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N2K Network Plan Feedback, 34' Sailboat

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Hello all,
I am planning for the installation of a N2K network aboard my Aloha 34 sailboat. Currently it has no working electronics, so I don't have to utilize any old or proprietary systems. I've created two designs in N2K Builder and would love your feedback on them. Specifically I'm looking to:

- Design out any unnecessary components for cost savings
- Ensure that it's expandable in the future (using mid-cable as backbone)
- Decide between a Airmar PB 200 on the mast or a Furuno FI-5001 Wind Sensor (Would go with FI-5001 to reduce cost)
- Ensure this is the smartest design for my application

I've already decided on/purchased the FI-501 Wind and FI-503 Digital and have a Airmar DST-800 installed in the vessel (N2K version, not hooked up to anything right now).

I'm planning on going with a Lowrance HDS-8M chart plotter but am open to options.

I plan on using the HDS-8M as the GPS sensor, making the assumption that it will feed the GPS data onto network to be read by my Mac laptop running MacEnc.

Couple of questions:
The airmar DST-800 claims a LEN of 4 ( while the Maretron DST100 claims a LEN of 1 ( That seems strange to me?

The HDS-8M claims a LEN of 1. That seems low to me, I am assuming this is because the HDS also has a separate power hook-up.

If I end up going with the Furuno 5001 as my wind sensor, will it feed the data onto the N2K network via the daisy chained FI-501?

Is it better to go with field attachable cabling or pre-built N2K cabling?

What is the best way to go from the N2K to 0183 to USB for Laptop? Could I wire the digital yacht 0183 USB to the 0183 wire on the HDS-8M and expect the HDS-8M to feed N2K data over to the 0183 port then to the laptop?

N2K Builder Files and network pictures can be found here:

Ben, feel free to repost them on this forum, I just couldn't figure out how. {Done below, B.E.}

Thanks in advance for the help, Matt



12 Replies

  • Hi Matt,

    I like the HDS-8 for small sailboats (or actually, any without a generator) as they use little power, less than any other up-to-date MFD.

    The HDS does indeed feed out the GPS data from it's built-in GPS onto the N2K network.

    You ask:
    > The HDS-8M claims a LEN of 1. That seems low to me, I am assuming this is because the HDS also has a separate power hook-up.

    >Is it better to go with field attachable cabling or pre-built N2K cabling?
    Some wiring runs will be very hard with pre-built cables as the connectors are quite big. Plan on doing at least the longer runs using field attachable connectors.

    > What is the best way to go from the N2K to 0183 to USB for Laptop? > Could I wire the digital yacht 0183 USB to the 0183 wire on the HDS-8M and expect the HDS-8M to feed N2K data over to the 0183 port then to the laptop?
    Hm, good question. I don't know and can't test right now. According to the manual a HDS-8 can send 'sonar' data such as DBT, DPT, MTW, VLW, VHW, as well as GPS & Compass (HDG). What I find worrysome for your app is that this doesn't include wind data.
    I'd spring for a Simrad AT-10 plus a N2K-Simnet cable. This will give you all the 0183 data you want, and give you added resilience, as you can still use the laptop when the chartplotter bums out (or you just don't want to fire it up). If you go for the PB-200 you'll have GPS even with the MFD 'off'.

    The PB-200 is expensive but it does provide wind, pressure, temperature, heel angle, rate compass, GPS, wind chill. How were you planning to get compass info? This will be required if you plan on getting an autopilot later on.

    Also, your schematics don't show terminators. The PB200 can provide this on one end, don't forget to plug one in at the other end.

  • Yes, Matt, terminators! Be clear about where your backbone is and that's it's terminated properly.

    I can confirm from testing that the Furuno wind instrument does output wind PGNs that are recognized by other N2K devices. They all do actually:

    I caution you about using a Simrad AT-10 for output to MacENC. It may work, but I've several instances where an MFD or charting program wouldn't recognize the N2K GPS coming through the translator, I presume because certain of the many types of GPS data don't make it. MacENC is working on a direct N2K interface via the Actisense NGT-1, and I'd sure look into that:

  • Gents,
    Thank you very much for the reply's and advice. I spoke with the MacENC developer and he expects it to support N2K data this year, so I could use the actisense module for that solve.

    I won't be adding an autopilot as my vessel has a windvane and a wheel/belt autopilot already that I wasn't planning on hooking up to the network, so I can live compass data, as long as the Furuno 5001+GPS can provide true and apparent wind (though I really care most apparent).

    Regarding the terminators, my plan uses inline terminators, will that not do the trick?
    Again couldn't get the photo on this post but here is one with the backbone highlighted:

    Any thoughts on the daisy chaining?

  • The daisy chaining will work fine, Matt. You are taking a very slight risk that the downstream instrument will fail and take out the upstream one with it -- and if this was a much, much larger network you might be adding to impedance issues -- but this will work.

  • Matt, just a small correction to Kees' great entry. The PB200 does output heading (compass). It's not as accurate as some (2� accuracy I think) but it works well and may be all you need if at some point you add an autopilot.

  • Adam,

    Thanks for catching that. What I meant to say is that Matt needs a compass source, not just a GPS, in my opinion. And the PB200 is indeed a great source for that as well. My summary somehow forgot to mention that so it does read as if I'm saying he'd need another digital compass as well.

    As to the PB200 compass accuracy, I got the impression from Airmar it contains the same compass as the dedicated H2183 that they claim is the best-in-class recreational digital compass. The spec seems the same.


    As you know I'm a great fan of Actisense as well, and I agree the Actisense converter is a better product. Should have included that as well but I got the impression from Matt he wants to keep cost down. I hadn't heard the AT10 issue you're mentioning.


    Be careful that there are TWO Actisense N2K products -- the NGT-1 and the NGW-1. There names are similar but they serve a different purpose. The NGT-1 hooks up N2K directly to your PC but doesn't work with software that only understands a serial port with NMEA0183 protocol data. The NGW-1 converts NMEA 0183 into NMEA 2000 and vice versa. Unlike the Simrad AT10 it is field upgradable, meaning it can be flashed with new firmware for support of additional sentences. So choose your software first and then the appropriate Actisense product.

  • Gents,
    Thanks again for the advice and info. I've done a little further research and it seems that MacENC will be reading N2K soon enough. I plan to wait on that to interface my laptop and N2K network, using the actisense unit.

  • Panbo Fans,
    One more question. Could I turn on the termination resistor in only one of the Furuno FI-50 units to act as one termination resistor at the end of the backbone?

    In other words, at one end of the backbone I will have an micro inline termination resistor and the other end the FI-50 will have it's termination resistor turned on.


  • Matt,

    That's fine.

    No PB200?

  • Thank Kees,

    As much as I would love a PB200, at $1200 -$1300, it takes a big chunk out of the refit budget. We are refitting for long term cruising and have to prioritize the list. The PB200 falls towards the bottom below things like a life raft. I figure that I can quite easily upgrade down the road. That's one of the promises of N2K, I suppose.

    Though if Panbo wants to sponsor a long term test of the PB200 in a cruising environment, then I'd be open to that. Ben?

  • I highly recommend the PB200, there are articles here on Panbo about it.

    Another thing to think about as you lay out your NMEA-2000 capabling, is that two cables are better than one. I have my N2K network divided between devices I use at anchor vs. devices I use underway.

  • I accidentally posted this in the wrong thread, my apologies for repeating myself but it should be in the right place:

    The NMEA's thoughts on daisy chaining are very specific: Don't do it, it is illegal! They have 3 pdf's on the matter: