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New VHF Radios from NAVICO with NMEA-2000
|Author||Topic: New VHF Radios from NAVICO with NMEA-2000|
posted 11-16-2012 09:02 AM ET (US)
Hopefully Icom and Standard Horizon will move in the direction [of providing NMEA-2000 interfaces to their radios as these new NAVICO radios have provided as shown in the documents hyperlinked below].
posted 11-16-2012 09:49 AM ET (US)
Tom--Thanks for the notice of these new models from NAVICO companies for VHF Marine Band radios with NMEA-2000 interfaces.
As you know, as I know, as the United States Coast Guard knows, a VHF Marine Band radio with digital selective calling features according to Class-D specificiation--the only fixed mount radio you can legally sell or buy in the USA--requires that the radio be interfaced to a source of position data (such as a GNSS receiver) in order to be useful for sending a distress message with position information, and the connection of radios with a NMEA-0183 interface has been a complete failure across the general boating public. The USCG reported an amazing statistic that 90-percent of the distress calls they received via DSC did not have a position sent with the distress call. The Coast Guard even went to the rather unusual step of writing a formal letter to NMEA to ask them if they could help out in getting better results in the interconnection process. The USCG was correct in asking for this, because the NMEA-0183 standard was not very good in regard to setting standards for the wiring connections. Every vendor provided the connections in a different manner, using different color codes, different signal names, and different connection devices. What a confusing mess!
By moving to a NMEA-2000 interface on the radio there is an expectation and great hope that the interconnection of the radio to the boat navigation system will become much simpler for the average boater. With the arrival of these new radios from NAVICO companies that have NMEA-2000 interfaces, we are seeing the new generation of affordable radios with these features.
I have long had a preference for Standard-Horizon VHF Marine Band radios, but that fine company has been slow to come out with a NMEA-2000 radio, and so, it seems, has Icom, another major radio brand. On the other hand, Lowrance has had a lot of experience with NMEA-2000. Lowrance was one of the very first marine electronics companies to become certified with NMEA-2000 products, and they really have led the way, at least led the way in affordable products with NMEA-2000.
The big question now for me in regard to the Lowrance LINK-8 VHF radio is its performance as a radio. A NMEA-2000 interface is great, but the primary mission is still to be an excellent radio. In this regard I don't have any experience with Lowrance, and I'd say that Lowrance has not established a significant track record in marine radios. The LINK-8 will have to establish its reputation as radio first, then as a radio with NMEA-2000 next.
The MSRP is $300, which should mean a selling price of perhaps as low as $250. That is a decent price for a radio with some features, but not a sale-of-the-century-deal.
The more expensive SIMRAD radio you mention also has an AIS receiver. This is another nice option, but that radio is priced much higher. In the United Kingdom it has a list price of £300, or about $475.
posted 11-16-2012 09:57 AM ET (US)
WAIT--WAIT--STOP THE PRESSES
I just realized that the new Lowrance LINK-8 radio also has an AIS receiver! Wow, that is amazing. The LINK-8 is fantastically situated in the present marketplace of VHF Marine Band radios:
--retail $300 price
That is a very impressive combination of features and price.
posted 11-16-2012 10:13 AM ET (US)
Here is the full blather on the LINK-8 from the NAVICO press release:
posted 11-16-2012 10:38 AM ET (US)
By the way, I noticed on the product shot that a current position for the radio was being displayed. I thought to myself:
"Ahah! I can get the position of the factory that made the radio from those coordinates!"
I plotted the coordinates on Google Earth and was very surprised to see where they led. Open Google Earth and paste into the "Fly to" box the following coordinates:
36 45.299 N 174 42.492E
Quite revealing, eh?
posted 11-16-2012 01:30 PM ET (US)
Must have significance for someone.
posted 11-16-2012 03:07 PM ET (US)
One element of the new radio I noticed is the lack of soft keys for control. Soft keys tend to make the user interface work better. It will be interesting to see if the user interface on these radios follows any sort of lead from the user interface on NAVICO chart plotter and SONAR devices, so that in some way there might be some carry over from one device to another.
