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Old 11-05-2008, 08:06   #1
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Starting From Scratch - What Would You Do?

Yesterday, during my "space shuttle launches" in the chop in the Chesapeake, my computer fell 6 ft onto some stairs and then fell down the stairs to the bottom of the port hull. It's barely working. So, given these factors (listed below), what would you do for navigation?

Factors:
*Computer is not reliable for navigation now
*Have a small, B&W Garmin Handheld GPS
*Have no paper charts on board, really. Odds and ends, but not new.

I need to get navigation going for the rest of the trip and for the future as well. I plan to cruise to Europe eventually and in the Caribbean. Also, I plan to venture through the Canal eventually.

Given that I'll be *eventually* going to foreign ports of call cruising, need charts now to complete this delivery and want to buy one thing, what should I do?

Important things are:

1) Cheapest method over the long run
2) Most reliable method
3) Ease of use

Any suggestions?
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:21   #2
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Hi Sean:

Sorry to hear about your troubles. I currently have Garmin Charts. I would not buy them again. They are fine if you are staying in one place but not so good (b/c of cost) if you are travelling from place to place. C-Map has a nice chart that covers the entire East Coast Carribean (I think) and thru the canal. At the boat show they were only $250/ I don't know how they work on computers. If I remember correctly you have a Mac and I don't know that they work on that at all. IMHO I would get a paper chart kit for the ICW to get you home and then research the electronic options at your leasure. My wife always accuses me of panic buying. She's right. Take your time and research what will be best for your trips in the future. I like to have paper charts even though I have a charplotter. The price sure adds up though.

I was debating last night whether to bring my new laptop or the old one on the trip. It is really easy to bring the new one all I have to do is undock it and I'm set. After hearing your story though I think I'll take the time to load the relevant software on the old laptop and bring that home. I also want to figure some way to secure the laptop so it is not jostled if the boat is bounced around.
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:30   #3
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well, since I AM starting from scratch. here's what I'm doing.

I take seaclear and the free charts given online by whatever the organization is, I can't remember at the moment.

I then use another program recommended by seaclear to take screenshots of the charts as I view them, then print them out and stick them in plastic baggies. laminating them might work better, but I just do with what I've got for now.

it's not the best solution, it takes a bit of work on your part and a working computer and printer, but other than paper and toner/ink(I use a b&w laser printer, very little cost per page unlike ink jets) it's free. it's also a bit hard to get very high detail charts without spreading them over several pages. I may invest in some better paper charts if I ever leave the area, but for now, this is cheap, good enough, and reliable.
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:43   #4
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Hi Sean:

Sorry to hear about your troubles. I currently have Garmin Charts. I would not buy them again. They are fine if you are staying in one place but not so good (b/c of cost) if you are travelling from place to place. C-Map has a nice chart that covers the entire East Coast Carribean (I think) and thru the canal. At the boat show they were only $250/ I don't know how they work on computers. If I remember correctly you have a Mac and I don't know that they work on that at all. IMHO I would get a paper chart kit for the ICW to get you home and then research the electronic options at your leasure. My wife always accuses me of panic buying. She's right. Take your time and research what will be best for your trips in the future. I like to have paper charts even though I have a charplotter. The price sure adds up though.

I was debating last night whether to bring my new laptop or the old one on the trip. It is really easy to bring the new one all I have to do is undock it and I'm set. After hearing your story though I think I'll take the time to load the relevant software on the old laptop and bring that home. I also want to figure some way to secure the laptop so it is not jostled if the boat is bounced around.

Thankfully, I'm all done the ICW!

But, I was leaning toward paper charts for the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and NJ/NY. I already have the Maptech paper ChartKit from "Block Island to the Canadian Border" on board.

This is one of the pitfalls of electronic navigation. I'm leaning toward dusting off my old skills for paper and standard navigation.

But... I do like to hear what others are doing because maybe I'm missing something.
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Old 11-05-2008, 08:54   #5
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Here's what I would do:

Buy a laptop off of Ebay for about $150. I'd probably pick an IBM Thinkpad like a T23 or T41 that's coming off of a corporate lease. They are rugged. I'd choose an Ebay seller who sells lot of them. Also make sure it comes with a working and licensed copy of XP. When it arrives - if you like it - consider buying another one from the same guy as a backup computer.

