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Replace NKE depth sounder \  sensor

Updating the navigation instruments on my Alubat ovni 435, which was built in 2001, has been a process that has taught me a lot. One of the main things I have learned is that after 20 years, the communication systems used in the original instruments may no longer be compatible with newer ones. This means that upgrading a single instrument can require upgrading multiple others in order to ensure seamless communication on the boat.

Another issue that I have encountered is that communication between instruments from different manufacturers is not always easy. Different manufacturers may use different communication protocols and bus systems, which can make it difficult to ensure that all instruments on the boat are able to communicate with one another.

There is the Topline NKE proprietary  bus, the NMEA0183, the NMEA2000 bus and Ethernet. 

In addition to these challenges, I have also learned that there are different bus systems used for communication between navigation instruments on a boat. These bus systems can vary in terms of their speed, data capacity, and level of complexity. Understanding the different bus systems and how they work can be essential for ensuring that the updated navigation instruments are able to communicate effectively with one another.

Overall, the process of updating the navigation instruments on my boat has been a learning experience that has required me to be familiar with the technology and bus systems used in navigation instruments.

It all started with the depth sensor / depth sounder

It all began with the depth sensor. My Alubat ovni 435, which was built in 2001, came with a NKE navigation instrument and autopilot system already installed on board. However, I soon discovered that the depth sensor from NKE was no longer working. This prompted me to replace it with a new sensor from the same manufacturer.

However, I quickly realized that the new sensor generation had a different evaluation unit (electronic unit or interface) and was slightly larger in diameter. This meant that I had to drill a bigger hole in the hull in order to install the new sensor. Additionally, I had to figure out how to connect the new sensor’s electronic to the existing NKE bus and other sensors on the boat.

old depth and log sensor, 09-60-003-000 and 90-60-002-000

Drilling a bigger hole in the hull and add a new speed/log sensor

Drilling a bigger hole in the 8mm aluminum hull of my boat was not as difficult as I initially thought. To make the process easier, I created a wooden template to guide the hole saw and ensure that it was in the correct position. With the template in place and a powerful drill, it only took a few minutes for the hole saw to go through the aluminum. This process allowed me to install the new depth sensor without any major issues, in a few hours.


Connecting the new depth sensor electronics to the existing topline bus from NKE was more difficult than drilling the hole in the hull. The electronic box of the depth sensor is the same as for the speed sensor, so I had to replace the speed sensor with a newer version as well. Both sensors communicated with the rest of the navigation system over a Topline NKE bus. I used the old Topline cable and had just to change the plug at the end to fit the new electronic unit.

Also need a Garmin Chartplotter

The NKE devices communicated fine between each other on the topline bus just out of the box, but for the Garmin chartplotter some more steps have been necessary. The Garmin chartplotter uses NMEA2000, a different communication protocol and bus system which was not compatible with the Topline NKE bus. To make this work, a way had to be found to bridge the gap between the two systems. 

The Topline NKE proprietary bus is a type of communication bus developed and used by the company NKE for their electronic systems. It is a proprietary system, meaning it is owned and controlled by NKE and is not open to other manufacturers or users. It is used to connect and communicate between various electronic devices and systems on a boat.

In my next post, I will provide more information about the steps required to connect the Garmin chartplotter to the NKE electronic system on my boat.

also T-shirts for adventurer on the road at Le Coeur Vert Boutique

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