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Old 18-10-2009, 20:09   #1
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First Chartplotter - Recommendations?

New boat has nothing but basic electronics so Iím beginning the arduous task of researching and weighing the options versus what we can afford.

Most sailing will be in a bay with an occasional offshore trip and hopefully some coastal cruising.

i prefer something where the systems can be layered on, weather, radar, etc.

so far Iíve looked at the Raymarines and the Garmins. no particular model as Iím still not up to speed on their capabilities.

Just like to hear some opinions.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 18-10-2009, 20:27   #2
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I got a Garmin 545- chartplotter/fishfinder. Pretty happy with it. Super basic and easy to use.
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Old 18-10-2009, 21:38   #3
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I'm really happy with my Standard Horizon Plotter .It's linked to a ICOM Vhf a Sitex radar and a Comnav autopilot. Integrates effortlessly using NEMA so all kinds of brands of gear will be compatible. Great warranty and a reputable company. I also prefer the CMap charts it uses. A lot of bang for the buck.
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Old 19-10-2009, 02:48   #4
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I got a Garmin 545- chartplotter/fishfinder. Pretty happy with it. Super basic and easy to use.
I'd second this if your normal cruising ground is in the USA.

I don't have one, myself, but I've had several Garmins, and after research, the 545 is what I'd buy if I was in the market right now. However, my main focus is working on a PC based system. Once I start cruising, if the 545 is still the best bet, it's what I'd get as a backup.

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Old 19-10-2009, 05:17   #5
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Garmin charts are very expensive. If you are going to cruise long distances away you have to open a new section of charts. for intance On the West coast of the North America you need one set of charts for Alaska, another for Canada, a third for Seattle (I think this goes to North Oregon border) and then another for SF and Nor Cal then another for So Cal and then even more for Mexico. My advice find the charts you are going to use and then decide which plotter you are going to use.
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Old 19-10-2009, 06:13   #6
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I'd go Garmin. I've used most of the major plotters out there, and in terms of simplicity, user friendliness, intuitive layout/setup and functionality....Garmin takes it, almost hands down.

Personally, Raymarine is pretty low on my list. Just my opinion anyway.

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Old 19-10-2009, 06:51   #7
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The answer to this question depends on the boat and how you sail, where you sail etc.

My own experience with digitial chartwork is limited to the Standard Horizon 170CP and the Raymarine C80 on my own boat, a PC based system on an offshore delivery and the Garmin PDA IQue 3600 and the iPhone Navionics.

I don't steer from the helm unless the weather demands ie works the autopilot too hard, or it's just glorious fun sailing. I also sail single handed (wife doesn't do much but provide company, some watch keeping and meal prep).

I have a large navstation where the two plotters are mounted and GPS repeaters in the cockpit dash above the companionway. The Ray is set up with radar and AIS.

I don't do route planning, as in set a bunch of waypoints to follow. I do enter a waypoint and save them to a library and select one from the library if it exists. The Ray C80 is the main nav unit, the 170cp is the back up. The Ray drives the repeaters.

The Ique stays in the cockpit under the dodger - it's not really meant to be exposed to the elements. It's also tethered to a 12v power point because it's battery sucks.

The iQue gets the most eyeball time and is actually USED differently than the C80.

For navigation the I enter a waypoint into the C80 at the navstation and return to the cockpit until I reach the waypoint and then go below to set the next waypoint. The repeaters tell me the progress to the waypoint - XTE, DTW, CTW, COG, SOG, TTG etc.

The handheld PDA (Garmin) has a heading/course line which extends to infinity showing where we are "aimed at". I use this reference line as I adjust the autopilot course. If I need to aim between two buoys such as green to port , red to stbd I turn the AP until the course-heading line show we'll pass mid point between the red and green on the iQue chart.

The feature I like MOST about the iQue is the touch screen which allows me to zoom to any area by drawing a marquee with the stylus or or pan with it. It also has stepped zoom levels. None of the plotters I know have the touch screen marquee feature - All have stepped zoom scales.

The Ray and the Horizon have complex poor user interfaces. Ray is ESPECIALLY bad. You have to drive down into often counter intuitive menus to find commands. I've had it 4 years and still can't find commands. It crashes on occasion too.

The Garmin Blue charts look the most like NOAA charts and are very clearn and readable especially for such a small screen. Ray's navionics come in second and the Cmap for the older 17OCP last

The Navionics iPhone has problems, or maybe I can't get it to work. It maintains the same north up no matter which way the phne is held. And it seems to be slow to redraw and lacking features. The charting is web based so it's not as fast on redraw as Garmin and the battery is a big problem as well. But as a web based instrument it offers other neat features.

