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Thread: B&G instruments and autopilot.

  1. #1
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    Default B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Hello all.

    I'm about to purchase my instruments and autopilot, and I'd like to hear any reviews, or reliability issues with B&G systems. Simrad or Lowrance too.

    I've narrowed it down to B&G, and maybe, possibly, Raymarine.

    Raymarine, because they're everywhere.

    B&G, because it seems like that's what all the "big boys" use. And I have it in my mind that they're more suited to sailing.

    My main concern with B&G is reliability, since they aren't just "everywhere" like Raymarine is.

    We used Raymarine in our last two boats, and were reasonably happy with them. And parts, service, were available everywhere. But it's time for a change.

    And, no, I won't consider Garmin.

    Thanks for your time.
    Paul.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    For autopilots and small instruments, B&G have two lines. The high end H5000 gear is definitely top of the line, and the autopilot will outperform everything out there except maybe NKE, where it will be a peer.

    We have a Simrad autopilot and three B&G Tritons and love them. The Simrad AP is the same one used in the lower end B&G NAC series, and steers the boat better than I can in all conditions. It learns and adjusts continually as it goes, so no twiddling with settings to "dial it in" all the time like on Raymarine's AP.

    The Tritons are the best small displays I've come across. The wind and sailsteer display has no peer. The ability to plot almost anything in a histogram display is also very useful (for example, wind speed and direction plotted over time). Pretty much any data on the network can be displayed in multiple ways on these displays. They can even go in and out of autopilot mode when the AP is activated, if you wish.

    However, I personally do not like the B&G/Simrad radars and their chartplotter's ability to perform MARPA. We have a Furuno radar and chartplotter, and we use its ARPA feature constantly. It works very well on Furuno, but is widely known to be almost useless on B&G/Simrad. If MARPA is not of interest to you, then the B&G/Simrad chartplotter would probably be just fine.

    We have not had any reliability issues with our B&G/Simrad gear. We received one of the first batches of Triton displays released, and one of them had a backlight issue after 4 years. B&G sent us a brand new one even though we were out of warranty. The issue was that the backlight would only go through 9 levels of brightness instead of 10, so it was completely useable still.

    The one huge drawback with Raymarine is their stubborn adherence to their Seatalk protocol and connectors. Seatalk is almost straight NMEA2000, but still uses some proprietary protocols. The connectors do not match the standard used by all other instrument manufacturers. Raymarine stands alone in not using standards. This means you either buy all of your gear from Raymarine (sounders, transducers, AIS, VHF, etc), or you buy black box converters from them (sounders and transducers), or you cobble together transition cables for non-Raymarine stuff (AIS, VHF, etc).

    Personally, that is a no-go for me because we have a lot of different manufacturer instrumentation, and prefer to buy best-for-purpose gear for each application.

    Mark
    Mark Cole
    Manta 40 "Reach"
    www.svreach.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    BTW, there really isn't "parts and service" for much of this stuff from anyone any more. Since the controllers and displays are sealed units with bonded displays and single integrated electronics, troubleshooting and repair consists of throwing it away and getting a new one. In this regard, they are all the same.

    Mark
    Mark Cole
    Manta 40 "Reach"
    www.svreach.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Thanks Mark, I appreciate your help in this.

    Do you have your vhf and other instruments all linked together? Or are you using them, or some of them, separate? I'm weary of linking everything together. We once had a failure of our autopilot remote, and it knocked out the autopilot altogether. That incident cost us quite a lot of time troubleshooting, before we figured out it was just a failure in the remote. Disconnect the remote, and all was fine.


    Which Furuno radar do you have? We were just researching that last night, and were impressed with an article on Panbo.com. But it seems the display for the doppler radar is very expensive ($3000). Do you have a different unit?

    Cheers.
    Paul.

  5. #5

    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    I've had a Simrad autopilot and plotter for about 5 years now. (Essentially the same hardware as B&G) Very happy with both, but beware Navico's software updates. They can be riddled with bugs.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    The VHF is not connected to anything, although since it also contains AIS receive functionality it's NMEA output is wired to the data bus, but disconnected, in case we need to use it as backup.

    All other instrumentation are connected, and some of it is redundant. For example, if our Simrad AP head goes bad, one of the Tritons can be used for that function. All data are available to all instrumentation. Multiple sources of GPS are available, and each can be chosen as the main data source. I wouldn't have it any other way regarding integration. Trouble shooting a bad component on a NMEA2000 bus is pretty easy. At worse, you just unplug things one at a time until you find the problem. Easier is to just plug your computer into the bus and look to see which device is acting bad.

    We have the DSR4D Furuno radome connected to an older NavNet3D chart plotter. It is excellent - the best performing radar in this size I've ever used. I spent 3 months last summer passagemaking on a boat with both a new Furuno 6' 6kW open array, as well as a new Furuno 4kW Doppler dome (connected to a TZ Touch plotter). The large open array was spectacularly impressive. Made our DRS4D look anemic. I found the doppler dome to be awful. I spent a lot of time trying to tune it and set parameters and found its performance to be far below that of our DRS4D. So far below that I was convinced something was either wrong with it, its installation, or its tuning. I couldn't find anything wrong with it, though. I think it is just a function of being a solid state radar, because I find the B&G/Simrad solid state radars also perform this poorly in comparison.

    I found the doppler functionality to be cool, but not overall useful. I think Panbo does a lot of putting about in harbors and is easily impressed with googaws and tinsel technology. Frankly, by the time the doppler picked up boats and tracked them, I had already done so myself way before it. And it only does this function when the boats are close by. I guess it could be useful in blanket fog in a harbor situation, but honestly, it really didn't do anything different than our DRS4D in ARPA mode - other than automatically change the color of a boat moving toward you vs going away.

