By Ben Ellison
Circles of Uncertainty
Can you recommend any books about maintaining, installing, and troubleshooting electronics? S.L., via e-mail
On the other hand, there’s nearly endless possible detail to installing and especially troubleshooting electronics, and no one book I know of seems truly comprehensive. One 500-pager usually worth consulting when confronted with most any system problem is the Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (International Marine, 1996) by Nigel Calder, who is also the character I consulted for this month’s column. The richly illustrated manual has a chapter on electronics with good dope on antennas and interference, not to mention how to flush a system that’s been doused with salt water. John Payne’s Motorboat Electrical and Electronics Manual (Sheridan House, 2002) goes into interesting detail about how things like radar and autopilots actually work, though I find it dryly written and lightly illustrated. Finally, Charlie Wing’s Boatowner’s Illustrated Handbook of Wiring (International Marine, 1993) covers much more than its name suggests and is particularly notable for its do-it-yourself projects, ranging from LED indicators to a boat burglar alarm. Wing and Calder can both help you to run and connect wires properly, and Calder is especially strong on troubleshooting power systems, often the source of electronics failures (and note that a much expanded 3rd edition of his manual is due out this month). But if your problem involves, say, NMEA 0183 data connections between gear of various brands, or you just want to make such a connection (which should be easy), none of these books will be much help. You have to step up to NMEA’s expensive professional publications or piece together information from the product manuals and/or obscure Web sites like www.vancouver-webpages.com/peter.
Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primedia.com. For fastest response, visit the Electronics forum at www.powerandmotoryacht.com. No phone calls, please.
This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.