Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
My T3500 was built in 2001 and commissioned at the start of 2002. She was
equipped with Raymarine instruments (ST60’s) including radar and
autopilot. She did not get much use until I bought her in June 2009.
The 2001 system: It all works as well as it did when new. It reports all the
information I want to know when sailing. The instruments are easy to read
and repeated on the chartplotter/radar at helm and navstation. The GPS
position seems very accurate and the wind and heading are truly reflected.
The boat speed transducer sometimes gets clogged with weed, but its easy
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
to clean. The autopilot allows me to leave the helm for moments to attend to
sails or rigging, or just for a break. It follows a course dependent on
apparent wind heading, compass direction or even waypoint direction. The
remote allows me to control it if I leave the helm area. The instruments give
me more information than I can use like water temperature and trip logs in
nautical miles. The system is reliable. However....
Three recognized Shortfalls of the 2001 system:
1. Charts and their display: the distinction between MacENC chartplotter
software ($180 as of 2012)
using raster NOAA full color
charts (free) at the
navstation computer with a
15” screen and the black &
white 7” display at the helm
with really awful vector
charts is horrible. The only
thing I miss in MacENC at the
navstation is tide flow arrows
that were available on the
The old chart display
Cap’n software ($450 as of 2012) that I used
when it was available for Macs.
2. Collision Avoidance in Fog (we sail on the San Francisco Bay):
a). I have radar and I have spent some time practicing with it. I find it too
complex to remember how to set optimally and just way too hard to
interpret, a ‘feature’ I do not need in any stressful situation. It is almost
useless to me without serious monthly practice in differing weather
conditions. In place of this I want my chart display to have all the
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
information on those peculiarly-routed ships and ferries that charge
through the crowded sailing waters of the Bay displayed in real time with
heading, speed, size and possible collision risks assessed.
b). A lesser worry is yachts, but still a real concern in fog. At the moment I
have a pressurized can driving a handheld foghorn. Not dependable nor
systematically used. I would like a Public Address (PA) horn that was
electronically controlled to emit repetitive fog signals if we had to sail in
thick fog.
3. Better course following with the Autopilot:
The autopilot works well, but does not follow a set course particularly
tightly, especially downwind. I would like it to be able to steer as well as I do.
Choices in Upgrading:
1. For the chartplotter at the helm I need a bigger display. Either an iPad, a
daylight visible LCD tied to the navstation computer or a new
chartplotter. I chose the last.
1a). an iPad without large and ugly sun shades which seemed completely
inappropriate in my cockpit, there was no way to read one in full sunlight.
Waterproofing also seems a little funky.
1b). marine LCD: a waterproof daylight readable LCD. No mouse, so
touchscreen, and I could be wearing gloves, so resistive not capacitive.
These are available, but for a 12” its around $2,450 and this is without the
multiplexer I would need to get all the instrument data into the navstation
computer and so to the helm display.
1c). MFD: the option of a new multi-function display from Raymarine or
another brand of marine chartplotter. Unlike my laptop, these do nothing
else except act as a display and interactive tool for navigation. They require
purchased charts (and purchased updates) as opposed to the free,
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
constantly updatable, NOAA ones. They are not generally very
upgradable, have limited connectivity and are expensive. However they are
designed for the helm and are rugged, eminently readable in full sunlight
and connect to all instruments, autopilot and radar. I wanted one that would
communicate with my Raymarine system (original SeaTalk) and so looked
only at Raymarine. I also had a good feeling about the Raymarine
equipment because of the reliability of the system that had been on the
boat for 10 years.
2. For sailing safely in fog: an AIS receiver is the answer to ship positions,
course speeds and collision
risks. I also need a better fogsignaling device. Both are
available in one unit, a VHF
radio with AIS receiver from
Standard Horizon. The
Matrix AIS+ GX2150 VHF
radio is $330, but,
importantly, does not need
an antenna splitter for your
VHF antenna. I also
the remote unit for the helm ($105) and a public
address horn (model 220SW, $38), since this radio can
transmit fog signals (and listen for responses!)
through the loud hailer.
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
3. Improving the course keeping of the autopilot: the only upgrade
available, and the one that
removes the difference between
my unit and the latest ones
available, is a course gyro that
allows the course computer to
know the rate of turn of the
boat. Luckily my old course
computer was built to accept
this upgrade. I found a new one,
Raymarine Smart Heading Rate
Gyro Plus 2 MARPA E12101, on
eBay for $315 plus $40 shipping.
So now I had decided on the way to upgrade my three perceived shortfalls
in navigation and course keeping. The AIS and the Autopilot upgrade
choices were straightforward, the multi function display more complex:
The Helm Display: Raymarine produces a somewhat confusing line of multi
function displays (MFDs), including the A, C and E series. (the G series is
more sophisticated). They also throw in lower case letters (‘c’ series, ‘e’
series) to really confuse you. The A series has smaller chartplotters with or
without fishfinder capability. The C series are in larger formats (widescreen
or classic), as are the E series, but the latter are touchscreens. One model
has a built in HD digital sounder for fishermen. The current price difference
in the 12.5” model between touchscreen (E125) and not (C125) is S3,400 to
$1,900. I decided that I definitely did not need touchscreen. I also bought a
converter from the new SeaTalkNG ($95) that is now used to communicate
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
with my original version of SeaTalk. The C125 fitted in my NavPod helm
casing that held my old chartplotter, I just needed to follow the provided
template and enlarge the old cutout.
