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Old 26-07-2009, 07:32   #1
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GPS: State-of-the-Art for Boats to 35'

I used to I was keeping up with the leading edge of small boat GPS navigation hardware and software, 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 system choices?

Laptops: 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: 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).

Passage Planning: For those who like to plan passages on a laptop and upload waypoints to a dedicated chartplotter (like me):
1. Garmin 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???).
2. C-map 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. C-map 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.

Options: Real time weather via satellite 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.

AIS: 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 modes.

Networking: 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.

Racing: 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.

Backup: 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.

Fire away. Group brains are better than an individual's in this kind of thing.
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Old 26-07-2009, 08:02   #2
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At risk of further muddying the waters, furuno also has a dedicated chart plotter. Most plotters have their pluses and minuses, most of which you have listed. For most it boils down to personal preferences. If worried about power consumption with a laptop, you can always power it down or put it into sleep mode, intermittently you don't need to run your plotter all of the time. I have a Garmin chart plotter gps 232, which is a black & white screen that works quite well, it also has a pretty good screen size, it does use the C-Map chips, you can also interface it with your laptop and down load your tracks & way points so that you can do more elaborate plotting and route planning on different nav software. I feel that it is user friendly and can give you a lot of information when cruising. Well I just ran a quick search for the 232 and apparently it is no longer in production, there was one used one on ebay, but I couldn't find any others. Anyway furuno and several others along with garmin produce lower priced chartplotters that have the ability to accept chips that are preloaded with charts, that can be a big help. Otherwise you can just use a simple gps and plot along on the paper charts.
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Old 26-07-2009, 08:28   #3
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Todays core duo processor laptops only draw about 2 amps, but if I was on a small boat, I think I would look at Iphone apps for navigation and communication.
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Old 26-07-2009, 09:26   #4
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Something is backwards here

Quote:
Originally Posted by clearsea View Post
Backup: 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.

Fire away. Group brains are better than an individual's in this kind of thing.
I can imagine the GPS being a very useful tool but you do have to back it up with normal navigational checks, constantly, don't you? At the very least depth sounding.
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Old 26-07-2009, 09:31   #5
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There is one more category of navigation systems which are distinct from laptops/desktops and chart plotters There are black boxes that connect you to a real computer monitor(s), not those overpriced proprietary monitors. The Furuno MFDBB is an example of one. With this system you can place two monitors side by side and have different information on each screen. Your resolution is only limited by your monitors native screen resolution. Everything else, GPS, AIS, sounder and radar plugs in to the blackbox. Yes, they are expensive. The blackbox itself is essentially a low end proprietary computer (I opened mine up and had a look). It has an MSRP of just under $10k.

Yes, you are putting all your eggs in the same basket with one of these systems, but the flexibility and information you get from one or two monitors is almost equivalent to what a ships ARPA system has. Of course, have your backups in case the system goes down.

Raymarine also has a similar system.
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Old 26-07-2009, 10:16   #6
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I don't know about the other brands, but the ASUS eeePC 1000HE I use on the boat draws only about 10 watts (.8 amps at 12.6 volts) in use (up to 2.4 amps when charging a depleted battery). It has enough CPU power for chartplotting and typical boat usage. Its also pretty cheap, so you can keep a second one for backup in case the first goes belly up. They aren't waterproof, though.
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Old 26-07-2009, 13:49   #7
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We have an ASUS 1000HE too, and love it. I bought a DC-DC converter from Lind Electronics to run it safely off batteries, and it doesn't draw much which is great (I forget the exact amount offhand). Runs nav software and everything else just great!!
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Old 26-07-2009, 23:03   #8
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I advocate latest 2 posts, Atom (Intel new CPU) based computers are really not so power-hungry. Actually I believe, that they draw LESS energy than chartplotters like Raychart E120 and C140 draw about 32 Watts (Compared to 10 W of Dell Mini 12). So, there is so no difference in power consumption, If You use Atom-based laptop. New computers actually spend less energy. Dell mini 12 has 12" LCD, plenty big for only 10Watts computer.

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Old 28-07-2009, 03:27   #9
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I can imagine the GPS being a very useful tool but you do have to back it up with normal navigational checks, constantly, don't you? At the very least depth sounding.
Yes, but this thread is only about choosing a GPS system for this size of cruiser, not use of GPS in navigation. There are other good threads here on that contentious rabbit hole.
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Old 28-07-2009, 07:53   #10
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Yes, but this thread is only about choosing a GPS system for this size of cruiser, not use of GPS in navigation. There are other good threads here on that contentious rabbit hole.
Perhaps I can search for threads with Google? Something like "cruisers & Sailing forums" + "responsible use" + gps ? No! Have to try again.
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Old 28-07-2009, 19:05   #11
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Quote:
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Perhaps I can search for threads with Google? Something like "cruisers & Sailing forums" + "responsible use" + gps ? No! Have to try again.
Yep, that search doesn't turn up anything. But there are several threads on this site about charts and GPSs and how they should be used.

Here is one - Charts - and Reading Them

That's the one that prompted me to put up this page on my website:
A discussion about chart errors. Paper vs. electronic. Raster vs. vector.

But, then, that's not what this thread is about...

EDIT: Woops, just noticed you already found another one "Navigation without Electronics" and have posted in it. So, nevermind.

-dan
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Old 19-08-2009, 11:24   #12
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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
Todays core duo processor laptops only draw about 2 amps, but if I was on a small boat, I think I would look at Iphone apps for navigation and communication.
We are currently evaluating a temporary solution involving MacENC running on a MacBook laptop, connected (through WiFi) with iNavX running on an iPod touch.

Not a very marine solution, but handy for late nigh arrivals at the (unlit) mooring buoys and locations with strong tidal currents.
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Old 19-08-2009, 12:11   #13
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I currently have an older Raymarine RL70 Radar/chartplotter in my cockpit, but find it essentially useless for planning and chart reading. It does a good job of plotting ones position and for situational awareness. I of course have a depth sounder and autopilot connected to this. In addition to these "standard" instruments, I have an ASUS 1000HE with bluetooth and a Garmin GPS18-USB that I use for planning and general chart reading. In good weather I can use it in the cockpit if the sun is not directly over my shoulder. I use RosePoint Navigations Coastal Explorer with downloaded raster and vector charts from NOAA. I download local updates every time I go out so I always have up-to-date charts. The netbook uses a maximum of 30 watts when charging the battery. It will run for a bit more than 8 hours on battery alone. It will run 9 hours without the GPS and bluetooth turned on. Each of those seems to cost me about a half hour of battery time. I have a 23 inch "TV" in the main salon with vga input. When I'm not in a power conservation mode I can look at my charts on the big screen which is really handy. When I'm concerned about power usage I use the built in screen which is better than chartploter. While I have not done so it is possible to get an NMEA 0183 bluetooth adapter which can connect my "standard" instruments to the system. I currently use a bluetooth mouse as I hate those little touch pads. I also have a bluetooth full size keyboard though the built in keyboard is adequate. I don't think that the netbook is a substitute for a chartplotter due to its lack of all weather capability, but it certainly will allow you to go with a less expensive chart plotter system and to use the system for general computing chores as well.
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