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New radome and MFD, maybe AP too -- what to do?  

 

Ben Ellison
(@ben-ellison)
Member Admin
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 99
April 4, 2019 10:13 am  

This came in via email from the man who put "horny" in Cape Horn -- www.panbo.com/clark-beek-way-out-there/ -- and now blogs occasionally at SailFeed. Clark Beek still owns and loves his 40-foot ketch Condesa -- though he became a pro marine electrician when he came ashore and is now managing Spaulding Marine in Sausalito -- and he's finally ready to update her navigation electronics. Let's help him out.

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I'm sure people bug you all the time with requests like this, but I've had my mizzen mast lying in the yard for a few months, and it occurred to me that, rather than reinstall my 20-year-old JRC radar (which cost $650 in 1998 and still works), I might install a new one with the latest whiz-whaz. My boat is my only material indulgence in life.
 
And so I'm wading into radomes, multi-function displays, and all that. I could see getting a multi-function display to be the radar display and a chartplotter with a NMEA 2000 network, then I could see installing the corresponding transducer at my next haul-out and having it be the depthsounder display. But then my boat also has a 1966 autopilot (which still works!) and a new autopilot with a linear drive is on my wish list for the next few years. Some of the manufacturers say the multifunciton display can also be the display (control?) for the autopilot.
 
Do you have a favorite manufacturer or product line among them? Are there any advantages or caveats with "scalability," if I were to try to add an autopilot later and have it jive with the system. I'd say my budget could go as high as $4000 for the radome and display, if need be. 
 
I haven't really looked at any of this stuff in years, so I'm kind of in the dark. I'll be exhibiting at the Pacific Sail and Power Boat Show all this week, so I'm hoping some good deal will come my way via my fellow industry professionals!

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Ben Ellison
(@ben-ellison)
Member Admin
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 99
April 4, 2019 11:48 am  

First of all, Clark, our fellow industry professionals will have no trouble relieving you of that $4,000, even with trade discounts. But, man, you'll get a lot for it. And though some think I'm copping out when I say this, it's true: You can not go too far wrong whichever brand you purchase. Now some thoughts:

* I recommend a solid-state radome for its low power consumption, durability, and near range performance. One with Doppler target motion detection is even better, but probably beyond budget.

* I prefer MFDs with hybrid physical interfaces, which is to say buttons and knobs in addition to touchscreen. Touch only models can be nicely accessorized with separate keypads, but the total tends to cost more.
 
* All the software interfaces are pretty good at this point, I think, but you may cotton to one more than others. Maybe you can check some out at the show or in a dealer show room.
 
* My personal favorite electronic chart is what Furuno does with NOAA raster charts and hi res photo maps, but there are many decent digital charts and all brands now support at least NOAA rasters if you like the traditional paper chart format.
 
* In terms of value and your budget, I think that Raymarine and Simrad/B&G are probably your best bets. But maybe also check out Lowrance; though it may be primarily Navico's fishing brand, some thrifty sailors have been pleased.

* You didn't mention AIS, and maybe Condesa is already equipped, but if not look hard at Class B SOTDMA because it may perform much better than regular Class B CS in an AIS congested area like SF Bay. Milltech Marine in your area has great deals on em-trak B350, for instance, though I should add that Vesper offers terrific extra features though not yet in a SOTDMA Class B.

That's all I have for now, but hopefully the peanut gallery will speak up.


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Ben Ellison
(@ben-ellison)
Member Admin
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 99
April 4, 2019 11:55 am  

PS. As for autopilot: I'd consider that the most optional upgrade if it still works OK. They can still serve well without any relationship to a new MFD and N2K network. But when and if you get there, you'll find any modern AP can do some integration with any brand MFD -- like sharing Heading sensor info over N2K, and steering to waypoint or wind angle -- but only a same brand AP will let you use the MFD as an AP control head. But all four major brands offer that (counting Simrad/B&G/Lowrance as one).


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