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Old 01-02-2012, 19:23   #1
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Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

When I go on my cruise (with the plan to cruise the world for about 10 years), I was planning to use exclusively paper charts (and celestial navigation with handheld GPS as backup). I've managed to pick up some paper charts over the years in preparation, but I don't think I'll be able to afford all the paper charts I would need. Besides, as I'm cruising, I may decide to go somewhere I hadn't originally planned to go (and thus don't have the charts for).

I definitely am not going to have a chartplotter. However, I was thinking that maybe a modest laptop computer with digital charts covering the world loaded on the hard drive might help. The way I was thinking of using that would be: 1. I decide to go to X. 2. I power up the laptop and find the chart for that location. 3. I write down the latitude and longitude of the point at which I need to get to to enter the harbor/channel/bay, etc. 4. I write down notes and make a sketch on a sheet of paper that will enable me to navigate into the anchorage.

As I know absolutely nothing about digital charts, I'm wondering if this is something that would work?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and feedback.
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Old 01-02-2012, 19:33   #2
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

sounds like a recipe for disaster!,better get together pre passage and photo copy other cruisers charts,and have cm93 as a back up on your laptop
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Old 01-02-2012, 19:48   #3
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Triton318 View Post
When I go on my cruise (with the plan to cruise the world for about 10 years), I was planning to use exclusively paper charts (and celestial navigation with handheld GPS as backup). I've managed to pick up some paper charts over the years in preparation, but I don't think I'll be able to afford all the paper charts I would need. Besides, as I'm cruising, I may decide to go somewhere I hadn't originally planned to go (and thus don't have the charts for).

I definitely am not going to have a chartplotter. However, I was thinking that maybe a modest laptop computer with digital charts covering the world loaded on the hard drive might help. The way I was thinking of using that would be: 1. I decide to go to X. 2. I power up the laptop and find the chart for that location. 3. I write down the latitude and longitude of the point at which I need to get to to enter the harbor/channel/bay, etc. 4. I write down notes and make a sketch on a sheet of paper that will enable me to navigate into the anchorage.

As I know absolutely nothing about digital charts, I'm wondering if this is something that would work?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and feedback.
Can I ask why are you so against having a chartplotter - have you ever used one?

A laptop is good but a good chartplotter has the added advantage of being much more tolerant to water and is often close to your steering station & is a great backup to your paper charts. There are not too many world cruisers who would not have a chartplotter even if they only run it from time to time to check their position & to conserve power.

Making notes, sketches on a sheet of paper etc is prone to errors and then the inevitable happens - bump - what the hell was that? Especially if you are in any tropical areas with reefs.
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Old 01-02-2012, 20:28   #4
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

For 15 years I have cruised Eastern US and Bahamas using a computer, GPS, and the Capn software. It gives you a moving ship/chart display and incredable accuracy. I buy larger charts and use the digitals for detail. Dosen't substitute for visual navigation but is a close second. The charts for US are free from NOAA. The CAPN is a easy program.
Having been a pilot since 1956, I still can't get away from paper charting, tho.
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Old 11-02-2012, 18:57   #5
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

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For 15 years I have cruised Eastern US and Bahamas using a computer, GPS, and the Capn software. It gives you a moving ship/chart display and incredable accuracy. I buy larger charts and use the digitals for detail. Dosen't substitute for visual navigation but is a close second. The charts for US are free from NOAA. The CAPN is a easy program.
Having been a pilot since 1956, I still can't get away from paper charting, tho.
I tried to download the NOAA charts but what program do I need to run them. I am not familiar which format of the charts to download?
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Old 11-02-2012, 19:07   #6
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

RNC = raster charts, look like a reproduction of paper charts

ENC, are digital/vector data used to render a chart image.

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

OpenCPN is a free charting software package that can use both types and connect a GPS puck. Basically turns a laptop into a chart plotter.

PolarView is an inexpensive charting software that is well received also.

Either program will work with RNC and ENC charts.

That should get you started.

I'd start by downloading OpenCPN and then a few charts for your area from NOAA.

