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Old 01-02-2010, 20:31   #1
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PC Charting for the BVI

Chartering for the first time in the BVI in April, and plan to buy the Chart Kit paper charts. The boat will have a GPS chartplotter, so I really donít need a PC charting system, but Iíd like to use the trip as an opportunity to learn more about navigation by GPS.

Because Iím doing this mostly as a training exercise, Iím trying to keep the costs low, but Iím finding the information available on the web about electronic charts very confusing, so I thought Iíd turn for help to the members of this forum.

Here are the basic things Iíd like to be able to do:
1. Run the system on my Windows Vista laptop
2. Plot courses and distances before I leave for the trip, and save these as routes
3. Hook up an inexpensive GPS receiver via USB during the trip, and see such things as SOG, COG, distance, VMG to the course plotted, etc during the sail
4. Save the actual course sailed for later analysis
5. If I could display downloaded weather data, that would be an added bonus, but not essential.

Here are the options Iíve been looking at, along with perceived difficulties with each. Iíd appreciate any feedback and whether I have the information wrong:
1. Garmin 400t adding an SD chart card Ė I already have this unit with the inland lakes SD card, which I use on my small lake sailing boat at home. This unit works fine on the boat, but Iíve been pretty disappointed with its ability to interface with the computer to do the things I listed above. I suspect I should have bought a PC version of the charts rather than an SD card, but Iím not really sure and the Garmin website doesnít really explain very well. I also donít think I can use my Garmin 400t as a ďreceiverĒ to display real-time data on a PC chart (at least havenít been able to figure out how to do this, although it certainly seems like it ought to be a basic function of any such unit)
2. Open CPN (http://opencpn.org/)Ė managed to download this and getting it running, and also downloaded the NOAA ENC chart for Puerto Rico which covers part of the US Virgin Islands. But, there are ďblankĒ areas within the chart area, and there only seems to be about 2 zoom levels, with not a lot of detail available even at the highest zoom. Also, I canít seem to find any charts of the BVI for this program. It does have the major advantage of being free, but I think I saw on this forum that the developer is taking a hiatus for a while so not sure if it will continue to be viable.
3. Polar View (Polar Navy) Ė Nice looking interface, and only $33 for the full version that apparently allows real time display from a GPS receiver. Charts appear to be available from ChartWorld GmbH - Your Partner In Navigational Digital Services for the BVI in the Admiralty Raster Chart Service. I downloaded their ďchart viewerĒ set up an account, uploaded their ď.cwiĒ file, and jumped through all the hoops, but still couldnít figure out how much the charts actually cost or how you actually download them.

Finally, after all this preamble, here are the questions Iím looking for help on:
1. Can I find an inexpensive PC program do to the things I listed above?
2. Is Open CPN or Polar View a good option, or are there better choices?
3. Any suggestions for an inexpensive USB GPS receiver and where to find it?

I realize this is kind of long and specific, but Iíve spent quite a bit of time researching on the web with not much to show for it, and I had to think that other might have similar questions. Iím hoping other could benefit from this discussion as well.

Thanks in advance for any guidance.

Brett
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Old 01-02-2010, 21:34   #2
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Brett - I'm a Mac guy, so can't help in the Windows software arena (I love MacENC!), but I can tell you that I've had great experience on my MacBook using a GlobalSat BU-353 waterproof USB GPS receiver. Here's a link on Amazon ($37):

Amazon.com: GlobalSat BU-353 Waterproof USB GPS Receiver: Electronics

For the BVIs, I have a Garmin Colorado 400, and I bought the Caribbean micro SD card with the marine charts on it - during my last 4 trips there, I have sailed 4 weeks around the BVIs four times using only this handheld "chartplotter" and kept my paper charts on the salon table as back up. Works amazingly well...I can plot GPS Lat/Lon every hour on the paper charts and fine-tune course with autopilot based on watching the Garmin.

Have fun!
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Old 02-02-2010, 02:01   #3
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Brett,

The BVI is the easiest place to navigate that I've been to, the single Imray chart Imray Nautical Books and nautical Charts from Imray, Admiralty Charts and pilots for sailing navigation from Imray, Laurie, Norie&Wilson Ltd www.imray.com is sufficient, coupled with the Doyle guide that all the charter companies put on the boats for detailed instructions for each anchorage.

