I used to I was keeping up with the leading edge of small boat GPS navigation hardware
, but the industry is evolving so fast that when I went to buy a new chartplotter
this year I was amazed how complicated it was to make the choice. How about starting a thread to inform new and intermediate recreational smll boat (up to 35 feet) navigators about current GPS navigation
Laptops can be configured for chartplotting, but today's laptops are power hogs (4-10 amps), and the average small boat budget
cannot afford to harden them or attach peripherals for use in the cockpit
Dedicated chartplotters are not as flexible as laptops and have smaller screens, but require less electricity and come out of the box ready for use compared to a laptop
, which makes them much more attractive to the average boater, and even boaters who also like using laptops on their boats. Dedicated chartplotters come in all shapes and sizes. Bigger is better but more expensive. ~1.5"x3" works, but is quite limiting. ~3"x5" seems to work for a lot of folks liviing within a budget
. Larger than that is better, if one has space and can afford it. None are perfectly weatherproof, but many are water
resistant and can be used outdoors in the cockpit
, but consider a rain cover in heavy rain. Some dedicated chartplotters can act like a GPS antenna
for a laptop
. Small chartplotters than can be carried from boat to car are handy, but in the long run it is much easier to dedicate a charplotter to the boat or car (own both).
For those who like to plan passages on a laptop and upload waypoints to a dedicated chartplotter
does not seem to allow users to run the same electronic chart set on both a chartplotter and a laptop for their new BlueChart series, rather users must purchase
two sets of charts
to do that (true???).
cartridges can be used on a compatible chartplotter and physically removed for use on any computer, if the user buys a special hardware
card reader and software
coverage for Canadian waters is inexpensive and extensive out of the box, but the card reader, software and handy Jeppeson updating system all cost extra.
3. I have no experience with Raymarine
or other proprietary systems.
Software for laptops:
There are lots of options. Beware electronic chart licensing issues, which sometimes limit the choice of software.
Real time weather
is attractive but costs extra.
Boat Following (Position Reporting):
It takes a specialized device like The Spot to use GPS for automatic position reporting to followers on shore. Device cost plus system subscription.
GPS chartplotters can be made safer in higher ship traffic areas if they can receive AIS
ship positions and plot them on the screen
. The boat can also transmit its own AIS
position for other boats to see.
DSC VHF radio:
If the chartplotter can send position signals via two small NMEA
wires to the boat's DSC VHF radio
, then the boat's position is automatically transmitted by the radio, if the radio is capable of doing so in various DSC
Linking devices is not as simple as it should be. NMEA
is supposed to be a common standard, but beware -- different companies' NMEA-capable devices may not be able to talk to each other, and even older models within a manufacturer might have limitations. See http://www.bmea.org/wp-content/uploa...nmea-guide.pdf
for some helpful tips (helped me, anyway). Various companies also have proprietary network standards, and their products only sometimes are compatible with NMEA in addition to that standard.
Most charplotters are made for cruising but allow for basic racing
navigation (VMG, etc) for the after around-the-buoy-on-weeknights folks, but a dedicated system is better for serious racing
Carry a battery
handheld GPS chartplotter as backup should the primary chartplotter or boat's electricity go down. Means buying
second set of electronic charts
if the backup GPS is to act as a chartplotter as well as provide lat and long. Learn to navigate without GPS in the event of a satellite/control shutdown.
Group brains are better than an individual's in this kind of thing.