Decide where you need to see the plotter and put it there. If you are at the helm all the time, put it there. Consider a something like the iQue which seems augment your eyes on watch allowing you to compare what you see with a chart showing where you are and where you're headed.

Avoid autopilot driven by plotters. More complexity, not terribly safe

Consider basic GPS below decks at the nav station with NMEA output to fixed mount visible cockpit repeaters AND a hand held plotter visible from your steering / watch station.

Ray MFD has the interesting feature of being able to overlay radar and AIS on charts. That's a good feature. However, avoid Raymarine - expensive, poor GUI. You might find this in less expensive units.
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Old 19-10-2009, 07:34   #8
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My raymarine system (c80, AIS, Auto-pilot, Log, sounder, wind and wireless controller/repeater) has been rock solid and I really like it. Having said that - I have used my $200 Garmin Handheld monochrome unit to sail most of the east coast of australia, its a not a plotter but it "maps" the waypoints. The garmin has been ultra reliable, and coupled with some software at home (I use GPSNAVX on a MAc) its easy to manage waypoints and routes. I could actually use just that, and charts (which I have on the boat in one form or another anyway).

Next boat will have a MAC Mini based PC system with big screen monitors in appropriate locations and bluetooth keyboard. Minimal installed instruments.
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Old 19-10-2009, 08:26   #9
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thanks for the replies.

i have done a bit of offshore racing using a raymarine. defjef, yes our system was able to overlay radar, chart, and AIS. i do like that option and very handy at times. although sometimes the radar was not lining up just right with the chart which caused some confusion.

-do garmins not have tihs overlay feature?

The PC based systems. what is the simple explanation of them? simply and basic gps/charting device ran through a pc?

thanks again.
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Old 19-10-2009, 09:05   #10
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Garmin charts are very expensive. If you are going to cruise long distances away you have to open a new section of charts. for intance On the West coast of the North America you need one set of charts for Alaska, another for Canada, a third for Seattle (I think this goes to North Oregon border) and then another for SF and Nor Cal then another for So Cal and then even more for Mexico. My advice find the charts you are going to use and then decide which plotter you are going to use.
Some of the Garmins, I know the 540 and 545, come pre-loaded with all of the U.S. charts including Alaska, and the Bahamas.
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Old 19-10-2009, 09:16   #11
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My electronics are a " little antiquated " themselves....... so over time I may be in the need of some input.

The Garmin 545s is what I bought, however, my brand new Garmin 545s malfunctioned while offshore. It had us increasingly off course over a period of fifteen hours. When the GPS told us we were way off course after my watch, I said that was impossible, I knew what kind of course I kept via the compass. I suggested that there was something wrong with the G.P.S. and I was laughed at. The sentiment was that it was the "helms-person", me, who was not staying on course, not the G.P.S. I insisted and when it was checked, sure enough, there was a problem. There should be a whole new thread on the reliance on technology and the dangers of such, at sea!

The funny part of this, is that when I contacted Garmin to inquire as to if there were any known problems/defects with the 545s, the woman told me that the G.P.S., is only meant for recreational use and perhaps I needed to update my software. huh??? When I further questioned her, she got really defensive and said to me and I quote " You want to talk to a man , don't you", I said no, I just would like to talk to someone who might have a little bit more information, thats all. I tried to explain to her that sense of being lost at sea with your child aboard, as a mother was not particularly comforting. I just wanted some information, thats all.....
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Old 19-10-2009, 12:16   #12
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GPS is now very inexpensive and there is no reason not to have several as back ups to at least provide lat lon data for plotting a fix.

The type of gear you use will depend on your budget, space, where and how you sail. There is no best plotter.

PCs offer lots of power to the user, but they consume lots of battery power and most laptops can't remain on continuously on an offshore passage where you would have to generate 50-80 amps over a 24hr period just to keep the laptop charged.

The same goes for big bright displays - power hogs.
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Old 20-10-2009, 15:40   #13
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Willow, that is very interesting. I had mine do funky things when it started to loose a signal (or many of them). I have had the Raymarine do the same, and put me 5 miles from where I was. I don't trust them entirely, I have charts and all the goodies for coastal charting within arms reach.
In fact, I should state here that I use their charts, compare with my paper charts and use their GPS only as a backup to my coastal fixes. That way, when it malfunctions nobody is in a panic. (That is what happened on a charter boat just navigating Boca Gorda, Florida.) GPS is under certain conditions, unreliable. (there I said it- now I am ready for the flames)
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Old 21-10-2009, 08:24   #14
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Thank god someone else said the dreaded " unreliable" word, Newt....

