Our navigation system is centered around a Raymarine RL70CRC Chart plotter, which is an older, out-of-production system, but is still very reliable and easy to use. It uses C-Map NT+ vector charts and we have a huge collection of chips covering all of the Great Lakes, the Saint Laurence River, the coastal waters from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas, Cuba and the Caribbean. The chart plotter gets its GPS position information from a Raystar 125 mounted on the stern rail.

Our autopilot is a Raymarine ST6001, with the S1G core pack, Type 1 linear drive and a flux gate compass. We’ve had this system since 2003, and it has served us well.

Our sailing instruments consist of even more Raymarine products. There’s the ST60 wind and tri-data (depth, speed, log) and the ever-useful wireless autopilot controller. I use this piece of equipment at the bow as we slowly enter an anchorage looking for the proper depth to set the anchor in. The display repeats all information available on the SeaTalk network.

Our old Raymarine chartplotter does not support AIS, so we installed an iCom MXA-5000 AIS receiver which feeds its signals to a Garmin GPSMAP 526 chartplotter mounted at the nav station. This new system is a backup to our Raymarine system and provides the additional benefit of overlaid AIS and XM weather information. Prior to leaving Florida for the trip over to the Bahamas in the winter of 2012, we replaced the iCom with a Garmin AIS600 Transponder.

We use the NMEA feed from the chart plotter to supply position information to our Standard Horizon VHF and our iCom M802 SSB. Both radios use the information to support the DSC function.

Here’s a schematic of our current navigation and communication instrumentation.

What worked, and what will we replace?

For starters, all of the Raymarine gear. In the autumn of 2012, on our way down the ICW south of Newport, our Raymarine RL70CRC chart plotter failed. This is a 2002 model we bought with a Raymarine radar and GPS antenna and it all fit nicely with our factory-installed Raymarine instruments and autopilot. I packed up the chart plotter and shipped it off to Raymarine for repairs after confirming by phone that they could still service the unit even in it’s long discontinued state. A couple of days later, I got a phone call from a Raymarine technician who said “there’s nothing wrong with the unit”. Apparently, it started working again in transit – all it needed was a bump or two. He shipped it back after charging me about $150 for looking at it, and after I re-installed it, it worked normally until March when it died again, off the coast of Cuba. This time, I gave it a good whack and it came back to life. that’s when we decided not to mess with this old system and start looking for a replacement.

One thing led to another. The new Raymarine systems don’t work with our old radar, so we’d have to buy a new radar as well. Furthermore, we weren’t happy with the thought of using Navionics charting software – especially in the Bahamas, where Navionics has a bad reputation. We are very happy with our Garmin chart plotter (the one we use as a backup, and principle AIS and XM weather display). To make a long story short, we decided to switch our whole system to Garmin. Here’s Strathspey’s proposed Garmin system.

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