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Old 06-13-2019, 09:23 PM   #1
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Electronics networking, NEMA or other?

I haven't seen electronics networking discussed recently and things seem to be changing rapidly in the world of recreational marine electronics. In a smaller, 26-30ft, cruiser there's not a lot of space for an individual screen for every piece of electronic equipment. This has gotten me to thinking and researching electronics networking. The systems that keep popping up are either NEMA 2000/0183 and bridging or one-off custom system.

My questions are this," What do you have, and what was your thinking process when you chose your system? Anything you would do differently?"

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Old 06-14-2019, 01:22 AM   #2
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In my dingy (12’ Walker bay w/50 hp) I do not have a lot of room. I installed a Raymarine A67. I chose this unit for 3 reasons. One, it fit. Two, I already have Raymarine. Three, it does everything on one 5.5” display. Meaning, I have sonar depth for fishing, I have chart plotter for rock avoidance, I have all my engine data, I have fuel tank data, I even have radar. Now even I will admit this is a bit over kill for a dingy but I don’t care, I just want it. Was Garmin an option, sure Garmin does everything Raymarine does, what fits your space is the bigger question. I’m not familiar with current Simrad or Furuno offerings.
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Old 06-14-2019, 05:26 AM   #3
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It depends. Are you intending to network what you have, or are you buying new? If networking what you have, and it's NMEA 2000 capable, do that. If you're buying new, go with NMEA 2000 to the max possible. There are several reasons why NMEA 2000 is preferred, but for me - after running wires for NMEA 0183 and dealing with its problems - is that that the NMEA 2000 physical layer is designed for harsher environments, is easy to add to / subtract from, and should be more reliable.

Good luck with whatever you decide!
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Old 06-14-2019, 07:47 AM   #4
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It's my opinion you want to avoid the trap of thinking you can 'do it all' with just one chartplotter display. Some data from engines should really never be kept out of your view. Oil temp, pressure, water temp, etc. You don't want those buried on some other page of a plotter. So either keep the old-school analog gauges or make use of the engine-specific control displays (yamaha, mercruiser, etc).

As for the choices, start with the charts. Be sure whatever you're considering has chart coverage for where you're going to be boating. Lakes and inland waters are sometimes handled better by some brands than others.

Integrating with existing stuff either means spending money on bridges or spending money on new sensors. Sometimes it's a close call. But most stuff installed within the last 15 years will have some reasonable way to be integrated with new stuff without too much trouble.
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Old 06-14-2019, 08:52 AM   #5
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NMEA 0183 is a very old standard that is useful in connecting old or very different equipment since just about everything supports it. BUT, 0183 is much lower speed bus than NMEA2K. It also doesn't support nearly as many connections... and other downsides.

On my last 2 boats I have gone completely NMEA2K for everything and have been completely happy. (plotters, radar, AIS, GPS receivers, etc) That said, some of the newer connectivity between devices has gone to ethernet when the amount of data needed to transfer is very high - like when sharing radar data or a single chart card between 2 or more displays. Typically this type of connectivity requires the equipment involved be from the same manufacturer.

Agree with Bill, use separate gauges for critical engine data


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Old 06-14-2019, 09:07 AM   #6
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0183 may be older but it's still usable. If you've got working gear that's outputting 0183 reliably there's nothing that says you have to replace it. But bringing a lot of 0183 devices together into a new chart plotter, or across to other displays over the network, is sometimes trickier than you might first guess. This ends up costing time and money for additional bridges or gateways and then the time to install/configure them.

Radar, fish-finding and sonar are very vendor specific. If any of those features are really important then you'd best start there and that will dictate your chart plotter. As in, you really want Lowrance's side-scan sonar.... then you're using one of their chart plotters. Likewise, if you want Furuno's radar.... that's your plotter. Many radar connections are done on their own, independent of the rest of the NMEA-2000 network devices. This is ok, as radar/fish-finding requires a lot of bandwidth.

But for the size boat you're talking about all that are not likely to be a huge factors.

One suggestion, don't rule out having fiberglass work done to rearrange things. A friend with a Searay 290 had his helm re-done to fit a larger Garmin and it looked really good. It's worth getting some quotes to see what it would take to "do it the right way".
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:27 AM   #7
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Yes, NEMA 2000 is the way to go network information. To network pictures use ethernet or the manufacturers network of similar (seatalk, etc).


