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Old 09-11-2009, 15:03   #1
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Charts and Compass vs GPS / Chartplotter

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.
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Old 09-11-2009, 15:55   #2
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stay with the chart and buy chart publication number 1, to help you understand what are the features on the chart, then after plotting using DR's and shooting bearings etc. then buy the chart plotter.
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Old 09-11-2009, 16:23   #3
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I use charts first and GPS as a backup. A chartplotter is really a luxury. Become a sailor first, then you can be a tourist if you want to be. Of course you will need much more than a chart, but a compass to do fixes, and other tools can be had second hand and cheaply.
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Old 09-11-2009, 16:23   #4
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I find that if there's any question in your mind as to whether you need a particular piece of gear, you probably don't . I've always found a chart and compass plenty for local, coastal day sailing and the like. After a while, you'll get so familiar with your waters you'll only need to check the chart from time to time. The GPS could be nice it you were in an area that involved losing sight of land for awhile at times, especially if fog or strong currents were involved. A little hand-held GPS could be an intermediate option, too. Might also be useful for hiking or driving depending on which one you get, just make sure it's waterproof . The little GPS's do have frustratingly small screens for trying to read charts on, though, and I think some don't support marine charts, so check that.

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Old 09-11-2009, 17:15   #5
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little daysailer/sail dinghy.
Paper chart. You don't go far enough to need to convert from local landmarks to lat and lon.



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Old 09-11-2009, 17:31   #6
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Agree with everyone above. Now buy a hand bearing compass and basic plotting tools, then read the Annapolis Book of Seamanship on basic pilotage, etc. These basic skills work for you even when the chart plotter is running. Better still, they allows you to turn the darned thing off!

One reason to buy a plotter sooner may be if you sail in the vicinity of lots of rocks or complex sand banks ... then maybe buy a plotter but still make sure you get the basic skills to back it up.
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Old 09-11-2009, 17:41   #7
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Chartplotters don't always provide all the information that you'll find on charts. For example, you may not be able to find bridge clearances.

And sometimes that's important info.
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Old 09-11-2009, 19:41   #8
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I've never met a bad sailor who could do DR, had paper charts, has a hand bearing compass in the cockpkit, and knows how to use a sextant.

I've met a lot of terrible mariners that have chart plotters.

Both would be best I'm sure, but if you have to go one route, go with the one that forces you to learn what's going on and doesn't take anything for granted.
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Old 09-11-2009, 19:58   #9
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And spend the extra money for a hockey puck compass. There are no lubber lines, you just sight across the top and read the bearing directly. This is so much easier to get a bearing than trying to line up the sights then quickly read the compass before it's off.

I just saw an ad for a Ritchie compass advertising to be a hockey puck compass. Well it's puck shaped, but it has lubber lines and does not have the infinity focus prism on the type of compass I'm talking about, so beware of what I consider to be a scam advertisement.

John
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Old 09-11-2009, 20:18   #10
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A hand-held GPS can be had for under $200. I wouldn't bother with an expensive plotter for your use.

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, but it's proper to have a good reliable GPS as a backup, and to know how to use it.
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Old 09-11-2009, 20:58   #11
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A hand-held GPS can be had for under $200. I wouldn't bother with an expensive plotter for your use.

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, but it's proper to have a good reliable GPS as a backup, and to know how to use it.
I've never lost a chart. Never stained one bad enough to render it unusable. And I've never had the batteries die on a paper chart, either.

Admittedly, I've never had a GPS fail, and never run out of batteries for the backup, either.

I have both. But if for some reason I could only have one, I'd take the paper. On the other hand, if I only had paper, I think I'd stay at the dock until I got the electronics working.

Another thing, read my page on Chart Errors. I still maintain you can't properly or safely use a chartplotter or GPS until you know how to properly use paper charts. Ya just gotta know the limitations.

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Old 09-11-2009, 21:31   #12
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Will you also not leave the dock unless you have a proper kit of signal flags to back up your VHF?
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Old 09-11-2009, 22:06   #13
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Will you also not leave the dock unless you have a proper kit of signal flags to back up your VHF?
I got a bunch of old ratty t-shirts for that. So, proper? No, I guess not...
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:26   #14
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DR's?

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then after plotting using DR's and shooting bearings etc.
DR's=dead reckonings?
shooting bearings?
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Old 10-11-2009, 06:28   #15
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Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking as well. I can't see myself ever losing sight of land, barring some sort of accident and getting caught in the gulf stream.
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