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Old 09-07-2010, 00:42   #1
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Smile Need Advice on Navigational Software and Batteries

Hi Everyone, well I will soon leave Australia to travel the global oceans and I am not sure which basic electronic chart system to use. I am leaning towards Rastar based charts or ENC because I have read a number of reports of blatant errors on electronic charts like Navionics. Not to mention the high cost of having to buy the charts for systems such as Navionics and not being able to copy and use others SD or CF cards. I saw a comparison on iYachtua site (some Ukrainian guy) showing actual screen shots from Rastar charts and ENC and the ENC was missing some important depth contours and other data! I did already buy a RC435 chartplotter but when i found it came with a totally useless world chart and that i had to buy new charts and could not buy others used ones i lost interest in it.

I will be travelling for a number of years on low budget. I am confused by the array of options each seeming to have their advocators. I like SOB which uses C-map but again i must buy the C-map official charts. Anyone know if i can buy or copy other peoples C-map NT charts and use it with SOB? But again SOB is a commercial ENC chart system and I am inclined to think: hell forget about nice colourful electronic system with features and stick to something basic made from and depicting the same as paper charts that I already use. But which ones: SeaClear? MaxSea? Seafarer RNC? and so many more that use ECDIS or ARCS/NOAA charts.

Boatbooks (Sydney) recommend Seafarer RNC but the charts for this sytem are so expensive eg $1622 plus $540 for annual update (doubt I will update anyway). Most C-map area charts are $300-400. I have considered C-map CM83 Vector charts (will they work with SOB - I fear not). I already own some old cm83 vector charts on a CD. I read that you can make your own Rastar charts but it is not easy and I would prefer to use a tried and tested range of Rastar charts.

I will of course have paper charts aboard but as I will spend most time in reef waters an accurate GPS electronic system will be my saviour as well as, of course, a good lookout from aloft. But I have sailed reef waters before and sometimes you do what you say you will not do and you arrive outside the ideal coral viewing times or the wind chop affects your ability to see coral clearly or a rain squall hits just as you enter a tricky reef pass.

I think the best way to go is a system that allows use of Rastar charts and Vector charts and maybe get a small iphone or similar and run iNavX if and when i feel i need it but then that is a Mac product and I have two PC's aboard which will be used as chartplotters. I have heard that there is a PC based Tablet Notebook due out soon by HP in competition with iPad and this could be handy but HP are stalling as at yet it does not work well with Windows programmes. Why am I mentioning this? Well because it could be handy to have a Tablet Pc on my lap or under the dodger when piloting and it would be good to have something like that if it will run anything that I end up buying for the notebooks downstairs.

Anyone like to recommend the best Rastar software to get and the best and cheapest and most reliable Rastar chart supply or ENC supply? and ones that will accept radar and AIS data too.

Does ARCS cover the world and where is the cheapest source of these charts. Does the American NOAA only cover North and South America and the Carribbean or do they cover other parts of the world too? Are NOAA charts free? My planned route is Oz to West Pacific islands to SE Asia to Indian ocean to Meditterranean and then across the Atlantic but could easily change at anytime due to seasons and winds.

Whilst I have your attention I also need to replace my house battery bank and am considering 4 x 200amp Golf cart batteries. I have read the many posts in the battery section and I see a mixed bag of ideas with some saying only go for AGM which will last longer, cannot leak but need good battery monitoring and others say they have Golfcart batteries (GCs)which are wetcell and can vent and leak. From what I read AGM can vent too if overcharged (accidentally) and then they cannot be topped up. Those of you (seems to be the majority) who have GCs what do you do to vent the batteries area? and do you worry about rolling the boat and spilling the acid? Mine are located under the dinette in the pilothouse. AGM are very expensive and if my system overcharges them they could be stuffed in a jiffy - what a waste of money then! If I pay for AGM then I also have to pay for a more expensive charger and monitor. I plan to spend only a little time on marinas during my voyage so will be relying on Solar, wind, Generator etc.

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Old 09-07-2010, 21:17   #2
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Smile Nav Software

My advice

1. Polar Navy (Polar Com + Polar View). Lo cost fantastic layout, easy to use.
2. SeaClear No cost, interface a bit dated but lots of forums.
3. OpenCPN No cost nice interface in development


Richard Fairman JP BA Author SeaClear Unleashed Author EasyPC Marine Navigation (pub August 2010)

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Old 09-07-2010, 21:29   #3
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Nav Software

Sorry should have added Google Earth to the list. Google Earth will operate ok offshore without an internet connection. Simple " visit" the locations where you are going with a connection with Google Earth and the data is saved to the Google Earth cache to be available later.


Richard Fairman JP BA Author SeaClear Unleashed and Easy PC Marine Navigation
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Old 10-07-2010, 03:43   #4
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Stay away from Lowrance GPS Plotters.
its better to have a full bottle of rum in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy...
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Old 10-07-2010, 05:56   #5
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NOAA charts are free. Here is a link that will show you what is available. Pretty much just North America, Hawaii & Alaska regions.

Paper and Raster Nautical Chart Catalog

Good luck.
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Old 10-07-2010, 07:16   #6
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My advice is to go over to the anchorage for foreign boats and have a chat with some of the overseas yachties. They have already solved your problem, and will be glad to share with another cruiser.

The OpenCpn links on this forum will give you a program which works with both vector and raster charts, including the CM93 version you may already have.
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Old 11-07-2010, 03:43   #7
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Re Nav Software replies

Thanks everyone. I like Donradcliffe's idea to go over to the foreign vessels anchorage and chat with other cruisers and see what they are using.

As for the suggestions to get NOAA charts well sadly at the moment they only cover USA areas which I will not be in for several years yet. I do though wonder why it is that the nearly broke American government can provide charts for free to all who use their waterways yet the apparently successful Australian economy cannot achieve that. In fact I think our prices are the highest of any nation for our electronic charts.

