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Old 24-03-2009, 21:02   #16
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inexpensive chart plotter

I was sailing at night looking for the marker to go up a channel, we could not find the channel marker although we knew the water and had a chart, we had a GPS and new that we were within 150 yards of where it should be, but it was a little nasty, and a narrow channel. We found it later, but it made for a tiring evening. The light we needed was out. Very soon after that I bought an inexpensive chart plotter that had a fish finder on it. There is no way to describe how much less stressful it made sailing the chesepeak in a boat that draws 6 feet.
I wanted a big fancy thing, but budget caused me to buy something small and inexpensive, that I could mount right above the wheel. I am glad that I could not afford something big and expensive, and I will never buy a boat and not put a chart plotter at the wheel. With sufficient charts/chips to show the necessary details.
One more word, when we purchased our boat we followed the ICW by day, and ran aground several times as the wind blew us out of the channel between markers. It looked like we were in the channel to us, but we were out. We knew where we were, we knew what the number on the next marker was, the distance and direction, but man would a chart plotter have made life easy.
Good Luck.

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Old 24-03-2009, 21:07   #17
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My 5" screen is great, as long as I put the boat at the bottom (long axis is vertical), and have it in 'perspective' 'heading up' mode where I look from astern to get a longer view in front. (I also have a high resolution screen I can read up close if I need to zoom out.)

Viewing 'North Up' with the boat centred and no 'perspective' mode would give me limited view of what lies ahead, and may make me want a slightly larger screen. Similarly, 'heading up' on a horizontal screen may not work as well?

One point if you decide a much larger screen is needed - for half the price you can buy a portable computer for below decks and a 5-6" plotter for the helm.
Now, what is the next animation I should try ...

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Old 24-03-2009, 21:55   #18
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Originally Posted by Captain Bill View Post
If your iffy about getting a chartplotter why not just buy a laptop and a cheap USB GPS. Get a Nav program like Coastal Explorer or one of the others that are available. You can then use the computer for a variety of other tasks. It certainly is a better return on investment. That said it is sometimes quite nice to have a weatherproof sunlight visible display on deck when a laptop just wouldn't cut it.
I would second that response. I would suggest also a handheld or two as backup. In many parts of the world the charts and chartplotters are unreliable. Learn to use eyeball navigation and charts to get into harbors and through difficult passes. The laptop can stay below.

The laptop could be used for email, inventories of provisions, watching movies, listening to music.. Some PC based plotters have built in logbooks. You imagination is your only constraint.

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Old 25-03-2009, 06:05   #19
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For the last 9 years we have used and liked pc nav system down below at the chart table (Cap'n) along w/ paper charts in the cockpit. This has served us very well, like the ease of planning and having realtime position updates. But for the last couple of years the desire for an at the helm chart display has increased, especially for short handed operations. So last year I purchased an inexpensive (<400 USD) plotter (5" display) from Std Horizon running c-map chart crtridges (1 cartridge cost 225 USD covers US East Coast south thru E Carib, w/ Explorer charts of the Bahamas). Completely statisfied, still use the pc mostly for planning purposes. No problem w/ display size. Only wish is that the pc would upload routes to plotter like my old gps...this is a small issue for me but would have been nice.

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Old 25-03-2009, 06:32   #20
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I think the answer to your question depends entirely on what type of cruising you're planning to do.

I have a chartplotter with radar overlay, an old Garmin GPS 48 handheld, and a laptop running PC Planner NT route planning software, and Coastal Explorer chart software with the ability to accept WAAS GPS input.

The chartplotter and radar were absolutely invaluable when sailing up the Delaware Bay at night in poor visibility, as an example. But there are many types of sailing where they are really not essential. For offshore passagemaking, I just use my handheld GPS in a RAM mount at the helm (saves on amps). No need for a chartplotter at all. The radar does come in handy for tracking and avoiding ships and squalls, but you can handle that with a handheld compass. In the Abacos, we used paper charts and a handheld with no problems at all. I didn't have the electronic charts for the chartplotter.

For island-hopping in the eastern Caribbean, the chartplotter is good for showing you your approximate position in relation to land masses, but inaccuracies in the charts themselves make relying on it for critical, close-in navigation unwise. I found a 1,000' discrepancy in Antigua. My handheld and Chris Doyle's sailing guides are really all I need in the Leewards and Windwards, even when sailing at night.

