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RC400 – listen up all you “diehards”

RC400 on helmFollowing correspondence with one of the readers here I thought I would highlight this item in case you are one of the diehards who keep on using the ill fated RC400 handheld GPS/ Chartplotter abandoned by Raymarine….

The reader was having trouble getting his RC400 to boot past the usual globe picture and the warning message.

So I advised :
1. The usual reset procedure
2. Using the uprated NiMH batteries … Click here for the full description…

But what the reader found was that the Raychart 400 Software UpgrRC400ade v01.03.00 was what he was missing…once downloaded and installed the unit jumped into life.

So above are the 3 definitive thing to do if your unit is playing up…or are they?!…:-)


Raymarine RC400 – Pros and Cons

rc400 on bracketI was lucky enough to get a RC400 and a Garmin 76CS as gifts in August 2005.

There seems to be a number of discussions on various forums about the pros and cons of these units so I thought I would give my experiences of using both while sailing in the English Channel for the past 2 years.


RC400- the Pros:
1. I have limited space at the helm of my 32ft yacht so I have a mounted the RC400 there since there is no room for anything larger. This makes the RC400 a great choice and it fits well.

2. The colour screen is good and is legible even in pouring rain

3. The screen can be turned down at night and does not interfere with night vision like some of my friend’s larger consoles such as the Raymarine C80 and larger.RC400 1

4. I have installed a power cable and do not rely on the batteries while on passage.

5. I can see a high quality chart at the helm, without going below to see my main chart plotter which is the Raymarine C120 at the nav table.

6. It has its own GPS so it is another backup for position data separate from my main GPS / C120 setup.

7. The Navionics Gold chart is excellent and is compatible with the C120 unit I use at the nav table.

RC400- the Cons:
1. I agree with those who say that the unit eats batteries. The 2300mAh batteries hardly last 1 hour and mine no longer hold a charge. I have now bought 2500mAh batteries – but will still use it on power from the yacht while I am on passage.

2. Interfacing is useless. It does not interface using Seatalk so I cannot connect it to the C120. Although both the C120 and the RC400 have import/export functions for waypoint data – I have not been able to make this work by exporting from the C120 to a Sandisk and then importing to the RC400.

3. I have not tried interfacing with NMEA data since all my instruments are Raymarine and are outputting Seatalk as is the C120.

RC400 24. The batteries do expire rapidly. Apparently it is using current even when it is off. The original 2300mAH AA batteries are all dead now and won’t accept a charge. I have just bought 4 x 2500mAH batteries and a fast charger – so I will see how I get on with those. But to be honest – I have mains power connected to the RC400 at the helm so it is fine on passage and the built in battery charger keeps topping up the batteries while on passage.

5. The GPS seems to lose position at least once on passage – I have a feeling this is a glitch in the software or firmware since my other two GPS units never lose position. Turning the unit off and on seems to correct the issue.

6. Raymarine have discontinued this unit – so no more support. They must have their reasons.


Fitting the RC400

I decided that I would use an RC400 handheld in the cockpit since it DSC00012s would:

a) take less room than any of the smallest C series Raymarine displays
b) Cost a quarter of the price
c) Use Navionics GOLD charts – the same as the C120 chartplotter at the nav table
d) be able to receive and transmit waypoints and tracks using NMEA (or so I hoped)
e) Not be so large or bright that it would interfere with night vision
f) could run off the ships power circuit – saving batteries and the ‘crash’ events that happen when the battery power runs low…(another post later on that one!)

DSC00014sAs it turned out all the above criteria were satisfied except (d). The unit can xmit/rcv NMEA but I have not been able to use that facility since the C120 has only one NMEA port and that is set to 38,400bd so it can receive the AIS data – which only comes at that speed.


I havent been able to work round this yet but I am hopeful that somehow I can use the Brookhouse Mux to recv NMEA waypoint/track data from the C120 at 38,400 and xmit it at 4,800bd – I havent got round to this yet – I am just enjoying the fact that the RC400 works – works off ships power – and fits in really well at the helm without getting in my way.


5in. All in one chart plotter + AIS receiver for less than £500!

SC500_00The Digital Yacht SC500A GPS Chart Plotter with built in AIS Receiver is really the sort of thing that the ill fated Raymarine RC400 could have evolved into.

To be fair I have used the RC400 mounted at the helm of my 32ft yacht, and despite all its faults and initial hiccups in getting it to work at all I must say that it has withstood both hell and high water and worked very well for the past 4 years. The trouble is that it doesn’t link to anything and connecting it to PC based chart plotting/planning software is useless- er, yes I do know about RNS…!

So the Digital Yacht range of 5” colour chart plotters caught my eye especially when you see some of the sophisticated things it can do.

Firstly it is a modern device unlike my poor old RC400 and benefits from all the technical hardware innovations of the past 5 years – for example there is an ultra bright display with 256 colours and a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels.

The unit also uses the C-Map cartography which means that you get all of the following features…

5in. All in one chart plotter + AIS receiver for less than £500! → Click here to continue reading →


Pathaway Chartplotter for Windows Mobile 6

We are used to seeing a number of dedicated handheld chartplotter units like the Garmin 76CS and Raymarine RC400 both of which I have been using for the past 4 years. You may also know that Raymarine have now ducked out of the market for some reason. But getting reliable marine chartplotter software for the Windows mobile platform is rather more difficult.

MuskokaTech is a company that creates software applications for mobile devices – in particular GPS and plotting software.

Fugawi The Pathaway software from Muskoka is quite an exception . The “Standard” version is very capable and has the ability to “import your charts” …I haven’t tested this but will try to find out a bit more…but sounds very interesting and saves money if you have already got your Bluechart or Navionics charts.

It definitely imports the maps from Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC.

PathAway supports a wide variety of digital maps including the Fugawi World Digital Map Collection, many third party maps or even user scanned paper maps. Maps are highly compressed and can be any size and resolution that fits within your device memory.

Waypoints, routes and tracks can also be transferred between Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC and PathAway.

The Pathaway “Pro” version has some interesting “beta features” such as 2-way wireless remote location tracking. See where others are right from your handheld, share your location with others, or send to a central tracking service – now that would be cool for boats traveling in a flotilla on on the club regatta ! …And all without installing and AIS transmitter !

How about this software combined with the tiny HTC7510..mentioned here – now that could be a great combination!