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Old 14-08-2010, 00:08   #1
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Plotter or Laptop

hi all
im stuck with a decision...
I have just bought my first cruising yacht and im not sure what way to go electronic navigation wise.
I was very close to buying a furuno gp 7000 chartplotter .
after reading posts on this forum it seems alot of cruisers use a laptop with nav software. the yacht i have bought is fitted with a garmin gps128 unit which can be interfaced with a pc. I need some info : is this gps unit a good one? its in working order but a few years old ,
what is good software to use ( I live in australia and I plan to cruise locally and internationally)..
Whats the best way to power my laptop and is this system reliable (i dont trust computers)
has anyone had experience with furuno GP7000 plotters are they worth the $
this is all new to me so any advice in any area or direction would be appreciated
cheers Josh anderson
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Old 14-08-2010, 00:20   #2
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My $0.02:

- You're right not to trust your computer. I write software for a living; it's convenient when it works but there are stories of guys staring into screens as their boats grind up onto rocks.

- OpenCPN is a great piece of software and runs great on a netbook or laptop. OpenCPN | Official OpenCPN Homepage

- I'd vote for a cheap netbook. They use less power, are much cheaper, and since all computers are ancient three years after you buy them you'll feel less bad about it. Amazon.com: ASUS Eee PC 1015PED-PU17-BK 10.1-Inch Netbook: Computer & Accessories

- usb gps Amazon.com: USGlobalSat BU-353 WaterProof WAAS Enabled USB GPS Receiver: Toys & Games

- you can get free raster charts from noaa: Chart Downloader for NOAA RNCs&#153.
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Old 14-08-2010, 03:46   #3
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Hi Josh,

We are Aussies too!!

We have a chartplotter and laptop.

The chartplotter chips are cheap if you stay in the one region but tend to be expensive if you circumnavigate and need to buy 47 different max-wide regions.

So what we do is have the laptop using OpenCpan with world-wide electronic charts (they fell off the back of a truck..... but that truck seems to wander most cruising areas )

We still use the plotter as they have a basic world wide chart and you can still put your waypoints in and follow them. Its great to have that on the helm where you can see it easily.

The Laptop charting is run by a small handheld GPS that just really supplies the laptop programs with lat and long.

One thing you might like to ask about is does the chartplotter company offer a hand held that uses the SAME charting chips? That would be handy.

With electronic charting in long range cruising you really do need 2 independant setups just in case one breaks down or your boat has an electrical problem.

As for paper charts..... they are old, useless and great as goat food.




All the best


Mark
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Old 14-08-2010, 04:10   #4
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I would almost certainly forgo the plotter and put a mac mini system on the next boat. and have a feed for radar ais etc. I use GPSnavx on the mac book now and its great, and I have a plotter as well, its superfluous really.
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Old 14-08-2010, 05:07   #5
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I also have both.I find the chips to be VERY expensize.If looking at plotter ck on overall cost of charts needed.I have a laptop & net book,the net book uses more power than the laptop.marc
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Old 14-08-2010, 07:46   #6
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Hello andrsn:
- another vote for laptop/netbook etc. (I am using the iPad, and loving it!)
If you have an outside helm position, the advantage of the plotter is that it is waterproof, and usually mounted on your binnacle. Otherwise, the laptop route offers you more versatility, bigger screen, lower cost, more software and chart options.
Instead of using a portable GPS to provide data to your laptop, don't forget that for about $30 you can get an external USB GPS receiver/antenna that simply plugs into your laptop and turns it into a chart plotter. You will, of course, need to get the navigation software.

My choice would be a Mac Mini running MacENC down below decks, and a waterproofed iPad mounted in the cockpit, running iNavX. The mini will talk to the iPad via WiFi or local network, sending positional info., AIS, weather etc. The iPad has it's own GPS receiver, which works very well, so it doesn't need to be connected to the mini, but there are some other advantages in having it do so. For example, you can "mirror" the MacENC on your iPad.
With all the other marine navigation apps available for the iPad, it's a winner.
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Old 14-08-2010, 09:19   #7
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Both. Waterproof plotter so the helmsman knows where he is and whats around him right now. Computer with its higher resolution screen inside for planning and seeing whats going on from below.
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Old 14-08-2010, 10:48   #8
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I love all Apple products, but for practical reasons, get a chart plotter. No laptop can handle the rain and spray. Securing a laptop to the helm will be ugly and difficult to get around. It is not worth the trouble and expense. You will end up with a chartplotter, anyway in the long run.
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Old 14-08-2010, 12:49   #9
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Panasonic Toughbooks are about as close to indestructable as any computer can get but they are hugely expensive. I use an old HP laptop with SeaClear(free) and the NOAA charts(free) I have a small gps "puck" and an AIS receiver(not nearly free). They seem to work very well and the charts can be updated(yup free) from the NOAA site when ever you feel the need. The program takes a bit of fiddling to learn but once done it works seamlessly...............m
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Old 14-08-2010, 13:24   #10
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Plotter or PC