Now a few questions:
Are you starting from scratch or do you have existing and adding to it?
What do you what to display and do with your information? Plotters, vhf, radar, autopilot, engine info, depth, entertainment, camera....etc?


And, what's your goals? What info do you want?


We can build you a system and spend your money.
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:40 AM   #8
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All my critical engine data is over laid no matter whether i’m In chart mode, sounder mode or radar mode. If I were to add AIS I would need to use either NMEA 0183 or 2000. NMEA 2000 would be my first choice. Reason, NMEA 0183 can only listen to one talker. This creates a wiring nightmare when you try to combine multiple talkers and listeners with 0183. The only issue with nmea 2000 is not all equipment is nmea 2000 capable. So far on the dingy I have not needed to introduce either standard, on the big boat I have a mix of both standards along with WiFi.
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Old 06-14-2019, 09:58 AM   #9
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I think a question that doesn't always get asked is "what haven't people been happy with?" Which units/brands have been problems.

I've heard tell of a greater number of complaints about some of the entry-level Lowrance models. Personally, I'll never own another Raymarine plotter given their continued tendency to try and keep putting a proprietary twist to everything. Garmin gobbling up a lot of other vendors and then killing off their products concerns me and makes me hesitant to buy anything from them, but their current models are really quite friendly to use.

There's a saying "Good, fast or cheap... pick two" that applies here.

My advice is look long and hard for complaints about any products you're considering. Sometimes it's not the wonderful 5-star reviews you want to consider, it's the 1 and 2 stars with detailed explanations that can make the difference. Sure, a lot of great stuff never gets the same number of good reviews as complaints. Happy customers don't take as much time to say so. But if the complaints have parallels to what you need... well, that might be an important thing to know ahead of time.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:40 AM   #10
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Thank you all.

This will be a new build. It will be a basic build as well, but safe. I will have only one helm inside the cabin.

I'm setting up the boat to do the Loop and then haul over to WA and do the inside passage up to AK. I'm not sure if I need radar. I will have dedicated AIS. I'm not a fisherman. I only need depth sounding and chart plotting. Autopilot is another feature I am looking into. It will have to cooperate with the chart plotter. I'll have the usual communications equipment aboard. My back up navigation will be paper charts, a compass, a PC with OpenCPN, and a tablet with OpenCPN.

My engine will be Beta Marine Kubota based diesel. I am considering the gauge package upgrade to the Nema 2000 output. I can still run standard electrical gauges as a secondary reference. My plan is to have gauges on the engine itself for the various temps and pressures.

I'm not trying to overload one screen with info. I just want to limit how much stuff is mounted around the helm. I looked at a Bayliner that had so much stuff around the helm that it was overwhelming and blocked the view around the outside of the boat.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:54 AM   #11
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What's your model of boat? It might be insightful to search for it online, sites like yachtworld.com are good resources. See what others have done on vessels listed.
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Old 06-15-2019, 09:49 AM   #12
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What's your model of boat? It might be insightful to search for it online, sites like yachtworld.com are good resources. See what others have done on vessels listed.


Custom built by myself. I'm preplanning as much as possible so I can finalize my design choice.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:09 AM   #13
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My questions are this," What do you have, and what was your thinking process when you chose your system? Anything you would do differently?"
I have all NEMA 2000, Individual engine gauges & 2 Raymarine MFDs. For a boat your size and the mission you intend it for, I would go with engine and volt gauges & a good quality NEMA 2000 MFD. Anything else you might need in the future can be added and displayed on the MFD.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:19 AM   #14
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I have all NEMA 2000, Individual engine gauges & 2 Raymarine MFDs. For a boat your size and the mission you intend it for, I would go with engine and volt gauges & a good quality NEMA 2000 MFD. Anything else you might need in the future can be added and displayed on the MFD.
That's what I'm thinking now. I saw a set up online last night that had a gauge pod above the two screens which were surface mounted into an angled helm station.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:36 AM   #15
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There are a lot of gauge options out there. Our old boat had some nice Faria gauges, with some being the mult-function variety. Helps to condense a lot of info into less space.