I recently sailed up to Anegada and thought I'd use my chartplotter to navigate the (narrow and shallow) channel; and I was more than surprised to see that the positional errors were HUGE. I've since been told that this isn't limited to my system but is symptomatic for Anegada while the rest of the BVI is charted correctly.

The two AIS marks on the picture (grey triangles) are actually sitting right at the red bouy at the real channel entrance, the whole chart is offset by several hundred yards. I've contacted Navionics and they have admitted the error and will work on correcting it.



I think that the navigational part will be simplest by using a paper chart and a handheld compass but you should ensure that your GPS to PC connection works so that you have a track of where you've been and can use that later for analysis.
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:34   #4
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Hank - thanks for the pointer to USB GPS, that's just what I was looking for. I also have a Mac, so I'll give MacENC a try.

Not too many other responses to this thread (possibly because most folks considering navigating the BVI's a trivial matter, which is probably true). Any, I plan to give Polar View a try, and I'll post my responses here in case any else is interested.

I'd still be interested to hear any comparisons of Polar View and OpenCPN.

Brett
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Old 13-02-2010, 18:40   #5
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Brett,

I am the primary software simian behind PolarView, as well as a user of the application of course. Sorry for the late reply, but I think this may still be timely and, perhaps, others may be interested as well.

I also recently chartered in BVI (December) and purchased all the appropriate charts so if you are interested - here is what the process is.

First, as a pre-amble - I am not sure what the .cwi file is. What you do need to get is the following charts:
- All the NOAA ENC vector charts for "Puerto Rico" (these will have names like US4PRXXX and US5PRXXX). These charts cover PR (which you don't really need) as well as US Virgin Islands and a portion of British Virgin Islands including Jost Van Dyke. I found US coverage of Jost Van Dyke (in particular the east portion and the anchorage south of Little JVD to be a little more precise)
- You need to purchase 3 UK S63 charts - GB302006, GB52020A and GB52020B. These cover pretty much the entire BVI.

I buy S63 charts at ChartWorld (ChartWorld GmbH - Your Partner In Navigational Digital Services) - they are the easiest, in my opinion (I don't have any connection to them other than that I buy charts there from time to time ). First, open an account (I think you've done that already) - d'oh To buy charts at ChartWorld (or any other S63 distributor) you need to provide your User Permit. This is a long hexadecimal string, that you see in the lower portion of Chart Manager in PolarView. You will be asked for it when you are creating your account profile. Copy and paste this string precisely - ChartWorld system will tell you if there is an error.

Below a screen capture of Chart Manager showing User Permit at right bottom (yours will be different, of course).


Log on to your new account and go to section "Shop" (top left on the menu bar), then select "Official S57 ENC" section (with a nice big ship on the image). Once there, you can enter names of places or charts in the "search" box on the left. You can search for Virgin Islands or specifically for the chart cell names I listed above (better search for the specific names as one of the charts is hard to find otherwise).


ChartWorld gives you an option of buying charts with various length of updates. The shorter the update period, the less it costs. Note, that charts you buy *do not* become invalid once the update period is over - they remain installed and working in PolarView. The cost of each chart is Euro 11.88 (something like $16) for a 3 month update period.

Once you buy charts, ChartWorld will send you a link to download these files (over FTP). Your download listing will look something like this:

GB302006_DATA_10_1_0.ZIP.S63
GB52020A_DATA_10_1_0.ZIP.S63
GB52020B_DATA_10_1_0.ZIP.S63
Polar_DC6880_20100119.zip.prm

Each of these files is a Zip archive, an unusual file extension notwithstanding. Download all of these files, and unzip them (you may need to change the extension to just ".zip" to make your unzip application happy).

Each of the chart files (GB...) will open up into a directory called ENC_ROOT. Feel free to open all of them into the same ENC_ROOT directory, overwriting any files that may already be there - they are not needed for our purposes.

The last archive will contain 3 files, of which you need one - PERMIT.TXT.

In PolarView open Chart Manager, and from there Permit Manager (using "Manage Permits" button on the bottom right). In Permit Manager select "Add", browse to the PERMIT.TXT location and select this file. This will add 3 permits - one for each chart, that will be shown in the Permit Manager.