As mentioned above, SeaClear is a great piece of software and let's you use free charts throughout the world. It's a little tricky at first to figure out how to get the charts downloaded and installed but you only have to do this once. SeaClear runs fine on quite a slow computer. SeaClear GPS Navigation Software

See if your Garmin is a model that can put out a GPS signal to the laptop that SeaClear can read (there are directions on the SeaClear web site). If not, go back to Ebay and buy a "hocky puck" GPS antenna for about $50.

Bingo - you now have a good chart plotter again, As mentioned, you can also print out the SeaClear charts for paper versions.

Good luck,

Carl
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Old 11-05-2008, 09:10   #6
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Thanks for the idea, Carl. What happens when lightning strikes, or the hard drive crashes? Do I keep a 2nd onboard as backup? Is that what you meant?

I do still have to make it from Virginia to Maine though before I can play around with eBaying. I'm enroute.
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Old 11-05-2008, 10:36   #7
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Yes - a second identical computer onboard is wonderful because you are familiar with all the little quirks of the software/hardware. I would prefer two "cheaper/slower" computers than one more expensive one. The batteries may not be much good on an old computer but just get a Car Charger off Ebay for about $15 and plug it into 12v.

Look around a little on Ebay. A lot of these are solid businesses with wonderful customer service. You want a guy who sells a lot of laptops, has over a 1000 feedbacks and a lot of positive comments about service and shipping. Send them an email and describe your situation before "bidding". Ask them if they can ship "2nd day" to arrive at a marina a few days ahead of you. Call the marina and tell them to expect the package - then be sure to buy something from the marina for their trouble. Here's the type of seller I'd be looking for - although you could go with an even slower/cheaper computer than this one:

IBM THINKPAD LAPTOP T41 1.6GHZ P M CDRW DVD XP WI-FI - eBay (item 270235601288 end time May-12-08 15:27:59 PDT)

Good luck

Carl
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Old 11-05-2008, 10:42   #8
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Yes - a second identical computer onboard is wonderful because you are familiar with all the little quirks of the software/hardware. I would prefer two "cheaper/slower" computers than one more expensive one. The batteries may not be much good on an old computer but just get a Car Charger off Ebay for about $15 and plug it into 12v.

Look around a little on Ebay. A lot of these are solid businesses with wonderful customer service. You want a guy who sells a lot of laptops, has over a 1000 feedbacks and a lot of positive comments about service and shipping. Send them an email and describe your situation before "bidding". Ask them if they can ship "2nd day" to arrive at a marina a few days ahead of you. Call the marina and tell them to expect the package - then be sure to buy something from the marina for their trouble. Here's the type of seller I'd be looking for - although you could go with an even slower/cheaper computer than this one:

IBM THINKPAD LAPTOP T41 1.6GHZ P M CDRW DVD XP WI-FI - eBay (item 270235601288 end time May-12-08 15:27:59 PDT)

Good luck

Carl

Hmmm... not bad.

To support this idea, I already have my USB GPS from my current computer. I also wouldn't have to fret about how crappy PCs are, because I would never use it for anything but running one application. No internet = no virus... well... except the old fashioned boot sector viruses we had back in the days of "sneakernet", but I don't see myself using floppies. ha ha

Hmmm... so there is redundancy, which is nice. It's cheaper than any other chartplotters, etc...

I'll give this option some serious thought. Thanks for the idea.
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Old 11-05-2008, 14:37   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssullivan View Post
Yesterday, during my "space shuttle launches" in the chop in the Chesapeake, my computer fell 6 ft onto some stairs and then fell down the stairs to the bottom of the port hull. It's barely working. So, given these factors (listed below), what would you do for navigation?

Factors:
*Computer is not reliable for navigation now
*Have a small, B&W Garmin Handheld GPS
*Have no paper charts on board, really. Odds and ends, but not new.

I need to get navigation going for the rest of the trip and for the future as well. I plan to cruise to Europe eventually and in the Caribbean. Also, I plan to venture through the Canal eventually.