If the radio is nicely integrated with a NAVICO chart plotter it would be very cool. For example, if you see an AIS vessel and want to call it. Will the LINK-8 be able to make a call by hitting a button on a NAVICO chart plotter? That would be the best sort of integration. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens when you have a LINK-8 connected to a NAVICO chart plotter, say a Lowrance HDS series device, and the radio gets a DSC call.
ASIDE: It is great to see new products coming out in a niche market like recreational marine electronics when you consider how moribund the recreational boating market in general has been the past three years. Congratulations to NAVICO for having optimism about the future of recreational boating.
posted 11-16-2012 08:44 PM ET (US)
Is the only functional difference between the Simrad and Lowrance models the ability to use a wireless remote mic?
posted 11-17-2012 10:11 AM ET (US)
The specifications are a bit sketchy right now so a detailed comparison is not possible.
I don't see a wireless remote microphone as being a big feature on a small boat. On my boat you cannot be farther than about ten feet from the radio. I'd be worried about the wireless microphone bouncing overboard in rough weather.
posted 11-21-2012 10:22 AM ET (US)
In addition to the radios mentioned above, NAVICO has another VHF Marine Band radio with NMEA-2000. The SIMRAD model RS12 VHF Marine Band radio is a reasonably priced radio with a NMEA-2000 interface. It does not have an AIS receiver. The MSRP of the SIMRAD RS12 is a modest $239.
The attraction of the RS12 is its NMEA-2000 interface. Connecting the RS12 to your chart plotter and your GNSS receiver will be very simple if those devices are also NMEA-2000 devices. One possible drawback to the RS12 is the main channel control knob. There is no rotary knob, but instead there are UP-DOWN arrow buttons. These controls will also be used for the user interface. In some instances use of a rotary knob for these functions will allow for faster and possibly easier user input.
posted 11-21-2012 10:27 AM ET (US)
Looking at the NAVICO radio line among their Lowrance and Simrad brands, we see the various models fall into these categories and prices:
RS12: NMEA-2000, no AIS = $239
LINK-8; NMEA-2000, AIS = $299
RS35: NMEA-2000, AIS, wireless remote = $399
posted 11-22-2012 09:00 AM ET (US)
These modern radios with DSC and AIS actually have four separate receivers that are operating simultaneously:
--dedicated AIS Channel 1 (87B)
--dedicated AIS Channel 2 (88B)
--dedicated DSC Channel (70)
--regular VHF Marine Band channel as selected or being scanned, or VHF weather broadcast channels as selected
There is a lot happening under the hood in a modern VHF Marine Band radio!
Also, many new VHF Marine Band radios are fitted for compliance with the European ATIS or automatic transmitter identification system. ATIS operation requires its own ATIS callsign, somewhat like a vessel's MMSI, which is generated from the vessel's radio callsign by a numerical encoding. It is used on inland water ways in Europe in certain countries. At the end of every voice transmission from the radio, the ATIS numerical callsign is appended and transmitted in a short burst of frequency-shift keying. This positively identifies the source of the transmission.
The ATIS is an outgrowth of the Regional Arrangement on the Radio-communication Service for Inland Waterways or RAINWAT. See
for more details. I mention the ATIS feature to demonstrate the complexity contained in these new radios. They contain features for global use. We are already familiar with the three sets of different band plans contained in the radio, allowing compliance with USA, Canada, and International band plans, and now a new layer of regulatory compliance, ATIS for inland water ways in Europe has been added. This in addition to the DSC receiver and demodulator, and the DSC encoder and transmitter. And don't forget the AIS receiver and demodulator.
I remember using a nice Motorola VHF Marine Band radio that was a crystal-controlled set. It only transmitted and received voice, and it only worked on a few channels. You had to buy a new crystal for each channel you wanted to add. That was VHF Marine Radio technology in the early 1980's. Today the radio technology is amazing and much more complex--and the radios cost less than they did 30-years ago!
