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Testing a PC for Navigation

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Navassist Marine PC11 Test;

I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the testing of the new Navassist 12v Marine PC on my own boat, Island Time.

I have had PC based navigation on Island Time for over 10 years, with firstly laptops, then marine 12v PC’s. During this time, Island Time has logged over 30,000 Nm.

Howard and Co, from Navassist, approached me to see if I would test their new products, and they sent me one to try.

The PC is pretty well spec’d for its job, using the Intel N2930 Quad Core Processor, and it provides 8GB of memory, 128GB prime mSATA storage and 128Gb backup SSD storage. This is plenty for charts of the world and quite a few documents for the vessel – plus there are plenty of USB ports to plug in an external drive if you wish. Of course everything you plug in consumes extra power – but this unit is very efficient consuming only around 11 watts when active!

What sets this machine apart from others, including notebooks, is that it comes with lots of marine I/O ports and port options. 4 NMEA 0183 serial ports, NMEA 2000, SeaTalk, etc. etc. are all available.  Each Marine I/O port has a latching plug for convenient cable attachment.  The integrated GPS receiver, with its active antenna, seems to acquire a satellite signal virtually immediately.  2 Video ports are standard (so you can run a screen below, and another at the helm). Here are the standard ports;

PC COnnections NMEA0183.jpg

Mine has the built in Actisense NGW-1 NMEA2000 port. I must say, that in the past I’ve used mostly NMEA0183 to my PC, and the actisense is a delight. One simple plug for connection to everything on the bus! So the instruments, the Autopilot, the AIS etc. etc. all talk to the PC with one plug!. Gone is the need for NMEA 0183 serial to USB connectors (and therefore driver issues!)  for each device, and sometimes complex multiplexing of the NMEA 0183 data. If you have any sort of NMEA 2000 (Seatalk NG, Simnet, or standard NMEA 2000) then I highly recommend this option.

This PC is a complete navigation system. It comes loaded with various navigation software, of which I mostly use Opencpn. It also comes with an internal Wi-Fi, AND a short range Wi-Fi adapter, so is preconfigured to be a wireless access point for your boat (Intranet), giving internet access to all devices aboard if the short range antenna has an internet connection, and just the intranet if it does not. This intranet can be used for broadcast of all the navigational data, so you can use your Wi-Fi devices (Phones – Android or IPhone, tablets – IPADs or Android) as additional navigation screens while aboard (additional software may be required – some free, some not).

There are many optional additions to this type of installation. Of course it does not come with AIS or Radar, or weather etc, but all of these can be easily added, either on a standard port (Serial, USB, Ethernet ) or as an optional extra (NMEA2000, SeaTalk, SeaTalk NG etc.)

If you wish to see all this working in OpenCPN, have a look at my YouTube video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdTg6T_aLRk

This is not a waterproof device, so you need to have a dry place to install it. However, as it is all solid state, other than the water issue, it is quite robust, and suited to this application. The Navassist staff have made a good job of providing what is needed in a small, low power draw, flexible PC for navigation.

After many years of sailing, local and bluewater, I firmly believe that a pc provides the most flexible system available for a yacht – or a power vessel. The initial cost is low, and the ease of upgrades and additions, plus the huge flexibility of a PC I find very attractive. For example, we have a couple of external USB drives with movies, music etc, and the PC is connected to the boat stereo for entertainment purposes. It also contains electronic copies of manuals for virtually all of our boat systems – much easier to manage and find what you want than a paper filing system. Our PC also is connected to a Pactor modem for email  and weather forecasts while at sea, and connects via wireless to the internet when it is available for email and web browsing when close to shore or in a marina. This connection can be Wi-Fi or Cellular using a hotspot system.

The PC is the electronic centre of Island Time, and it is my belief that Navassist have done a great job with this unit. If you are considering a PC based system, they are well worth a look. Their site is here


Or, as I liked their gear so much, I have become an agent J – see my site here http://www.neptunes-gear.com/index.php/pc-based-systems.html

Matt Paulin

SV Island Time, NZ8720

New Zealand

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Sadly I’ve just finished an Intel NUC setup, although not quite as flash as these I’m still pretty happy.


Many NUC models can happily run on 12v even though they come with a 19v power supply, they seem to draw very little power and of course sleep mode saves even more.


We run OpenCPN and an offline version of Wikipedia for our daughter to do school work with while cruising.


The NMEA gateway function of the Vesper Marine AIS we bought from IT means we have all the good instrument data.


We have a 4G internet from discover.net.nz and a 120GB plan meaning we can watch Netflix and YouTube when in sight of land. The VEON DVD/TV screen has a terrible viewing angle but the combo of TV/DVD/monitor is hard to beat.



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