Gizmo’s new (though previously owned) compass, thanks to Max Marine Electronics

Perhaps you too remember seeing decent-looking marine electronics peeking out of boatyard dumpsters? While I fear that such waste is probably still happening, thankfully websites like eBay and Craigslist have made it much easier for buyers and sellers of niche gear to find each other. But did you know that a company in South Florida has brought high levels of expertise and professionalism to the used boat electronics market? In fact, the main goal of this entry is a hearty endorsement of Max Marine Electronics.

Also up for discussion is how my latest MME purchase will replace the classic Ritchie Navigator steering compass that’s probably been on sightline center at Gizmo’s lower wheel since she was launched 23 years ago, even making it through my 2021 ergonomic helm refit. I expect to get some guff about switching to digital Heading from salty friends, and maybe readers, but I believe my rationale is valid.

Actually, a new Furuno FI70 4-inch color instrument display at $495 retail is a fair deal in my opinion. The pair above, for instance, can clearly deliver all sorts of valuable nav and system info, with multiple screens set up for different underway situations. That’s why they got such prominent placement when I tried to maximize Gizmo’s flybridge ergonomics, as did the somewhat similar Maretron and B&G displays. Can there be too many NMEA 2000 data displays at a well-appointed helm?

But when shopping for a third FI70 to install where the analog steering compass used to be, I didn’t hesitate about buying a used one from Max Marine, especially because the $380 cost included a hard-to-find sun cover that was needed on the flybridge. Besides that and the $115 saved, I knew from prior experience that MME thoroughly checks out the gear they sell and is scrupulously honest in their listings.

You can see the eBay entry for my “new-to-me” FI-70 here, and note that the listing’s “minor scratches on the front panel” only show in the photo above because the light angle was just so, and they seem completely invisible when the display is powered up. Note too that I could have saved another 10% if I’d shopped directly at the Max Marine Electronics website, and a current search for instrument displays shows another FI70 and many other choices.

But while I saved a few bucks (and also believe in working toward a circular economy), Max Marine really shines at providing electronics that are not manufactured anymore. For instance, a boater trying to keep an old Northstar radar alive might find that MME has what they need. Moreover, the company refurbishes some popular classics like Autohelm/Raytheon ST50 and Furuno Navnet VX1 displays, as you can see in the details here and in their YouTube factory tour.

MME even 3-D prints parts like SimNet connectors for their refurbished AP27 autopilot control heads and claims that “they will outlast OEM parts as they are made from a superior material.” Which reminds me of the Simrad Robertson AP11 components I sold from the Panbo Forum in 2021. It was a real pleasure to help the French buyer, who didn’t want to replace his charter boat’s whole autopilot system just to get control heads with working screens. But it was also a real hassle dealing with international shipping and payment, and any such direct deal might have gone sour if the other party wasn’t so honest.

In short, both buying and selling used marine electronics can feel good in my experience, but putting a pro outfit like Max Marine in the middle of the transaction is an easy and safe option. And, yes, they do buy gear from regular boaters, though it’s not mentioned on their website. Just call them or email photos and device info.

So why am I replacing a perfectly good steering compass that would continue to work despite some drastic electric power issue like a lightning strike? The main motivation, trivial as it may sound, is that the relatively heavy and bulky binnacle compass makes it awkward to lift the panel it sits on. Plus the various and occasionally changing electronics I sometimes need to access under that panel are not always friendly to accurate magnetic heading.

But maybe hanging on to the handsome Ritchie Navigator was just sentimental anyway. There hasn’t been a magnetic compass on Gizmo’s flybridge for many years and I rarely use the one below. But then again, the boat does have two NMEA 2000 networks, and at least one Heading sensor on each, and there’s a handheld compass in a drawer along with the parallel rules I might remember how to use with the old paper ChartKit also still on board.

Your thoughts on Heading devices and used electronics welcome.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

18 Responses

  1. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    I have a pile of electronics in my building waiting for a trip to the east coast and Max Marine Electronics. I’ve been saying for two years I would head over there. Maybe this article is what I need to get off my duff and go.

    -Ben S.

  2. Ron says:

    Good article Ben – I will check out MME as I am of the school that new is not always better.

    On the subject of electronic compass, how actuate is it? I have a Garmin autopilot and the electronic compass is not very actual at all. I have moved the heading sensor several times but to no success. With a real compass you can calibrate/adjust with the compensating magnets. I don’t know if a stand alone electronic compass has anything similar.

  3. Gretchen Ogden says:

    So: Do you want to sell the Navigator?

  4. I had 30+ years of various Furuno, Northstar, Simrad and other electronics that I had removed from boats, sitting in my shop on the upper Chesapeake bay. Max went through everything and gave me a fair price for it all.

  5. Jim Van Eaton says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I bought a Garmin GMI10 to display my new Fox Gateway.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hope it works out, Jim, as I’m not sure that the GMI10 understands all the engine PGNs that the Fox Gateway may transmit. Garmin is fairly specific about it, but I don’t see PGN output lists at Fox and don’t know which gateway you have anyway…

      But worse case, I think, is that you may want to use MME’s 30 day return policy.

      • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

        Good catch Ben. I believe the Fox gateways will output engine information on 127488 and 127489. Those PGNs are Engine parameters – rapid update and Engine parameters – dynamic. Oddly, the Garmin manual lists 127489, but not 127488. I’d be surprised if the extended data were supported but not the PGN with RPMs. But, I’ve been surprised before, so who knows.

        NMEA 2000 127488
        NMEA 2000 127489

        I hope you will report back and let us know how it worked out for you.

        -Ben S.

        • Jim VAN EATON says:

          Finished installing the Fox Gateways on my 1999 7.4 Mercrusirs and as soon as I brought up my Garmin GPS Map it prompted me to set up the engine data, but you’re right, I have a GMI 10 and it would not recognize the data. I think it’s time to find a smaller dedicated display to put front and center for the engine.

        • Jim VAN EATON says:

          I installed a Garmin GMI 20 front and center and with ease, it displays all the engine data I want. Thanks for all the help.

          • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

            Glad it worked out, Jim, and hopefully a reminder to all that even certified NMEA 2000 devices are only tested to work properly with other certified devices on a network. NMEA does not require any N2K device to send or receive any specific boat data fields or the sets of related fields known as PGNs. It took a while, but eventually I understood why NMEA can not do that.

      • Jim Van Eaton says:

        Do you think the GMI 20 might recognize the out puts?

  6. Chris Labozza says:

    It’s good to see Max Marine Electronics gets some shine. I’ve known Max personally since he was rebuilding Raytheon HSB1 Pathfinder systems, and now I can’t tell you how many times we’re able to help out a client by finding that ‘missing piece’ like an AP control head to get them sorted. Everything is tested, updated, and even come with a warranty. Pretty impressive to see how slick of an operation they run and the equipment shows up ready to roll each time.

  7. So you’ve gone all electric ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve bought a few things from MAX – you should have seen me driving back to the boat with an SSB whip strapped to the top of our little car – jousting, anyone?! Friendly folks, too – they let me wander around their shop/warehouse and even answered the inevitable “what &%@! is that?” questions!

  8. Bob says:

    +1 for Max Marine, an important part South Florida’s marine electronics ecosystem.

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