[Deleted sidebar discussion on old radios which was taking over the thread. The thread is discussing the newest radios. Perhaps we can start a nostalgia thread for old radios--jimh]
posted 01-28-2013 03:13 PM ET (US)
February is just a few days in the future, and the NAVICO radios described in this thread should be available soon. I noted that the front panel appearance of the Lowrance LINK-8 and the Simrad RS35 radios are remarkably similar. I have been looking for more details about the specifications of these two radios, but I have not found a really comprehensive listing of them. The Simrad RS35 offers more details, including a mention that the receiver intermodulation distortion rejection is equal to or greater than 70-dB.
I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has seen these radios in person, and, even better, someone who has bought one of these radios and connected it with their NMEA-2000 network.
posted 01-28-2013 03:36 PM ET (US)
Just saw some online pricing from BOE Marine.
Lowrance LINK-8 (DSC/AIS) $231
posted 01-29-2013 01:22 AM ET (US)
Tom--Those prices look very good, particularly for the LINK-8 radio. If you install one of these, be sure to let us know how it works for you or your customer.
posted 01-29-2013 03:02 PM ET (US)
[Mentioned a prior model of radio made by NORTHSTAR about eight years ago which had no NMEA-2000 interface.]
posted 02-01-2013 12:11 PM ET (US)
Joe's mention of Northstar radios reminds me of a rather ironic connection between these new NAVICO radios and Northstar radios.
NAVMAN, a New Zealand electronics company, was making a line of marine electronic devices, including radios, GPS receivers, chart plotters, and SONARs. They were a relatively small company, privately owned, and situated in New Zealand. The Brunswick corporation was on an acquisition spree, and thought that they might want to own a marine electronics company. Brunswick formed a subsidiary, Brunswick New Technologies (BNT), and bought NAVMAN in June 2004.
NAVMAN went from being a small start up, begun in a garage in 1986, to being a part of a global corporate conglomerate, Brunswick. There apparently was a huge culture clash from the very start of this merger. In 2006, about two years into the Brunswick corporate ownership, most of the senior executives and senior engineering talent from NAVMAN resigned. A year later NAVMAN was no longer profitable, and Brunswick changed course, selling off NAVMAN, at the same time reducing Brunswick New Technologies to just a few other holdings.
While Brunswick owned NAVMAN it was common to see Brunswick's boat builder house brands, like Boston Whaler, use NAVMAN as standard or optional electronic equipment on their boats. For a couple of years, around 2005 to 2006, the NAVMAN radios, sounders, and chart plotters were offered as factory installed options.
When BNT tossed NAVMAN overboard, the NAVMAN marine electronics operation was acquired by NAVICO, and some models continued to be sold for a short while under the NAVICO brand NORTHSTAR. NAVICO had also acquired LOWRANCE, and decided to consolidate their marine electronics brands into just three marques: Lowrance, Simrad, and B&G.
It is impossible to know if there is some old NAVMAN DNA in any of these new radios from NAVICO, but perhaps some of the engineers or some of the technology of NAVMAN have survived and continue to work for NAVICO.
posted 02-01-2013 03:35 PM ET (US)
Interesting. I always thought LOWRANCE was part of SIMRAD. I don't know where I got that notion from.
posted 02-02-2013 12:22 AM ET (US)
David--LOWRANCE was an independent brand until rather recently. They sold out to NAVICO a few years ago. NAVICO collected a number of brands, and then they distilled the products down to just three marques or brands, each with a focused market:
--for smaller boats, particularly freshwater fishing boats, they make the LOWRANCE brand;
--for larger boats, ocean-going boats, they make the SIMRAD brand; and,
--for sailboats, they make the B&G brand
In this consolidation process a couple of brand names were lost, but not the technology or achievements of those brands. Those attributes were just rolled into the appropriate products in the remaining brands.
