By Duncan Nevard

The marine electronics industry is constantly evolving. With each passing season, manufacturers introduce newer, bigger, better and faster systems that keep us dealers and installers on our toes. A common misconception is that upgrading your systems is an all-or-nothing affair. In some cases, a wholesale replacement of systems is appropriate, but more often than not, some or most of a boat’s wiring and/or equipment can be reused.

Raymarine SeaTalkAs marine electronics have evolved, some core systems and technologies remained little changed. Autopilots and depth/speed/wind systems on most boats can be reused, and often integrated into the new systems with a little wiring and know-how.

Raymarine SeaTalk to NMEA2000 (SeaTalkNG) Converter

It’s not uncommon for us to interface a 10-year old autopilot or wind system with a brand new navigation system. The key to success here is an in-depth knowledge of the different communication systems used in marine electronics. The most common of these are: NMEA2000, NMEA0183, and SeaTalk (Raymarine/Raytheon). Adapters, converters and translators are available to make old and new equipment start speaking the same language.

Vesper XBThe single biggest request in the past few years has been for AIS (Automatic Identification System). AIS is a transponder-based system that allows boats of all shapes and sizes to keep track of each other in real time. Until recently, AIS data was only presented to the boater on a chartplotter or radar screen. So if your older plotter or radar was not AIS capable, you were looking at a major upgrade just to get AIS information.

Vesper XB-8000 AIS Transponder with WiFi

Now, with products from Digital Yacht and Vesper, all you need is an iPad or tablet to have a fully functional AIS system on board. The Digital Yacht iAIS receiver is a low-cost AIS receiver and WiFi system. With apps for iPad and Android, AIS is now in reach without investing in a whole new navigation system. The Vesper XB-8000 system is an all-in-one AIS/WiFi system that includes a Class-B AIS transponder and WiFi hotspot. This system not only receives AIS transmissions from nearby vessels, but also transmits your boat’s position information. Vesper’s free WatchMate app turns your iPhone or iPad into an AIS display. Other compatible navigation apps can take advantage of the AIS data and overlay vessel positions on their charts.

Artisense depthWith the ever rising cost of fuel, many boaters are asking for more advanced monitoring of their engines, generators and related fuel tanks. Products like the Actisense EMU-1 and Noland Engineering RS-11 allow nearly any engine or generator to have its analog information converted to the NMEA2000 format for display on just about every new electronics screen. The conversion is accomplished either by connections made directly to analog sensors on the engine (temp, pressure, etc.), or by tapping into the analog gauges on the engine control panel.

Actisense Depth/Speed Transducer Digitizer

Fuel flow and tank levels can also be monitored, regardless of the age of the system. Maretron’s FFM100 can be configured for diesel or gas systems that consume from 0.5 gallons per hour to 1,500 gallons per hour. Maretron also makes a variety of tank sensor adapters and tank level senders that can be used with nearly any fuel tank.

Duncan Nevard is the owner of Intrepid Marine Electronics. Located at Norwalk Cove Marina in Norwalk, CT, Intrepid sells and services all major brands of marine electronics including KVH, Icom, Garmin, Simrad, Furuno, Raymarine, B&G, Ockam and many more. They also supply and install electrical systems and charging solutions (engine, wind and solar). Intrepid is a member of ABYC and NMEA and the field staff are all NMEA certified. For more information, visit

Noland RS11 Engine Data Converter

Actisense EMU-1 Engine Monitoring Unit