Screen shot of Permit Manager with these licenses added (and one expired license to boot):



Once you've done that - close Permit Manager, and select "Add Directory" from Chart Manager, then select directory ENC_ROOT where all the charts were un-zipped. This will add charts the same way it adds other, non-encrypted, S57 charts.

Once you do that - you are in business, and should have a pretty good coverage of BVI (even including Anegada, where I always want to go and never do - this time because the northern swell was running pretty bad).

If you have any questions - let me know. As always, PolarView is available at www.polarnavy.com

Two screenshots below represent US (first) and UK (second) versions of JVD. Note the anchorage detail on eastern end below Little JVD.



US was essentially on the money, while UK essentially just marked the entire area "unknown, may be shallow". US is clearly more recently updated there, since the entire area had undergone some development lately (not much, thankfully )

Quote:
Originally Posted by brettnkay View Post
3. Polar View (Polar Navy) – Nice looking interface, and only $33 for the full version that apparently allows real time display from a GPS receiver. Charts appear to be available from ChartWorld GmbH - Your Partner In Navigational Digital Services for the BVI in the Admiralty Raster Chart Service. I downloaded their “chart viewer” set up an account, uploaded their “.cwi” file, and jumped through all the hoops, but still couldn’t figure out how much the charts actually cost or how you actually download them.
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Old 15-02-2010, 09:12   #6
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Brak - thanks for this great detail. Very timely as I'm just doing some final planning for the trip. By the way, great job on PolarView, I have been using it for some preliminary course plotting with the NOAA charts and have found it pretty easy to use (as someone with very little PC chart program experience). Now that I know how to get the UK S63 charts, I'm ready to buy the USB GPS receiver listed above and upgrade to PolarView IS.

Couple more questions - if I have the NOAA and UK S63 charts of the same area (e.g. JVD) in the same directory, how will PolarView decide which one to dislplay? Also, if I have a choice between ENC and RNC for the same area, what the advantages/disadvantages of each? Finally, I'm thinking of upgrading my laptop to Win7, has PolarView been tested much with Win7?

Once again, thanks for a great response to my post and a great program!

Brett
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Old 15-02-2010, 10:11   #7
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Brett,

PolarView selects charts automatically for a "best fit". In a nutshell, for each area and scale level it will select a chart covering that area with the scale level closest to the one you are looking at, regardless of the type of chart. That said, you can turn charts on or off as needed in Chart Manager - select a chart entry and use "+" and "-" buttons (on lower left). A new option to show and specifically control charts "in current view" is going to be available, according to project plan in version after the next, so it probably won't be ready by the time of your charter.

To be honest, I have not seen raster charts of BVI so I can't really comment on these specifically. In general, my personal choice is vector charts for areas I sail in, unless not available. They scale well, they use colors and symbols I like (that's highly subjective of course), they provide more information about objects without having it all written all over the chart, and they work faster in PolarView. I like my raster charts on paper Of course, the ultimate choice of chart format is a very individual thing.

PolarView is tested and works on Windows 7 (both 32 bit and 64 bit versions). I get this question a lot and just realized that Win7 is not listed on the download page - d'oh!


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Originally Posted by brettnkay View Post

Couple more questions - if I have the NOAA and UK S63 charts of the same area (e.g. JVD) in the same directory, how will PolarView decide which one to dislplay? Also, if I have a choice between ENC and RNC for the same area, what the advantages/disadvantages of each? Finally, I'm thinking of upgrading my laptop to Win7, has PolarView been tested much with Win7?

Once again, thanks for a great response to my post and a great program!

Brett
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Old 15-02-2010, 10:47   #8
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As an aside, I just noticed that US chart shows the area between JVD and Little JVD and up north as being navigable (depth area of 27'). Thats completely wrong - as UK chart shows, that area is a fowl area, may be a few feet deep with a line of shallow rocks to the north completely separating it from the open water. I guess both charts have their issues. Just goes to show that ultimately only the captain knows where his vessel is and no GPS or chart can replace good situational awareness.
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Old 15-02-2010, 10:50   #9
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I bought the CYC Chart Kit Reg.11 Virgin Islands for our planned trip in May. The kit includes:
1. CD of charts, Rose Point software to view them, photos of anchorages
2. Harbour and Anchorage Pilot Book
3. 2 full sized passage charts, 6 coastal charts
4. GPS Charted Waypoints and Approaches.

