Champagne Electronics on a Beer Budget
With a bit of ingenuity, research, and know-how, a cruising couple builds a state-of-the-art package for less than $2,000. "Electronics" from our March 2012 issue.
Because we had the time, and money was tight, we chose the second option and set a budget of $2,000. With the decision made, we set about designing the system.
Our priorities were straightforward: The total cost had to be $2,000 or less. We wanted rock-solid instruments with a reputation for dependability. We wanted to minimize any use of Lyra’s battery power. We wanted the GPS data—course, speed, V.M.G., and more—to be repeated at the helm. And in the event of equipment failure, we wanted the other electronic gear to continue to function.
Our Furuno LS4100 fish- finder (above) helped us meet a major priority: to have course, speed, V.M.G. and more repeated at the helm.
Lyra’s battery capacity is 400 amp-hours, so we make every effort to minimize battery consumption. By switching pieces of the electronics suite on and off as needed, we’d also be able to dramatically reduce power consumption by using only the electronics required in any given situation. For example, making a night entrance would require all instruments, but on a nice evening 200 miles from shore, we might only require a steering waypoint and perhaps A.I.S. to help the watchkeeper monitor shipping. For that reason, we liked the idea of a multifunction data display at the helm, but because we prefer a dark cockpit that won’t impact night vision, we wished to avoid vivid colors and bright backlighting.
Ultimately, we chose a Furuno GP32 GPS/WAAS Navigator as our GPS unit, partly because of the company’s sterling reputation for production dependability and highly accurate instruments and also because this model, while not a chart plotter, has a very simple two-color display and provides the usual course, speed, V.M.G., waypoints, and so on.
Since my fishing skills are, well, limited, at first it seemed pointless to pay a few extra dollars for a fish-finder. However, a fish-finder will return a reading at far greater depths than most basic depth finders, which is nice for verifying bottom contours if the navigation software is off. Its dual-frequency transducer also can identify the consistency—mud, rock, or wreck—of the bottom, which is very handy for anchoring. As we didn’t need a color screen or a high-powered unit, we settled on the Furuno dual-frequency fish-finder, model LS4100. This unit will also repeat data, functioning as a multifunction display, and would mount at the steering console. Last but not least, when we decide to update our speed log, we can buy an NMEA 0813-compliant speed transducer and plug it directly into a Y-cable that’s supplied by Furuno.