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How to tidy up that wiring !

This little box from PAS-Thru Products Inc of Florida is a very neat solution to the tangle that I see on many DIY boat installations – including mine try as I might to keep it clean and simple.


There are three pairs of clip in connectors and jumper between each pair on each of 14 rows.

This means that you can simply strip a wire and slip it into the spring connectors just like a HiFi speaker connection.

You can also connect any one input to up to 5 other devices.

Plus – its all neat and tidy inside the box!


Pass-thruOn top of this simple box the people at PAS-Thru also provide a nice spreadsheet that you can download to document what connects to what…this spreadsheet is worth using on your installation in any case even of you dont use the PAS-Thru box.


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.


Garmin 76CS – Pros & Cons

I was lucky enough to get a RC400 and a Garmin 76CS as wedding presents 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.

Garmin 76CS – the Pros:
Garmin 76CS 11. Although I have the Raymarine RC400 mounted at the helm – the Garmin can go anywhere with me – to the Marina office, to the cafe, to another yacht etc.. its truly portable because the batteries last. Unlike the RC400 the batteries last for at least 24 hours of use.

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

3. The BlueChart software is loaded from the laptop – you dont need another copy like you do for the RC400. The software auto loads all relevant charts for the route you have planned. Interfacing to the Garmin BlueChart software on my laptop is easy and always works perfectly.

4. You can use it in the car too – there are comprehensive charts for Europe including detailed maps of all major cities.

5. Garmin continue to manufacture and support this unit. There is a tremendous amount of software and add-ons for it on the Net. The latest 76Csx uses the latest SiRFstarIII chip set

Garmin 76CS – the Cons:

1. The screen is hard to see in poor light, it is quite dim and you need to press a power button to turn the brightness up – quite awkward when you are wearing gloves or have stubby fingers like me.

2. The buttons are above the screen – why ? They are small and hard to press accurately.


Portable device – Charging batteries

If you are anything like me you have a tendency to hoard useful electronic gadgets – as a result I have a garage that has many battery chargers from many different eras. I refer to the task of charging so called rechargeable batteries for torches, PDA’s, GPS units and so on…

Well the latest and fastest (?) charger that I have acquired is the Uniross X-Press 700 Charger RC104311 – cost £18.94 including delivery from Battery Logic in the UK.The impetus for this was the fact that the Raymarine RC400 that is mounted at the helm will now only run on the mains power that I have installed there and the batteries are refusing to hold a charge any more. The batteries supplied with this unit are the AA 2300mAh NiMH type.

Uniross x-press-700The Uniross X-Press 700 Charger looks like a good unit and comes with 4 new batteries – which are 2500mAh (ultra high capacity) so I hope they will perform even better in constant use on passage than the previous set.

Charger features:

• Includes 4 x AA 2500mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.
• The Xpress 700 will charge AAA & AA size batteries.
• This charger will charge 2 or 4 Ni-Cd / Ni-MH batteries.
•Due to an intelligent charge control inside, the charger will switch to trickle charge after charging.
• V-MAX technology protects against damage from using with non-rechargeable technologies.

Charge time for batteries:

Type Capacity Charge time
AA- Ni CD 800mAh 1h 15m
AA-NiMH 1300mAh 2h
AA-NiMH 2100mAh 3h 30m
AA-NiMH 2300mAh 4h
AA-NiMH 2500mAh 4h 15m **
AAA-Ni CD 250mAh 45m
AAA-NiMH 700mAh 2h 15m
AAA-NiMH 900mAh 3h


How big an alternator do you need ?

Since a lot of this blog is about electronics I presume that you – like me – may have been busy adding all sorts of gizmos to your boat. Well, the time comes when you had better check the electrical consumption of all those useful devices and aids!. I thought I would do that and see if the battery and alternator configuration that I have is adequate.

I have two domestic batteries and one engine battery each of 60 amps and normal lead acid types. This is a perfectly standard installation and is charged using a 120 amp alternator.

So my maximum daily consumption of electricity must not exceed 120amp hours without recharging the batteries in a marina or by using the engine.

Here are three assessments of electrical consumption – I have tried to be reasonably extravagant in my assumptions about turning lots of lights on and using every piece of nav equipment at once…

Sailing Marina Anchor
energy-sailing-1 energy-marina energy-anchor

To download my free Excel spreadsheet showing how to assess your power usage while at marina, anchor, or sailing please click here

I would be interested in your experiences…