best lower helm electronics?

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Oct 7, 2007
Vessel Make
Bayliner 4550 Pilothouse
Hi all,I am thinking instead of installing a fixed GPS unit that perhaps I can just run a laptop GPS from the lower helm. *I've got an old PC laptop that we don't use anymore so I can set it up there as a dedicated machine and hopefully figure out how to network it up to the flybridge via a large screen display. *What's the most cost effective solution/set up that most folks are running? *Right now we're on an inland lake so I am not needing to be able to cross the seven seas, well, at least not yet! *:)
Hi woodsong

I use a net book (just a smaller version of a laptop) at the lower helm station
It has a usb gps receiver
OpenCPN nav software (it is a great and very easy to use program free on the internet)
C- map CM93 2010 charts (you can also download this program on the internet)

It all works a treat and I see no reason why you couldn't send it topside. Although computer monitors are not real good in sunlight. There might be a suitable one out there though.

Which gps receiver are you using? When I google for one or check online suppliers I'm not really coming up with any???
Looked at the cheapo

Acer AO532h-2588 10.1-Inch Onyx Blue Netbook -

Can a gps plug into this unit?
I have an old Dell notebook that I use. Check out Coastal Explorer (Rosepoint Navigation). I bought their program and their gps receiver and really like it. GPS plugs into the USB port. You can download NOAA charts for free.
Baton Rouge
FF: Most modern Laptops will work fine, as long as they have a USB port and Windows 98 or later.

We use an ancient Gateway Solo Pentium 2. It's at least 9 years old. The screen is broken so we have a separate 15" monitor. OS is windows XP Home.

It's below spec for the software - Fugawi with Navionics Gold charts - but works just fine if a little slow sometimes. The GPS is a USB plug-in called Deluo. Bought it 6 years ago - don't know if they're still available.
FF wrote:

Looked at the cheapo

Acer AO532h-2588 10.1-Inch Onyx Blue Netbook -

Can a gps plug into this unit?
FF...should work perfectly fine!!!

That is the same USB receiver (BU-353) I found online today and have been leaning towards. Now i just have to settle on what software to get that has the inland waterways (TN River and Lake Lanier, GA which is where the boat currently is at).

Try open CPN

and see how it goes

You can try your local charts with it

Also if you can get a copy of C map CM93 2010 version it has a lot of inland lakes also but not sure if it has the one you are on

I have one of those little USB GPS units that I got off E-Bay. I think it only cost me 30 odd buck
GPS USB Dongle ND-100.
I am sitting here on the Mermaid Vantage with the GPS taped to my port light and it picks up at least 12 sats.

This way I can keep my eye on those bastards on the mantlepiece (bridge) , make sure we are going in the right direction.


I know what you mean.
You keep an eye on them!!
Oh, nice!* A whole new toy I didn't even know about and now must have!*
Me too. Hey Lurker, how's it going project wise? I've decided to bite the bullet, and Lotus comes out and goes in for anti-foul, prop-speed and a hull re-spray in a couple of weeks. Topsides need doing as well, but I'll do that. I think a quote of $Aus7,400 not bad for that. Plus $1500 for anti-foul, of course. What's your next thing to do? Oh yeah, word or warning. That canopy extension - still think it's the best thing we did so far, but be warned - makes a lot of nice perches in under there for birds - still working on that.....ideas anyone?

I'm in a bit of a quandary about my boat. Do I pour $ into it to get her in the shape I'd like?* That would be lots of $ to tear out and redo the decks and house leak damage.* Do I do the work myself (like I have any time for that) or write the check? Do I just live with the damage and ride this baby 'till she drops of old age and exhaustion and then look for another boat?* Try to sell this one and get another in better condition?* I was fully aware of the condition of the boat when I bought it; I figured for the price I paid I could get a number of years of fun out of it. That's working as planned.* But, what now?

Decisions, decisions!* Currently I'm just maintaining mechanical and safety items.* Toys and trinkets come off e-Bay at low cost - SL555 windless, Autohelm, and now the GPS USB gizmo for the lower helm, etc.

- Darrell
Leaky decks will continue the rot , till the structure is mush.

IF you can stop the rain thru the decks , the rot will stop and you can enjoy a decade or two "as is".

How is the question,
FF wrote:Leaky decks will continue the rot , till the structure is mush.

IF you can stop the rain thru the decks , the rot will stop and you can enjoy a decade or two "as is".

How is the question,
Spray on/roll on truck bed liner is the answer I think.* But, even if I stop the leaks won't the soggy core just continue to molder away?

You could seal the damp core away where it can do no harm. Cheaper by far than a complete rip-out and re-core. Strip up the old teak - seal below with resin - bed in a thick layer of marine ply, then fibreglass over with several layers of cloth, finished with non-skid, and you get a good result. No more leaks. That's what the PO of my boat had done, and I must say the damp old core is just that - there but not at all evident, and that's after 10 yrs, so I think it's safe to say dead & buried for good. After all it's got fibreglass either side of it, then reinforced deck over that again. I then got stuck in and replaced/covered any leakstained/damaged interior finish, and we have ended up with an interior comparable with new...well almost.... but she's ready after this hull re-spray, to go for another 35 yrs.
Watch for the new avatar pic minus yellow bow stain....

