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Replacing an RL70 radar/plotter?

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{This is from a sailor who watched my SevenSeas Radar webinar, and I'm posting it here because others may have suggestions -- Ben}

I have no experience with radar. My wife and I just purchased a 44' sailboat that has a Raymarine RL70 color chartplotter with radar with a radome. In watching your class, the ability to overlay the radar image on the chart seemed extraordinarily helpful. Also, the color return images looked great. We are planning to sail from the Chesapeake to Maine in August and then to the Caribbean in November. We are planning to add AIS, but in looking at the options we have found that it cannot be displayed on the RL70. We have given some thought to upgrading to something like the Raymarine C120W with digital radar which would allow us to overlay the radar, charts and AIS. I am hoping that you might give me your thoughts on this considering the total cost would be about $5,000 (ouch). Everything else on the boat is Raymarine. We have never sailed to Maine or on the open Ocean by ourselves although we have bareboated and sailed with others. The fog in Maine looks especially challenging. I have also consider the AIS watchmate or something to link AIS to an ipad or computer, but then I would have radar on a separate screen without a chart. Any thoughts you might care to share would be appreciated. I know sailors have lived without these tools for generations, but there is something to be said if the improvement in safety and lower anxiety would be significant.

-- Mark

Update: In playing with the RL70C plus, I did find where it does overlay the radar on the chart so I was wrong about that comment. To a novice, the RL70C radar looks pretty good and it's data is enlarged on my cockpit L1250 repeater. I am leaning toward just adding the AIS Watchmate which would give me a redundant GPS and send its AIS data to an ipad with a chart. I look forward to your response.

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  • Hi Mark, In my limited experience the RL70 is a solid machine, but MFDs have evolved a LOT since. And you may find that repairs are difficult and/or expensive, and also that new charts, if needed, may be much more expensive than those that come with contemporary MFDs or on large area cards.

    But all that said, using what you have installed may be a good plan while you learn what you like and think about an update (that may get accelerated by a breakdown). And using the RL70 only as a radar could be a step along the way. Though you would lose overlay, often a simple NMEA 0183 connection can
    put waypoints on the radar screen, which can help you mentally interpolate it with your chart view.

    I'm a fan of the Vesper WatchMate AIS line and they can adapt to whatever you move to for a plotter or MFD. But you will have to decide whether to get a transponder or only a WatchMate receiver. Broadcasting yourself won't get you much up here in Maine or in the Caribbean these days -- though AIS use is growing -- but there are places in between where it might be highly appreciated. Then again black box AIS transponders are going to get less expensive, and a WatchMate receiver would still be valuable for its plotting and alarm functions.

    Note that connecting the WatchMate via WiFi to an iPad is a lot harder than simply wiring it to a PC or MFD. At the moment there's really only one app that supports the concapt -- iNavX -- and you'll need some hardware to get the NMEA 0183 data onto WiFi (iNavX has info). All this will get easier, I think, and there will be more choices.

    As for new radars and MFDs, I think Raymarine has some strong contenders. But they've also nicely developed a SeaTalk-to-SeaTalkNG/NMEA2000 translator that might mean you could integrate your existing Raymarine instruments to most any MFD system (or to Ray's latest): http://goo.gl/PSM1H

  • Similar our boat came with a Raymarine setup and RL70CRC radar/plotter. We kept it as our radar but installed a Garmin plotter for navigation. The RL radar still works well, despite my intention to evict it and replace with Garmin, but I've kept delaying as it's working so well. If your happy with it suggest staying put and adding a stand alone AIS display device, but one that could output to a future revamped setup for overlay on radar data. Changing the lot will cost in kit never mind labour element to install and commission. I couldn't stomach the RL70 as a plotter because I personally prefer Bluecharts and Garmin plotter functionality.

  • Similar our boat came with a Raymarine setup and RL70CRC radar/plotter. We kept it as our radar but installed a Garmin plotter for navigation. The RL radar still works well, despite my intention to evict it and replace with Garmin, but I've kept delaying as it's working so well. If your happy with it suggest staying put and adding a stand alone AIS display device, but one that could output to a future revamped setup for overlay on radar data. Changing the lot will cost in kit never mind labour element to install and commission. I couldn't stomach the RL70 as a plotter because I personally prefer Bluecharts and Garmin plotter functionality.

  • Similar our boat came with a Raymarine setup and RL70CRC radar/plotter. We kept it as our radar but installed a Garmin plotter for navigation. The RL radar still works well, despite my intention to evict it and replace with Garmin, but I've kept delaying as it's working so well. If your happy with it suggest staying put and adding a stand alone AIS display device, but one that could output to a future revamped setup for overlay on radar data. Changing the lot will cost in kit never mind labour element to install and commission. I couldn't stomach the RL70 as a plotter because I personally prefer Bluecharts and Garmin plotter functionality.

  • Same situation here. We've got an RL 70CRC and I like the features of the newer MFDs, but the cost (and space) are limitations. In order to go HD radar, we'd need to replace both the radar and MFD, plus we have a repeater at the nav station. I'm leaving it alone until it gives up the ghost since it works just fine. I'll get a standalone AIS.

  • I have an old RL70 display which I was hoping to be able to slave to an AIS input off the VHF.

  • I really doubt it, Randall. The RL70 would have to have a NMEA 0183 port (wires) that support the HS (highspeed) version of 0183 and it would have to understand the 0183 AIS target messages on it. And while NMEA 2000 is easier, the RL70 certainly doesn't support that.

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