Making Sense Out of NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000


[Editor’s note]. This article is a sidebar to the article “Networking the Old and New,” that appeared in the January 2019 issue. Use our search bar to find additional articles on onboard networking.  

The NMEA 0183 has two different communication (baud) rates for-4800 baud and the faster 38400 baud (also known as NMEA 0183-HS). You have to match the baud rate of both devices for communication to occur. AIS will always use the faster rate. Once the speeds correlated on our test boat, the radio presented targets on its one-inch display. Sitting at the dock it was apparent that info below decks was useless.

  1. Standard Horizons GX2150 Matrix AIS+ has internal GPS which allows it to track position and deliver AIS data, but the screen is too small to be of much use in rough conditions.
  2. Images 2 and 3 are from the instruments on the test boat (yes she was going slow). The Raymarine autopilot is getting navigation information (bearing to waypoint) from the Garmin
  3. GPS position data is generated by the Garmin chartplotter/GPSmap 440s.
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. Just subscribed to Practical-Sailor and found this ‘article’ and agree with the comments so far. Title implies much more than is addressed. And even what is written does leave the reader guessing whether something went wrong with the hit ‘publish’ button. Hope this is not a trend…..

  2. This article is a short sidebar to the main article “Networking the Old and New,” ( that appeared in the January 2020 issue. The entire issue, including additional images to illustrate the topic, can be downloaded here Additional Practical Sailor reports on onboard networking can be found using the search bar at the top.


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