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Old 02-12-2014, 10:30   #1
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GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

Hi all:

This may well be somewhat outside the scope of those that hang out here and I might be better off finding a fishing site, but here goes ...

My wife and I are giving some consideration to adding a GPS to our sailing experience.

Out boat is 19 feet that is sailed in Lake Ontario, Lake Huron (North Channel) as well as inland waters including larger lakes and the Ottawa River.

We have paper "charts" (that is those documents that look like charts but expressly say to not use for navigation) for all Great Lakes areas we sail. On some of the inland lakes we have a simple fishing chart which is a very weak document for navigational purposes, but is all that exists in published printed format as far as I can tell.

I think right off the bat I can rule out the iPad or laptop solutions. First, in a boat this size it must be assumed that it is used under wet conditions both outside and inside all the time. That is just the reality of breathing at low night time temperatures inside such a small space even in the summer. Then there is the issue of inland lake data. This does not seem to exist from CHS sources, but is entirely at the whim of whatever commercial organization goes out to collect it. It seems to me that Garmin has done this the best, but even here many (most?) of the lakes I am interested in have just shoreline and no bathymetry. Navionics has some inland stuff on their premium product, but seems well behind what Garmin has done. So to get the best lake inland stuff (which is still piss poor) Garmin seems the only game in town. Anyhow, if I am in any way mistaken with these conclusions, please correct me.

Just as an aside, I have found no record of any GPS charting for the upper Ottawa River (Pembroke and West Ottawa sections) either free or proprietary. You would think this body of water would be covered by the inland lakes data set, but you would be wrong from what I can see. They seem to take the “lakes” part of “inland lakes” quite literally.

So at the low end for consideration would be say the Garmin GPS 72H which is just a GPS with no chart capabilities. This would provide position as well as the usual odometer stuff: speed, average speed, elapsed time etc. This would at least bail me out when I lose awareness of where I am. I don’t like when this happens, and it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. This also adds nothing to the considerably miserable inland lakes situation - one this factor alone I think I can rule out this approach.

Next up might be something like the GPSMAP 78 series which will take a chart chip. I can see this arrangement telling me where I am a whole lot faster than transcribing lat/long to a paper chart (as per first option above ), but with such a low resolution display, I expect I would still do most of my long term pondering with paper. It is unclear how useful spending the extra $80 for the “s” version with altimeter and compass would be when I already travel with 3 or 4 compasses - maybe someone can comment.

The next level might be an Oregon 600 or Montana 600 unit (or 650 units if I want camera) which provide most or all the features of the GPSMAP 78 and will provide larger displays (2.5 and 3.4 x as many pixels respectively), and the option of hard wiring in a mount to the boat electrical system (and camera as noted). One loses the floating feature here that the 78 has, but on such a small boat I would think the unit would be left on the mount.

At the high end of consideration might be something like the Garmin echoMAP 50s which is a GPS and fish finder. I already have a depth sounder, so it is unclear in my experience how useful the fish finder feature will be for navigation. My wife does fancy herself a fisherwoman so she might care LOL.

Finally I’d like to discuss the Garmin chart chips. I think I would need and want only the LakeVu HD as it has the inland lakes plus the great lakes according to the documentation. The other option is the G2 bluechart which is the great lakes and coastal areas of Canada. I assume the great lakes data on both of these products is the same and I lose nothing here by going with the LakeVU HD product, but I do not know this for a fact.

Given wet conditions, inland charting desires, old eyes, no great need for mobility of solution on an 18 foot boat, the doubtful marginal usefulness of another compass and altimeter, freedom from explicitly charging batteries, and my wife’s fishing desires, and the lakeVU software having the best inland lakes stuff, the echoMap 50s looks like the best idea.

All comment and alternative ideas most graciously accepted.

Cheers,

Boulter
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:45   #2
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

On a 19' boat I would seriously consider a handheld unit. No installation, no battery issues.

I would not fuss over the display size too much. You'll get used to zooming in and out. If it's primary function is to confirm where you are and determine a course to sail, you'll find a small display adequate enough.

