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Author Topic:   Fishfinder and Chart Plotter Combo
moabelite posted 01-16-2015 09:06 AM ET (US)   Profile for moabelite   Send Email to moabelite  
I'm considering upgrading the existing fishfinder on my Montauk 170 and would welcome your insights. Does anyone here have experience with the Lowrance Elite 5? If you have recommendations for alternative units I would appreciate your feedback. While a large screen would be a nice change, I am intentionally keeping it a bit smaller to preserve space for other kit at the helm.
Hoosier posted 01-16-2015 09:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
I have an Elite-7 CHIRP bracket mounted on the top of the console in my Outrage, which is about the same size as the one on a Montauk. I looked at the Elite-5 but chose the Elite-7 to get the larger screen. The Elite-7 also has NMEA 2000 but the Elite-5 does not. The Elite also has a page that can have three screens such as High SONAR, Low SONAR, and Chart. That feature would be hard to use on a 5" screen.

An alternative unit to take a good look at is the Raymarine Dragonfly. I almost got it, but having a boat already rigged with mostly Lowrance products, I stuck with Lowrance to keep the interfacing simple.

jimh posted 01-18-2015 12:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You don't tell us what SONAR you have now. The current SONAR could affect your choice of a new device. You might want to keep the transducer you have.

What is you present chart plotter, if any? Do you have an investment in digital cartography on memory cards you want to preserve?

moabelite posted 01-18-2015 02:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for moabelite  Send Email to moabelite     
Thanks to you both for your feedback. I am currently running a Hummingbird Piranha 3 depth/fish finder that I would put at circa 2006 (although I don't have verification). It came installed on the 170 and my best guess would be that the transducer is now obsolete and so not worth preserving (although I don't relish pulling the wiring for the new one and have already read up on the process on CW). Currently my chart plotter is an iPhone 6+ :) and so I won't have any digital cartography to preserve (sadly).

Hoosier - Thanks for your insights and experience with mounting an Elite-7 on a similar console. Very helpful. Did you already have a whole pattern that matched for mounting or did you fill and re-drill? That is one of the problems I don't relish resolving. The 3 view screen definitely makes me re-think the size. Do you find that you use that function often? I'm going to look at the Raymarine Dragonfly as well. Was there a particular aspect of that unit that appealed to you? Since I am making the switch from Hummingbird I'm not obligated to Lowrance by any means.
Thanks again!

jimh posted 01-18-2015 03:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re having an NMEA-2000 interface on a chart plotter for a Boston Whaler 170 MONTAUK: the typical Boston Whaler 170 MONTAUK is sold with a mandatory tie-in purchase of a Brunswick Mercury-brand engine. There are no Mercury engines with NMEA-2000 interfaces. To get engine data from a Mercury engine onto a NMEA-2000 network is expensive, and usually means buying some sort of dedicated engine data display from Brunswick to accomplish. On that basis, I don't think it is of great importance to have NMEA-2000 capabilities on the chart plotter.

The most likely device to interface to a chart plotter, other than the outboard engine, is the VHF Marine Band radio. While NMEA-2000 can make the interconnection of radio and chart plotter simpler than using NMEA-0183, you can still accomplish the same thing with NMEA-0183; you just have to invest a few minutes of clear thinking about how to accomplish it. So, again, I don't see lack of NMEA-2000 as being a critical flaw in a chart plotter, but, to be honest, just about all chart plotters provide NMEA-2000. I think it is a good feature to have.

jimh posted 01-18-2015 03:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I don't know what other electronic gear you are planning to install at the helm console. For a 17-foot boat I would suggest you get a combination of SONAR and chart plotter and multi-function display. The marketplace is filled with choices. I can't keep up with all of them.

To start your search, I suggest driving to a big store like CABELA'S or BASS PRO SHOP where there will be displays of many models and many brands. Take a look at what is available in various screen sizes and prices.

I don't think you need to limit yourself to a 5-inch display. I would recommend something larger, particularly if you are getting a combination chart plotter and SONAR. I think 8-inch is about the minimum display size.

An important factor will be the bundled or included chart cartography, and how suitable it will be for your boating. If you can, try to see exactly what chart data will be included and what it will look like for your favorite lakes.

If you tend to boat on only a limited number of lakes, and if you are into fishing, you should also consider the options for making your own charts with your own SONAR data. This is a new feature of most chart plotter and SONAR combination devices. You can map out your own favorite water yourself. This usually requires integrating some computer applications. Make sure you have a computer that is compatible with the software needed for a particular brand of crowd-sourced charts. Some brands think everyone in the world only owns one kind of computer.

Hoosier posted 01-18-2015 06:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Let me try to answer your questions and, maybe, give you some things to factor in.

When I got the Elite-7 CHIRP I was upgrading from a Lowrance HDS-5. That was a significant factor in my decision to not get the Dragonfly. My HDS-5 was already wired into the boat's power system, they use the same Power/Data connector, so all I had to do was install the bigget bracket.

I have an older, first generation Standard Horizon Eclipse DSC radio that was interfaced to the HDS-5 via NMEA-0183, which is the "Data" part of the Power/Data cable. I didn't have to change anything when I installed the Elite since it used the same Power/Data cable as the HDS. Actually almost all Lowrance chartplotters use the same Power/Data cable so upgrading within the family is "plug and play".

Given that, as Jim says, the Mercury engines don't have NMEA 2000 you really don't need that interface unless you are going to interface to more than the radio. NMEA-0183 is not a network interface, it's point-to-point.

