Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Adding Aqua Maps to our Navigation System

Upgrading our Navigation System with AquaMaps

Our Navigation System is pretty good, but I wanted to add some redundancy. Yes we have Chart Books for our sailing areas, I just like to be prepared.

Here's our Current Nav Electronics Inventory.
  • Garmin 741XS Chart Plotter
  • Garmin DST 810 Depth, Speed, Water Temperature Transducer
  • Garmin GMR 18" Radar
  • Garmin GWind Wind Transducer
  • Garmin GMI Display 
  • Raymarine EVO 100 Autopilot 
  • EmTrak AIS Transceiver
On a recent trip from Lake Boca to Port Everglades, the Garmin 741xs Chartplotter had an episode, didn't want to play. So we rebooted it. That's when it failed, would not boot up. At the time we were just North of the Hillsboro Inlet which is notorious for shoaling. Our 5'8" draft means we have to avoid those shoals, so monitoring our Depth is a must. With the Chartplotter not functioning, we had to rely upon the GMI display to show our depth. It could do this because all of our Electronics are on our NEMA2000 Network. and the DST 810 is also a NEMA2000 device. Hence we were able to monitor our depth as we went out of the HI inlet, whew!

Once outside on the Ocean, we switched everything off for a minute and turned it all back on. The chartplotter woke up and we were back in business.

But what if our Chartplotter failed and would not reboot!  Well, we have a 10" tablet with Navionics and Aquamaps, so we could continue navigating. However, they do not display AIS data so we do not know what the other boats around us are doing. Our Radar only displays on the Chartplotter, so we would be out of both AIS and Radar.

Aquamaps has an interface to connect with a WiFi server but it is not compatible with our Garmin Products, only with NEMA 0183 and all of our gear is NEMA 2000.

I searched the net and thought I had found a solution. Digital Yachts make a lot of electonics products for interfacing boat systems. An email to them resulted in a solution.

Digital Yachts NAVLink2

This is a neat piece of electronics.
Basically it's a NEMA 2000 WiFi Server that translates all of the NEMA 2000 Data to NEMA 0183 and delivers it via a WiFi Server.

The best part is that it works for Aqua Maps. In fact, visiting the Digital Yachts website they have the instructions for interfacing with NAVLink2 to Aqua Maps and it's the first App on their list.1

So this should mean that I'll be able to connect Aqua Maps to my NEMA2000 network and receive the Wind, Depth and AIS data.
Thus it will all be available on my Tablet or Phone!

Now if my Chartplotter fails, we will still have the majority of the Navigation data displayed on the Tablet!

Installing the Digital Yachts NAVLink2 

This should be a breeze. The unit gets it's power from the NEMA2000 Backbone, so there is only one electrical connection to make. Simply add a new NEMA2000 'T' onto the backbone and then connect the NEMA2000 Drop cable from the NAVLink2 Server to that 'T'. 

The Instructions for the install are that simple, but if you want to customize the setup, then a Laptop could connect to the NAVLink2 Wifi and access the built in webserver to make any changes required.

Of course, Digital Yachts has all of the details on their website. They also have very clear instructions for connecting the Tablet with Aqua Maps to the NAVLink2 server and setting up which data to display.

I had several emails back and forth with the customer support at Digital Yachts ( I'm pretty sure they are in England ) and they were very polite, clear and obviously know what they are talking about.  I'll provide the links at the bottom of this post.

Mounting the our Samsung FE 7 Tablet ( 10" ) 

Ideally, our Samsung Tablet would be mounted at the Helm with the option to relocate it to the Cabin. I purchased some RAM mounts to accomplish this.

This is the Mount. It allows for the Tablet to be held across it's short side but can be rotated so that it is mounted vertically, that's ideal for the Aqua Maps App.
However, this mount on it's own would place the Tablet in front of our Chartplotter. I would rather it be higher than the top of the Chartplotter and not obscure our view when at the helm

The best solution seems to be to extend the RAM mount so that it can be mounted to the back of the Nav Shelf at the helm and positioned above the Autopilot control panel.

I'll bolt the lower part of the RAM mount to the shelf.

This is a RAM extension. It provides a wide choice of locations for the Tablet and will extend the Tablet above the Nav Shelf and the Autopilot control panel.

The Lower end of this extension will fit on the Ball that is getting bolted to the Nav Shelf.

To join the top of this unit with the RAM mount that is detached from the Bottom of the piece shown above to the piece that holds the Tablet, requires another Ball unit.

This is the missing link ! 

Now all three pieces can be joined together.

I was a bit concerned about the rigidity of the combined pieces, but they are fine.   I now have a spare of the missing link because the package from Amazon contained two pieces. 

Will probably purchase another base unit so that I can set the Tablet on a shelf in the cabin to have eyes on our Navigation from down below.

