None of the original Raymarine electronics worked on the boat when I bought it. So, I had the freedom to design the system based on the latest offerings from the major manufacturers - Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad, Northstar, Furuno, etc. The odd thing about my boat is that it has been repowered with new 8.1+ engines from Mercruiser. Since GM no longer makes 8.1 liter engines, Mercuiser has started a program wherein they rebuild 8.1 liter blocks with all fresh internals, and dress the engines with the latest control and exhaust systems. So, they have the newer dry joint exhaust design, Gen III fuel coolers, and complete Smartcraft capability. Things like engine diagnostics, MPG, GPH, RPM, engine hours, and a whole host of other data is available, if you plug the engine harness into a smartcraft display.
Now, since my boat is a 2002, and was not offered at that time with a Smartcraft display, I have all sorts of engine data I can't access, unless I buy a dedicated display, and wire it all up. But, here's the interesting part - Simrad (and I believe Northstar as well), is owned by Brunswick Corporation, and they are the owners of Mercury Marine as well. So the Simrad displays can interface with the new Mercruiser engines, and display the information. Two birds with one stone, as they say.
I decided on the Simrad NSE8, which fits perfectly in my dash, has an 8 inch screen, and supports engine displays, DSC/MMSI, HD radar, side scan or conventional sonar, and can act as a video display. The radar unit is Simrad's HD 4 foot open array. Defender (www.defender.com) had a great sale on the package back in the spring, and the only additional part I needed was the GPS antenna.
The entire system is based on a backbone (Simnet), very similar to NMEA 2000 systems. The display is compatible with both NMEA 2000 and the earlier 0183 protocol. I loomed the cables just to the right of the dash, in the same place the factory routed the original stuff, after carefully removing all the original wiring, and I de-cluttered and improved the support of all the wiring remaining under the dash. All factory wiring was cleaned, and all connections tightened. Now it's nice, neat, and rugged.
The original GPS/Radar was a two piece system in the dash - the Simrad is all in one. So, I had to cover a hole in the dash, and my wife wanted cupholders - so that's what she got. I built the boat for her, after all.....