There is a need for a ď civilĒ discussion amongst all who consider themselves sailors about the security and reliance we have on maritime technology.

Defjet made an assumption that there was no back up navigational system on board, and then he went on to reprimand, judge and convict us with his words of wisdom ďthere is no excuse..."

The point was simple. When the G.P.S. system malfunctioned the natural reaction was to ASSUME that it was the helmsman. The G.P.S. was considered infallible. On my previous watch four hours earlier, I questioned the G.P.Sís accuracy, but I was not confident, nor confident enough to assert my suspicions strongly enough at that time.

For the record, there was a hand held Garmin G.P.S. Gee, a GARMIN back up system just having had my NEW MAIN system crash was not about to make me feel particularly secure. The antique PAPER chart (1992) with an adjustment or two did manage to get us to New York. Mind you, there was so much fog and then our back up G.P.S. system was on the blitz. The two compasses were twenty degrees off from each other and the engine was about to die.

At sea, it was the rising and setting sun in relationship to my boat that gave me some peace of mind that I would hit land, somewhere at some point. Three days after the main G.P.S. went down a ship verified our position and it was then that we had conformation that the hand held was accurate. Grant it, the ship informed us that we had another problem. Iíll save that one for another day.

The purpose of my post was to generate some intelligent and healthy discussion about our reliance on technology as sailors. Its time to raise some questions, particularly with climate change and the affects it has on our oceans, consequently, our weather systems. Are basic seaman skills being tossed over board in lieu of our reliance and faith in these technologies?

The technology is enabling people like this 16 year old to develop the confidence to undertake risks like soloing around the globe. Is this the direction we really want to go? One could argue that there are already too many sailors out there who do not have the necessary skills but have all the gadgets. Bash talked about the importance of watches and the critical role they play in safety issues. Have sailors become complacent and cavalier about the primal importance of watches? Are they becoming too reliant on their bells and whistles?

Osirissail tried to give some advice rooted in common to those endlessly debating the Colregs. Stay out of the GOD DAMN WAY. Grant it fell on deaf ears for some. Are basic seaman skills being lost in the mirage of our modern paradigm?

No one is suggesting that every sailor master the art of celestial. Though I am thinking I should, (at least attempt to) and I have strongly suggested to my son that he MUST become proficient in celestial. Maybe he will be the youngest to sail with a goat around the world, using only a SEXTON!!

I made the fateful mistake on the first day out and said, ď gee, what happened to the good ole daysĒ before G.P.S., autopilot and so on. The ďOcean GodsĒ took it upon themselves to show me what it was like. I think they thought I was a Viking Ship, but I forgot my oars!

Learning to pee in a bucket while holding the helm in varied conditions was no great aspiration of mine. Yet, I am very artful at it now. Running the Hudson, Erie Canal and crossing lake Ontario with your 17& 8-year-old kids as your only crew made that portion of the trip seem much longer than it is.

Iíve deemed the autopilot an essential service on my boat. Any recommendations for a solid, strong, reliable, infallible autopilot?
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Old 21-10-2009, 18:25   #15
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Willow- are you pushing all my buttons at once man? I am going to get another soapbox and put it on the one I am already standing on.
I am a big believer in classical sailing. Coastal Navigation- necessary for all sailors. DR/ fixes all that without any GPS. I am learning Celestial- because I want to go across the big pond. Weather forecasting without WX...necessary because your battery may go flat one day. Same with sailing at least into anchor or a mooring. (yes without the engine!!!)
Now autopilot- you probably know what I am going to say. Learn sheet to tiller. I have run one on every boat size from near dingy to 40 foot cruiser. (I have a tutorial on Sailfar, but there are many other good ones on the net) You should not have to pee while holding the tiller...even if solo Total cost for my self steerer (out of old parts I already had) About 5 USD. And it will teach you a lot about how to better balance your boat.
If you want to spring for an autopilot- get a used windvane-type. I will probably have one when I set out across the pond. But I don't need one now.
I noticed you have a yawl. Should be able to place the steering between the mizzen and the tiller/wheel. I haven't done that yet, but learn the principles and it should come easier than sheet to tiller on my cutter.
BTW- I carry oars on my 23 footer. Might have to get creative on a 40 fter.
Welcome to the club of old barnacles. We still don't trust electronics.
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