Add a GPS puck if you wish, load the charts into OpenCPN and have at it.
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Old 11-02-2012, 19:22   #7
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

We are now in year 3 of our 10 year world-wide cruise. {Not counting getting stuck in Mexico for 4 years... Margaritas to blame. }

Use CM93 on two laptops, with main GPS at NavSta, handheld GPS in the cockpit. Have made copies of paper charts from everyone/anyone we meet who agrees - and everybody we met is willing to share. Plan to (finally) get a chart plotter for cockpit. Only use sextent twice a year to force self into refamilurization.

Found CM93 very accurate except Ha'api group, Tonga. We highly recommend those electronic charts.

British Columbia down USA to Mexico, across to Marqueses, Societies, Neue, Tonga, down to New Zealand. Sat out cyclone season, then up to Tonga. Now sitting in Amerika Samoa for cyclon season.

Good on ya for planning ahead and doing this. Big change, big adventure, big rewards.

Fair winds; following seas (tho not too big....)
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Old 11-02-2012, 19:23   #8
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

This is not a problem. I have a laptop and an external hard drive loaded with MaxSea charts. I also have a small HP color printer. I print a screen shot of the MaxSea display for special points of interest - say a harbor entrance - and keep it in a clear plastic protector in a loose leave notebook for quick reference in the cockpit. Send me a private message and I will reply with the contact info for the guy I bought it from.
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Old 11-02-2012, 20:42   #9
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

Personal computer e-nav has been around a long time and major companies make navigation programs that you can load onto your computer and with the addition of a GPS have a fully functional navigation system.

As mentioned by other posters, there are free versions of the PC navigation programs like OpenCPN and SeaClear II. And others. Charts for the entire USA are free online. Charts for other places in the world can be purchased on CD's/DVD's or traded.

Prior to your trip you can print out on your inkjet computer segments of interest from your library of digital charts.

You can also keep the computer down below and install a "second" monitor in the cockpit with a wired or wireless mouse and keyboard so you can operate the system without having to go down below.
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Old 11-02-2012, 22:15   #10
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

All the posts here are applicable. Take along a printer that you can make hard copy of any charts you don't have paper charts. You can print a chartlet of a harbor or an approach for future reference. With electronics you need backups and backups to the backups. The traditional navigation tools are necessary and should be used for remedial skills. Certainly electronic charts are great for planning and leaving port. Would you leave port if your electronics were out? You should be able to. You should have Plan A in paper, how to get out to sea without any electronics or electricity. Not like me, stuck in a bay with a major naval port at its entrance. The first place to be obstructed in a war.
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Old 07-01-2013, 14:19   #11
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

A lot of great points. I love my laptop gps/chart plotter on my sailboat. My 23 has limited room, so my laptop is also my T.V. DVD player. It works great on the 2-5 day trips that are planed ahead for good weather. Befor watching a movie, we will sit down with the laptop and we use the SeaClear ll, and NOAA charts and plan our next stop. We link the laptop with our phone so theres always internet. I love the setup with the laptop.
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Old 07-01-2013, 14:31   #12
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

Why would anyone pay $14.99 for something that is free to begin with?
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Old 07-01-2013, 15:20   #13
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

Not everyone is good with computers. It took me a long time to figure out and actually make this free system work. If I could have just bought it for a couple bucks I would have saved weeks of frustration.. Trust me , I would have paid a $100
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Old 07-01-2013, 15:26   #14
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

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Not everyone is good with computers. It took me a long time to figure out and actually make this free system work. If I could have just bought it for a couple bucks I would have saved weeks of frustration.. Trust me , I would have paid a $100
We have a whole forum dedicated to helping folks for free.

You may also wish to contact the administrators and get registered as a vendor.
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Old 07-01-2013, 16:08   #15
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Re: Laptop With Digital Charts Possible?

I've cruised several thousand miles with just a laptop, OpenCPN, and electronic charts downloaded for free. For backup, we use paper charts we've picked up at marine flea markets, etc. Also, it helps sometimes to print out chart views all along your intended route on standard printer paper and bind them in order in a loose-leaf binder as backup. This works very well, and the printer ink is the only real cost. We printed nearly the whole east coast of the U.S. once using less than one set of ink cartridges. On a couple of occasions, I have been very glad to have the paper backup and a handheld GPS.
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