ASIDE: I used to have a NAVMAN F3100 fuel instrument, and I absolutely loved it. It was a very well designed device. It was a beautiful electronic accessory for my boat, and I still miss it. It was a great product. NAVMAN had a lot of very cool products that were unique and really market leaders. It is just a shame they were bought by Brunswick, turned into some corporate division, and sold off when Brunswick leadership changed direction. The founder of NAVMAN, Peter Maire, probably came out of the deal with millions of dollars, but I bet he resented what happened to his company and his vision for marine electronics. It has been sold off in parts to various other companies, and the spirit and vision of the New Zealand maritime national tradition has been completely discarded. It is too bad NAVMAN could not have survived with its New Zealand and maritime roots. Those Kiwis made very nice stuff.
posted 02-02-2013 01:47 AM ET (US)
Thanks for the clarification, Jim. I knew I recalled some relationship between the two.
posted 02-02-2013 02:06 AM ET (US)
You can see the NAVICO branding distinctions in the difference between the LINK-8 and the RS35 radio. The RS35 radio has a feature for a wireless remote speaker-microphone-control head. That is a nice feature, but you certainly do not need a wireless microphone on a small boat. On a small boat there is probably no justification for a wireless mic; a microphone with a coiled cord that stretches a few feet is sufficient. So NAVICO makes the Lowrance version of the radio without the wireless microphone feature, and makes the Simrad version with that feature.
posted 02-02-2013 11:04 AM ET (US)
Not mentioned in the initial article, but worthy of note, is the SIMRAD radio model RS12. This radio combines the Class-D DSC VHF Marine Band radio with a NMEA-2000 interface, without the added AIS feature. The RS12 is probably going to be the lowest cost radio with NMEA-2000, as it is priced at under $200 at discounted retail.
On the other hand, the Lowrance LINK-8 looks like it will be priced around $235 discounted retail, so you can have an AIS receiver in your communication radio for only about $35 more. This makes the notion of having AIS not very expensive. It seems almost too little price differential to resist. If you go boating in areas with commercial ship traffic, the AIS receiver is useful to have.
posted 02-02-2013 01:02 PM ET (US)
I already mentioned my strong interest in the NMEA-2000 features of these radios, but I want to explain more clearly my motivation. A DSC radio is of marginal use as a vessel position indicating system unless there is a real-time connection to a source of position information about the vessel. Prior to NMEA-2000 networking, the usual arrangement for getting position data to the radio was via NMEA-0183 serial data connections. The process of interconnecting two devices using NMEA-0183 is too difficult for the average boater to be successful. Indeed, it seems about one in ten can figure it out. Nine of ten cannot, based on the statistics of the United States Coast Guard.
By moving to a NMEA-2000 interface on the radio, the radio can be connected to a boat's NMEA-2000 network backbone, where typically there is a source of vessel position information available. This greatly simplifies the interconnection, because the NMEA-2000 standard removes about 90-percent of the roadblocks to making the physical, electrical, and logical connection. This should make it easier to integrate the radio with the position finding source, which is typically a receiver for the Global Positioning System (GPSr). With position data from a GPSr, a modern VHF Marine Band radio with digital selective calling to Class-D specification can include the boat position in digital radio transmissions. These transmission can be just routine messages sent to other boats, or they can be emergency alerts of distress. How much more useful to send a distress signal and include the boat's precise location! NMEA-2000 facilitates this.
Of course, one might say, how can we be assured the typical boat will have a NMEA-2000 network. You can't, but, it is becoming much more common to have NMEA-2000 networks on even small boats. A NMEA-2000 network only costs about $50 to build, and it engenders all sorts of advantages. Because all modern outboard engines of all brands except Mercury are now NMEA-2000 capable, and even those that aren't can be adapted by specialized gateway devices, it is becoming standard practice to have a boat's outboard engine connected to a NMEA-2000 network so that engine data can be displayed on multi-function gauges. On a boat that already has a NMEA-2000 network, the cost of adding a NMEA-2000 radio is not particularly high. About all that is needed is an additional Network T-Connector or an open port on a multi-device connector, and perhaps a short drop cable. Some of those components may already be in the box when you buy a radio that has NMEA-2000 capabilities.
