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Actisense NGW-1-ISO Firmware Upgraded fixes incorrect Position passed to Icom M504

Posted on Thu 08 December 2011 in Nav Station

I have been noticing a problem with the position displayed in my Icom M504 VHF. My current latitude is 24°09.200N. But the VHF was displaying 2°49.200. The GPS data is fed to my VHF and my SCS PTC-IIUSB modem from the NMEA 2000 network via the Actisense NGW-1-ISO (NMEA 200 to NMEA 0183) gateway.

I contacted Actisense support and they suggested I upgrade the firmware in my NGW-1-ISO. That involved a multi-day hunt for serial cables here in La Paz. In the end, I found them at Sterens which is on Forjadores across the street from the Plaza de La Paz (AKA the Soriana shopping center) with help from the gang at Club Cruceros de La Paz. BTW, Sterens is an electronics store with all kinds of cables, connectors, and electronics doo-dads. More like a Radio Shack than a Frye’s, but better than the Radio Shack’s here and cheaper too! I paid \$89 MXN for 2 6ft serial cables.

Once I had the serial cable in hand, I cut one end off the end I wouldn’t be connecting to the computer. I then used the continuity test on my multimeter to label all the wires so I knew which wire went to which pin on the DB9 connector I would be plugging into my computer. You need to label each wire to its proper DB9 RS232 cable pinout because later you’re going to need to connect Pin X with the Red wire on the NGW-1-ISO, etc. This is not hard at all. Your digital multimeter has a continuity test. You stick one of the probes into Pin 1 and test each wire, when it beeps you label that wire as #1 and so on.

With all the wires labeled, I was ready to connect the NGW-1-ISO’s wires to the Serial Cable as specified in the NGW-1-ISO manual for connection to a PC. Once that was done, I ran Actisenses’s upgrade utility, selected the COM port the serial cable was connected to and performed the upgrade. I offer all that detail in case one of you needs to do it too. There currently is no other way to upgrade the non-USB Actisense gateways.

After all that, I connect everything back up to my ICOM M504 and the position is now being displayed correctly. This is VERY important in case we ever need to use the DSC Distress call on our VHF which transmits an alert and our position. Without this fix the position would have been wrong!

Crisis averted. The world is now safe for eating delicious homemade cupcakes which Dawn made last night. Its good here. Its very good here!

Way behind on the blog… Baja Ha-Ha XVIII Pics

Posted on Mon 07 November 2011 in Baja Ha-Ha XVIII

Not many updates from us in a while, too much fun, too little wifi. I did want to take a second and throw up the link to the Baja Ha-Ha XVIII Flickr group I created. https://www.flickr.com/groups/bajahahaxviii/

This has nothing to do with Latitude 38. If you want your pics published you need to follow the link Andy Turpin sent out to Smug Mug.

If you don’t care about that, don’t want to upload 5 photos at a time, or just prefer Flickr, then the group is a great way to do bulk uploads and share your pics. The group is public anyone can join. I tried to tag all my photos with names of people and boats and the locations are mapped in Flickr or in the EXIF data on the images.

More stories about the trip to come…

NMEA Data Sharing Across Applications and Platforms

Posted on Fri 23 September 2011 in Coastal Explorer

Systems - Electronics Slug: nmea-data-sharing-across-applications-and-platforms Status: published

With a Maretron USB100 NMEA-0183 Gateway and an Actisense NGT-1 NMEA 2000 gateway I was struggling to get the NMEA data to all the applications on my PC, iPAD and iPhone. Many applications can not only connect to the an NMEA data source but also share the data on another TP Port or Virtual Com Port. Originally I was using a complicated stack of software all connected to each other to get data to some of the applications but couldn’t really use them all at once. More importantly which ever app I felt like using at the time might require starting up two applications!

Well in comes GPSGate Client (\$40) which lets you connect to a data source and then share it with many other applications.

You can see in the graphic below that I’ve dedicated the Actisense Gateway to Coastal Explorer. GPSGate is then connected to the Maretron Gateway and then it is used to serve up the data to 7 other applications some on Windows and some on my WiFi iPad and iPhone.