The end result:

Wow! I mounted my Samsung Tab 7 Tablet at the helm using the mount and RAM joints as planned. The display at the helm is fantastic,

The vertical position is not so clever so I moved it to be Horizontal and level with the top of the chart plotter. Much better.

The screen is bright enough that I can see it clearly even when wearing my prescription sunglasses.

The picture shows us at Anchor in Sunrise Bay Florida.

Peggy suggests that I get a smaller Tablet, it's a 10" display compared to the 7" Garmin 742xs. I tend to agree but wonder if an alternative Tablet will have the brightness of the Samsung Tab 7.

This was the first time that we have used Aqua Maps to follow a route. It provides the distance and the bearing to the next waypoint on the route, very clear.

We do have a couple of issues with the NavLink2 but they are minor and I'm hoping that Digital Yacht can resolve them.

This is a screenshot of the AIS List on Aqua Maps, there is spurious text data on either side of the vessel names. The rest of the information appear correct when we compared it with the AIS data on our chart plotter. 

The list is IMHO easier to figure out on Aqua Maps. 

I'll take more screen shots next time at the boat to display more of the AIS features.

In the Aqua Maps WiFi settings the list of connections shows which data items are connected.

Here you can see that GPS data is Off - that's as I set it because I wanted to see that everything else worked if our Main GPS Chartplotter was down. I turned it off.

The depth data is being supplied by our NEMA 2000 DST 810 Depth, Speed, Temperature transducer.

Heading is being provided by our Raymarine EVO 100 Auto Pilot compass header.

Wind Speed & Direction is provided by our Garmin GWind Wired Transducer on the Mast head.

The AIS data is being provided by the EmTrac AIS unit.

This screen shot of Aqua Maps while we are at Anchor in Sunrise bay.
On the left is the data provided by the NavLink2.

Several people asked me how the NavLink works and my simple reply is 'Magic' !!!  

However here's what it does.

The NavLink2 is connected to the NEMA2000 back bone via a drop cable which is attached to the NavLink2. All I had to do was remove the NEMA2000 Terminator on the end of the backbone, connect a new T connector to the backbone and reconnect the Terminator to the other end of the T. Then connect the NavLink2 NEMA cable to the T - All done.

Then I turned on our Nav Instruments circuit breaker which powered the NEMA 2000 network. I turned on the Garmin Chartplotter so that I could disable the AIS alarm then turned on the EmTrac AIS system.

With the Nav equipment all running, it was time to connect the Tablet to the NavLink2 WiFi Server.

On the Tablet I turned on WiFi and looked for the NavLink2, found it and provided the password. 

At this point I expected the NavLink2 'Status' lamp to change from Flashing Green to Steady Green but it did not happen.

After reading the advise on the Digital Yacht website I rebooted my tablet to make sure no other wifi apps were hogging the system.

Once rebooted and reconnected the WiFi to the NavLink2, I tried to connect Aqua Maps. There's a very clear set of instructions on the Digital Yacht website on how to make the connection. That worked.

Now the List of connections shows up on Aqua Maps.

So that brings us up to date. I'm waiting for a response from Digital Yachts about the flashing status light and the odd chars on either side of the vessel names.

In a nutshell: NavLink2 gets the NEMA2000 data and converts it to NEMA 9183 and transmits it on WiFi, Aqua Maps receives the data via the WiFi on the tablet and displays the selected data on the Aqua Maps App.

Or, as I said earlier - Magic!

See you on the water.


Response from Digital Yacht.
Seems I have a newer model and the Flashing Status lamp is normal. so cross that one off.

They have asked for details about the unit ( firmware version etc. ) So I have to go down to the boat in the next couple of days to get that info. But so far I'm impressed with their post sales support.

For now it's Back to work.


March 23rd 2024.

It has been a busy few weeks and I have not gotten down to the boat in order to respond to DY's questions.  But I did get down today to check on the boat after the rain storm yesterday.  Didn't get to check on the Firmware version. So it'll have to wait till next weekend. I have a bundle of work to do and finish by April 1st which was just moved forwards to being completed by March 29th. So no trips to the boat this week.


  1. Very interesting reading here on your blog, I also own a '87 tall rig. Thank you for providing all this information. Your electrical upgrades are very admirable - if you have a moment maybe you could explain where your starter batter is located. I'm considering a electrical system upgrade and an issue I have is that I do not have a separate starter battery, it seems that it was wired at some point to rely on the CCA of the house bank(s). I'd like to switch to lithium and therefore will need some sort of starter battery, so I am pondering where I might put it. Cheers, Dave

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for the nice comments.
      Our Starter Battery is located beneath the 'floor' of the port side hanging closet just forward of the head. It's charged via a Victron Orion DC-DC charger and we have had zero issues with that setup.
      Hope that helps.


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