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Old 03-09-2005, 13:55   #1
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NOAA ENC Charts

Now that we can download NOAA charts for free, what software can be used to interface these free charts with our electronics (GPS, Chartplotter, Radar)?

I was planning to purchased Explorer Charts, but is this now necessary? Is there other software that can be used with the free charts?

Roger
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Old 04-09-2005, 01:20   #2
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I like Fugawi, you can guess the web site.

Fugawi Marine ENC is the product and it's a great package for $200 US. It's from Canada - ENC is an International stanard. ENC charts arte internationally legal for ships required to keep charts too.

You can spend double that for the other leading products that don't support ENC. Some of the other ENC products actually suck in the display. You'll also get NMEA IN/OUT support plus handheld device support included at no extra charge plus you can use all the normal raster charts too. They have AIS support plus weather FAX too also included - one price!

I've used it for 2 years now and it's great. ENC charts in the US are great. Right now the full download takes about 400MB but for some odd reason the NOAA servers work quite fast for downloading. Very un govenerment - they work well.

ENC as with all vector charts take some horsepower that raster do not require. My boat computer is a Pentium II 400 mhz with 256 MB RAM. I would say it is the low end of good performance. Underway it's fine. I also connect to a Garmin 128 GPS and I'm happy as can be. They support a lot of GPS units including the new Garmin USB.

Fugawi has a standalone viewer too that is about $19. It's OK but no NEMA and it won't load more than one chart. The full product loads all the charts you like seamless. Very nice. But if you just want to see what the chatts look like the viewer will show you exactly what you'll see.
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Old 04-09-2005, 01:28   #3
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I hate to sound out of touch, but where can I download NOAA charts for free?
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Old 08-10-2005, 00:15   #4
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Yeah!!

Where can one find out, where to download some charts NOAA? Hell, I never seen such a thing, like that?

If you know. Fill us in on the details, Bub?

Regards,

Kevin
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Old 08-10-2005, 04:52   #5
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Paul, I've been thinking about moving from our CMap navigation software, which uses CMap raster charts, to a product that offers AIS support...so your comment about Fugawi caught my eye. Could you please verify for me the following, which I'm distilling from your above post:
1. Fugawi supports vector charts (so e.g. the Maptech and BSB charts I use with Cap'n) but what is more important for my use is that it supports raster charts (such as my CM93 CMap charts). This is because most of our navigation is outside of N American waters. Which raster chart products have you had a chance to use with Fugawi?
3. It supports the Garman 128...and other Garmin products like my h/h units (Is that what you mean by 'handheld support'? Or does that refer to something else such as a Palm?)
5. It supports AIS...but how is this arranged mechanically? GPS input into AIS engine, and AIS output into laptop? Separate inputs into laptop? If you have any info on the specifics of this, I'd welcome it.

Paul, I should mention that I'm very pleased with the old, unsupported charting software that cMap authored, even tho' they don't support it now. It's been great thru-out Europe. However, it fails to do one thing that would make it far more functional: pushing route waypoints back up to our GPS. (Instead, I do the route planning on the laptop, very easily accomplished, and then keypunch all the waypoints into our 128...and when it might be necessary, also into our Garmin 48 h/h which mounts by the helm. I'm off to visit the Fugawi site but, since you seem to be comparably equipped re: hardware, I'm hoping you can also comment on uploading waypoints. I do have the 3-wire set-up and was able to do this with Cap'n at times (very finicky).

What o/s (o/s's?) have you used with it...and does that seem to make a difference? (Our tosh laptop is comparable to yours but with twice the RAM).

Thanks much for whatever coaching you can provide.

Jack
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Old 08-10-2005, 16:33   #6
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Fugawi supports raster charts BSB, BSBCHART, and GMF Vector plus ENC (S-57). If you can scan paper charts you can calibrate them using tools included. Everything is included so nothing else to buy. depnding on where you buy you get a nice strate system with address location and now support for digital USGS quad sheets and the road syystem does overlay on ENC or vector so it's nice to see the streets at port.

For those following you get the free NOAA ENC maps them from:

http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/enc/download.htm

NOTE: NOAA has NO viewer you need real software to use it. If you just download the maps you have nothing you can use.

