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Old 11-11-2009, 07:26   #31
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One vote for a chartplotter

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Originally Posted by kcmarcet View Post
I just bought my first chart of the local area today, so what are the pros and cons of using charts, compass and landmarks vs gps/chartplotter for coastal sailing. I don't know if I want to invest the money in a chartplotter for a little daysailer/sail dinghy.
You should certainly have paper charts, rulers, dividers, and a compass on board and know how to use them. However, I very strongly recommend getting a handheld gps with chart display. A daysailer lacks a nice dry nav station where you can keep the chart spread out. When you are sitting in 20 knot wind, drizzle or heavy rain, with next to no visibility, you will appreciate being able to see your location at a glance without trying to fiddle with your dividers, rulers, and the chart held in your lap. You should learn and practice this skill, but it is no longer the preferred way to navigate in a coastal area among rocks, shoals, and other hazards. A handheld gps with chartplotting capability is small, inexpensive, and it provides a very substantial increase in safety in a small boat in bad weather.

I have learned to sail in daysailers in the Boston Harbor, navigating with a hockey puck style compass, a chart, rulers, and dividers. Looking back at those days, I'm amazed we survived.
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Old 11-11-2009, 08:32   #32
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Wow! As an old navigator and celestial nav instructor, I'm amazed and much heartened by all the responses above which strongly point to learning the basic charting and piloting skills FIRST. And here I thought most boaters out there today were just mindless button-pushers :-)

Go with the paper charts. Buy a set of dividers and parallel rules. A good hand-bearing compass is very important, too. The better binoculars with built-in compasses can serve this purpose, and do so very well.

Since you already have a handheld GPS, this is a good opportunity to practice plotting your lat/lons taken from the GPS onto the chart, i.e., locating your current position on the paper chart. This serves a couple of purposes....helping you become familiar with the GPS and with lat/lon coordinates, and helping you find these on a paper chart. Also, you can practice your piloting skills without using the GPS then, enroute, check your plots against the GPS-indicated position.

Dedicated chart plotters can be a useful aide, too, and offer many positive features. However, they come with certain drawbacks as well. One of these, mentioned above, is that they usually don't show all the detail...particularly the shore detail...found on paper charts. Also, many are based on vector charts which have been digitized by hand and contain errors of comission and omission. Also, they don't look like paper charts...different colors, renditions, markings, etc. That's why I much prefer raster charts which are exact copies of paper charts, and use them with a laptop computer rather than a dedicated chartplotter. However, this really isn't practical for a small boat.

So, for the time being, I'd go with paper charts and using them in conjunction with the handheld GPS to gain familiarity and navigational skills.

Bill
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Old 11-11-2009, 09:25   #33
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Old 11-11-2009, 15:32   #34
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Lots of good advice and wise remarks in here!!

We learned our original navigation and piloting skills with a few charts, handheld compass, dividers and parallel rules on a daysailor on the Chesapeake. The good thing was that if (when) we went aground it was just soft mud and we'd crank up the centerboard and sail off. But it was great experience. I only wish I'd taken a couple of good navigation classes before I developed some bad habits.

I'd buy a few charts and a pretty good compass and a navigation "kit" with parallel rules and divider and start there. But you can probably plug your handheld GPS into your laptop and find free software and maybe even free charts for your local area and start to learn the GPS skills as you go. If you search through the forums you'll find several threads about charting software. Take some classes. There are several "favorite" books for learning to navigate. I was given Chapman several years ago and I like it. And Bowditch is available for free somewhere on the internet. I downloaded it but I can't remember the exact site. It is the oldtimer's bible of navigation.

In the end though, for piloting with good weather coastal sailing, you've got to rely on your eyes, weather reports, and some sense. Just takes a little experience and a few mistakes to learn how.
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Old 11-11-2009, 16:41   #35
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... And Bowditch is available for free somewhere on the internet. I downloaded it but I can't remember the exact site. It is the oldtimer's bible of navigation...
On my site I have copies for download of:
  • The American Practical Navigator #9 - 2002 - Bowditch (40 mb)
  • Armchair Clestial Navigator - 2002 - Farley (1 mb)
There are other versions out there, but I can't remember where I got these, much less where the others are.

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Old 11-11-2009, 21:01   #36
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People may point out that occaisionally, there is an error on the chartplotter. This is true, but where does the chartplotter get its information? Another chart, of course! Paper charts have errors as well, and last I checked, they don't recieve firmware updates.

I imagine that my setup isn't atypical. I have a cockpit chartplotter, and down below (seperate), a laptop tethered to a newish handheld GPS. In addition, I have in a locker, an older model handheld GPS. And now, in addition to all that, I have my iphone with GPS and chartplotter. What are the odds of simultaneous failure?

And be honest... if your cockpit chartplotter is telling you something that doesn't look right, are you more comfortable relying on your own nav skills, than in flipping on a backup and redundant instrument?

And what is more likely to be in error... you or a chartplotter?