New MFDs cannot read analog radar output and so it was suggested that I
upgrade my analog scanner to a new RD418D 4KW Digital Radome for
$1,000. Since I am not a believer in amateur use of radar but did not want to
give up on a piece of equipment that worked and was installed, I decided to
keep the analog radar and move its display to the nav station, shortening
the cable, where it works as well as it should, rather than upgrade.
Installation: One thing I did not feel comfortable with when I started was my
lack of knowledge of the wiring of the SeaTalk network. I looked behind
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
each instrument and traced wires visually. It was apparent that my system
was not daisy-chained, but used a common bus by the course computer.
Installing the Gyroplus ll was a simple as screwing in to the wall of the
lazarette next to the course computer and connecting it to the SeaTalk bus
and to the course computer. When I did this I also raised the base station
for the autopilot remote (S100) to the top of the lazarette to give a larger
active area for the signal.
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
Installing the MFD C125 took more time.
I re-used some of the existing cabling from the old system, which made it
easier, but I did have to remove the radar cabling and run new wires down
the helm frame tubing. The connection AIS/GPS for the radio was just three
wires and I used the old shielded radio remote cable. Power, I used the old
power cable but re-connected it to the power bus for the course computer
(it was on a separate system as radar). SeaTalkNG, I put the converter into
the NavPod and used the old SeaTalk cable (without the power) to connect
to it. I also ran power from the same bus independently to the SeaTalkNGSeaTalk converter. This last is by no means obvious from the owner’s
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
manual, but this converter needs to receive power through one of the two
SeaTalkNG connections.
Installing the VHF radio was
easy except for running the
cable for the remote to the
helm, which of course had
connectors at each end. I used
the existing plug socket hole
for the new socket on the back
of the Navpod, and because
there is now no room left on
the face, attached the remote
handpiece on the side. I
The Standard Horizon GX2150. The old VHF
was a tad smaller
enlarged the existing opening
in the navstation panelling for
the fixed unit and used the same power supply. The AIS/GPS connection
to the C125 is specifically detailed in an insert in the radio manual.
For the PA horn I ran a 2-conductor wire inside the liner from the area
directly over the companionway down into the navstation. This is not as
simple as it sounds. The coach roof is an outer shell and an inner liner but it
has a cover on it, creating an additional layer, to house the companionway
sliding hatch. The sliding hatch itself is removed by taking out the screws
that hold the wood lock bar onto the polycarbonate cover, at which point it
is free to slide out. I mounted the horn at the aft end of the sliding hatch
cover, just in front of the traveller. I drilled a hole from above for the wire
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
here and tacked it up to the ‘ceiling’ of the cover to run it all the way to the
starboard side, clear of the sliding hatch.
To get this wire down into the space between liner and shell you have to drill
through the liner and then the shell from below in one of the bands covered
by the wood trim pieces. Make sure your hole comes out at the inside edge
of the hatch cover, then you can feed the wire through into the space
(using a fish tape). You have access to this space from the light fixture over
the sink, the access panel for the traveller end-mounts and, if necessary,
the main wooden hatch trim over the table. This latter is sealed to the
hatch-light itself with sealant. If you do remove this (4 screws), mark which
side is aft so you can put it back the same way.
From the traveller end-mount access cutout you can get the fish tape down
the aft corner of the coach roof and into the starboard lazarette. From
here you’ll have to fish the wire forward to the space behind the DC circuit
panel in the navstation, and so to the VHF radio in the aft panel of this
locker. The VHF hook up wire on this radio is a single black clad wire that
conceals a red insulated conductor and a shield.
I used small Marker Cable Ties (4 inch 18LBS,
100pcs/Pack - White [ASIN: B003L13A7K] from
Amamax via Amazon Marketplace: $3.76 with free
shipping) to write a description of each cable in
permanent marker and tie it to the visible
terminations of each wire I identified, emplaced
or re-assigned.
Upgrading Raymarine navigation system and autopilot
from 2001 originals to current 2012
Conclusion: The system improvements I installed all worked when installed
except for the Raymarine SeaTalk converter which took me a while to figure
out to get independent power to, but after that all the instrument
information showed up on the new helm display, all the ships and ferries
moving in the Bay were there from the AIS and the VHF had position coordinates. I don’t particularly like the big on-screen icon for my own boat,
or the undifferentiated ones for all AIS targets, but, hey, you can’t have
everything. There is a warning in the manual not to install the C125 within
11.8” of the binnacle compass. The dealer advised me to ignore that. I did
and can perceive no ill effects.
The cost for everything came to $2,861 plus tax and I feel I’ve got the best
system I could have without the extreme stuff that I wouldn’t really care to
have like thermal video cameras, photographic overlays for the coast cities
and 3D bathymetric data.
The standard Navionic charts are good on the MFD, almost exactly as clear
as the NOAA raster charts. If anything the MFD is too complicated, but
that is pretty much par for the course with electronics. There are a lot of
options, but I have found no harm in just ignoring them. Initial set-up and
usefulness is achieved very, very quickly. The VHF again is quite complex if
you go into it in depth. Just figure out the basics and it is fine. The
Gyroplus ll addition to the course computer has made a quite remarkable
difference: the boat does actually keep course as well as an easy going
person at the helm would in all the situations we’ve tried it so far (I’m an
easy going person).
©Philip Roberts, 2012, Palo Alto, CA.