All the US charts available (517 charts) are 280 MB zipped 800 MB unzipped. It's not 100% but soon will cover all US coastal, great lakes, and inland rivers. The whole country should be ready 2006 some time. It also has Puerto Rico and all of Alaska done now. Parts of the ICW are not covered but the parts not canal are done.

Details on the Fugawi product:

http://www.fugawi.com/docs/navframe.html

There is a specific GPS table of supported units. Basically it wants NMEA 0183 output (serial), but will handle USB Serial ports too. I use a Garmin 182.

The handheld support is for GPS enabled PDA Palm and PocketPC. Check the web site for which ones it will use.

AIS is a seperate serial port interface. You can also use a third port for NMEA out. You only have a problem with multiple NMEA talkers on the same bus so you can split the output as many times as you need to support a Auto pilot and other assorted toys. If you want lots of NMEA devices talking you need a mutiplexer.


The software wants WinNT, 2000 or XP. It uses DirectX for the vector drawing. My desktop is a serious machine and runs it very well my boat laptop ids PII 450mhz 256Mb RAM so it is slow but still very useable. Vector charts need RAM. I also run maptech raster charts and they run very fast on the laptop. Raster takes lower horsepower than vector.

Fugawi will push to the GPS too. I upload routes and way points to my Garmin. It is a nice backup as the route is loaded in the GPS and I can lose the computer and still keep the route. with Garmin you switch to Garmin mode to do transfers then back to NMEA to comminicate. It's a manula operation you learn to do fast.
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Old 09-10-2005, 03:17   #7
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AIS Compatability

Before you spend money on a new nav package to interface with your AIS engine, suggest you look at SeaClear This is a free nav package that works with raster charts. The site also provides all the tools and manuals for scanning in your own charts and stitching them together.

AFAIK it was the first nav package to be able to interface with the AIS engine produced by NASA.

Personally I prefer Vector charts, and the commercial vessels that are the most dangerous in confined waters are those that dont have to have AIS - fishing vessels and ferries.
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Old 09-10-2005, 05:12   #8
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Paul & Talbot, thanks for your comments which were quite helpful. And let me apologize upfront, as I realize a murdered the Vector & Raster terms, reversing them WRT the navigation products I mentioned. Just to restate my goals:
1. I've been using CMap vector charts on our laptop but lack the capability to upload waypoints back to the GPS (a need I have now...) and also am unable to intereface an AIS engine (potentially a need in the future). If switching charting software to gain the first capability, it would seem a good idea to also insure capability to do the second, later.
2. Our navigation needs are primarily outside North American waters.

Based on your comments and visiting the product websites, my take is that SeaClear would not meet our needs and that my CMap CM93 chart files will need to be in S-57 format for Fugawi to run them. Regrettably, I don't know if that is true at the moment, so my alternative while away from the boat would seem to be to find someone currently using those chart files with Fugawi. And it appears from Paul's comments that Fugawi offers all the features I was looking for. Thanks to you both for following up on my post.

One comment about AIS and collision avoidance. Having just spent two years in some pretty crowded waters (English Channel, North Sea. Baltic, and Biscay) I would modify Talbot's statement to say 'the most dangerous ships' aren't necessarily FV's and ferries, but rather all the vessels, larger & smaller, that run at higher speeds while lacking the ability to see and avoid little guys like us. That 'inability' can be due to draft, a rough sea state (when we're not sufficiently sensed by radar), an inattentive or tired watchstander, short-handed crews all out on deck, etc.. (Smaller FVs and even local ferries run at slow enough speeds that collision avoidance is more easily managed, IME). AIS doesn't remove these threats but it does do computational sifting, which is really helpful to a short-handed crew in crowded waters, and it does improve the chance of direct communication with a given (300T+) ship...so it can be quite useful when in certain areas. Or at least that's my impression based on what I hear from AIS users.

Thanks again, fellas.

Jack
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Old 09-10-2005, 05:16   #9
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Since I already own Capn Voyager, I would like to know if anyone has used it with downloaded charts.

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Old 09-10-2005, 06:39   #10
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You need Capn First Mate to use ENC Charts. You could buy Fugawi for half the price of Capn First Mate and only $10 more than Voager.
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Old 11-10-2005, 12:32   #11
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Thought some would find Fugawi's answer to my question to be of interest. This is from their Sales Manager:

"Neither Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC support any of the CMap formats.

