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New boat -- mix electronics or one brand only?
This came in via email from Patrick:
A belatedly happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.
I just wondered if you would have any advice to share in this scenario - we are seriously considering selling our Cornish Crabber and buying an LM32
The LM, if we get it, needs a wind instrument and a fixed VHF with a masthead antenna at a minimum. On the Crabber I have a B&G Vulcan 7 FS plus B&G speed and depth with a couple of Triton displays. The autopilot is a Raymarine tiller pilot with a gyro in the course computer and ST6002 head. It all works quite well.
My dilemma with the LM is should I go all Raymarine - AP, wind, depth and speed, or mix and match B&G instruments and Raymarine AP? Would I be losing any major benefits from the full integration of sticking with one manufacturer? The Raymarine ev100 AP seems the best value and simplest package.
PS I mention the VHF only since we have to pull co-ax for that - otherwise wireless wind from B&G or Ray would be a no-brainer. Perhaps it is anyway.
I'm personally quite willing to mix brands to get what I want (or what I think I want ;-), but there are some serious benefits to having at least most of your navigation system from the same manufacturer:
* In the case of autopilots, it is quite possible that the same brand multifunction display (MFD) and/or instrument can also serve as an AP control head.
* Firmware updates that bring new features or fix bugs are usually done via an MFD with an SD card or the display's WiFi connection. AP and instrument updates are fairly rare, but much easier if the device is networked with the same brand MFD.
* NMEA 2000 is still not 100% plug and play. While, say, a Heading sensor that's part of one brand's AP system will almost surely work fine with another brand's instrument displays, that is not guaranteed and then you might find the two brands blaming each other.
Sorry if I sound a bit glum, and I am talking generalities. I suspect that you could mix Raymarine autopilot and B&G instrument system without a lot of trouble. But on the other hand, I also think that you could get happy with B&G ap or Ray instrumentation.
PS I do not think that wireless wind is a no-brainer, especially if you will already be running new cables up the mast, but I do advise caution about terminating a NMEA 2000 network at a masthead, especially with larger networks.
I think Ben distilled the major points very well in mixing brands. I myself am trying to figure out a whole new suite of instruments for my new-to-me boat including radar, autopilot, chart plotter, and wind. I have been focusing on a single vendor for three of those - radar, autopilot and chart plotter - mainly for the reasons Ben cites above.
I would prefer to be able to control the autopilot from the chart plotter and do software updates as well. In addition, after having a crazy mix of different brands on a previous boat, and having some interaction problems with the autopilot and chart plotter, I would prefer that those at least are from a single brand to ensure they work seamlessly together. Choosing one vendor for those two would definitely reduce any issues.
Thanks Ben! Lots of good points. The software update issue had occurred to me over the weekend and is perhaps my main concern.
One other thought... VHF radios and AIS benefit the least from brand unity. I believe the more specialized VHF and AIS brands typically make the fullest featured products in their categories.
Thanks Ben S. and Steve!
If I do switch boats I plan to migrate my SeaPilot AIS but would be looking for a new VHF. My current SH Matrix (2150 I think) has served me well with a remote mic in the cockpit. Perhaps I don’t know what I could be missing but the only improvements I would like in the next boat are a better display (poor eyesight especially without glasses) and NMEA 2000.
Being able to call AIS targets direct from the MFD might be nice but I hear ships often don’t answer DSC calls.
PS Patrick, I have to admit that I didn't know what an LM32 was when you first wrote, but think it looks like a good boat now: