Mailport July 15, 1999 Issue

Mailport 07/15/99

Integrated Instruments
Regarding the May 1, 1999 article on integrated instruments, all is not well in paradise with integration. I chose Autohelm in spite of their mediocre technical support & service, because on my first boat their system was reliable. On my second boat, I installed a brand new 1999 ST5000 Sail Pilot, ST4000 Wheel Pilot (back-up), ST50 Wind, ST50 Tridata, and 4KW LCD Radar.

There are a number of problems:

1. I can only connect one autopilot to SeaTalk. If both are on, they both go on automatic when one is put on automatic; that spells disaster. If one has its 12V disconnected, the other displays the error message “SeaTalk Failure” and locks up. The only solution I have found is to disconnect ST4000 from the SeaTalk bus, so it will get no speed and rudder position information. Technical Support verified: “That’s the way it is; can’t help you.”

2. Turning the radar or any ST50 power off also causes the error message and the lockup of the autopilot connected to SeaTalk. So basically, if any instrument in the chain fails, the autopilot becomes inoperable. That is unless you can get at the cables and disconnect them (I cannot open the panel and steer my Mantra 40 catamaran at the same time).

Bill Olschewski
British Virgin Islands, West Indies


I purchased the Nexus integrated system in 1993 and have nothing but praise for the company, its product and their support staff. I have interfaced the system with my GPS and also have purchased the large Maxi display. All have been easy to install on my Hobie 33 and the few times I have had minor problems Mike Sweeney or his staff have talked me through the resolution.

On one occasion, one of the Nexus staff and I were unable to determine on the telephone if the problem was in the sending unit of my knot meter or in my connections. They arranged for a replacement sender to be sent the next day by FedEx. In addition, they indicated that if I did not need the unit, I could return it.

I started with the base system and each year have added new features (fluxgate compass, trim indicator, maxi display, etc.). I have had no problems integrating each new display. It is a solid, dependable, affordable product with excellent support.

John P. Ekberg, III
Greenwich, Connecticut


I have to correct the statement in your May 1, 1999 article on integrated instruments that Nexus does not offer an autopilot. Nexus offers the Silva autopilot, as reviewed in your May 1, 1997 and June 1997 issues.This autopilot was designed by Paul Wagner and is manufactured by Silva.

I have an all-Nexus setup on my J/105, Legacy, and it has been great! I have a System 3000 with the following displays: MFD (multi-function display), Tactical Display, Wind Data, two Multi XL displays, and a remote control with above- and below-deck plug-ins. I also have a Nexus GPS repeater mounted along with the other 4" displays, but it does not integrate to the rest of the Nexus system. My Garmin GPSMAP 215D chartplotter is connected to the NMEA input of the Nexus system unit, making all its navigation data available on any of the displays and to the autopilot.

The Nexus autopilot can steer a compass course by reference to the Nexus fluxgate compass, a relative wind angle by reference to the Nexus masthead wind transducer, or an actual course based on the GPS data passed through the server. If the fluxgate fails, the server can use the GPS for heading information.

At $525 ($585 with mast-mount brackets), the Nexus Multi XLs have to be the least expensive large-digit displays offered by anyone. They do require the use of the remote control, but the remote control actually has the display capability of two MFDs and only costs $310. My remote control is normally found on the pedestal, but I mounted an extra socket at the nav station for use below. With the 15' cord on the remote I can check the wind speed and boat’s heading from the V-berth or control the autopilot while on the foredeck.

The Tactical Data display works better than a SailComp. It’s intelligent enough to know which tack I’m on. Also, its dual digital displays allow me to see both my current heading and the memorized heading at the same time. It also has the unique “knock timer” function which allows the skipper to set a “knock value,” i.e., an amount of header and the time that amount will be exceeded, then it generates an alarm and shows how long you’ve been headed more than your “knock value.” By the way, during the last minute of the countdown sequence, the analog part of the Tactical and Wind displays turns into a visual countdown graphic—automatically!

As you mentioned in your article, the Wind Data display is also unique in showing two pieces of digital information, plus a graphical display of apparent and true wind angle, plus the percentage gained or lost on any “speed” function. Besides boat speed gained or lost, other values that can be displayed on the “boost gauge” include: VMG, True Wind Speed, Apparent Wind Speed, Speed Over Ground, Target Boat Speed, Preferred Wind Angle, and Current Drift Speed. Another function you did not mention, but attributed to the B&G Hydra system, is the layline function. If connected to a GPS, the Wind Data will show degrees below or beyond the layline to the next waypoint. My favorite function on this display, however, is the Next Tack or Jibe Angle function. With the wide ranging downwind angles of a sprit boat, this is very helpful in judging downwind laylines.

I would recommend Nexus instruments without hesitation. On price, features and service they seem to have the competition beat, hands down! However, I will pass along an e-mail I received today from Mike Sweeney in response to an inquiry about some PC software that he was going to post to their web site. It says: “On April 11, I resigned from Nexus. I will miss you. Mike.”

Mike had always seemed like he WAS Nexus, so I don’t know what this means for the company or its customers. Maybe Practical Sailor can find out.

Stuart Burnett
via e-mail


Yes, Mike Sweeney is gone. We thought he represented Nexus very well. The new vice-president and general manager of Nexus Marine is David Quarders. They assure us it’s business as usual. Nexus is owned by the Swedish company Silva.


Water Heater Tests
Atlantic Marine Products sincerely appreciates being included in your water heater comparison tests (February 1, 1999). We respectfully request that you publish two corrections that were mis-stated in that issue.

First, we offer a five-year limited warranty on all of our water heaters. This has always been the case for our stainless steel heaters, and effective January 1, 1999, we added the fiberglass series to this coverage. Incidentally, the fiberglass series heaters have had a three-year limited warranty since October 1, 1997. Perhaps the one-year warranty reported in the article was taken from older literature.

Second, the ratio at which the fiberglass heaters we offer out sell our stainless steel models is 2 to 1, rather than the 10 to 1 ratio published.

John Sniffin
Atlantic Marine
Richmond, Virginia


Recently, I experienced a water heater failure, my second in six years. Both of the failed heaters were of the glass-lined steel variety and failed due to rusting of the outer steel shell. Since another replacement was imminent, I consulted your article in the February 1, 1999 issue, to see if there were heaters available that might solve the problem. To my delight there were a number of heaters that would fulfill my needs.

Unfortunately, your ratings didn’t focus on reliability. While the shift to polymer shells should reduce corrosion failures, is there enough information available to insure that you are not substituting one problem for another? Polymers are known to degrade in high temperature applications and are subject to stress-induced cracking in the presence of thermal or mechanical stresses.

For me the answer is simple: Stainless steel is the way to go. It’s a proven material for a demanding application.

W A. Bowles
Punta Gorda, Florida


Where Credit Is Due...
To Scan Marine: “Several months beyond the warranty period, Mr. Karl Westerberg of Scan Marine quickly replaced a defective water heater electric element without cost to me. He was very helpful in analyzing the problem as well.”

John Atkisson
Washington, DC


To Forespar: “Recently, I broke the end fitting on a Forespar whisker pole, which I had gotten along with a used sailboat purchase. Having no idea what else to do, I sent an e-mail to Randy Risvold, Forespar’s customer service representative, asking how to go about replacing the fitting. I fully expected—and was more than willing—to pay for a replacement. But Randy simply asked for my mailing address, and four days later TWO fittings arrived in the mail. You can be sure that Forespar is at the top of my list of companies to buy from in the future.

Peter Cook
Silver Spring, Maryland

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