I checked out Polar View but their program seems limited or at least what I could access to as a trial version. I do like OpenCPN.

Anyone out there used Maxsea or Maptech?
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:54   #8
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NOAA charts are for US waters, and by the OP, it sounds like you'll be there the least.

I wish DMA charts were as available as NOAA, but no such luck. ARCS charts are fairly consistent in price and while they do cover the world are very expensive - but if that's all that's available, you're going to have to make a decision.

I don't know if the French, Fijian or other nation state charts are available digitally but I think the Aus and NZ charts are a part of the ARCS/BA catalog.

My suggestions:
- get navigation software that won't limit you to one chart database (raster and vector as well as manufacturer formatted chart databases)
- buy only the chart database for the year you'll be using them. On the big boats I Captain, I buy charts for the area that year. The cost of updates may not pay for the convenience, and if you (or the owner) change your mind, you're/I'm not out thousands of dollars.
- I'd do some research and see what chart databases are available. Some locations may have very spotty coverage due to limited demand. Transas and BA/ARCS electronic charts will cover the commercial areas but may not have the coverages where you want to go.
- Chatting up other cruisers may be helpful. They may be going the other way or have a source for duplicate charts (paper or electronic)
- You may want to consider a laptop as your navcomp instead of a dedicated chart plotter. I tend to think you'll get more value for your dollar with the laptop. The downside of the laptop is that it's not as water resistant as plotters. There are good bargains on mil-surplus toughbook clones via ebay though.
- If you can, get a demo copy of the software so you can really play with it. Some programs seem to fit your way of doing things, others seem to be written in Klingon. If you go with a plotter, then I recommend a few hours playing with the model you're keen on.

Once you know what's available and which software/plotter(s) support your chart database, you'll have a better idea. If the software you like best is still "in development", you might consider an alternative or backup. It's nice to be able to update or plan from from your home, but imo, being a beta tester on the ocean with the nagging thought that the software may crash due to some unforseen bug is not going to give me a "warm, fuzzy feeling".

With the electronic chart problem sorted out, you'll have a good idea of which paper charts you're going to need to fill in the gaps. As I'm planning my trip, I've come to the realization that I'm going to need both electronic and paper charts. There are places that sell photocopies that you might consider, especially as they may have long out of print charts that show you exactly what you need. You might frequent marine surplus stores or post a chart wanted ad in the local sailing/cruising mags. Some folks have had good success with contacting cruisers who're swallowing the anchor - you can get some fairly accurate charts for a reasonable price that way.
Capt. Douglas Abbott
USCG/MCA IV/M.I./C.I. 500-ton Oceans
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Old 12-07-2010, 01:15   #9
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Re your advice on Chartplotters

Thanks Cpt Abbott.
You are are a wealth of information and just what I was after with this thread. I have decided to keep a chartplotter but operate mainly off either of my two laptops that I already have. I may well look for an ex army tough notebook if they stand up to more abuse. I have been testing Open CPN and while it looks good some of the CM93 C-map charts lacked essential detail when I viewed some of the reef areas such as Fiji that I plan to sail through. Printed charts will show me that detail but i need to be sure where I am in relation to that detail in the event of a sudden squall or choppy waters that do not reveal coral reefs before me.

So, I will carry a decent chart plotter system as well but only load the maps for the areas where i may need that detail and accuracy. Like you suggest better to buy the areas a year at a time rather than update lots of charts that may never get used.

I have just found a full detailed free ENC chart of the Great Barrier Reef from the Australian Hydrographics office which is excellent. I just downloaded it! Also I found FREE ENC maps for the South China Sea area by the regional authority there too. These cover Thailand to Korea, Japan etc. Excellent too.

I did contact one ex-cruiser who had swallowed the hook but he was the very fellow I am trying to get away from who thinks every other sailor has billions of dollars in the bank like him. He wanted way too much money for the charts which are now totally useless to him. Not only that but this greedy Pommie retirey also wanted money for him to share knowledge with me of the places he had been. Sad really as I always feel we should all be out there to help each other. My life has been devoted to helping others and it pisses me off when I come across so many people who do not want to pass on knowledge just for the love of mankind.

I found that too when i tried to find sailors who would share their celestial navigation knowledge with me. Just could not find anyone who would or could do that so I taught myself. Shame as there are not so many keen younger people like me who want to learn about the traditional way of navigating anymore. Anyway thanks again for your excellent 'free' advice.
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Old 12-07-2010, 05:22   #10
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Check out the second link in my signature. It has links to all the free charts I have found (including the ones you mentioned). I have NOT posted links to any private sites, only government sites, so to the best of my knowledge, all of these are legal.

You can find others. It's up to you to decide how legal they are. Hint: Google CNF.Seasoft.

FYI: The links I have to the charts you mentioned only had one sample chart of one small portion of the Great Barrier Reef, and the one of the China Sea did not cover Thailand or Japan. If you have found something different, please let me know so I can post the links on my site.

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Old 12-07-2010, 05:40   #11
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G'day eos2voyage
Just spent money on s.o.b. and find the graphics poor and confusing and the maps themselves expensive and with little real detail. Used to have cmap93 and it was a dream though all electronic map systems seem to have mistakes. As for batteries, using 4 gel cell batteries, 2 lots of second hand, both about 10 years old still going strong, can't complain. I input about 30 plus amps per hour solar at peak and have a wind generator which runs all night in the trades and I still have 12.5 volts plus in the morning with fridge that runs all night(very inefficient). Main thing is to go l.e.d. on all lights (nav lights must still comply to regs) have efficient fridge/freezer and reduce power usage where you can. calm seas and fair winds.

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