As for the display, bigger is always better. I use the three screen layout all the time. Usually I have Mid-frequency CHIRP, Downscan Imaging, and the Chart up on the screen. A nice feature in the formatting is you can do "over and under" or "side by side" layouts for the screens.

As for the Dragonfly, it doesn't have NMEA 2000, but that might not be a big consideration in your application. What I was drawn to was the depth limit for the SONAR imaging, Dragonfly is 600 feet while the Elite is only 300. One thing on my "Bucket List" is to go out and "see" the Edmond Fitzgerald on my SONAR. My Lowrance won't reach that far down, but it will be able to "see"the other item on my list, the USS Oriskany, aka "The Great Carrier Reef".....

jimh posted 01-19-2015 05:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
When deciding on an electronic device like a combination device that includes

--a GPS or GNSS receiver

--a chart plotter

--bundled digital chart cartography


--a SONAR transducer

--a color display

--an operating system, with user interface

--a brand

--a warranty, and

--who know what other elements important to the buyer,

there are so many considerations in a decision-matrix that one must set some limits in order to make it possible to work through the options. You have to decide what is important, and what the order of importance will be. Then you can apply your decision-matrix to the devices available, and see if any of them tend to meet most of the criteria you have set.

padrefigure posted 01-19-2015 08:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for padrefigure  Send Email to padrefigure     
For the sake of discussion, consider the Garmin chart plotter/fish finder combinations. I have a 7" unit and use split screen functionality to position over underwater structure for fishing. I upgraded from a 5" unit without this functionality and am very pleased with the choice. Garmin units are NMEA 2000 so displaying engine date for my ETEC is possible, even though I have not installed the backbone and connectors, yet. If you live near a major boating city, you may be able to compare different units easily. You might also contact bluewaterpirate from this board and ask for his opinion. He seems to stay up to date on the latest hardware and software in this arena.
moabelite posted 01-20-2015 08:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for moabelite  Send Email to moabelite     
As you both correctly assume, I have a Mercury 4-stroke 90hp so NMEA appears to be less of a consideration for me. That said, I always like the idea of having the option based on some future circumstance.
The idea of tying in the Marine Radio at some point in the future is also appealing but I believe I am correctly reading that most popular models should be able to incorporate that component.
Your feedback regarding size is helpful as I wanted to avoid cluttering up the console while maximizing the viewing size. Input from those already expanding the size of their display inclines me to go to the 7" size at the very least.
I am actually planning to be at the Miami Boat Show on business and may just have to take a side visit over to see the electronics vendors and get my hands on one or two of these units. I agree with your sentiment about actually interacting with a unit before purchasing Jim. So often these days it seems like we can make decisions by viewing online when we really need to take the time to view and use the device. As you note Jim, there are a plethora of variables I should be considering and I'm afraid I have not gotten nearly that in depth.
Hoosier, you are making me wish I was upgrading from a Lowrance to a Lowrance with the ease of connection they offer. Vendors that make the commitment to forward and backward compatibility are so appreciated in my book. I have only used my old school unit to see the "bumps" on the bottom represented by shipwrecks and am looking forward to the huge jump in technology there. Your bucket list plans sound like excellent adventures to me.
Padrefigure - Garmin appeals to me on the level of brand recognition and reputation. Have you had any reason to experience whether they do a good job of standing behind their marine products? I hadn't previously considered that options based on my lack of experience with their marine products but it seems as though you have been happy with your unit? I may also reach out to Bluewaterpirate for his insights and latest research....
Hoosier posted 01-20-2015 09:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Let me expand the explanation about the NMEA 2000 as currently implemented in the Elite-7. It is VERY LIMITED, all it can do is share waypoints and connect to an external GPS antenna/receiver. It's barely adequate, it can't even "talk' to a radio for GPS data transmission or to receive AIS data, that has to be done over NMEA-0183. That said, all that is in software which can be changed at any time. It's still worth having for the chance of future upgrades.
padrefigure posted 01-20-2015 09:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for padrefigure  Send Email to padrefigure     
My experience with Marine electronics is that they have a useful life of about five years. At that point, there will be some sort of failure in the unit and the technology will have advanced to the point that the additional features offered in a new unit will outweigh the cost of rehabbing the older unit. In the few times that I have needed assistance, Garmin tech support has always been friendly, responsive, and professional. If you are going to the Miami boat show, that would be a perfect opportunity to test drive different units to see what you like. As others have said, when it comes to screen displays, bigger is generally better.
Ed Stone posted 01-23-2015 09:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ed Stone  Send Email to Ed Stone     
I went with the Garmin Echomap 70DV. I also wanted to be able and use a split screen. Last year at the Miami show we looked at Garmin, Lowrance, an Humminbird. On my last boat I had a Lowrance combo that worked fine. I went with a Garmin touch screen 70dv. I had to purchase BlueChart separately to get detail in the chart.--Ed Stone
moabelite posted 02-20-2015 12:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for moabelite  Send Email to moabelite     
With your insights and having reviewed at length I've opted to go with the Raymarine Dragonfly 7. Many thanks for your insights.
I'm now confronted with a choice between the Navionics Gold US or the CMAP Essentials US.
I'm inclined to go with the Navionics but don't have experience with either and as such am soliciting your input/feedback based on your own experiences.
We boat primarily in the Michigan/Great Lakes region.

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