I took terrestrial and celestial nav at the MMA back in the 90's. I do appreciate that it takes a while to get the hang of it, and it's a very cool and salty exercise. I'd also say that it's becoming increasingly obsolete (like the lead-line and the signal flags).
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Old 11-11-2009, 21:38   #37
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In Canada, it is a requirement - check your national laws

Quote:
Originally Posted by kcmarcet View Post
I just bought my first chart of the local area today, so what are the pros and cons of using charts, compass and landmarks vs gps/chartplotter for coastal sailing. I don't know if I want to invest the money in a chartplotter for a little daysailer/sail dinghy.
Quote:
CARRIAGE OF CHARTS, DOCUMENTS AND
PUBLICATIONS

4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the master and owner
of every ship shall have on board, in respect of each
area in which the ship is to be navigated, the most recent
editions of the charts, documents and publications that
are required to be used under sections 5 and 6.
(2) The master and owner of a ship of less than 100
tons are not required to have on board the charts, documents
and publications referred to in subsection (1) if
the person in charge of navigation has sufficient knowledge
of the following information, such that safe and efficient
navigation in the area where the ship is to be navigated
is not compromised:
(a) the location and character of charted
(i) shipping routes,
(ii) lights, buoys and marks, and
(iii) navigational hazards; and
(b) the prevailing navigational conditions, taking into
account such factors as tides, currents, ice and weather
patterns.
Chartplotters, on startup, have a disclaimer.

Jack
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Old 11-11-2009, 23:05   #38
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Charts in the cockpit

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Originally Posted by anotherT34C View Post
......Paper charts can get blown out of the cockpit, or get obscured by coffee/hot chocolate stains. They're okay for playing Sinbad the Sailor....
I suggest using the sea kayaker's trick for viewing paper charts in the cockpit, yet protecting them from from the elements. Get a see through map case (sold anyplace that caters to kayakers) to keep the chart inside. These are clear sided vinal with a zip lock seal on one side, and have some tabs or D rings on the margins to secure it against the wind. They aren't real big (about 22 by 16 inches) so you will have to fold the chart so the part you are interested in shows.

The learning advantage (when sailing near shore) is that you can be looking at the chart all the time. This enables you to see how buoys, daymarks, ranges, etc are portrayed on the chart and compare them with the real thing. Likewise, you can get a feel for how other landmarks look in real life and how they are portrayed on the chart.

This eyeball training will be valuable when you want take bearings to plot fixes. You will find it easier to be sure you are aiming your bearing compass at the right feature! You will need to take the chart out of the case to do the actual plotting however.

I second the recommendation for the "Annapolis Book of Seamanship" by Rousmaniere. Another excellent book specifically about chart reading is "How to Read a Nautical Chart" by Nigel Calder. It has a wealth of illustrations, and a lot of valuable background on how charts are made. Calder also gives a lot of good info on GPS systems.
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Old 14-11-2009, 04:44   #39
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The answer is not "either/or" but "both/and".
My approach too. I use electronic and paper charts to pre-plan passages, and use GPS moving map as primary navigation aid under way. On longer runs I plot GPS fixes periodically on the paper chart bleow and keep a hand-bearing compass handy. I keep paper charts in vinyl envelopes if I need them in the cockpit. I advise boaters to learn paper chart navigation before learning electronic charting, but that usually falls on deaf ears.
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Old 14-11-2009, 05:15   #40
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I advise boaters to learn paper chart navigation before learning electronic charting, but that usually falls on deaf ears.

What??????????



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Old 14-11-2009, 05:31   #41
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You should have a paper chart and rely on it - and have a handheld GPS as well.

For well under $100 you can buy a used basic unit (like the Etrex) that will give you an instant Lat/Lon. One with mapping capability can be had used for under $150. like the Extrex Legend or CX.

I've used a handheld for years and find that they are much more versatile than a fixed chart plotter.

Paper and a handheld is a win win. While many will say that you don't need a GPS at all, I'd point out that the ability to place yourself accurately on a chart (maybe at night or in a squall as well) is well worth the modest investment in a unit.
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Old 14-11-2009, 06:18   #42
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That's my plan, I powered up my Magellan handheld the other day for the first time in at least a year to check it out. It has a nice lat&long screen and an electronic compass in addition to mapping capabilities. I will use both and learn to use paper charts along the way. Seems like a good skill to know.
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Old 14-11-2009, 06:38   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anotherT34C View Post
I imagine that my setup isn't atypical. I have a cockpit chartplotter, and down below (seperate), a laptop tethered to a newish handheld GPS. In addition, I have in a locker, an older model handheld GPS. And now, in addition to all that, I have my iphone with GPS and chartplotter. What are the odds of simultaneous failure?

It doesn't matter how many GPSs you have if the failure is at the other end.

While I believe the chances of a GPS system failure is quite small, it is a complex electronic system and we all know that electronics never fail and no one has ever made a programming error, solar flares never occur, and funding is always enough and on time.

2006 failure of GPS due to solar flare:
Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | GPS significantly impacted by powerful solar radio burst

Air Force behind schedule on replacing GPS satellites:
Potential of GPS Failure Overblown, Says Air Force, Vendors

I trust and rely on GPS, but I have my charts and compass as well.

John
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Old 14-11-2009, 07:15   #44
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That's my plan, I powered up my Magellan handheld the other day for the first time in at least a year to check it out. It has a nice lat&long screen and an electronic compass in addition to mapping capabilities.
I trust your unit has a true fluxgate compass built in, rather than a "compass-like" course display derived from gps position data (common on many hand-held and fixed-mount gps units). The latter can be very difficult if not impossible to steer by. In any case, I recommend getting a simple old fashioned magnetic compass mounted in the cockpit of your daysailer somewhere where you can easily see it and steer by. This is in addition to a hand-held gps with a chart display, which I also highly recommend.
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Old 14-11-2009, 07:25   #45
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I am not sure of the type of compass the handheld GPS has, but the daysailor came with a rather nice looking Ritchie compass already installed in the cockpit. I rather like the idea of having redundancies on my boat. Especially mechanical backups to electrical/electronic systems.
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