Choosing our Electronics

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a nerd.  I like technology and while I’m not the most technologically advanced person in my family (here’s looking at you o’ brother of mine…) I think I come in at a solid second place.  Therefore, the choice of electronics on our boat is a key concern of mine.  I want a system that will integrate seamlessly across the boat, beyond just your regular instruments, to include our laptops, media server, iPads and any other device we can think to add.  I know that this is a tall order and there will be pluses and minuses to any system we choose, but some will be better than others at accomplishing this goal.

Fountaine Pajot installs Garmin electronics as standard on their boats.  The vast majority of my experience on boats has been using Raymarine electronics, and since the display Helia actually had Raymarine installed, I asked our dealer if it was possible to elect for a different system than Garmin.  He assured me that it was, and thus my research began.

 

Garmin

Garmin earns good marks throughout the web for their ease of use.  I have only limited experience using them, but the interface does appear pretty straightforward and user friendly.  However… they come in dead last when it comes to integration with other systems.  Fountaine Pajot uses the Garmin 5008 and 5012 chartplotters on the Helia, which do not offer wifi, nor do they offer any wired connectivity outside of the “Garmin Marine Network”.  We stopped by the Garmin booth at the boat show, and were told that in order to transfer data (such as weather overlays, or routing information) from a computer, you had to use an SD card to save the data on the computer, and then manually transfer it over to the plotter.  Not exactly what we’re looking for, and in this day and age of connectivity, it’s pretty shockingly behind the times.

Raymarine

As mentioned, the vast majority of both the Admiral and my’s experience with marine electronics has been on Raymarine equipment.  That has created a familiarity which is a solid plus in Raymarine’s corner.  The e Series HybridTouch Displays offers a good mix of basic touch features, as well as buttons that can be used to operate the system as well.  While you won’t mistake it for an iPad anytime soon, it does seem to be moving in the right direction.  They also have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, which can be used to connect to iPad’s and iPhones using Raymarine’s native apps or even the Navionics app.  The WiFi means that we could connect our laptop into the system and use the Raymarine Voyage Planner software to create waypoints, routes and tracks on the laptop and then instantly send it to our multifunction display (MFD).

This is definitely more along the lines of what I’m looking for, but I have two reservations: 1) WiFi is great, but would seem more likely to fail at a critical moment than a wired connection to the computer and 2) the Voyage Planner software appears pretty basic, and doesn’t have some of the advanced features available with other software packages.

Furuno

I was first turned on to Furuno when I read the great blog of s/v Field Trip and when the Admiral and I got the chance to randomly run into Mark and Sarah in St. Barts while we were on a charter, we got to see first hand how Mark had managed to integrate all electronics on his boat.  The new TZ Touch line of MFDs looks really nice, but also really pricey.  The NavNet 3D line of MFDs is what I have focused on as they have NMEA 0183 and 2000 capability, as well as Ethernet connectivity.  In truth, I like the Ethernet connectivity a bit better than WiFi as I believe it would offer a more consistent connection and be less likely to fail.  However, what really seems to set the Furuno system apart is it’s MaxSea software.

Using the optional Routing Module, I could plug in weather forecast and current data and the software will calculate the optimal sailing route based on the polars of our boat.  How cool is that!?  Now, I certainly recognize that conditions actually out on the water may not play out exactly as forecasted, and its probable we won’t end up sailing the exact route calculated, but these are the sort of technological features that get me excited.

 

I’m pretty set on swapping out the stock electronics for either a Furuno or Raymarine set up, and have to admit that I’m leaning towards Furuno.  However, I’m still working with my dealer to get accurate engineering drawings of the helm and interior nav station to make sure everything will fit.  In addition to the basic plotter and instruments, we’ve got other equipment to find a place for, such as our VHF, AIS, SSB, Sat Phone, Inverter Controls etc.  And let’s be honest, cost plays a definite factor as well.  A Furuno system wouldn’t be cheap, but right now, I think the additional features would be worth the cost.

  1. Nahu Reply

    SD Memory Card (Electronics) I bought the maps for my reenct visit to Ireland through the Amazon marketplace. It was an essential tool for getting around western and southern Ireland and often helped me recover from wrong turns, etc. While I recommend anyone with a Garmin buy these maps for driving in Ireland, it did let me down in some ways, not experienced much in the US. We landed at Shannon and spent most of our time in County Kerry near Kenmare.1. There is a major new toll road in Limerick. On the Garmin, this was just a big green and blue space. Strictly on my own within 15 minutes from the airport.2. Major attractions/restaurants/etc. were often not found in the lists on the Garmin. If I got lucky a search may bring up the lost attraction. I suspect the Irish refused to pay up and were not listed. Sort of like the Yellow Pages. For a relatively expensive purchase I expect to see all of the attractions from the major tour guides and a good listing of restaurants, etc. Even better, I expect to see the Trip Advisor list.3. Some of the locations were way off and made it difficult to look for nearby attractions, etc. For example, the Garmin location for the Seafari boat lauch at Kenmare pier was about 70 KM away. Imagine if I tried to use the Garmin for that.4. Overall just a lack of attention to reliability and customer focus by Garmin.

  2. Mike Andreen Reply

    Hey Admiral & Captain,
    Mike from Cowtown (Ft Worth) here. Stumbled upon your Youtube videos probably when I searched Helia 44. We chartered one in BVI this past spring and liked it quite a bit. Love catamarans! Anyway, I went to your website to try and learn, as I did, how such a young couple could afford a new boat. Good for you guys! My brother in law went to Rensselaer for aero engineering, my daughter attended A&M, we took refresher ASA courses out of Kemah (NASA Rd) with Kevin Foley. You may know Kevin from sailing and engineering industry.
    Anyway, saw a few things we had in common. I am so impressed with you two from your schooling to your sailing abilities and your excellent site. I am a biochemist turned commercial pilot of 40 years so I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms. I have a passion for the ocean and have lived in some faraway places. I am along for the ride and thought I should start at the beginning. Wishing you all the best in your journey.
    Mike

    • She Said Reply

      Hi Mike! Thank you so much for your kind words. We do have a lot in common. Kevin Foley sounds familiar, but it’s not popping anything specific to mind. If you aren’t familiar with http://helialetitbe.wordpress.com/ you should check them out too …they are from Coppell. Thanks for reading and we look forward to keeping in touch!

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