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Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

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Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Old 04-29-2003, 05:47 AM
  #1  
mds
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Hello.

Later this year I will be outfitting a Nordhavn 46 with a whole array of electronics.

As entertaining as it would be to read your colorful lively debate, in the interests of not starting a religious battle, I won't ask you who makes the "best" chart plotter, GPS, depthfinder, VHF, etc.

I'm wondering if any of you know of a good source for information with relatively complete, unbiased reviews of the various electronics options.

Obviously I would like to interconnect everything, do any of you know a good source to find out the standards for the various device communication protocols? I can plainly see that if I buy a Raymarine GPS/Chartplotter/radar/sonar that I can hook them all up together, but I'm having trouble figuring out, at least from the manufacturers web sites, if I can, let's say, interconnect a Garmin GPS with a Raymarine chartplotter, and a Furuno radar. That's not to say that's a configuration I'm looking at, I just want to know if there is a good, well adopted inter-brand interface to hook all this stuff up.

As a private (airplane) pilot, I also wonder if anyone has ever considered (or indeed if it is common practice for some) installing other navigational equipment such as an ADF or RDF (automatic [or radio] direction finder) on a boat; I have an inherent mistrust of GPS and surely wouldn’t want to rely on GPS as my sole mode of navigation. In my little tiny airplane, I have four modes of navigation (GPS/VHF/ADF/DR), I can’t imagine being out in the middle of an ocean with only two (GPS/DR). I’ve played around with my little back-yard telescope, and I’m not afraid to learn and to use a sextant as a secondary means of navigation (and use it regularly for proficiency), but I’m concerned about finding a little bitty island (relatively) on the open sea if for some reason GPS signals become unreliable. I can envision cruising to Bermuda, for example, having the GPS fail for whatever reason, and simply not being able to find it. I know AM radio stations are relatively powerful, and I would think (but have no idea for certainty) that an ADF or RDF would be a good backup for use in the event of a GPS failure (if you can get within a couple hundred miles of shore). I trust my dead reckoning skills, and believe I could become relatively proficient with a sextant, I’m sure I could get in the ball-park… perhaps I’m overly concerned. I just don’t want to have my CPA to some island (say Bermuda) be just one mile out of the range of the radar. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the phase-out and/or expansion of Loran… so unless I’m missing some other technology, I think I have little choice in backup systems.

So now that I’ve rambled on enough, I’m hoping one of you could please suggest some good reading on the subject. I don’t need to make any decisions before this fall, so I have plenty of time to research my electronics needs.

I appreciate any information you have, thank you.

Matt
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Old 04-29-2003, 06:12 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Most of my customers that own mid size trawlers like yours are opting for a computer to do most of the thinking on the boat. There is outstanding charting software available such as Nobeltec or Transas that can handle the navigation, and you can interface autopilots, radars, fishfinders, cameras, TV, engine gauges, and whatever else you want into the computer. The new monitors that are available are daylight readable, and the systems is easily upgraded as new technology comes along. You can set up a small chartplotter such as a Northstar 952 as a backup GPS, and a handheld to back that up. With an A/B switch and some patch cables you can have any GPS on board interface w/the computer. The software and periphials that are coming out for computers to be used on boats is amazing. In my opinion it is the best way to go for a boat like yours.

Good luck!


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Old 04-29-2003, 11:33 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

mds,

I would recommend, especially since you have some time, reading through THT archive, there is a ton of largely objective and real-world proven information, I would not trade it for any other single source.

You will probably emerge with several alternatives, at which point I'd spend some time at a boat show examining specific equipment.

As for device communication protocols all serious marine electronics support NMEA, check out
http://vancouver-webpages.com/peter/nmeafaq.txt

Some manufacturers support proprietary protocols as well that may allow faster/better communication among their components. This can be important for features like radar/chart plotter overlay that require more bandwidth than NMEA supports.

The larger manufacturers offer devices that integrate radar, GPS/Chart plotter, depth sounding, etc. There are advantages to integrated solutions, but some people prefer "best of breed" selections for each component.

I just finished the selecting electronics for a new boat, took me several months. I chose Furuno NavNet GPS/Radar/depth sounder, Simrad (Robertson) auto-pilot, Icom VHF.

Raymarine has a complete line that is very popular with recreational boaters. Garmin is best of breed GPS. Standard Horizon makes nice VHFs. You will probably want, in addition, a portable GPS and VHF for backup/ditch bag.

I enjoyed this process tremendously, I wish you the best of luck.