-- Edited by Peter B on Friday 6th of August 2010 07:40:49 AM

Well, I will have to say that is food for thought.* The layer of marine ply and cloth should deal with the soft spots in the decks.* And that method will certainly seal things up.* It sounds like something I could deal with in stages and not lose an entire season or two of boating.

How was the core damage in the house handled?* I'm assuming that treating the flybridge the same as the main decks and addressing/upgrading the windows will stop further water intrusion into the house core.* Then deal with it from the interior as, and if, necessary?

I've read about a zillion posts on how people have addressed these issues.* But I don't recall anyone with 10 years of living with the soggy core just encapsulated and forgotten about.* I like the approach.
Burying rotten plywood and glass with yet another heavy layer of plywood and glass is still not a "fix".

Remove the teak, and lay down a layer of glass set in epoxy and lay in a core of marine foam.

Airex is great but expensive , nadia core or other brands are way cheaper.

Then glass over the new core ,

voila a deck that is light insulated and probably 400% stronger than the origional ply mess, that will not be requiring yet another layer as the ply rots.
FF wrote:Burying rotten plywood and glass with yet another heavy layer of plywood and glass is still not a "fix".
Totally agree.* But .... if it buys me 10 years ...

I'm just guessing here, but the additional effort to take up the layer of glass, dig out the soupy core then re-core sounds like a substantial amount of extra work.* Double the effort?* I dunno.*
dig out the soupy core then re-core

You didn't read my version of a cure,

You peal off the teak , glass on top (even if it has to be faired with Bondo) lay the foam core in and glass the deck top surface.

No fixing or messing with the rot , it will dry out and only stink on really wet days.

Structurally it will be stronger than the origional.
FF, apart from the concept of using a foam (synthetic) core instead of the marine ply I suggested, (which I admit might be even better than ply), how does your 'fix' differ from mine. I might add what was done on my boat was to use thick treated ply, (not even marine grade actually, as that only differs in that the grains are better with no knots etc, wasted when sealed in layers of GRP), however if has lasted 10 years and no sign of any issues, because sealed in GRP as it is now, with no teak decking piercing it, it is still dry and stiff.
I therefore think, know in fact, it is a viable alternative when in the position Lurker (Darrell) is in, when the boat really does not justify the more expensive re-coring operation.* And it does not smell, even on the wettest days.* Don't dismiss the idea Darrell, but the idea of using foam core instead of ply is probably best if not too expensive.

-- Edited by Peter B on Saturday 7th of August 2010 05:40:05 AM
Ah, I got it now.* And, I'm liking the idea more and more.* It's not a project for this weekend,
I have enough going on in my life as it is.* But, I now have a solution to work with that seems within my skill set and and finances.

Thanks guys!
After the teak is removed , and the first layers of glass , say 3 layers of 1 1/2 oz matt , or better 1 1/2 mat 24oz woven roving and another layer of mat , the deck may be OK for inland cruising.

It will be water tight , but not at all stiff , any stiffness will come from the structure below , maybe enough?

But ,if it is reasonable stiff you can take a year off , save cash and install say 3/4 foam and the proper glass on top. A real cure.

Cheap sand paint would be a bear if chosen as no skid during this phase , as sanding up sand paint is messy.

A better solution is commercial no skid , usually ground walnut shells, far easier to later remove.
So I bought one of those $30 GPS/USB gizmos, downloaded a free copy of OpenCPN and some NOAA charts, installed on an old laptop and I'll be danged if that thing doesn't work slicker than snot on a doorknob!* I almost like it better than my Garmin chart-plotter.* Excellent for the lower helm, too much stuff to fool with on the fly bridge.* And, it's in color and on a big screen.* Very nice.* Thanks for the heads-up.
I'm looking at a total electronics upgrade next Spring. Seriously considering using the Furuno NaveNet 3d chart plotter. Would connect to it over the network from the down below steering station using my laptop and their software, MaxSea Time Zero. Cost is >$1000 but I will get everything that the chart plotter gets, even 100% control of my radar and the weather station. So its a lot more than simply chart plot software.

Wow, talk about thread drift lower helm electronics=deck repair? Anyway, we use a computer at the lower helm connected to a Garmin hand held and sitting under the front window it has never lost the signal. The hand held can do double duty when needed. the computer can be connected to another monitor for the upper bridge if you like. Depending on which software you use, you can integrate radar and lots of other electronics to your computer. It depends on how complicated you want to get. We prefer the laptop at the lower helm to our plotter at the upper helm but the disadvantages of the computer on the flybridge makes this combination work for us. Our flybridge is completely open except for the bimini.
Capn Chuck what software are you using on the laptop?** Is it one that can integrate radar, etc?*

Has anyone used SeaCear?* It is another free software I saw mentioned on a different boating site.

I have my USB GPS receiver on order!** Can't wait to play with some new toys (mostly the NEW BOAT!!)

Jennifer, We are not big on integration. We have used Seaclear for a long time and like its simplicity. But it takes some getting used to. Let me know and I can send you a link to a site that has a good tutorial on it. We currently use an older version of Capn we have been using for years. It allows us to download the free NOAA charts and use them, or pretty much any other chart we can get on the computer. Chuck
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