I have beat my head against this... MY best solution... BOTH
On Pangaea, Manta 44' Power Cat, I mounted a Raymarine E120 multifunction Chart Plotter at the helm coupled to a PC Laptop at the inside Nav station via SeaTalkHS(aka ethernet). I do all route planning on the laptop with mouse and full keyboard! Radar, depth, speed, fish finder, etc are available at both systems.

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Old 14-08-2010, 13:42   #11
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As for paper charts..... they are old, useless and great as goat food.

All the best

Mark


But Mark,,, what do you use when you have NO electricity because the wife did not charge the batteries, or the laptop gets wet,,,, you still need paper charts no matter what, just like you still need a compass even though you mostly use gps
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Old 14-08-2010, 13:47   #12
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We cruised for many years with only the laptop at the nav station and a GPS at the helm. While this worked well it does have its disadvantages and requires two people at the least in certain situations. We eventually put a plotter at the helm and for a very long time ran both at the same time. This truly turned out to be the best of both worlds. At some point we began using mostly the plotter and occasionally the laptop also. With the new trawler and two helm stations we run a plotter on the flybridge and a laptop at the lower helm.
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Old 14-08-2010, 13:49   #13
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I'd go for a computer driven system, whether it be toughbook/cheap laptop/notebook over a plotter any day.

We ran cheap laptops aboard small research vessels in all conditions for many years. These were attached to the chart table with velcro, were NMEA linked to a GPS, and in the worst of conditions we put some cling film over the keyboard. Never lost one. We ran it off a small cheap inverter via cigar lighter socket, and it drew little power that way.

Our last set up had a waterproof keyboard, and a Panasonic tough pad for viewing on deck, and it worked very well.

When we made the choice on laptop vs computer on our new boat we opted for the plotter as we could put it at the binnacle, view the radar and AIS on the screen, and it would all be easy to use. And I'd have to say it was a total mistake. Yes it's easy to use, but the plotter is slow, and the charts are very poor.

Notebooks are cheap, most of us these days are reasonably computer literate, and the programmes available are better and better. Before too long daylight waterproof viewable screens will come down in price, and computer systems will rule. And as you'll still want a computer system for weather, e-mail etc. it makes sense to build your total system around that in my view.

Now that Mac Mini systems are becoming so much the norm, and there are more navigation and weather options available for Macs, I'll definitely be watching developments in that field for the future.

Best wishes

Colin
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Old 14-08-2010, 14:38   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrsn View Post
hi all
im stuck with a decision...
I have just bought my first cruising yacht and im not sure what way to go electronic navigation wise.
I was very close to buying a furuno gp 7000 chartplotter .
after reading posts on this forum it seems alot of cruisers use a laptop with nav software. the yacht i have bought is fitted with a garmin gps128 unit which can be interfaced with a pc. I need some info : is this gps unit a good one? its in working order but a few years old ,
what is good software to use ( I live in australia and I plan to cruise locally and internationally)..
Whats the best way to power my laptop and is this system reliable (i dont trust computers)
has anyone had experience with furuno GP7000 plotters are they worth the $
this is all new to me so any advice in any area or direction would be appreciated
cheers Josh anderson
Hi Josh and welcome to the forum. I'm from Lake Macquarie and have the same dilema as you. I currently have a new boat in build and have the Furuno and Raymarine dealers both quoting on a full system for the new boat (ouch!). I'm thinking of putting a plotter at the helm, a laptop downstairs, but adding a plug in flatscreen and keyboard to the laptop for ease of viewing and use at the nav station. Because on my current boat I only have a compass, a hand held GPS and those (goat food?) paper charts, I need all the help I can get with techno stuff, so please keep the forum informed of which way you jump.

Greg
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Old 14-08-2010, 14:41   #15
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G'day, Mates, My 15 year old Dell Inspiron 3000 is still going strong with C-Map and a Trimble GPS. I also have bought 2 other cheap laptops for back up. I feed the waypoint and route information up to the radar and fishfinder in the cockpit.

I like redundancy when I can afford it. It has been my experience that it is much less expensive to replace a laptop system than the big name intergrated systems when something turns to custard; lightening, water damage, electrical surges, just to name a few. I am spoiled with generator, so power usage is no where in the same league compared to keeping the refrigerator going to keep the beer cold!! Cheers.
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