As I mentioned earlier, there have been already a few marine radios with NMEA-2000 networking connections, but they have been limited to the most expensive models. With this new round of radios from NAVICO, we have a modern VHF Marine Band DSC Class-D radio with NMEA available for under $200. This brings NMEA-2000 to a new price range. It may be a good time to take advantage of the low cost of these radios if you are thinking of getting a new VHF Marine Band radio for your boat.
posted 02-02-2013 08:16 PM ET (US)
The Lowrance LVR-880 was a NMEA 2000 equipped radio and had an interesting feature. It had a stereo headphone jack since it had a built-in FM stereo radio. I found that noise cancelling headphones were quite useful for monitoring the radio traffic while on plane.
posted 02-03-2013 10:57 AM ET (US)
Thanks to Dave for mentioning the Lowrance LVR-880 radio. That was an interesting product. Lowrance sold the radio in Europe as a Class-D DSC radio, but modified the radio in the USA to provide an FM Broadcast Band receiver. I assume that they must have modified the design to take the dedicated DSC Channel-70 receiver required for Class-D compliance and use it for an FM Broadcast Band receiver instead.
The Lowrance marketing people must have felt that providing reception of the FM Broadcast Band to boaters as a function on their VHF Marine Band radio was a more attractive feature than providing them with modern digital selective calling features. Once the FCC mandated that all VHF Marine Band radios sold in the USA would have to provide digital selective calling to the Class-D rating, the LVR-880 radio with the FM Broadcast Band receiver was withdrawn from the USA market.
posted 02-05-2013 09:21 AM ET (US)
The several models of new radios from NAVICO are presently available as follows:
posted 02-24-2013 09:40 AM ET (US)
The actual delivery of a LINK-8 radio seems to have been pushed a few weeks into the future from the estimates mentioned above. I have not heard of anyone actually receiving a LINK-8 radio. I am very interested in hearing some informed comments about the LINK-8 radio from actual users of the radio. It is my hope that the radio portion of the LINK-8 is a top-tier radio. I really like the notion of the radio being on a NMEA-2000 network, but first it has to be an outstanding radio.
posted 02-24-2013 10:02 AM ET (US)
Regarding the very first comments that began this discussion, in which it was noted that two of the most prominent names in VHF Marine Band radios, Icom and Standard-Horizon, did not offer any radios with NMEA-2000, I have also been hopeful that the two brands would have something in the works. I thought perhaps that some new products might be announced at the Miami International Boat Show, held a week ago.
As far as I can determine, neither Icom or Standard-Horizon introduced any new VHF Marine Band fixed-mount radios with a NMEA-2000 connection at the boat show. This is a disappointment for me.
In the case of both Standard-Horizon and Icom, it may be understandable that they did not have a new fixed-mount radio to reveal. The past several years have not exactly been boom years for boating. All manufacturers had to stop making older model VHF Marine Band radios that did not meet the FCC mandate for GMDSS DSC Class-D compliance. Most of the engineering effort probably went into revamping their product line to meet that requirement.
Standard-Horizon has pioneered the huge innovation of building an AIS receiver into their VHF Marine Band radios. This probably was the main focus of their engineering and development the past few years.
In the case of Standard-Horizon, they have undergone two changes in ownership in the past several years. The Standard-Horizon brand was part of VERTEX, which made land-mobile commercial radios. Vertex was acquired by MOTOROLA in 2008. Vertex and Motorola used to be competitors in the land-mobile radio market. After just four years under Motorola ownership, Motorola announced it was selling the Marine Radio segment of the Vertex operation to Yaesu Musen in 2012, while Motorola would retain the Vertex land-mobile operation. With all of this corporate change in ownership going on the past several years, I can imagine that planning the operation of the Marine Radio division has become something of a lower priority. I think Standard-Horizon, now that it is back under what looks like a stable corporate parent, will be able to return to its innovative ways in the VHF Marine Radio segment. They have introduced a lot of new products in the hand-held segment.
For NAVICO, the NMEA-2000 engineering is old hat. Lowrance is one of the innovators and early adopters of NMEA-2000. They probably had a lot of engineering background in NMEA-2000, so it was easier for them to bring that knowledge to a new radio design, than for a radio engineer to become knowledgeable in NMEA-2000 and bring NMEA-2000 to a radio.
posted 02-24-2013 10:39 AM ET (US)
Also, as far as I can tell, neither Icom or Standard-Horizon have any NMEA-2000 certified products. In order to incorporate NMEA-2000 in a product, the manufacturer has to acquire both the knowledge to design the NMEA-2000 interface in compliance with all the requirements of the standard, and also have the device certified or tested to prove its conformance. This process may be too expensive at the moment for the research and design budgets of Icom and Standard-Horizon.