Personally I find analog needles to be more effective for monitoring normal conditions. All you need to do is 'scan the needles' to see that everything is pointing toward normal conditions. A needle pegged (high or low) is a sure sign. Faster to scan dials having to stop and read digital values and think if those fall on the scale of acceptable or not. That said, Maretron and others make digital displays with analog gauge sections.

The upside to networked devices is less cabling. No need to have wires from each sensor all the way to a dial (along with the time to install, weight and cost of them). The downside is if there's any network trouble you risk losing everything. I like a balance of a J1939 wired engine monitoring display with a bridge to NMEA-2000. This way I've got direct engine monitoring and the flexibility to put added data on other displays in ways that might be friendlier to read.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:51 AM   #16
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That's what I'm thinking now. I saw a set up online last night that had a gauge pod above the two screens which were surface mounted into an angled helm station.
A mistake I see made on many boats is hemming in the chart plotter size with gauges or fancy looking curves, arches or other design notes. I'd want to leave enough room for a widescreen 12" display with adjacent hard button controls.

I like to have "what I need to see" up on a plane that only requires dipping where I'm looking with eye motion alone. Having to drop my head to read things means time I'm not looking at the water (and around here with debris and crab pots that's a bad plan). Made worse by small digits on displays and the need for reading glasses.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:55 AM   #17
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Thank you all.

This will be a new build. It will be a basic build as well, but safe. I will have only one helm inside the cabin.

I'm setting up the boat to do the Loop and then haul over to WA and do the inside passage up to AK. I'm not sure if I need radar. I will have dedicated AIS. I'm not a fisherman. I only need depth sounding and chart plotting. Autopilot is another feature I am looking into. It will have to cooperate with the chart plotter. I'll have the usual communications equipment aboard. My back up navigation will be paper charts, a compass, a PC with OpenCPN, and a tablet with OpenCPN.

My engine will be Beta Marine Kubota based diesel. I am considering the gauge package upgrade to the Nema 2000 output. I can still run standard electrical gauges as a secondary reference. My plan is to have gauges on the engine itself for the various temps and pressures.

I'm not trying to overload one screen with info. I just want to limit how much stuff is mounted around the helm. I looked at a Bayliner that had so much stuff around the helm that it was overwhelming and blocked the view around the outside of the boat.
Ben,

For the Loop, I could argue STRONGLY for at least one GOOD plotter, autopilot, radar and depth. Personally, I'd have two plotters, and perhaps a third for engine information. However, you could easily get by with two, using a part of the 2nd screen for engine and having separate Faria gauges or similar. Now you have backups for the engine and the plotter. And there could be an argument for a second depth source.

For long legs, like you'll have on the Loop an autopilot is more than just a luxury. It makes the legs much easier and safer. And, yes, you'll want that radar for times when (not if) you get into fog or reduced visibility and night time.

And with your PC and tablet, you'll be well covered.

And in going new, absolutely do NMEA 2000, don't even consider 0183. And, yes, they still sell some stuff that's only 0183 compatible.
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Old 06-15-2019, 11:02 AM   #18
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In a smaller, 26-30ft, cruiser there's not a lot of space for an individual screen for every piece of electronic equipment.
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Personally, I'd have two plotters, and perhaps a third for engine information.
Let's not lose sight of the fact he's mentioned this being a fairly small vessel. So fitting an abundance of displays is probably not practical, or sensible from a budget perspective.

These days you can get some pretty amazing results from tablets and phones, so the "need" for a backup chart plotter is somewhat less than it's been in the past, especially when space at the helm is at a premium.
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Old 06-15-2019, 11:40 AM   #19
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Smaller vessel, single inside helm, starting from scratch: I'd bypass the proprietary, short product lifecycle and expensive MFDs altogether and be entirely pc based. 0183 and N2K data can be fed to the pc via a wide range of converters. All Furuno's DRS series radars can now be directly connected to a PC without requiring a MFD; they even offer a wireless radar. PCs are so comparitively cheap you could have a complete redundant back-up system and still be way ahead in $$ and likely enjoy higher resolution monitors to boot.
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Old 06-15-2019, 12:12 PM   #20
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While PC-based units are a fun hobby, they're an added bit of fiddling/babysitting that many folks might not have the patience or skills to deal with. I have the skills but do not see my boating experience aided by having to babysit a PC for my navigation (regardless of which OS it was running). No, thanks, I'll take a ready-to-go chartplotter without a ton of ton of modules stitched together.
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