    Mark
    Mark Cole
    Manta 40 "Reach"
    www.svreach.com

  7. #7

    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Quote Originally Posted by quickcat49 View Post
    Thanks Mark, I appreciate your help in this.

    Do you have your vhf and other instruments all linked together? Or are you using them, or some of them, separate? I'm weary of linking everything together. We once had a failure of our autopilot remote, and it knocked out the autopilot altogether. That incident cost us quite a lot of time troubleshooting, before we figured out it was just a failure in the remote. Disconnect the remote, and all was fine.


    Which Furuno radar do you have? We were just researching that last night, and were impressed with an article on Panbo.com. But it seems the display for the doppler radar is very expensive ($3000). Do you have a different unit?

    Cheers.
    Paul.
    Instrumentation is evolving all the time so do not tie yourself to one supplier. Choose components that each manufacturer is good at, for example; I think Garmin make the best GPSs, Standard Horizon the best VHFs and wouldn't buy a GPS or a VHF from Raymarine. The point is everyone will have their favourites for whatever reason.

    Currently we have Raymarine AP, Wind, Depth, Speed, LCJ wind sensor, Raymarine Depth and Rudder Indicator for second hull, Standard Horizon Fixed & Portable VHF, Yeoman plotter, Digital Yacht AIS transponder, Vesper AIS display, Garmin GPS, Lowrance 3G Radar, Kenwood HF and ASRock 12v PC running OpenCPN, 22in OLED monitor, Android repeater, TPLink mobile router. I am about to add a high intensity Eyoyo field monitor and air mouse for use in the cockpit.

    It is all connected together and totally integrated. Sounds like a real hotch potch but each item is also completely autonomous, separate switching, allowing for failure without taking down the whole system. Think lightning. It also allows for sections to be isolated to troubleshoot or save power on long passages.

    As far as operation is concerned I can input a route on the PC or the Yeoman upload it to the GPS and send WP's to the AP. The radar has no dedicated head unit and overlays onto charts and now includes MARPA and AIS overlayed. I can monitor and control the AP from the helm and the nav station or the far side of the boat after all it is a long walk.

    If I was starting with a clean sheet I would probably look at installing universal sensors like LCJ wind and Lowrance radar dome, these connect directly to a PC, no expensive proprietary processing heads or plotter required, then broadcast these as feeds over wifi to the various control and monitoring devices. Sure the PC could go down but these are so cheep a second unit is no problem to keep on board.

    My experience is based on being on board full time and ocean sailing. If I was just coastal sailing or racing round the buoys I would probably choose the preferred system of the nearest chandler that offered good service and backup.

    Peter

  8. #8
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Thanks 44c. If it's quick enough to work on your light, fast, cat, I'm sure it'll work fine on mine.

    Thanks Peter. We're not tied to any one brand. Though I do plan on having the same brand of instrumentation as whatever brand of Autopilot we choose. I don't see much to go wrong with instrumentation, but the autopilot is another story. So, are you happy with your Raymarine autopilot?

    Thanks for the LCJ info, we'll look them up. I do like the idea of having systems with non moving parts, as long as they're reliable too. I know folks have had issues with Airmar, solid state, wind sensors not being very accurate. I assume that's been fixed.

    Thanks guys.
    Paul.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Thanks for the rundown on Radars Mark. I wondered about how Panbo's experiences would jive with a sailboat, offshore. We also use OpenCpn, and were planning on using the 4g B&G radar, direct to the computer. I didn't realize Opencpn did Marpa, so that's a plus.

    We've also crossed oceans, and plan to do so again on the new boat, which is why we are doing our research before buying. We prefer to buy products that are considered "best for purpose", but don't want anything too esoteric.

    Cheers.
    Paul.

  10. #10

    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Quote Originally Posted by quickcat49 View Post
    I didn't realize Opencpn did Marpa, so that's a plus.

    Cheers.
    Paul.
    New plug-in just released. Really excellent. Tags ARPA targets and enumerates them as AIS targets, calculating SOG and COG and allowing CPA graphics. Peter

  11. #11
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Too cool. That's just another reason we love OpenCpn so much.

    Paul.

  12. #12

    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Quote Originally Posted by quickcat49 View Post
    So, are you happy with your Raymarine autopilot?

    Thanks for the LCJ info, we'll look them up. I do like the idea of having systems with non moving parts, as long as they're reliable too. I know folks have had issues with Airmar, solid state, wind sensors not being very accurate. I assume that's been fixed.

    Thanks guys.
    Paul.
    Very pleased, but I have a very old unit ST5000 it is self contained within the head, no separate course computer. It has performed flawlessly. I replaced the LCD a couple of years ago due to sun damage after 16 years.

    The LCJ is super accurate and very stable. I had an issue with the weather-proofing that LCJ troubleshot efficiently from afar and despite getting the unit going again replaced the whole unit no questions. They were a pleasure to deal with. The unit connects with just about any system via an interface box or can be used direct. http://www.lcjcapteurs.com/?lang=en

    Peter

  13. #13
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Thanks Peter. I'm happy to hear your ST5000 has been working well for you. I hope raymarine's current offerings work as well.

    It's nice to hear about good customer service, from LCJ, it's quite rare these days.

    Cheers.
    Paul.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: B&G instruments and autopilot.

    Anyone out there have one of the newer H5000 units? The Hydra, or Hercules units?
    I've read that outremer seems to use the quite alot. Any reports?

    Thanks.
    Paul.

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