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Raymarine Equipment

Ever since my sailing started seven or eight years ago I have wanted to get a chart plotter, very happy to teach myself navigation and boat management without one. Although I may have qualified for the Orinoco Shield less often with one!

One challenge for me was the existing kit on Aurai, 20 year old or more Raymarine ST50 instruments linked to a Furuno GPS, did provide every bit of information I needed, with very low power consumption.

However, the way it was arranged it was all managed from or at the chart table and you needed to input way points quite laboriously and then set up routes etc. the challenges occur in bad weather, when you could not stand up at the chart table or make changes to course plans at all easily. I have tried and persevered but last year, rounding the N Foreland into a splendid SW F6 and remnants of a passing gale, I knew I had to sort out the information available at the helm.

My two crew fell seasick and retired, I decided to go outside the Goodwins, but with no help down below and no ability to leave the wheel and sort out my course, I could only sail by the available lights and compass through a long night on my own. One crew had in fact dislocated his shoulder!

This year we fell foul of the Copperas Channel and as I had been envying some people's new Raymarine Plotters anyway, I began a spending spree in earnest.

I had actually been researching my options for over a year, and one idea was to get a mid range Garmin, organise a bit of stainless engineering and set it up at the helm above and feeding my existing kit, all for about 700.

With time on my hands in Weymouth and absolutely needing to go to the Chandler, I asked about the E7, to be told a new a65 was out that was better and faster than the E series and very keenly priced to challenge Garmin.

I do not profess to know the full ins and outs of the industry but it seems Raymarine have fallen behind, picked themselves up and are now marketing their kit very busily. Garmin are taking market share in low and mid range and so the gloves are off.

The a65 looked very attractive, lots of benefits tied to RM kit ie my Life Tag system and my iPhone and iPad will also relate to it by wifi and blue tooth.

Initial enquiry suggested it would talk to my old RM kit with a suitable intermediate box and I was sold. Or at least I was when Pirates Cave advertised an open day with Electronics deals to be done. I could not call in on the day, contacted them via Face Book and Scott did me a deal.

So a65 ordered.

Then I was down in Falmouth and visited an Electronics specialist to sort out the "box" to talk to my ST50 kit, only my general enquiries were now going to be utterly dumped!

Yes there are boxes to talk to older kit but NoT as old as ST50, dreams shattered, but it cannot cost that much can it?

What I was now finding out and why I have written this article, is that RM have set up standalone promotional displays in nearly every chandler backed by an order system and warehouse in Belgium. As well as on line presence which is pretty good but not great for a first timer.

Indeed when I asked slightly technical questions in Pirates Cave I was quickly given a business card for PSI Marine Electronics.

This is not about the chandlers, but the ones I have been in and the Electronics place in Falmouth have all either said they are waiting for training or the RM rep, guess their way and give wrong information, or refer you to the website.

With hindsight this is what I have learned:

  1. With time and budget for someone else to fit the kit, talk to a fitter like PSI Paul, who does exactly what it says on the top of the tin. He as it happens will procure the kit as well.
  2. Use the RM website much more carefully and plan your installation in full. This is nowhere near as daunting as it may seem and the RM kit is remarkably straightforward to fit yourself as soon as you think like they do.

You would need to draw it out and plan every connection as you should place one single order. Each order costs 12 carriage even for one small T Piece. So you need to plan down to the last end piece and cable requirement. But not hard.

You still have one more piece of jig saw. The pod or holder for your instruments, I even made a mistake here, as the universal fitting did not fit my helm tubes! There are various suppliers and they have there own reputation but some are better than others and costs go with that.

The new instruments are much deeper than old. Again PSI Paul sorted me out, but unless you know the industry it is hard to get the information you need. Cutting the holes takes some care but the recent models are plastic and jig saws and hole cutters work.

I thought the a65 was probably ideal and it has a lot of capability for fisher folk as well as yachties. In my dimness, I thought it would leave out a need for the depth instruments and so on. In fact you need the transducers, log wheel, depth and wind to "talk" to their own instrument and only then can the a65 get its information.

So I then had to buy, new transducers, and new instruments choosing a speed/depth instrument and a wind speed/angle instrument. These are now set either side of my a65 in their new pod.

If I had one more wish it would be to have a tri-data repeater at the chart table, for now I am going to rely on the helm and test my iPhone link!

So now, I have no advice on where to buy your kit, but I can help anyone choose the kit, design and plan the system and if you go for a DiY installation give you a hand. The cabling really is a doddle once you understand the web site layouts.

I did even wonder if we might try and get a RayMarine rep in to give us a talk at the club?

Charles Hessey

Date Published 26th Jun 2013