One of the first things people think about when they buy a used boat is whether and how to upgrade the electronics. These days, sounders, plotters, radars, and even radios more than a few years old have been outpaced by newer equipment. But when it comes to transducers for fishfinders and depthsounders — especially through-hull transducers — it’s not smart to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Most sounder transducers for all the big-name marine electronics manufacturers — Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, Raymarine, Simrad, Si-Tex, Standard-Horizon, you name it — are are made by Airmar Technology of Milford, New Hampshire. These transducers have been around a long time — they’re well-made, well-understood by the electronics people, and reliable.
So, what happens when you have a perfectly good Airmar transducer in your boat, but you want to upgrade the sounder or fishfinder it’s sending signals to, especially if the new piece of gear is from a different maker than the original? Chances are, the pin connectors at the end of the transducer cable aren’t going to match the connectors on the fancy new piece of electronics.
This happened to me a few years ago. I had a first-generation Furuno NavNet system with input from an Airmar depth/temp transducer going through a black box to the black-and-white Furuno head. I bought a new Garmin 545S plotter-sounder, and wanted the Airmar cable to bypass the black box and go directly to the sounder dongle that came on the Garmin cable. But the pin connections were all wrong.
After a fair amount of research (this is to save you the trouble) I got hold of Gemeco Marine Accessories in Lake City, SC. This company, formerly known as Gem Electronics, has long supplied aftermarket parts for Airmar equipment. Airmar bought the company in 2005, made it a subsidiary, and changed the name.
The Gemeco tech who took the call asked me to send photos of the connections in question. I e-mailed him digital photos of both ends of the problem, and he said they could probably make up an adaptor cable that would do the trick –but no guarantees. I gave him my credit card number, and the cable arrived in a couple of days. It worked perfectly, and has kept working ever since.
So if you’re scratching your head over how to handle communications between a reliable old transducer and a snazzy new sounder, check with the folks at Gemeco. Chances are good that they can make that match.