Also of note is that my preferred iOS navigation application Navionics works fine on the iPhone since it has a built-in GPS, but on the WiFi iPad there’s no way to get the NMEA data into the application. I’ve contacted Navionics about this and we’ll see if they add the functionality.

NMEA Data Sharing

This is greatly simplified from the way I was doing it before and I’m very excited to not only have all this finally working but to have it working simply! \$40 for GPSGate was worth every penny!

Maretron DST100 Installed

Posted on Mon 25 July 2011 in Maretron

Maretron DST800 Transducer and fairing block

When we purchased the boat we had a non-working knot meter and a single function transducer with a display located only on an internal bulkhead in the aft cabin. The new gorgeously installed Maretron DST100 instrument will measure Depth, Speed and Temperature.

I just have to get a cable to hook it up to the NMEA 2000 network and we’re done!

Steve, a fellow burner and shipwright at Seaview, made that fairing block. It looks great and I’m sure will give us +.001 kts in boat speed. Winking smile

12V DC Ship’s Computer by Aleutia

Posted on Thu 17 March 2011 in Buying Guide

I just ordered the PC which will become the heart of our navigation systems--the Aleutia P1 Marine PC (@Aleutia).

I have probably spent 4 the equivalent of four full days mostly late at night looking into fanless PCs that either designed to be run on 12V DC power or happen to be powered as such but come with an AC-DC converter. PCs in that secondary category might work fine hooked directly up to the ship’s 12V power, but really should be run on a DC to DC regulator that essentially guarantees the PC is seeing 12V consistently or if it’s a 19V PC (lots of options out there for that) then it could handle that as well. I would look at the Carnetix Regulators if you decide to go that route.

I decided on the Aleutia because I felt it was the most hardware for the right price. I’m not saying it was the cheapest! However it is a very cable power sipping PC that can do the work I need. It also has the advantage of already being able to accept a wide input of DC power (6V-32V DC) which means I won’t need the regulator for the PC (I might still need one for a monitor TBD). Here’s a quick list of the specs of the unit I selected:

Processor Intel ATOM D510 1.66GHz (The lower power slower of the two choices) RAM 4GB (Upgraded from 2GB) System Cooling Fanless Power Input 6V – 12V DC Power Draw 19W * Let’s discuss this below Solid State Drive (SSD HD) I will supply OS I will supply Bulkhead Mountable YES Tested in Nigeria YES – No really… Wi-Fi No * (Optional) 64Bit Yes

I didn’t include a Solid State Drive  because their options for SSD HD were limited and I can slide in a better larger drive than their choices.

I didn’t buy Windows 7 64 bit from them because I have a better deal than theirs.

I didn’t include Wi-Fi because this PC is going to be mounted less than a foot from the wireless access point. I will cable it directly instead.

As for the power draw, the PC is designed to be very efficient, but if I go buy a crappy SSD which is a power hog then this will all be for naught. When I select my SSD I need to be very conscious of that! Aleutia’s options were for a 32GB or a 64GB Corsair Nova SSD which draw 0.5W (0.04A @ 12VDC) at idle and 2.0W (0.16A @ 12VDC) max. If I bought Corsairs most high performance SSD it would draw 0.2A at idle 0.5A Max. Not as much as other things on the boat, but I want this PC to stay on 24x7 so I need to watch every little bit I can. I’ll probably go with the Corsair Force F120 120GB SSD because it is larger, has better perf and the same power draw as the NOVA series which Aleutia has spec’d and tested. I might be able to find an even more miserly SSD but I’ve not looked yet.

The next step is making a decision about the Monitor…. but that is another post for another day.

One more little thing to finish the electronics

Posted on Tue 08 February 2011 in Maretron

Maretron FA-CF-90

This is a Maretron FA-CF-90, it is a field installable right angle connector and it's what I need to finish the install of Maretron DSM250 the instrument display in my cockpit completing all the critical electronics systems.

