I’ve been using Raymarine electronics on board my boats for many years now. There’s a lot of choice out there but, on balance across the board, I find them the most user-friendly. No electronics firm is perfect and my pal Alan Watson, the radar guru, and I are often to be found hammering on their door asking for improvements. To their credit, they listen, and the package at the moment is hard to beat. The MFD (Multi-function display, as plotters are called nowadays) is a piece of kit that would have boggled the mind of a navigator twenty years ago. I particularly enjoy being able to view AIS contacts on top of radar with the whole shooting match displayed over the chart. This gives reality to radar collision targets as well as helping me to understand the nuances of the radar image of the coastline. In fact, the whole radar setup is remarkably easy to operate. Head-up, course-up and north-up are available without a battle against menus for which I for one, am grateful. The ST 80 cockpit instruments are the most intuitive I’ve ever used, and I speak as a man who has lost the will to live on some of the menus I’ve been served up. The display is so big and so clear that even I can read everything without resorting to my specs. On a rainy night, I am truly grateful.
The Raymarine Autopilot has to be the industry yardstick. My wife once said she’d rather go to sea without an oven than an autopilot and that’s something coming from her! We all know about autopilots falling out when modern yachts heel suddenly, altering their helm balance. I have to say that my Mason 44 is beautifully balanced and doesn’t suffer these issues, but the autopilot is so good that a number of my highly experienced shipmates have commented on how well it copes with sailing conditions, even on a broad reach in rough water. I don’t even have the latest model. What life must be like with an Evolution unit I can’t imagine. You’d never bother to steer again, I shouldn’t think!