To acquire all the engineering skill and knowledge to make a successful NMEA-2000 product may take a while if you plan to just grow that skill and knowledge organically in your own engineering personnel. For something specialized like this, it might be expedient to hire an engineer or designer with experience in the discipline. That could be difficult for relatively small electronics firms to do in the past three years of general decline in recreational marine sales.
I really don't know the exact costs, but I would not be surprised if NMEA-2000 testing and certification cost $100,000 to achieve. This is another impediment for smaller companies to enter the NMEA-2000 market.
I do hope that Icom and Standard-Horizon are pursuing NMEA-2000 connectivity for their radios. In the past their brands have been recognized as the best in the recreational boat radio market. With this new strong product development from NAVICO at amazingly low prices, competition is very intense.
posted 02-25-2013 11:16 AM ET (US)
The LVR-880 [a previous radio from Lowrance that had NMEA-2000] is Class D compliant. As for it being withdrawn from the market, I've noticed that Navico and Lowrance products have a market half-life measured in months, not years. They are constantly rolling their products, look at how many generations of the HDS series there have been.With the LVR-880 I suspect that it was withdrawn due to excessive warranty claims, I had to send mine back and it was exchanged.
posted 02-25-2013 07:50 PM ET (US)
I noticed that in this discussion there was no link to the Simrad website for information the RS12 radio. Maybe there wasn't a page there when we started. There is now. Here is the link:
As mentioned, this radio has NMEA-2000 but does not have an embedded AIS receiver. The MSRP is very modest, only $239, and the radio should be priced at retail discount around $200 to $220. I have not made an extremely careful survey, but I think at that price it will be the least expensive NMEA-2000 radio on the market.
posted 02-26-2013 09:44 AM ET (US)
Re the Lowrance LVR-880 and its DSC rating: I am certain that when the radio was first introduced it did not have a Class-D DSC rating for the version sold in the USA. This was really a curious situation, because the LVR-880 was being sold in Europe with a Class-D rating. In the USA it was only specified to meet RTCM SC101 recommendation. Perhaps in the final months of the product life the LVR-880 was bumped to Class-D rating in the USA, but I do not recall hearing of that before.
I used to think that the incorporation of the receiver for the commercial FM Broadcast Band (88-MHz to 108-MHz) was related to the lack of Class-D rating. A Class-D rated radio must have a dedicated receiver that is always monitoring the DSC channel (former Channel-70). Since the USA version of of the LVR-880 had the FM Broadcast Band receiver, I presumed they had used some facility of the radio for that band instead of for a dedicated Channel-70 DSC receiver. But just a day or two ago, someone mentioned they had an LVR-880 European version and it had the FM Broadcast Band receiver and Class-D rating. Perhaps the real hurdle with the radio's rating in the USA was getting it certified with the FCC.
The FCC is not the promulgator of the DSC recommendations. The DSC recommendations seem to be set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). See
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) appears to be the ultimate authority on digital selective calling. DSC is part of the General Maritime Distress and Safety at Sea (GMDSS). GMDSS is a set of internationally agreed upon procedures to enhance safety at sea.
The FCC has issued regulations which require that VHF Marine Band radios imported, sold, or installed in the USA have to meet the specifications of the ITU recommendation. See 47 CFR 80.225(a)(4):
However, in December 2011, the FCC then changed its mind and issued a clarification and modification, which said that by January, 2013 (i.e., this year), VHF Marine Band radios imported, sold, or installed in the USA would have to meet a newer recommendation of the ITU, the REC-M.493-13 version. The -13 version of the recommendation was issued in October 2009. See
The -13 specification is available from
This January at least two manufacturers recalled product from the selves of retailers in order to verify the firmware in the radios matched the -13 version. The irony of the present situation is the ITU Committee that is making the recommendations (which the FCC turns into legal requirements in the USA) is not completely satisfied with their work in the -13 revisions, and they are apparently planning to remedy some errors and issue a -14 revision.