Given that I'll be *eventually* going to foreign ports of call cruising, need charts now to complete this delivery and want to buy one thing, what should I do?

Important things are:

1) Cheapest method over the long run
2) Most reliable method
3) Ease of use

Any suggestions?
I think Microship's experience will be invaluable on this. He is, without a doubt, an expert. I would scan his sites.

Personally I would go with an Apple Mac minis at about 500 or so. Install MacENC on it. If you want a backup, the other gets stored in a faraday cage or used for all the non-critical stuff (email, blogs, photos) if you want to use it. All that stays at the nav station.

I would use the wireless to communicate to a RAM mounted laptop at the helm. You have a double or even triple redundant system with a help station you can move but which can still take heavy weather including the kinetic aspects.

The details on the setup I mentioned before.

Another low cost option is the OLPC thread. Phiggans has done some really good work which I am looking forward to trying out as I literally just received my little lime-colored devil today.

Side note - If your laptop is truly jacked up. Back it the critical files now before its too late.

Hope that helps.
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Old 11-05-2008, 15:19   #10
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I spent $850 on origional paper charts to get me from Brisbane, Australia up the Red Sea and into the Med. The only paper charts I used was in the Singapore Straits. Most of the time we relied on electronic charts by c-map that worked well on the computer.

The c-map charts weren't good for the Bahamas, and we got different electronic charts for there and for the intercoastal waterway.

I like using electronic charts, but I always carry paper charts as backup. Sometimes I use photocopies and somtimes I use origionals. When I go offshore again, I will get a cheap laptop and put electronic charts on it, and if the lap top fails, I will replace it with another cheap lap top.

I don't rely on electronic charts to tell me where I am. I use them to orient myself to my surroundings. If my eyes disagree with the electronic charts, I go with my eyes.

The great advantage of electronic charts is that it's so easy to orient myself to my surroundings. It makes standing watch so much easier because I'm not having to spend time plotting a position. I have an assumed position, and I know what I should be seeing. I feel that electronic charts give me the edge I need to have worry free navigation.
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Old 11-05-2008, 19:30   #11
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What Sluissa and CarlF said.


It took me a few hours to figure out how to get the dang charts so the software could show them, only because the directions/help were confusing to me.
I have not tried playing with it much, just looking at charts and dreaming..........
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Old 11-05-2008, 20:39   #12
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Quote:
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Important things are:
2) Most reliable method
Get paper charts. Maptech ChartKits are a great way to go for U.S. coastal waters and Easter Caribbean.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssullivan View Post
1) Cheapest method over the long run
May or may not be paper (but in my humble opinion, you need paper no matter what!) I have heard that you may be able to swap or buy second hand paper charts from cruisers heading in the opposite direction from the one you're contemplating. For electronic charting, you could get a cheap laptop, Fugawi Marine ENC software, and download free charts from NOAA Office of Coast Survey. I'm not sure what's the best bet for electronic charts of foreign waters
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3) Ease of use
Paper charts are actually pretty easy to use, but perhaps not as easy as a large screen Garmin chartplotter.
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Old 11-05-2008, 21:53   #13
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Sean, see this thread:

Garmin GPSMAP 540 chartplotter deal...

The deal is still available. A 5" screen color Garmin chartplotter for $410 shipped. Includes all coastal US charts plus Explorer Charts of the Bahamas. You can buy additional charts on SD cards from Garmin. Lots of nifty features.

Even if, as some say, the Garmin charts for Europe are too expensive, you still have a chartplotter at the helm, cheap.

You're sailing shorthanded IIRC. So am I and IMO a chartplotter at the helm is almost a necessity. No worries about getting it wet or having to figure out how to keep it secured.
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Old 11-05-2008, 21:53   #14
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Over the long run, I think I would buy a decent cheaper end of the market chart plotter that uses C-map chips and install it in a place where it won't get flooded, or damaged (i.e. below decks).
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Old 12-05-2008, 07:42   #15
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I don't think garmin really wants my business. I called garmin tech support...30 minute wait.
I wen to the garmin website to send an e-mail enquiry; they require you to register. Why? Just answer my freakin questions and I might buy your product.
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