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Old 03-07-2013, 02:46 PM   #1
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I'm ready to start updating electronics on the boat. I am not sure how I want to configure my navigation requirements.

I have looked at chartplotters and different electronic charting systems, and I am keen to hear how other voyaging boats are set up.

Are you using a dedicated chartplotter, or have you put software into your computer instead? Is the computer a worthwhile option for blue water sailing given its relative delicacy and the problems of operating in a marine environment?

What charting system are you using and do you regularly update your electronic charts?

Which is the most cost effective method?

In my past voyaging escapades, I have used paper charts exclusively with a mix of traditional navigation and modern. (ie: I regularly plot positions on the chart according to the lat-long display on a small GPS).

I have paper charts of the South Pacific, but they have not been kept updated. I can either use chartplotting software and my old charts, or buy new charts and a GPS.

I look forward to your responses.
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:23 PM   #2
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Hey Auzzee,

I have paper charts, some quite old and not updated that I like to study, play with etc. I have a computer with MaxSea installed and hooked up to a Garmin 78SC hand held GPS with world base charts and full Australian charts installed. Loads of people use MaxSea including fishermen, trawlers, and other commercial operators as well as most of the yachties I know. Its easy to use, accurate and pretty reliable.

I just replaced the old laptop I was using as a plotter. It was 2003 vintage and I have been using it for the past 18 months on the boat without much trouble. The computer I replaced it with is a second hand ASUS lap top about 2 years old, I got for $100 bucks just yesterday in fact. I am loading it up with Max Sea as we speak. I have a spare laptop also about 2 years old that I bought off EBay for 80 bucks that also has MaxSea loaded on it. Both of these computers can go online and be used for anything I need computer and navigation wise. The longest I have had a laptop on the boat is about 2 years and lets face it, they are cheap to replace and I always carry 2 anyway.

I still cross reference with my paper charts cause I just like using charts. Oh I also have a Garmin 451s at my outside helm. It is a combined GPS and sounder, again with a world base map and full charts for Australia. I also use GRIB for weather predictions. I don't have HF radio, only VHF. I don't have AIS, radar or any of those other electronic toys.

Hope this helps you Auzzee ...

Lexx

It would be interesting to hear what others are using.
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:26 PM   #3
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Hi Auuzzee,

Haven't been on for a while. Wintering in Portland, UK as insurers wouldn't cover me single-handed across Biscay after 1st November.

I always have paper charts with me. They are 100% reliable as long as you have a sextant or a cheap GPS for lat/long fix. The hard bits on the charts rarely move so even out of date they get you close enough to then rely on a Visual and soundings.

For the first time I've fitted a plotter. Only a Garmin 750. I've put it in the cockpit as single-handing it makes sense.

I have a Garmin instrument head next to the chart table with lat/long, depth and speed.

A Garmin 600 AIS, which is brilliant and was recently showing me all the big stuff heading my way from a distance of 38 miles!

A Garmin HD radar which you can overlay on the plotter.

A Garmin 200i VHF. Now this is clever. Because they all patch in, I can press the AIS shown vessel icon on the plotter and it will raise the bridge of the said ship without having to type the MMSI number in. Which, short-handed and in poor conditions is a real bonus.

A small cheap hand-held and lots of batteries as an emergency fixer.

And finally, an IPad which you can now get charts for to use as a secondary plotter at the chart table. This is in one of those protective and waterproof casings to make it 'boat' proof.

I know it's a few pounds worth but hopefully it will last a few years. The old instruments were the best part of 20 years old.

All the best

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Old 03-08-2013, 03:27 AM   #4
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Hi Auzzee
Good topic and interesting discussion so far.

Honey Bee is kitted out with a very much roll your own system with a few interchangeable bits.

We use an ASUS Eeebox as the main PC. This is a very small, 12v PC. Ours runs on Windows XP. It uses very little power, so on passage it just runs continuously. Its not marinised in any way, so it is quite cheap, but you wouldn't want to splash it.

We run a fairly standard 20" flatscreen monitor as a display on the chart table. Its big enough to see from the steering position. The monitor came with an external power supply, which we replaced with a 12 volt laptop power supply, enabling us to avoid going up to 240v and then back to the monitor voltage. We use the same supply to charge laptops. The monitor sucks power, so it is often left off if we are not looking at it. With the PC running, it all fires up in seconds.

We run a Keyspan 4 port adapter which converts RS-232 to USB. That enables us to connect GPS, AIS and a Pactor modem to the PC.

GPS is an old Garmin, but one of the little hockey puck ones works fine as well and is carried as a spare. The AIS is a SR161 receiver only. The Pactor lives with an ICOM 801e.