There is a recent, long, and very interesting discussion of the regulatory minutia on Panbo. See
In that discussion it is asserted that the LVR-880 was not compliant with the -13 revision. Therefore it is not technically legal to sell the LVR-880 in the USA after January 1, 2013, and Lowrance should have been aware of that since December 2011.
posted 02-26-2013 10:00 AM ET (US)
The technical details of Class D and the product history of the LVR-880 are not really central to the discussion, which is about new products introduced and available for sale which (I presume) meet the present FCC requirements in the USA, and also meet the NMEA requirements for NMEA-2000 networking.
The reason for my strong interest in VHF Marine Band radios with NMEA-2000 is their ability to be easily connected to GNSS receivers and chart plotters, which these days are almost universally provided with NMEA-2000 network connections. The use of NMEA-2000 on both the radio, the GNSS receiver, and the chart plotter makes the connection of the three devices much simpler for the average boater to perform.
Among the many boating discussion forums there is a constant, unstoppable, and endless flow of inquiries from boaters seeking technical assistance in wiring a connection between their GNSS receiver and their radio using NMEA-0183 interfaces. At a much lower frequency of occurrence there are similar questions about wiring the radio to the chart plotter. These inquiries are usually answered by well meaning responders who provide conflicting answers, leading to more discussion. These discussion go on and on, with cryptic suggestions like "connect [some random wire color] to [another different random wire color]." All of that confusion is avoided by having a NMEA-2000 radio, a NMEA-2000 GNSS receiver, and a NMEA-2000 chart plotter.
While it is entirely possible to connect the three devices (or even more) using NMEA-0183, it is not possible for most boaters to accomplish, as evidenced by the very low instance of DSC distress calls with proper position included (which the USCG reported was only one in ten). And it is clearly even less likely that boaters have their DSC radio connected to their chart plotter. In my experience, even among people who have sophisticated installations, the connection of the radio to the chart plotter to allow the display of the position of other vessels by reporting with DSC is very low, probably more like one in 100. With NMEA-2000 in the radio, the rate of connection should be much higher, much simpler, and we will all be much safer as a result.
posted 02-26-2013 11:11 AM ET (US)
ASIDE: The confusion about wire colors in the interconnection of NMEA-0183 devices reminds me of a situation often encountered in B-movie action-adventure cinema in which some sort of bomb is to be deactivated, usually only seconds before a time detonator is to cause the explosion. In the arch-typical movie the bomb expert has been injured and a female heroine has to perform the actual deactivation. Inevitably the tension rises as a pair of wire cutters hovers over a number of small wires. The neophyte bomb de-fuser asks the injured expert for advice on which wire to cut, the RED wire or the BLUE wire. The bomb expert wrinkles his brow, grimaces, and then give the correct answer. Snip! The RED wire is cut. The count-down timer stops. The day is saved.
There seems to be a remarkable congruence in wire colors and movie-script bomb makers, as they always use the same colors in making explosive devices. My first thought about the movie-bomb-makers: how nice of them to employ a variety of different wire colors when making their bomb. These evil geniuses apparently never had the notion of using the same color wire for all the circuits. That would be too clever. No, no, let's adhere to the standard, make the detonator wire that stops everything always be a certain color. As for the one bomb maker in five who goes against the standard, our movie bomb-de-fusing expert will detect that abnormality in the bomb-maker's personality and intuit that on his bombs we must cut the BLUE wire.
But it seems rather odd that among movie bomb makers there would be a consistent adherence to a color code wiring standard. That movie-goers are apparently willing to accept the notion of a color code standard in bomb fabrication seems to suggest that as a general belief, most people expect the color of a wire's insulation to communicate something consistent about its function. And so it must be with NMEA-0183. People expect that a wire color is supposed to reflect something about its function, and wire color codes ought to be used in a consistent manner.