I installed the software and charts on my 12" screen netbook and they look great. A GPS "hockey puck" antenna is plugged into the USB and also works great while experimenting with local charts downloaded from NOAA. I have not experimented with laying out routes yet, but will get to it before the trip. I am very happy with this package so far. Oh yes the whole works was $79.95 at Armchair Sailor in Seattle.
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Old 15-02-2010, 11:09   #10
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The CYC detail charts show the area between JVD and Little JVD (Long Bay) as not being navigable, with the description "Dries". Three safe anchorages are marked with a red anchor symbol, along with moorings with a dashed line as the suggested route to get to them. These charts are German in origin--Nautical Publications GmbH Amis.
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Old 22-02-2010, 15:19   #11
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Another note - US and UK charts differ by up to 600 feet in some places, where they overlap. My best estimate (both looking at my tracks on a chart as well as comparing to Google maps, made easy by direct link from PolarView to Google map location) suggests that UK charts are correct. I suppose NOAA does not have to update non-US waters quite as well, though I think 600ft may be pushing it.
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Old 25-02-2010, 07:40   #12
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Does anyone know what the cost of the Raster charts are from Chart World, the Admiralty Raster Chart Service? If they're not too expensive, it would be worth buying the Polar Navy chartplotter. I can't see any way of buying raster charts from them without having a verification code from a vendor. Anybody know of a good source for raster charts for outside the U.S.? The only one I know of is Northview Cartography, but they are $19 each.
Thanks for your help.
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Old 04-03-2010, 18:58   #13
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Tom,
I followed your hint and bought that CYC chart kit.

I have maptech navigator with a lot of charts, but their BVI kit does not include a CD.

After receiving the the Kit and the CD, I was quite disappointed to see that I can install or better "register" the charts only twice in my lifetime.

I have a laptop in my boat, I use a laptop for traveling and a desktop at home.
I have to do my planning now on the land laptop (that I use when chartering) and not on my desktop because I need one registration for my boats laptop.

And if one of these 2 crashes, it seems I'm out of luck. And if the laptop on the boat crashes while under way, I loose my chart navigator, even if I have a backup laptop with me.

Oh yes, they sell you an USB "dongle" so you can install their charts up to 50 ! times for an additional 50 Euro (around 75$), at least from their German website.

Even if the charts are good, that service is bad.

And btw. I could not find any of these setbacks when buying.

Oh yes they have a hard to find "Terms and Conditions" page, of course in German.
There they state you can install their products ONE time on a hard disk :-)

Anyway, nobodies fault but mine of course.

Now back to finding out how their software shows my other BSB charts.
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Old 04-04-2010, 23:02   #14
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I am trying to find a chart solution quickly for teh BVI as well.

I am leaving for the BVI in a week and wanted to have the ability to track my route via my Macbook as the Moorings Raymarine Plotter we will have looks to be quite primitive from what I have heard. I use paper charts in conjunction with a plotter mostly for actual navagation as that is the way my father taught me how to navigate. However, with the ability to export your route to google maps now, its hard to pass up the opportunity to use your PC to share your trip with others.

I purchased the GlobalSat BU-353 on Ebay for about $20. This is the same USB MouseGPS device that many of these Chart companies charge $70+ for in their "Store". What I like about it is that it is Mac compatible (The drivers are located on their website), its waterproof and it actually has a magnetic bottom so you can stick it on stuff.

I am still stuck in terms of what charting software to use. I can Dual boot into Windows on the macbook if needed so really I have tons of options. I was really looking into MacENC or GPSNavX, but both of them are a bit expensive for me to just export routes for my blog.

ChartWorld was a great find, thanks for posting their link. I setup an account and am now waiting to hit the purchase button depending on which software I decide to license.

I hear that OpenCPN is a neat little opensource project, but was having some problems getting it to work.

This site was a really great read to get a breakdown of Charts and the BVI.
Navigating With GPS, Charts, and Eyeballs
Brak did a great job doing that already but the above site goes into detail about how a .5 mile variation in the available charts can be a problem, specifically when heading to Anegada.
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Old 05-04-2010, 20:02   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patient View Post
I am trying to find a chart solution quickly for teh BVI as well.
.
Not to repeat myself, I'll just point down to my signature
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