Whilst the sails could be considered the pumping heart of the boat, the electronics are the brains! The systems onboard perform an array of functions that make short-handed sailing possible. Depth transducers keep us from running aground, the autopilot gives us the rest needed to sail long passages, radar helps us navigate safely in reduced visibility and detect threatening weather, AIS helps us see and be seen by other vessels, VHF radios allow us to communicate with ship and shore, GPS gives us our accurate position, and chart-plotters allow us to visualise exactly where we are and where we want to go!
There can, of course, be issues with the contemporary sailor's reliance on electronics. First is the need to hold and/or generate the electricity needed to power the equipment. Second is what to do in the event of failure; whilst a loose connecting wire may easily be traced and fixed, few of us are likely to be confident opening the black magic box.
With all these factors in mind, Arkyla's electronics suite is built upon a system that has only moderate power demands and has proven reliability. Most agree that when it comes to integrating components, even when equipment adheres to marine data transfer standards, it is safest to stick with one manufacturer rather than mix and match brands. Arkyla is essentially a Raymarine-fitted boat.
Our Raymarine electronics suite currently includes:
MFDs: AXIOM 9 Multi Function Display (Nav Desk) AXIOM 12 RV MFD (Helm).
Radar: Quantum 2 Doppler.
VHF: Raymarine 240e VHF (2 stations; helm & Nav. desk).
Autopilot: Raypilot ST8001/6001+ control heads, S3C AST computer, Type 2S Linear drive (and rudder sensor), legacy fluxgate compass.
AIS: AIS 650 Class B transpoder/receiver
Display instruments: ST60+ Depth (helm), ST60+ Speed (helm), ST60+ Wind (helm), ST60+ Multi-function Graphic Display (Nav. desk)
Additional electronics (weather & entertainment systems):
Steamrock SB42 Digital barograph
Garmin Fusion RA70 Entertainment system - integrated with Axiom MFDs.
Multi-Function Displays (MFDs):
We replaced the original E20 systems in 2019 with Raymarine AXIOM RV units; a 9 inch unit at the Nav desk, and a 12 inch unit at the helm. These new generation MFDs are so much more than a simple chart-plotter, rather forming the core of an integrated information display system.
The Raymarine autopilot system comprises a number of integrated components:
Smart Pilot S3C AST course computer.
ST8002 control head at Nav desk, and ST6002 at the helm.
Type 2S Linear drive at the rudder.
Rudder position sensor unit.
Legacy heading sensor unit.
It is hoped to replace this legacy system with a new Raymarine EV400 system comprising; EV1 heading sensor (to replace the fluxgate compass and provide the system 'autopilot intelligence'), ACU400 power pack (to replace the S3C), and P70/P70RS control heads (to replace the ST8002/6002 units). Adding these new components will also require a new communication network to migrate the system from SeaTalk1 to STNg (also known as NMEA2000). Whilst the Type 2S linear drive has no replacement, intent will be to also replace this so that there is a spare onboard in case of mechanical failure.
There are two key reasons for upgrading the autopilot system. First is the advances in technology that sense the movement of the boat; this makes the new generation autopilots 'predictive' in nature rather than reactive (which will always therefore have a degree of latency). The new systems are also less demanding of electrical power; this is a major improvement as, when conducting long passages such as Arkyla's upcoming trans-Atlantic in 2024, it significantly helps to balance the boat's energy equation - the aim is to replenish the boat's batteries using only renewable sources (solar, wind, and hydro generation).
Check back on this page to see how we get on and reports on how the system performs crossing the Atlantic.
Updating the original chart-plotters with the Axiom units also meant that we had to replace the original mast-mounted Raymarine radar. This was no bad thing as it gave us the opportunity to install guilt-free a new generation Raymarine Quantum2 doppler radar unit.
Quite apart from the added functionality that new generation radars bring, they are also significantly lighter and less power hungry. This means that there is reduced weight up the mast (where you least want it), and reduced drain on domestic battery banks.
Doppler brings a whole new dimension, and ease, to operating and interpreting the radar picture. Colour coded targets make determining threats far more obvious. Using 'weather' mode also brings significant safety gains in being able to identify storm cells, giving the warning needed to make course change decisions.
The functionality and ease of operation within the Axiom MFDs to overlay the radar picture, acquire and track targets, set guard zones and alarms makes the combination an indispensable safety system. Although many claim AIS is now 'king' for collision avoidance, it is of no help where boats are not fitted with (e.g. many small yachts), or not operating (think fishing boats hiding their location from competitors), the system. As with most things, a layered approach with redundancy makes the most effective solution.