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Airmar H2183 Heading Sensor
I recently upgraded my entire electronics suite from a Raymarine E120 to a Furuno TZT Touch2 / NXT radome system with a new NMEA 2000 network. This was based to a large extent on good information from Ben & Panbo - thanks.
Things are working quite well and I am pleased with the significantly better situational awareness that the NXT's ARPA gives me.
One fly in the ointment though... the Airmar H2183 will occasionally be lost to the system with a "Heading Lost" message. The system will then revert to the Airmar 150WX heading sensor which is not as accurate and has more deviation. If I power down and power up the NMEA 2000 network, the Airmar H2183 will not be detected by the Furuno MFD. If I disconnect the NMEA 2000 cable to the unit, it will return for a while but eventually be lost again (variable time to loss: minutes to days with no apparent cause). I have found that even tapping the actuall sensor unit will sometimes restore it to the system without needing to disconnect or power it off.
I bought the Airmar H2183 on eBay, for a good price as 'old new stock' but without a warranty. I suspect that it is faulty and that my gamble in buying this bargain unit did not pay off , but before I buy a new one, wonder if anyone else has seen this behavior from this unit. Any possible fixes or should I just suck it up and buy a new one?
Comments or suggestions welcome.
Hi Evan, I suspect that your diagnosis is correct, and that "tapping the actual sensor unit will sometimes restore it to the system" seems especially telling. But there may a workaround that keeps you in business. I think, for instance, that the TZT2 can be told to only look for Heading from the H2183, and also the 150WX Heading could be turned off altogether (if you have a bridge through which you can run Airmar's config program). Experimenting with those settings might make the H2183 appear more stable to the N2K devices that want to see it on the network.
I do not have a NMEA gateway installed in the system as, so far, I have been able to prioritize sensor inputs through the TZT interface. I don't know that I can reject the heading input form the 150WZ using the TZT; now am I sure that I would want to as it still works better than having no heading input.
Would it be worthwhile to have a USB to NMEA 2000 gateway in the system as an aid to the diagnostics? I would love to be able to use the Airmar software to adjust the air temperature offset a few degrees etc. but I didn't think it was worth the expense for just that one minor improvement.
If I were to spring for a gateway, would you have a suggestion as to the brand & model?
I suspect the Airmar Heading sensor is faulty. I can't see sending it in for repair as I need it or a substitute to keep the system running properly
I should mention that I have a Vesper XB8000 as part of the setup. Could I use the USB port on that to act as a NMEA 2000 access point / gateway for my PC laptop? (I understand that the simpler WiFi access requires 0183 translations and won't work as a RAW NMEA 2000 gateway.)
Sorry, as versatile as the Vesper 8000 is, it won't help you in this situation. To configure the Airmar sensors I believe you need an Airmar U200 USB Gateway, though I think it's made by Actisense and you may be able to use an Actisense NGT-1 instead. But you should check about the latter with Airmar, and, besides, my ideas aren't good enough to spend money pursuing. Your best route at this point might be to ask Airmar if they have a flat rate repair for the compass, or maybe first put it in another boat and see if it still acts squirrelly.
PS A simple test would be to unplug the 150WX from your N2K network. It's lot cruder than turning off its Heading output but the test would confirm that the conflict of multiple Heading messages is not the problem.
Sorry to be such high maintenance. Hopefully this discussion can be useful to others as well.
I'm thinking that the Actisense NGT-1 gateway would make a lot of sense (assuming it is compatible with the Airmar Software) as it would allow me to get a diagnostic window into the sensors as well as allow firmware upgrades etc. It would be far better to diagnose what is actually happening with the H2183 instead of simply guessing. Maybe a firmware update is all it needs?
The possibility of conflicting inputs might also be ruled out with better access to the NMEA Data via the gateway? (The TZT Touch2 allows me reconfigure the instances for each data source with the exception of the Vesper - The Vesper won't allow itself to be anything other than "0".)
An additional benefit would be to allow native NMEA 2000 connectivity and access to all the NMEA 2000 data to be streamed to my preferred navigational software; Coastal Explorer. (I have Time Zero Navigator installed to interface with the Furuno MFD but I strongly prefer the Coastal Explorer Interface and charts over TZ Navigator.)
At this point in time, the Vesper does not translate all the NMEA 2000 data to 0183 WiFi. One result of this is that I can't see Air Temperature on the laptop while at anchor. The only way to display that value right now is to have the MFD on... the gateway would also fix this issue.
Thank you for your good help.
It looks like you already answered the question of the Actisense and Weathercaster compatibility...
Ha! But that was 2010, so both WeatherCaster and NGT-1 have seen software updates since then. So best to check compatibility before buying.
As an update:
I ordered the Actisense NGT-1 USB Gateway. I installed it yesterday and can confirm that after downloading the proper drivers it works very well with the Airmar Weathercaster software. (Windows 10 laptop to NMEA 2000.) It also interfaces with both Coastal Explorer and Time Zero without any nasty surprises. (For some reason the Ethernet connection between the laptop and the Furuno MFD was interrupted in the installation . Disconnecting the Ethernet cable and reinserting into the Ethernet switch fixed that up but Time Zero seemed to initially have difficulty coping with both live portals at the same time. It seems to be working now after several restarts.)
Interestingly, Coastal Explorer is much improved by having direct access to the instruments and sensors via the Actisense Gateway. It now lists the individual NMEA 2000 sensors as discrete instruments that can be selected and prioritized more definitively as the preferred source of data. (This functionality was sort of there under 0183 input but in a much less discrete way and confusing the redundant data.)
Now to troubleshoot that pesky Heading Sensor that seems to work just fine when the boat is tied up at home.