On the PC we generally run OpenCPN. Great little open source chart plotter. GPS and AIS display on it fine.

If the ASUS were to die, we have a couple of laptops all loaded with the same software and can plug either straight into the system.

If the power goes completely, we have a handheld GPS with a bag of batteries to feed it. We carry a lot of old charts, but don't often refer to them except for planning.

If the North Koreans nuke the GPS system, then we might not want to find land anyway, but if we do it will be by dead reckoning because I've been leaving the sextant at home.

We've been running variations of this for 3 years now and it has included 3 trips to Port Davey, a run to New Cal, with a circumnavigation of the Grande Terre and a run to the Whitsundays and back to Hobart.

I'm thinking of adding a Tablet with Navionics before we head off again.
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Old 03-08-2013, 05:47 AM   #5
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Second hand Panasonic Toughbook laptop bought on eBay. They are pretty much the only laptops I'd take out to sea and they are plentiful on eBay.

Runs Ubuntu Linux and OpenCPN. I have the '93 set of CMAP world charts and some other free charts I downloaded from various places (the OpenCPN forums have links to the free charts). It takes a NMEA feed from my TackTick instruments and Garmin GPS as well as has a separate USB dongle type GPS as a backup. I have a second spare laptop running SOB software with more recent CMAP charts covering Australia/Pacific only, shoved in a closet.

I also have a tablet with Navionics software and charts on it (the navionics charts for tablets are much cheaper than the PC or chartplotter versions) which I can cart around the place with me, and of course a closet full of paper charts of various places and vintages.

If in doubt I have a depth sounder, compass, night scope and a mk.1 eyeball.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:44 AM   #6
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A Furuno 1650d gps Chartplotter with cmap wide. Back that up with a furuno gp30 and use charts with that to set way points and tracks or just place us on the chart.
Seperate furuno depth sounder. They can all talk to each other via nmea but I have never bothered. An old sextant which I use now and again to see how far I used to be off...
Have SOB on an eepc with a gps mouse That is a back up and a hand held navman again in case. And a Autohelm 2000 that sort of nearly on a good day maybe hold a course.....sometimes....
Have used and seen a lot of better systems, Comes down to money I spose and the fact I dont like all my eggs in one basket..
Lot of good second hand chartplotters for sale and most land masses have'nt moved to much lately.
It becomes a choice thing...We wander up and down the west coast and have only gone oops a couple of times....My wife says if it isnt on a chart I will find it ...
Take your time and then learn what you get so, at that oh so important moment you dont need the weather to pause as you read your manual.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:23 PM
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:47 AM   #7
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I was so resistant to chartplotters that my "new" (since getting MV Watermelon) attitude seemed almost hypocritical to me. Yet the greater speed of this power cat almost demanded that we have a chart plotter.

Because the chartplotter that came with this boat is, IMO, useless, I used charting software on my laptop computer. OpenCPN and Maptech have worked very well.

Had we had computer charting back when we were in Malaysia on SV Watermelon, our trip back to Singapore after lightning wiped out practically everything electronic/electrical on the boat might have been a bit less stressful - LIGHTNING STRIKE AND SAILING BACK TO SINGAPORE

However, I firmly believe that paper charts and a hand-held GPS are a vital backup resource. A sextant is a great thing to have for offshore backup, but you need a good time source as well as clear weather to use it effectively, and you still need paper charts. Better to have two hand-held GPS's and a good supply of alkaline batteries. As much as I like rechargeable batteries, they lose their charge when stored, so you could need them desperately and not have enough charge to help you.

I don't believe that offshore passagemaking requires the most up-to-date charts except in areas of seismic activity, such as Tonga, and even in that area there are resources on line to update existing charts for hazards.

I haven't been successful in setting up Peter's tablet computer for navigation, but I think it would be a wonderful way to go - you could keep it waterproofed while in the cockpit and have it right there for coastal and harbor navigation. It works really well for automobile navigation, where speeds are so much greater than on a boat, so it's just a matter of finding good software, methinks.





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Old 03-11-2013, 12:31 PM   #8
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JeanneP, You may want to look at a couple of programs, One is Software on Board by Digiboat and the other is OziExplorer which is able to be used on board or in a vehicle on land. I have both and find them to be useful...Both have the same as most chartplotters do. I use a Eepc and a Bu 353 usb mouse. Also have a four usb hub so AIS and depth sounder can be connected using nmea 0183.
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:16 PM   #9
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Thanks, but those are for PCs, and the tablet(s) we have are Android. OpenCPN is really very good for me here in the US since NOAA charts are free to download.