As far as floating goes, don't underestimate its value. On a small boat its pretty easy for things to go inadvertently over the side.

As with all things, there is a spectrum of cost, convenience, function, and value. I just posted on another thread about how despite having 12" and 5" Garmin units on my boat, I use my iPhone for 99% of my navigation on the Chesapeake. It's always in my pocket, the charts are always accurate, and the data has always been accurate for this area.

All that said, it comes down to the data. Buy the unit that gives you the best quality data (or any data at all for that matter) for the area you sail.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:07   #3
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

Couple of thoughts from my own experience Boulter.

We use a combination of paper and digital. I prefer real paper charts, but sometimes get by just fine with Richardsons Chart books ("not to be used for navigation") or sometimes printed NOAA charts for overlapping areas of the Great Lakes.

Our primary chart plotter is a Garmin 76CSx. I think I've got the G2 blue chart card and it shows full chart data for the upper Ottawa River around Pembroke.

iPad: I use ours as a backup. I have iNavx with Navionics 2XG Canada set. I use a waterproof case, and have it mounted under the dodger using a Ram mount. Works pretty well. It also includes the upper Ottawa, and apparently all inland lakes in Canada.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:15   #4
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

Hi guys:

Well that was fast. Thanks for the thoughts and corrections.

Boulter
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:29   #5
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

I am not sure why you were so quick to rule out an iPad. We are on 3 years of using our iPad as our primary chartplotter. We have a lifeproof case that snorkelers use to take their iPads along for underwater photos and videos. It's good down to 15 feet under water.

If I was in your place I would go with a cellular ready iPad mini in a lifeproof case.

For software I run the Navionics the most but also have iNavic, bluesea and one other as backups. For $50 the Navionics would be perfect for your situation.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:36   #6
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

Pick up a Garmin 76Csx, or a newer version. Would be all you need.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:43   #7
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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Originally Posted by JK n Smitty View Post
I am not sure why you were so quick to rule out an iPad. We have a lifeproof case that snorkelers use to take their iPads along for underwater photos and videos. It's good down to 15 feet under water.
Thank you. My thoughts on wet conditions and iPad may be unreasonable. I still think the inland data from Navionics is weak, but I may be proven incorrect there too.

Boulter
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:46   #8
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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Pick up a Garmin 76Csx, or a newer version. Would be all you need.
Thank you for your comment. I believe the model 78s as discussed would be the nearest unit now available new. It is a contender.

Boulter
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:56   #9
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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Originally Posted by Boulter View Post
Thank you. My thoughts on wet conditions and iPad may be unreasonable. I still think the inland data from Navionics is weak, but I may be proven incorrect there too.

Boulter
If you go with the iPad you could have both Navionics and Garmin Bluechart for under $100 (for the apps, the iPad would cost you around $600 IIRC). So you could have both options. I am sure there are other inland water apps. I sail on the ocean so I'm not sure.
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Old 02-12-2014, 12:00   #10
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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Thank you for your comment. I believe the model 78s as discussed would be the nearest unit now available new. It is a contender.

Boulter
The Garmin 78s will run you about $300 and that is the replacement for the 76. You might be able to get the 76 used.

Then you need to buy the chip with the charts for $200-300.

So you are looking at $500-600.

I have an old 76cx as backup. It's great if you can plot courses on a computer but if you try to go by waypoints using the unit to plot the course it's a real PIA.
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Old 02-12-2014, 12:09   #11
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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Thank you. My thoughts on wet conditions and iPad may be unreasonable. I still think the inland data from Navionics is weak, but I may be proven incorrect there too.

Boulter
One tremendous benefit of the iPad is that it is useful for so many other things. Take pictures, take video, watch movies, read books, etc etc. It's a pretty amazing piece of hardware to have on a boat.

If I were in your shoes, and could find an app for the iPad that had accurate data for the waters I sailed in, I would take it over the handheld GPS in a heartbeat.