NMEA 2000 connectors are keyed, which means when you're mating this right angle to a device, the angle might end up pointing up, down, left, right; who knows. The field installable connector can be rotated as you assemble it (or that's what support told me) so that YOU can choose which direction the cable leads off from the connector.

I still have two tank level meters to install and I want to upgrade the NMEA 0183 1980's depth transducr  to a combo Depth, Speed, Temp instrument and NMEA 2000, but when this bad boy arrives and I get the cockpit display installed we'll have reached a pretty major milestone and I will feel very cool!

God Speed USPS, bring my baby to me!!

Thinking about AIS Integration

Posted on Mon 27 December 2010 in Geek

I’m starting to get back into the electronics projects one of which is the AIS solution.

What is AIS you ask?

Non Sailor Elevator Pitch: AIS is a radio based system that large vessels use to transmit information within their local area about who they are, where they are going, how fast and how to contact them. By receiving their signal and displaying it on your charts you can avoid hitting them which is the most important but not the only way in which you can use the information. For more go to Wikipedia’s article on AIS.

As a non-commercial vessel we’re not required to transmit our data so at a bare minimum we will have an AIS Receiver on board. I can’t see why we wouldn’t have a transponder (which can also transmit), but I’m leaving that option out there.

imageFirst thing to think about is how does all this fit together?

This is a logical diagram of the systems involved and how they link up.

The first thing to note is that the antennas are already in place. I have a dedicated Digital Antenna 222-VW VHF Antenna on my main masthead and a dedicated Digital Antenna 236-VW AIS Antenna on my mizzen masthead.

Secondly, I already have the NMEA 2000 network in place with both a NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 gateway to connect to the PC.

Integration Items for Discussion:

  • VHF\ The VHF may not happen. My version of the Icom m504 has no AIS capabilities. Icom tech support says there’s no upgrade. I just bought the VHF in April of 2009 so unless someone at Icom can hook me up with a trade-in or an upgrade to my unit I may just skip that part.
  • PC Navigation\ I’ve not picked my RADAR yet so I’ve not picked my Nav Software package, but all of the major vendors call out AIS support as you can see in my PC Navigation Software Comparison spreadsheet on SkyDrive.
  • Chartplotter\ Again, since I’ve not picked out my RADAR I’ve also not decided on my chartplotter. What chartplotter and what connection options they have is part of a new research project and the Marine Chartplotter Feature comparison spreadsheet which I worked on tonight. Seems like all the major players support similar AIS functionality.

Just a few thoughts I guess no real answers, but I hope you find it useful just the same.

NMEA 2000 & 0183 Interop Testing

Posted on Fri 01 October 2010 in Maretron

The timing of this post is triggered by the fact that all the NMEA big wigs are here in Seattle so I thought I’d take a second and tell you my experience thus far.

Ben over at Panbo has been plugging together a stack of NMEA 2000 gear. I’m playing in more mixed environment. Most of my gear is new Maretron equipment, but I’m also connecting in the following gear that is not NMEA 2000:

  • Standard Horizon DS50 NMEA 0183 Depth Sounder
  • Icom M504 NMEA 0183 Listener only for GPS and Time
  • SCS PTC-IIUSB NMEA 0183 for GPS Data and Weather including navigation data (speed, heading, etc)
  • Various Laptop Software Packages using two different NMEA Gateways
  • Maretron USB100 (0183)
    • NavMonPC (0183)Actisense NGT-1 (2000)
    • Coastal Explorer (2000) (I think)

Here are my experiences thus far:


I’ve tried connecting the DS50 via a Simrad AT10 (0183 to 2000) gateway and via an Actisense NGW-1. The depth messages are on the network but there is no offset being passed with the data. The Maretron DSM250 will not display the depth and neither will Coastal Explorer. NavMonPC did not either until a new build was released which stills shows depth (DPT) when the offset is missing.

Next Steps

  • I’ve asked Maretron for a similar fix to the DSM250 that I have for NavMonPC.
  • I still need to contact Coastal Explorer.
  • I also plan to hook my DS50 directly to the laptop via serial cable and verify if the DS50 is transmitting the offset and the gateways are stripping it or if it’s not outputting it at all.