I've got a few Android apps that supposedly will work with nautical charts, but they're not exactly what I want, yet. My problem with PC programs right now is that this new PC I have is Windows 8 and neither of my two GPS' work with it, and I can't find a driver to fix the problem. (and Windows 8 is a bit punitive when one makes a mistake in setup - my major problem with the @#$%#^%& thing right now. I think I really hate Windows 8 - this is the first OS that I've had to ask for help from experts in order to sort out the problems. If I had more patience [as I age patience is in shorter and shorter supply] I might be better able to sort it all out, but I resent the time it is demanding.)

One of the problems with us is that I never know what I need to carry with me from our summer house in New Jersey down to the boat, now in Florida, so stuff I need right now is in NJ and I'm in FL and I hate to have any more duplicates than I already have. But I expect to solve some of these problems in the next few weeks.

Thanks for the suggestions - Software on Board looks useful.
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:23 PM   #10
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Simply reformat your PC with the version of windows you like best... I use 2 PC's for navigation, one main unit and a back up and have reformatted both for Windows XP Second Edition as my MaxSea seems to love that best. I also get my Grib weather predictions and tide charts on it without problem... I don't need hight power processing for the most part so am happy
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:54 PM   #11
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OziExplorer has an android version as well, We have tested the software on the following devices.
  • HTC Hero - Android 2.1 (288MB ram) (320 x 480 screen)
  • Superpad 2 / Flytouch 3 - Android 2.2 (512MB ram) (1024 x 600 screen)
  • ZTE V9 - Android 2.2 (512MB ram) (800 x 480 screen)
  • Samsung Galaxy S - Android 2.2 (304 MB ram) (480 x 800 screen)
  • + many others
  • May be helpful
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Old 03-14-2013, 01:57 AM   #12
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We use a laptop with CM93 and google KAP charts on OpenCPN. Also we generally use Navigatrix when on passages. Have big paper planning charts for the oceans, got rid of the paper charts in 2003.
We started with an Ocean PC laptop in 1999, it literally fell to pieces in 2010, then a little MSI netbook and now a Panasonic Toughbook. Also have all Nav software on our general purpose internet PC. Of course Navigatrix is on a usb stick and can run from any PC.
We feed NMEA from 2 GPS's, Autopilot, Log and depth sounder into a multiplexer and from there into a PC and our Radar. Also have modified an old VHF and feed AIS data into PC.
I don't think it really matters what method/software/paper etc you choose, as long as you know what you are doing and pay attention to what you are doing.
The best nav technology in the world won't stop a sleepy sailor from running aground.
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Old 03-15-2013, 04:04 AM   #13
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I have 2 dedicated chart plotters, one a Garmin (nearly useless charts in the Pacific) and the other a Raymarine plotter/radar. Both easily viewed from inside or out in the cockpit. I also use a laptop and I recommend you try this method. Software is readily available, sometimes free, and you can plug in a simple USB GPS, all you will ever need. You can also do AIS at the same time. Most cruisers have a set of electronic charts for the world.... just ask around. Also you can better track total boat management (fuel useage, speed versus wind direction and heading, etc.) You can easily tie your entire boat (anything NMEA) into your laptop.
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Old 03-15-2013, 08:25 AM   #14
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ut-oh, I'm going to have to see if my usb gps will work with Windows8. I just got a new notebook computer--a tiny thing the size of a netbook but with an intel i5 processor so it's powerful enough to do anything needed. It has Windows8 and I hate that OS. I was going to just dual boot with ubuntu to enable my use of Polar Navy (Polar View) which I like much more than OpenCPN (we have that too). I just loaded the program on but haven't plugged in the GPS.

We're taking off for a month of coastal cruising along the California Coast. We're in San Francisco and we're heading to San Diego to cheer on an east coast friend's daughter during her rowing competition at university there in SoCal..and then we're sailing back up after the competition. We'll try to hit some different anchorages along the way since we've begun to turn this into a well-worn trail up and down the California coastline. It's only about 1200 miles of sailing round trip and with pretty stopping points along the way.

If I can't get a GPS working with the new notebook computer I'll be bummed. We still have two other "standard" navigation tools--one is our Nokia N810 which runs Maemo mapper and NOAA charts on it, the other is the Standard Horizon radio that has AIS/GPS. I typically take the GPS readings from the radio and plot them on the paper charts and then doublecheck looking at the little Nokia N810. The N810 is old but slender (like an iPhone) and fits in a pocket. It has a much better screen than most small devices which is why we keep using it.

I'll check and see if my Windows8 accepts GPS tomorrow.
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