Fugawi Marine ENC supports BSB (Maptech or NDI), NOS (SoftChart) or ENC (S-57) formats. The CMap charts are in a proprietary format that Fugawi does not support."

What's ironic is that CMap stopped publishing their charting software, which would be a major reason for using a proprietary format for their charts rather than a standardized format. Oh well...

Jack
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Old 11-10-2005, 12:40   #12
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The one product that will work with C-Map is Winchart Nexus However , this will require you to have a USB dongle on the computer.

I understand the reason for the dongle (anti-piracy) and like the software, but reckon that the dongle is a major failure risk so would not personally use this product.
On the site (address above) there is a link to a demo of the software, so you could confirm its suitability.
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Old 11-10-2005, 12:46   #13
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Quote:
Sunspot Baby once whispered in the wind:
Since I already own Capn Voyager, I would like to know if anyone has used it with downloaded charts.

Sunspot Baby
I have the latest version of the Captn. Version 8.x.

It does not recognize the downloadable vector charts and not sure it will. I did however download the free viewer from Figawi and looked at the vector charts as stand alone charts. Did not do a lot for me. I still like the raster charts better for navigation. Not sure how much work I am going to put in to using the free charts vs buying the ones I need.

What it does do is take current Softcharts which have 2 or 3 disks each now which include vector, raster and 3d stuff.
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Old 11-10-2005, 13:00   #14
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Thanks, Talbot. I concur; I won't take software to sea that is dependent on a dongle unless the publisher is willing to offer multiple dongles for only the (add'l) cost of the hardware, and of course this is in conflict with the reason the dongle exists in the first place.

Piracy of charting software is rampant; no doubt about that. Many of us could write a book on this topic, as no doubt could the software publishers. It's a shame the economic model many of them choose to use generates pirates rather than customers.

Jack
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Old 11-10-2005, 13:51   #15
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I am now a happy user of "Coastal Explorer". I looked at several options and tried the demos. I found it's user interface the most friendly. I especially liked the ease with which I could create and modify routes, incuding branching existing routes. I also found chart management very simple and functional. Of course, most of this is personal opinion so your experience may vary.

I emailed them to inquire about Cmap...

"Does Coastal Explorer support CM93 Cmap Vector Charts?

Thanks"

And here was their response...

"Not at this time, though we do get requests for this periodically, and are
looking into it.

Currently we *do* support the NOAA S-57 ENC, BSB4, and GeoTIFF(DOQ/DRG).
The software does come pre-loaded with full chart coverage of the US
including Alaska, and all intercoastal waterway charts provided by the Army
Corps of Engineers.

Thanks a lot, and if there's any other questions you have, feel free to let
me know!"

I have been using a combination of older BSB and newer ENC charts here in Florida. I also have the Maptech topo maps and Photo charts loaded and they work well. When you are hooked to the internet you can also view photos from Microsofts Terraserver. I think they are also cached for later viewing offline, but I have not tried this to verify it.

I have used maxsea in the past and it claims to support Cmap, although it is quite expensive and requires a dongle. I also found the required import procedure of ENC charts to a confusing pain in the a**.

Coastal Explorer is a new program that seems to have enthusiastic developers and is available for $399 from...

http://rosepointnav.com/default.htm

You can find it less from a couple of online retailers. Their site has links. It works very well with my Garmin 2006C plotter. I have two ports hooked up. One is hooked directly to the Garmin GPS and uses the Garmin protocol. This is required by Garmin to upload routes and waypoints. The second port is hooked to an NMEA multiplexer that takes inputs from several instruments and combines them into one data stream. This is the normal operating port on both the GPS and the PC. Both ports are using USB serial adapters (one is built into my Brookhouse multiplexer). The 2006C has two configurable ports, so this works well. If your GPS only has one port, as most do, you will need to set your GPS to Garmin protocol to upload routes, then reset it to NMEA to output position data while underway. Not a big deal. I am also guessing that the Garmin protocol will not work throught an NMEA multiplexer.

Good Luck in your search.

Woody
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