Airmail and the SCS PTC-IIUSB

I can see the position data, but no heading, speed or weather information is coming through.

[Next Steps]: Can’t think of any right now, but this isn’t a priority at this time.


The location is displayed on my M504 display, but the timedate is wrong. Even when I configure the offset for pacific time.

Next Steps

  • Icom Support asked me to turn off RMC messages.
  • I’m working right now (at 00:27!!) with a guy from Actisense on that not sure it’s changing anything or that the config tool is changing what we think it should be.

I have more to say on this, mostly that the SW that is out there is still pretty weak, but I’m tired so I’ll whine about that later. Winking smile

Installing Maretron NMEA 2000 connector on bulk Maretron Mid (Blue) Cable

Posted on Tue 10 August 2010 in Geek

Here’s a quick step by step on how to use the Maretron field installable connectors. These are useful when you want to run a wire in a mast or through the deck and you don’t want to use a bulkhead fitting but you’d rather use something like a Blue Sea cable clam. There are NO instructions with these fittings so I hope you find this useful.

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

Here’s a shot of the disassembled connector and the raw end of the bulk wire. The white fitting and it’s rubber gasket give this fitting a snug water resistant (proof?) fit.

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

This is a shot of the little tiny holes and screws you’re going to be using to attach the wires to the connector. Everything it very well designed; the color coding makes this a snap. Note that the blue connection is stands approximately 1/4” proud of the other fittings.

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

You need to strip back the outer insulation and the foil around the wires. The blue wire should be a bit shorter than the others since it doesn’t have to reach as far as the other wires.

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

Here’s a shot with all of the wires attached to the connector.

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

Notice in the that previous picture none of these other pieces are visible. they all need to be placed on the wire BEFORE you spend 10 minutes getting the wires attached and all the screws tightened. If you’re lucky and you don’t have a connector on the other end, you can slide them all the way along the wire like I did. DOH!

Maretron NMEA 2000 connector

I started by tightening the body to the very end of the connector (the left side in this pic). I then worked on the final end fitting where the wire extends out. When you got to tighten everything up it will be a tad difficult to get the end fitting to tighten against the white cone and rubber bushing. I used the small screw driver to work the cone down as far as a I could. be careful, you can break the cone if you push too hard. You will figure it out though. I then used a Knipex Pliers Wrenches (which I LOVE but a crescent wrench would work) to hold the connector body while I bottomed all of the threads.

It’s obviously a lot easier to work with the factory installed connectors but where necessary the field installable connectors are pretty easy to work with and they look solid to me.

Maretron NMEA 2000 Network and Instruments Installations

Posted on Fri 06 August 2010 in Maretron


There’s a shot of my Maretron DSM250 (in red on block mode) displaying data from my NMEA 200 network I finished roughing in last night (or I guess this morning) about 0200. I’m calling it a rough-in because I still need to go back and secure all the wiring, mount the display and the GPS, etc. but I was to plug it all together, fire it up and it worked right out of the gate!


Here’s a shot of the a “T” installed showing the backbone in blue and the drop cable in grey. The black fitting is a field installed fitting whereas the other two are factory pre-installed fittings. The field installable connector has some pretty small screws and was a tad tricky to line everything up, but that is probably due to my large meat hooks. I was able to do it just fine. The waterproof fitting that goes over it all was very tight and I’m sure it has a great seal.

right now I have the following in my system:

I plan to add a depthspeedtemperature gauge to replace my Standard Horizon DS50 depth only unit, but I’m waiting for Airmar’s DST900 to come out (it’s a year late according to rumor) which has the D/S/T and no moving parts! That will be awesome! For now, I’m going to Magruber the DS50 onto the network and maybe if that works fine I’ll just live with that (hurry up Airmar!). We also want to add a rudder angle indicator. I just haven’t gotten to that yet.

Tonight I’ll secure all the wiring and figure out where the GPS will be placed.