart and the radar. Nice feature when you are in a snotty sea. Trying to "pinch" in & out on your plotter in those conditions is problematic at best. Also, the Raymarine Evolution 200 AP also has a knob! Having knobs on your MFD, radar & AP are mandatory on my boat. (In case you missed it, I like all kind of knobs! )

Since the suite on my boat has WiFi & BlueTooth & I only have them on the flybridge, I have an old iPad in the salon that displays anything I'm looking at for the everyone down below.
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