In the case of manufacturers of marine electronics that are supposed to comply with a standard for serial data communication, the NMEA-0183, there is apparently very little adherence to the standard for wire color coding, and wire color codes are used very inconsistently. NMEA is trying to remedy that practice, but until that happens, connecting two devices by relying on their wire color codes is likely to go KABOOM!
posted 03-25-2013 09:59 AM ET (US)
The LINK-8 radio is apparently now available; a few reports of purchase and installation have appeared on a few websites. Lowrance has also posted the operating instructions and installation instructions:
LINK-8 Owner's Manual:
LINK-8 Installation Manual:
From reading the owner's manual, I get the impression the "Track Your Buddy" feature is implemented by setting the radio to automatically make a remote position poll request to a particular MMSI at a predefined interval of 15, 30, or 60-minutes. The ability to make a remote position poll request to another radio is part of the normal DSC radio feature set; the ability to set the radio to do this automatically at certain intervals is the unique Lowrance "Track Your Buddy" feature.
The owner's manual also mentions that in regard to AIS vessel display, the distance shown will always be in nautical miles.
Lowrance also shows great detail about the data the radio can send or receive via its NMEA interfaces. I excerpt this below:
LINK-8 NMEA-0183 Interface
LINK-8 NMEA-2000 Interface
The above suggests that there is good integration of the AIS information over NMEA-2000. Some recent postings by early users of the LINK-8 seemed to suggest there were problems with this functionality in the LINK-8. It looks to me like the LINK-8 is quite capable of sending the necessary PGNs on NMEA-2000 for AIS display on a linked chart plotter. Perhaps the chart plotter being used was not ready to obtain the data from NMEA-2000 sources. This is a requisite part of integrating the radio and chart plotter via NMEA-2000 as compared to the more established method of using NMEA-0183 connection.
posted 04-20-2013 10:15 AM ET (US)
The LINK-8 radio mentioned above seems to now be available for purchase and installation from at least a few sources. The retail price of the LINK-8 has seemed to jump. Initially, before it was actually available for delivery, it was listed at a very attractive price, as low as $231 from one supplier. (Mentioned above.) However, now that the radio is really here and for sale, the prices seems to have skyrocketed. It looks like $299 or more is going to be the actual selling price. I guess I should have pre-ordered when it was $231. Darn.
Also, there have been a few first-hand reports about the LINK-8, but in general it seems like the early buyers and installers are a group of dullards that can't figure out much of anything about the radio other than how to turn it on. They have reported some rather inexplicable and unusual problems, which, if these problems were actual defects in the radio, would mean the device was completely worthless and fraudulently represented. I tend to discard those reports and ignore them, on the basis that those buyers must be generally clueless or otherwise lack sufficient sophistication to evaluate the radio.
I am interested in hearing from someone who actually has a LINK-8 and is familiar with the technologies provided by it. Have we any readers who have installed and used a LINK-8? If we do, can we hear from you?
posted 04-20-2013 12:19 PM ET (US)
This little guinea piggy is planning on getting a LINK-8 by the end of May. I'll report my experiences.--Dennis
posted 04-20-2013 12:36 PM ET (US)
Excellent. I am confident we will get a profoundly more intelligent first-hand evaluation than any of the ones I so far have read.
posted 05-02-2013 08:16 AM ET (US)
After action report Lowrance Link 8 VHF radio install: Last Saturday I tried to install a Link 8 VHF on a client's boat. The first unit's microphone did not work out of the box, so back he went to West Marine. The second unit's display would not illuminate--all we got was a blank screen. So back to West Marine for another one. Unfortunately they did not have a third one in stock, so we're waiting for it to arrive. As everyone knows, stuff happens; will report back in regards to the third.
I bench test everything before I install so there are no holes or vacant gimbal mounts.
posted 05-02-2013 09:48 AM ET (US)
Tom--thanks for the report. This new product launch sounds like it is going a bit rough.
posted 05-02-2013 10:09 PM ET (US)
Any word on availability of the Simrad RS-35? I have been looking at the BOE Marine website, and it maintains that the radio is on backorder still. Very lame rollout from an otherwise great company.
posted 05-02-2013 10:55 PM ET (US)
I'm hearing mid to late May for the RS-35.
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