I‘ve been searching for an inexpensive way to display depth and digital engine data at the lower helm of my boat Journey. The recently released $149US Yacht Devices display will hopefully fill this need. I say “hopefully” because further software updates are supposedly coming to add additional engine data not presently viewable. I’m also hoping Yacht Devices addresses a few issues that could take the product from good to great.
As a second display at a navigation station the Yacht Devices NMEA 2000 (N2K) text display (released in April) fills a void in the market for low-cost N2K capable displays. Before I look specifically at the features of the Yacht Devices display I thought it helpful to share what my N2K components are so you can understand where the data displayed comes from…
A Simple Network
My N2K network is pretty simple. Cabling is all SeaTalkNG throughout the boat. The 12 volt power cable to the network direct from the battery. This is part of a plan to see sensor data when I’m away from the boat and the battery switch is off. I’m always on shore power, so the network’s constant — yet low — power draw isn’t a concern.
At my upper station on the flybridge I have a Raymarine cSeries multifunction display (MFD). My 2013 Pleasurecraft Crusader Captain’s Choice 5.7 MPI engine has a wiring harness that terminates on the flybridge. From this harness I took the Canbus high / low wires and spliced them into a SeaTalk NG spur cable. My Crusader engine’s electronic control unit speaks Canbus and N2K so there is no need for other engine gateway hardware. I can see engine data directly on my c125 MFD.
Rounding out the N2K network is a Yacht Devices digital thermometer (pictured on the right). Yacht Devices sells SeaTalkNG versions of these two sensors but the one I received for testing had a male DeviceNet Micro C connector. To connect the thermometer to my SeaTalk network I used a Raymarine DeviceNet adaptor cable (A06045). I needed another adaptor for the text display because it is only sold with the same DeviceNet Micro C connector (male).
I’m a bit paranoid about my Novakool R4500 AC/DC fridge warming up with all my food in it. Once a season I seem to forget to switch on shore power after turning off the battery switch. A smelly mistake I always regret! I hope to enable remote temperature monitoring at some point to solve this. The first step in the plan is to electronically monitor the temperature. I decided to drill a hole in the back of the fridge…
That’s the temperature sensor poking through after I installed it. The sensor can be configured to send one of 14 different labels. Outside air, bait well, live well, engine room, etc, are set using a crazy chart datum configuration routine that requires an MFD and a lot of patience. Yacht Devices own text display cannot program the temperature sensor. After setting the label as “refrigeration,” I discovered my Raymarine MFD couldn’t display it. I returned it back to the default setting – outside air temperature.
The temperature sensor is pretty responsive because I can see a fairly rapid rise in temperature when the fridge door opens. Besides showing temperature in an overlaid data box (shown above), the c125 can also store maximum temperature values and displays them on its environmental data page.
Depth (NMEA 0183)
Depth values fed into the c125 from my old NMEA 0183 capable Standard Horizon depth sounder get on my N2K network when my Raymarine MFD is on. The MFD has functionality that automatically bridges NMEA 0183 sentences (like depth) over to the N2K network.
If you are considering buying the Yacht Devices text display it is always a good idea to check your MFD and see what it is actually transmitting out to the network.
It doesn’t matter what the text display can show if the underlying data isn’t present on the network.
Updating the Yacht Devices Display
The first thing you might wonder from the photo is what are all the swirly scratches doing on the face of the display? I’m actually not sure but that was how I received it. I have a test unit so I assume that it was an early imperfection. Displays now shipping apparently have a shiny smooth case.
*note – I received a replacement display, the one previously was an early production model and was apparently defective. Photos in this entry were updated on July 22nd, 2016.
The first thing you want to do – like with so many electronics these days — is do a software update here. When I first received my display the settings would not save properly. Problem solved with an update. A nice feature is that it is easy to fix bugs and add new features. You first download an update file to a microSD card (not included). You then insert it into the bottom of the display, power it on, then wait for a confirmation message. Quick and easy!
Configuring the Display
Button presses gets you into the settings menu where you can change functionality or perform maintenance tasks such as a factory reset. There is not too much to adjust. You can set: the displayed units, date & time format, data pages to view, and configure how long to turn off the screen after user inactivity (or to always keep it on). Brightness is adjusted without going into the settings menu by pressing and holding the top button.
The display is not a sensor or information source to the network. If you have the data on your network and it matches one of the data types shown above, then you’ll probably see it displayed.
Time sourced from my MFD and adjusted for timezone did display correctly. But, when I switch off the MFD I get a “no time data” message. This is because there is no internal clock — a bit of a shame. The principal benefit of a low power device like this (20ma draw claimed) is to be able to use it all the time. Time is available from other sources such as my watch so this feature is less than critical.
Depth values showed up properly. I can keep an eye on my anchorage depth without going up top!
I have a single inboard engine so half the display isn’t needed for RPM. Unfortunately I can’t show anything else on this screen. Yacht Devices told me that they are working on supporting other engine data such as oil pressure. This might be available via a free update sometime this summer. I’d vote for oil pressure, engine temperature, alternator voltage, and fuel flow.
SOG / COG
Rounding out the data that I can see is course over ground and speed over ground. This is the only data page (other than time) that uses both data slots on the screen based on what is available on my particular network.
The Trip Data Mystery
Yacht Devices uses N2K PGN 128275 to show distances for this data page. When I consulted my Raymarine manual it says it transmits this PGN:
And here’s the corresponding page from Yacht Devices manual which shows that the same PGN number is supported:
I’m by no means a N2K networking expert so why nothing gets displayed is a mystery to me? I tried to think of ways to sniff my N2K network to see what data is there. This week my iKommunicate arrived. Because it converts the distance log on PGN 128275, I looked at the raw data print-out that it showed. No sign of PGN 128275. I can only surmise that the MFD is not actually sending the data but I have no idea why not?
Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can comment below and solve this mystery…
- Easy “free” updates via microSD card
- Low power consumption (20ma / 1 LEN)
- Small size allows installation flexibility
- Low price
- Bright display
- Powered from the network
- Easy to use
- Shipping direct from Russia takes a long time
- Data pages not flexible and waste screen space
- No internal clock means that time will not display without an active N2K source
- No SeatalkNG connector option means you have to spend an extra $30US if you have this type of network cabling
- You can’t configure Yacht Devices own temperature sensor from the display
- No custom labeling
- Not waterproof, indoor use only
The Yacht Devices display has great potential and is really good value for the money. I’m excited to see what other data gets added over the next few months. I’m told that DC and tank level sources are being worked on — along with more engine data. The low power draw will be of particular interest to sailboat owners. The compact dimensions allow great installation flexibility. Besides a waterproof version of the display, the biggest improvement needed is to have flexible data pages so that you don’t waste screen space with blank data you don’t have on the network. It would also be handy to be able to custom label screens so you could re-label values like temperature without configuring the source sensor.
My friend Steve Mitchell at Sailbits also did a review of the display and suggested auto-advancing data pages to avoid having to push buttons manually. I totally agree with Steve, it would be awesome to loop pages automagically. If I were creating version 2 of the product it would support max/min values for certain data types and hook up to an external alarm. Wouldn’t it be great to have the display flash if certain data was over / under limit? Very few companies make alarms for N2K data that are of any practical use and Yacht Devices could solve this market void.