Dream Electronics - Sail Magazine

Dream Electronics

"We love to sail our older Hunter 34 and want to upgrade the navigation setup at the helm. We’d like to add a wind indicator and combine our existing speed and depth displays in a single unit, using the existing sensors if we can. We cruise on Lake Michigan and rarely leave the Wisconsin coast. Is there an economical solution for us, and can the new instruments talk to our laptop?"-- Peter
Author:
Publish date:

"We love to sail our older Hunter 34 and want to upgrade the navigation setup at the helm. We’d like to add a wind indicator and combine our existing speed and depth displays in a single unit, using the existing sensors if we can. We cruise on Lake Michigan and rarely leave the Wisconsin coast. Is there an economical solution for us, and can the new instruments talk to our laptop?"

-- Peter and Karen Spurling, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Ben Ellison replies : I recently wrote an article dealing with instrument upgrades (“Dealing with the Dials,” March). Since I don’t know what speed and depth instruments you have, my answer will have to be a general one. The manufacturer of your current instruments may make a combination speed/depth display that accepts data from your current sensors, but a display from a different manufacturer will probably call for new sensors. Smart sensors, which have recently appeared on the market, can process data for instruments and chartplotters made by multiple manufacturers.

Most electronics technicians will recommend that you upgrade both your sensors and your instruments because sensors tend to wear out faster. Starting fresh also means that you can shop for a homogeneous set of depth, speed, and wind instruments, which gives you many interesting choices. I’m a big fan of instruments using the NMEA 2000 data communications protocol, because of its rugged specifications and power-carrying ability, and, most important, because it is the future. However, NMEA 2000 isn’t the most economical choice yet, and since you want your computer to access your instrument data, I would recommend sticking to the older NMEA 0183 data standard. This will allow almost any charting and/or performance-sailing software to understand the incoming information.

Two manufacturers that support 0183 well are Nexus (www.nexusmarine.se) and Tacktick (www.tacktick.com). The Tacktick products, while not inexpensive, are largely wireless, and their use of solar power substantially reduces installation costs. Nexus has also introduced a wireless wind transducer. And even if you plan to install the new gear yourselves, I suggest that you pay for a few hours of advice from an experienced marine-electronics technician regarding your choices. The time you spend with him or her will probably pay off in the long run.

Related

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more

dorcap-open-blue

ATN Inc: Dorcap

COOL SLEEPYou’re fast asleep in a snug anchorage, forehatch open to catch the breeze, when you’re rudely awakened by a sneaky rain squall. Now you’re not only awake and wet, you’re sweltering with the hatch closed. Sucks, right? That’s why ATN came up with the Dorcap, an ...read more

HIGH-RES-29312-Tahiti-GSP

Ask Sail: Who has the right-of-way

WHO HAS RIGHT-OF-WAY?Q: I sail in Narragansett Bay, which is a relatively narrow body of water that has upwind boats generally going south and downwind boats generally going north. When sailboats are racing, the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way over the port tack boat, so ...read more