FYI, if you buy a cell/gps enabled iPad, you do not need to subscribe to a cell/data package in order for the GPS function of the iPad to work.
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Old 02-12-2014, 12:24   #12
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

I like the iPad, as as Suijin says, we use it for multiple things while underway: navigation, planning, communications, ship lists and provisioning, contact database, general book library. I even tried using some of the log book apps, but haven't found one as good as good old paper.

I like the iPad a lot, but the two negative for navigation (for me) are the poor bright-light visibility of the screen, and the challenge to keep the pad charged. The charging issue can be overcome with the installation of a cockpit plug (which I may do), and a different case. But the screen is not meant for direct sunlight viewing. I can usually work around this by viewing it under the dodger, but in the end I just find my handheld Garmin to be easier to use in the cockpit.
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Old 02-12-2014, 13:31   #13
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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I like the iPad, as as Suijin says, we use it for multiple things while underway: navigation, planning, communications, ship lists and provisioning, contact database, general book library. I even tried using some of the log book apps, but haven't found one as good as good old paper.

I like the iPad a lot, but the two negative for navigation (for me) are the poor bright-light visibility of the screen, and the challenge to keep the pad charged. The charging issue can be overcome with the installation of a cockpit plug (which I may do), and a different case. But the screen is not meant for direct sunlight viewing. I can usually work around this by viewing it under the dodger, but in the end I just find my handheld Garmin to be easier to use in the cockpit.
Mike,

What are you seeing for battery life? If I shut down cellular, bluetooth and wifi and only run the navigation software I can get close to 8 hours. But if I leave all of the other stuff on and I constantly check the nav software it will be closer to 4 hours.

As far as the direct sunlight, what model do you have? I have the 4th gen iPad and it can easily be seen in direct sunlight. I heard the iPad Minis and Airs were even better. I know the older iPads are pretty bad in direct sunlight.
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:01   #14
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

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What are you seeing for battery life? If I shut down cellular, bluetooth and wifi and only run the navigation software I can get close to 8 hours. But if I leave all of the other stuff on and I constantly check the nav software it will be closer to 4 hours.
Yup, good points. I always turn off all unnecessary network services like wifi, bluetooth and cell. If I'm careful, and only check it periodically (not have it constantly running) I can get a full day's worth out of one charge (~8 hrs). But as I say, I need to be careful.

I find that the largest battery draw on my iPad 3 is the screen brightness and GPS. Unfortunately, I need to have it set to bright most of the time when viewing it during the day. This, more than anything, draws the battery down.

It's still not bad, but if I were using it as a primary nav tool, I'd install a simple DC plug where I can keep it powered off the ship's batteries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JK n Smitty View Post
As far as the direct sunlight, what model do you have? I have the 4th gen iPad and it can easily be seen in direct sunlight. I heard the iPad Minis and Airs were even better. I know the older iPads are pretty bad in direct sunlight.
I did not know that. Thanks . As I say, my iPad 3 (first version with Retina Display) is very hard to view in direct sunlight. I can usually work around this by keeping it under the dodger, but maybe I need a new one ... gotta tell Santa .
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Old 02-12-2014, 14:10   #15
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Re: GPS solution on small boat, often inland waters

I've had a Lowrance Elite 4 Gold plotter/sounder for several years and I find it more than adequate. Gold = 2 gig map chip that covers all Canada and inland waters. I am quite sure the upper Ottawa is mapped since I'm on the upper Gatineau and the contained mapping is suprisingly accurate. We trailered our B25 to the North Channel in 2012 and I could not differentiate electronic maps from the paper we carried. Size was fine. I have it on a companion way swing out so it's always close at hand. Sunlight visibility also fine although a shade out of bit of tape and paper always helps. Much better sunlight vis than, say, my phone. I've used it at night and the display dims down nicely. You can up and down load routes via the micro sd card. Voltmeter, timer, trip etc. All the stuff any plotter has. I guess my the main points are, I like the small size and the included maps are excellent. I like having it hard wired to endless battery power and always ready. And all at a price in keeping with my ride.
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