-Carty
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Old 04-29-2003, 12:00 PM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

For a computer based Chartplotter check out Nobeltec Visual Suite. You can use Nobeltec Radar and overlay it on the computer display or split screen it. For the computer I use Big Bay Technologies. It just doesn't get any better....Nobeltec web page.....Big Bay web page

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Old 04-30-2003, 06:11 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Yes Nobeltec is by far the best for a computer based system.

As I pilot im sure that you can appreciate they are a Jeppesen company.
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Old 04-30-2003, 07:26 AM
  #6  
mds
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Thank you all for your comments so far.

I have taken a look at Nobeltec's web site and it's real interesting. Yes, I rely on Jeppesen's products (esp approach plates) when I'm flying, and I trust the company, although Nobeltec was only relatively recently purchased by Jepp.

The thing that I'm curious about, and perhaps a call to Nobeltec can answer this, is whether or not their software can interface with someone else's radar...

Perhaps this is one of the big questions - considering I know very little about radar - what part of the radar is the complicated bit? In other words, if we don’t consider the display and user interface, assuming equal specs on power, beam width, etc., is a Nobeltec open array almost exactly the same as a Raymarine, and is that Raymarine basically equivalent to a Furuno? Or, are the “smarts” of the radar part of the array and the display itself just a controller?

I haven’t exactly heard much about Nobeltec’s radars, but I would be concerned about a software company developing hardware. I would much rather trust a Furuno, Raymarine, or Simrad radar over Nobeltec, although I suspect that Nobeltec is really OEM-ing someone else’s radar (it would be silly for a software company to be manufacturing hardware, IMHO). I should call and ask.

Castaldi hit the nail on the head, what I ultimately want is various best-of-breed components, and then somehow integrate/interconnect them if at all possible. In addition, I do want to connect everything to a PC, but I’d like to start with dedicated solutions, and have the PC be a convenient tool to consolidate information and control those dedicated systems. The last thing I’d want is to have windows crash and find myself attempting to reinstall windows so that I can use my radar….

Again thank you all for your input.

Matt
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Old 04-30-2003, 07:59 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

As I recall Nobeltec radar is Si-Tex built. I personally like my systems to be split and not depend on one display. I'm kind of a close to shore and around the islands kind of cruiser and don't have the same radar requirements you will have. I would think you would have a long range radar for nav and a shorter range for collision avoidance. Maybe with current GPS, radar nav is overkill. I would have a installed computer system with a brite display, and carry a laptop for backup. I use a Garmin 17N GPS Sensor and use my old Garmin 36 as a backup. Those Nordhaven are great boats.
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Old 04-30-2003, 10:27 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

Here's the Radar PC info.....SI-TEX web page
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Old 05-01-2003, 04:37 AM
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Default Plotters and Radios and Radars oh my (need to buy everything)

what part of the radar is the complicated bit? In other words, if we don’t consider the display and user interface, assuming equal specs on power, beam width, etc., is a Nobeltec open array almost exactly the same as a Raymarine, and is that Raymarine basically equivalent to a Furuno?

In selecting my electronics I came to conclude that the radar component was the hardest to do well. In terms of technical challenges it has everything: mechanics exposed to harsh marine environment, precise microwave transmitting and receiving, very fast real-time signal processing, very complex configuration that can be offset by well done default/automatic settings, and complex graphics rendering. All of which need to operate reliably. The combination of constraints is daunting, I would not trust anyone to succeed casually in manufacturing radar equipment.

I chose the Furuno NavNet 1933C/NT because of Furuno's reputation for doing radar well, particularly with regard to reliability and support. In a very unscientific survey of commercial fisherman around me in Maine I found guys who had Furuno radars and guys who would if they could afford them.

I then concluded that radar/GPS overlay was important to me which dictates and integrated radar/GPS as the bandwidth required to render the integrated image is too great for NMEA. Not all of THT agrees that overlay is important, there is a thread on that here.

The thread also discusses the trade-off between best-of-breed components and integrated solutions in some detail.

In addition, I do want to connect everything to a PC, but I’d like to start with dedicated solutions, and have the PC be a convenient tool to consolidate information and control those dedicated systems. The last thing I’d want is to have windows crash and find myself attempting to reinstall windows so that I can use my radar…

I whole-heartedly agree. Components (hardware and software) designed for the marine environment need to be designed considering appropriate operational constraints. I am a computer networking engineer, hardly tech averse, but I would *never* depend on a desktop operating system for mission critical navigation.

I agree that a PC plays an important auxiliary role on one's boat. I also agree that the Nobeltec software is top-notch. I run it on all my PCs and spend much of our long New England winters plotting routes and studying charts.

-Carty
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