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…

  • ISO Certification (electronic chart production process with quality certification)
  • Extra Large Coverage (all the C-MAP electronic chart detail and a huge coverage without having to change cartridge)
  • Detailed World Background (worldwide background chart with details)
  • Depths & Land Elevation (colour shading of sea depth and land altitude for improved chart reading)
  • Bathymetric & Spot Soundings (additional Data Base with depth and bathy information for an extraordinary view of the seabed depth)
  • Detailed Port Plan (complete port and marina charts with detail)
  • Search & Find (quickly locates chart contents and objects)
  • Tides Preview (dynamic simulation of tides)
  • Dynamic Currents (current arrows dynamically display direction and speed)
  • Dynamic Nav-Aids (displays Nav-Aids in true colour and with real interval lighting)
  • Port Info (all the information of the available services in the ports and how to contact them)
  • Enhanced Port Info & Roads (details of the available facilities and services in ports and surrounding areas)
  • Object Info (indicates restricted area details and related information)
  • Quick Info (full information on objects, buoys, wrecks, shoals and Nav-Aids)
  • Photos & Diagrams (high definition pictures of ports, piers, bridge diagrams and nav-aids)
  • Multilingual Support (displays charts in the local character set)
  • True-Type Font (improves text on chart for optimal reading)
SC500_1 SC500_3 SC500_2

But, its the integration that really surprised me – not to mention the price!

Firstly, there is the built in GPS. This unit has a 50 channel WAAS enabled receiver (the RC400 has a 12 ch. one).

Secondly, the SC500A model has a built in dual channel AIS receiver. All the models have a port at the back to connect to an existing AIS if you want.

Thirdly, you can set the unit to me a “Master” chart plotter – transmitting course info and autopilot instructions to other unit using NMEA0183 (not N2000). Or it can be set to “Slave” mode receiving such info from another chart plotter instead. Very handy if you have an expensive dedicated chart plotter at the chart table – just where you can’t see it when you are sailing 🙂

It can also be combined with a variety of dept sounder modules or your existing sounder to enhance its fish finding capabilities.

Remember how long it was before your average £3k chartplotter did this?
It is also possible to see the variation of tidal stream over time as colour coded arrows on the chart but these will not be taken into account in any route optimisation calculation – that would be too much to ask – when most chart plotting software doesn’t do this either! SC500_4

The next surprise is that it has some pretty advanced warning features – which even the big Raymarine chart plotters do not – not even the E-series has all of these…

Warning alarms:

  • Guardian Alarm (automatic control and alarm over obstacles on charts in front of your boat)
  • Safety Toolbar (interactive alarm system for situational awareness on screen)
  • AIS collision warnings (if connected to an AIS or using its built in AIS)
  • Safety Route Check (sophisticated function checking dangerous objects along your navigation route)

It was this “Safe Route Checking” that caught my eye too – given that I wrote my marathon review of large PC based software systems that do / do not have this functionality – and here it is on this diminutive 5″ chartplotter !

The “Safe Route Checking” will detect the presence of particular cartographic objects on a range set by the user for all route legs:

  • Land Areas
  • Shallow Water
  • Intertidal Areas
  • Rocks
  • Wrecks
  • Obstructions
  • Shoreline Constructions
  • Fishing Facility
  • Dredged Areas
  • Diffusers
  • Mooring/Warping Facility
  • Production Installations
  • Pingos
  • No Data Available

Amazing !! – If any of these alarm conditions is detected, then the chart plotter highlights the list of dangerous objects and the corresponding dangerous route leg. The route leg is then drawn in a different colour.

By the way in case your wondering what a Pingo is – its an undersea hill, often ice-cored, that rise as much as 70 feet above an otherwise uniform sea floor..found in the Arctic…

Last – but not least – the device can link to the Jeppesen Marine C-Weather Service ….

C-Weather service:

SC500_0 The unit uses a serial connection to a modem or can get the data using the Internet via your laptop and the C-card.

This weather service is free and gives a five day forecast updated every 6 hours… it will
show the data on the right:


This is a truly excellent machine and also a very good deal at only £425 in the UK – which is what my RC400 cost in 2006…. Now what am I going to do with my poor old RC400 🙁


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

  1. Pingback: Lowrance Offers Full Range of Fish Finders and Marine Electronics | boats parts
  2. I noticed you wrote this review just over a year ago. We’re having a hard time finding any other reviews and just wondering what your thoughts are a year later. We’re also looking at the Lowrance chart plotters, but they don’t have AIS. Your thoughts on these two products?

  3. I used one of the DY500 units to deliver a boat from liverpool to lowestoft, once the screen was sufficiently d-cluttered by removing some of the layers, it became an extra crew member, going through the dover strait at 4am was relatively simple, I could see what I needed to, and had no radar either……… nearly 1000 miles covered and yes, I have no hesitation in recommending the unit, since then I’ve installed ten other units into yachts and power boats….

    1. I am the owner of a 26ft Heavenly Twins in Arklow Co,Wicklow Ireland and would like some one to install the DY500.
      At present I have a Raymarine Radar.
      Liam Doyle
      4,Abbey Park
      Mobile No:-00353-860850192

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