The very unhappy customer, a phenom

Mike Slinn’s weblog sounds like a tabloid: The dangerous secret about Raymarine radars that the manufacturer doesn’t want you to know.” Well, I read all the correspondence Mike posted and don’t understand at all how he’s come to the conclusions he has. It looks to Raymarine 2D radomeme like various Raymarine people responded to all his issues—even though some are just RTFM (read the blanking manual) simple—and meanwhile Mike apparently hasn’t even taken their advice to update his firmware and check his power supply. I also question his concept of using this dinky radar, or any radar, to “catch up on sleep without compromising safety”. So what do you all think of Mike’s gripes, which he’s posting all over (like here, here, here, and here), and has anyone heard of another boat with this problem of a constantly resetting Raymarine radar scanner? 

By the way, Mike is certainly not the first really, really unhappy marine electronics customer I’ve come across. Supposedly one went so far as to hire a plane to tow a derogatory banner over the Miami Boat Show a few years ago! Is this a particularly strong phenomenon in the world of boats? I think so, but not because marine electronics (or boats) are particularly poor…but because we care about them so much.

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

9 Responses

  1. Patrick says:

    I think marine electronics are poor in that they evolved so slooowly. However with a move to commmodity hardware and the ability to leverage the chips and software used in the general mobile market the evoluiton and growth of features is approaching that of customers of expectations. You used to accept crap becaus eit was bomber, now you expect it to be awesome and bomber.

  2. Mike Slinn says:

    Nice to make your acquaintance!
    To clear up a point I attempted to make that may not have been understood, when on a blue water passage (HI to BC, for example), it is not unusual for crew members to get very ill during the start of a voyage, and when encountering heavy weather. I go to a lot of trouble to find experienced crew, yet I find that experienced racers and cruisers alike often get quite seasick. On more than one occasion I have been the only able-bodied seaman on board – and we are many hundreds of miles away from land. As you know, once someone becomes seasick they recover slowly.
    This is a problem that a coastal boater usually does not have to deal with for an extended period of time. After several days the seasick people eventually recover, at which point I might be very tired indeed.
    Single-handed sailors face the same issue – how to stay safe when taking a brief nap?
    I am interested to learn what the response is to your call for people with similar experiences with Raymarine radar scanners.
    BTW, the software update was issued while I was half-way between HI and BC, and I heard about it after we made landfall. I have decided to exchange the radar with another manufacturer’s product. I didn’t have any operational problems with my previous radar, nor have I ever had problems with any other electronic device on board. As an electronics engineer, I believe that the unit’s power supply was not properly designed for a marine environment, which in general features rather poor power qaulity. That being said, I have asked the boatyard to investigate the quality of the power delivered to the navigation station and to report back to me. I’m sure there is always room for improvement.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Mike, I understand what you are saying just fine. I have many thousands of offshore miles, mostly as a delivery skipper or cruiser, almost always short handed. But I have never once turned over a watch to anything but an awake human. I have also never had a crewman so seasick they couldn’t stand watch (except for one guy who was spitting up blood for a day).
    Moreover, I follow single-handed racing pretty closely. Those folks know they are “compromising safety”, and many learn extreme sleep techniques so they can at least intermittently eyeball shipping in busier areas.
    I’ve been following some of the many threads you started about Raymarine’s “dangerous” equipment. It seems that almost no one is reporting similar problems, but many think�as I do�that you probably have an installation or power issue particular to your boat. Why didn’t you thoroughly check that possibilty out before you put so much effort into trashing Raymarine?

  4. Don says:

    I have seen Raymarine (as well as other) radars that would not power up/dropout on as much as 11.1 to 11.7 volts, as measured at the scanner.
    It is a shame that these units are not more tolerant of low supply voltage, but that is just what we have to deal with.
    Troubleshooting would lead me to take a close look at the supply on this boat, especially the battery capacity, configuration, and feed to the Raymarine display.
    Is this unit supplied by a starting battery, or a dedicated house battery, what else is pulling power from this same supply, is the feed undersized considering the length of the wire run, etc..
    My guess is that the boat yard will not spend a whole lot of time on this, but hey, you may get lucky.

  5. Andrew Murray says:

    From what you say it seems Raymarine radars are a bit sensitive but have you tried putting other equipment on the same switch? Have you tried other radars on your vessel?

  6. George says:

    It is possible that this is not a power issue at all. Unlike PCs that display a “blue screen of death” or an error message when the software crashes, the Raymarine unit (at least the older series) will simply reset itself. This is arguably the best response to a crash for a marine unit, but it does make debugging difficult and will cause you to chase phantom power issues.
    My older Raymarine unit had this behavior. A couple of bugs (long since fixed) would cause it to completely ‘reboot’ as if the power cable had come loose. I’m a software engineer, so I tend to have a good memory for exactly what the computer was doing before a crash; this habit led me to discover and reproduce the failing sequences. There is no log (at least none available to the user) that will tell you what really happened. If you get strange resets, consider getting the latest software upgrade from http://www.raymarine.com.
    That said, I have also noticed that my integrated system is sensitive to low power; after about 20 minutes at anchor the Seatalk bus stops working and all units display “Seatalk failed.” This is a pain because the GPS antenna communicates to my chartplotter via Seatalk.
    On the other hand, the unit has worked well overall for the last six years and has good features. Their support is not great, we had a pretty hostile encounter with their US service department a few years back. My wife was pretty shaken up by what should have been a routine matter.
    One random tidbit for other owners of older units — there is a backup battery that needs to be replaced after about five years. It is about $2, but when it fails you will start losing saved settings and having other strange behavior. Alas, it is somewhat difficult to replace so that might make it a service item.

  7. popajo says:

    i have a raymarine pathfinder receiver that will not power up, it only bleeps intermediatelly . i have another unit that will power up on same supply. i noticed in one of your reviews that a battery may need changing. please comment. i am also fairly good with electronics can i change this battery

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Jo, I can’t help you much, but I doubt that it’s a problem with the memory battery, if the unit even has one. I think that when one goes, all you lose is saved data like waypoints.

  9. George says:

    The http://www.raymarine.com site has a customer service area where you can post the behavior and get back an answer. If the machine isn’t booting, the easiest to fix explanation is that there is a bad C-Map card in the unit.

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