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Yacht Devices Text Display showing RPM
Crusader Engine RPM displayed on Yacht Devices Text Display

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.

Yacht Devices digital barometer and thermometer
Yacht Device’s Barometer and Thermometer Sensors

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).

Fridge Monitoring

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…

Yacht Devices Temperature Sensor in Fridge
Temperature sensor installed inside 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.

Temperature overlay on Raymarine cSeries MFD
Fridge temperature overlaid on chart of cSeries display

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

Yacht Devices Text Display showing air temperatureThe 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.

Displayed Data

Yacht Devices Text Display Data Pages
As of June 21st, 2016, this is what is available to be displayed

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.

Yacht Devices Text Display System Time
Adjusted time shown but not without a source

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

Yacht Devices Text Display showing depth
Depth shown but no water temperature source

Depth values showed up properly. I can keep an eye on my anchorage depth without going up top!

Engine RPM

Yacht Devices Text Display showing RPM
Crusader Engine RPM displayed on Yacht Devices Text Display

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

Yacht Devices Text Display COG SOGRounding 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 Text Display Log Trip Data
Nothing shown, likely not the fault of Yacht Devices

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:

Raymarine c125 transmitted PGNs
Excerpt from the c125 manual – edited for brevity

And here’s the corresponding page from Yacht Devices manual which shows that the same PGN number is supported:

Yacht Devices Text Display PGN Support
Specific PGN values the display uses for cross-reference with your N2K devices

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…

Conclusion

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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

Comments

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.

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Adam Hyde (SIGNAL Kool Editor) is a member of Boating Writers International and has written articles for Panbo, SAILfeed, Power & Motoryacht, and Passagemaker. He lives in the Pacific North West in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, and is a self professed boat nut and marine electronics geek. His pride and joy is “Journey,” a 1976 26 foot Tollycraft Sedan. When he’s not out on the boat exploring he’s often trying to figure out how to add more technology to it, hence this web mag. Adam is an advanced crew member in the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue and the author of 4 free boating related Apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores. See Adam’s syndicated work

3 COMMENTS

  1. On further investigation it seems that Distance Log on the YD display would need data from a speed through water transducer. On a Raymarine MFD this same data item display is called “Trip Log.” I don’t have a transducer that outputs this data so that’s probably why it displays nothing. Makes sense!

  2. Yacht Device’s digital thermometer passed NMEA certification as of November 29th, 2016 and is the first device in the company’s product line to do so. I imagine it won’t be long for the display and other products achieve this milestone as well.

  3. As of September you can upload different firmware to the Yacht Devices Display for more engine and tank specific detail. From the manual:

    “With this firmware, you can monitor up to four engines and transmissions, temperature in the exhaust system, the vessel’s trim tabs, four batteries, four tanks with diesel and four tanks with gasoline, three fresh water and three black water tanks. The Display shows all possible engine and transmission data defined in NMEA 2000 2.100 standard (released at February 2015), except the engine’s VIN and the engine’s software version. We also included speed data (over ground, SOG, and thru water, STW) for your convenience.”

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