So I'd say to go with the handheld if you're not expecting to get caught sailing in restricted visibility a lot of the time. You'd want to have radar in that case, anyway.
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Old 25-03-2009, 08:56   #21
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Good comments everyone. We do have radar (albeit 15 years old), sextant, paper charts. The decision to add a plotter hasn't been made yet-it'll be the last thing we decide before we head off. As for a 'value decision', since we are on a limited budget, the cost of a plotter doesn't help it's cause-no argument there. Keep the reasons coming!
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Old 25-03-2009, 10:41   #22
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I have a Garmin 2010C Chartplotter, a Garmin 60CS handheld, I run enroute with Garmin maps on a PC, and use them all, The plotter however is the one tied to the Autopilot. For coastal cruising the planned routes that I put on the plotter allows me to watch more stuff while the vessel runs the course like it was on rails. I can plan my route to avoid the nasty things like rocks etc. and I can move a waypoint at a critical moment and the autopilot takes the newly formed route in stride. This is the first time I have had a chartplotter in 30 plus years of coastal cruising. I love it.
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Old 25-03-2009, 11:01   #23
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This is an interesting topic - our last year aboard our prior boat we spent along the east coast of the US. We had a 10" chartplotter on board and would not have traded it for anything. We are now in the final stages of refit on our new boat and when it came to nav / electronics we decided to omit the plotter. For us it is based on several factors. We will be offshore the majority of the time and for extended periods, in these circumstances we found it was more common to shut off the plotter to save power. Also we are headed for S. America / Pacific islands on this trip and to find a plotter that has accurate charts for all of these areas available without breaking the bank was not an easy task (cost of charts not hardware). So between the power draw (not much but offshore 24 hours a day adds up) and the cost of charts we decided on using the nav station pc for digital charts and lets us print a blow up of a harbor entrance.

On another note - if you do make the decision to pick up a plotter, given where you are headed, one of the most important things to research is the type of charts you will need. ie: garmin / c-map / ...... there are a few main suppliers and each of these have a price tag for different areas. Do your research and spend that budget wisely.

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Old 25-03-2009, 21:43   #24
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I'd love a chart plotter! Although, figuring out exactly how to mount/rig it would be an interesting challenge.

However, let me tell you about the problems of leaving in a bit too much of a hurry on a short weekend hop down the coast. I needed to get my boat down to the states before the end of the month, and what with one thing and another I got myself into a schedule bind - bad idea always. And, in the rush getting out the door to the boat, I left the nav bag on the couch at home. Charts, handheld gps, tide tables, tools, boat log...

Well, the plan was to do a short jump down the coast to Steveston from Deep Cove, to anchor right in front of the townhouse. I could pick up the nav bag that night, right? I'd made this trip a half-dozen times or more. No problem.

Except it took longer than planned, of course. And the wind ended up on the nose, which mostly swamped the dinghy. And I missed the tide, ended up stuck at the mouth of the South Arm of the Fraser River - within sight of my destination, but unable to overcome the current even with the motor. My best memory of working out the tide table said I'd have at least another 2 hours stemming the tide, and then it'd probably be an hour or two before the current turned briefly favourable - I might make it upstream before too long after midnight.

But if I remembered things well enough, I could probably motor south to Point Roberts. Tide would be low at the entrance, and I hadn't been in there in at least a year and who knew how it might have silted in (very strong tidal currents there) but...

To make a long story short, I worked my way down there without any navigational tools other than depth sounder in the dark, tied up and arguing with customs by 12:30. Ears, eyes, and balance all played important roles in helping me figure out where I was. The trip back north was better only because it was during daylight, and there was wind.

It sure would have been nice to have a chartplotter. It would have been nice to have a 70' megayacht too. But neither were necessary, just would have been nice.

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Old 26-03-2009, 01:12   #25
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my story

due to an incident of being caught in the fog with my pants down, my wife insisted on adding radar to the boat.

after an exhaustive search and research I found that the cheapest entry level radar with a monochrome screen was about the same price as a plotter with radar.

what I found was a refurbished garmin gpsmap 3205 and a gmr 18 radome for under $1300 after shipping at

fater installing this and learning how to use it, I would never be caught with out a plotter again. there is so much more than just electronic charts.

1. connects to DSC VHF for position info
2. gives tide and current information
3. gives celestrial info (moonrise/sunrise and stage of the moon)
4. gives realtime position on the chart
5. gives radar overlay on the chart
I am sure there are other great benefits to installing a chartplotter,but since I was required by the Admiral to install radar, I figure why not go one step further with little to no additional cost.

just my $0.02
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Old 26-03-2009, 03:06   #26
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I'm almost ready to concede that a chartplotter is now standard of navigation for pleasurecraft cruising. I know it can be done without a chartplotter, but it takes a fair bit of time and instruction to achieve the skill level required.

Definitions are an issue here. To my mind, modern small handhelds like the already-dated Garmin 76C are a limited type of chartplotter: they display the same electronic charts as a bigger device, handle waypoints and routes, display a variety of text navigational data, and have limited chartplotting functions such as bearing/distance, goto, etc. A laptop can be rigged to function as a fairly high-end chartplotter. A commercial/military chartplotter is very fancy and beyond the pale. So, that's the chartplotter range, from smaller/cheaper to bigger/more expensive.

The sweet spot for a well-equipped budget long range cruiser in today's world probably is a dedicated weatherproof chartplotter with a screen at least 5" on the diagonal (but bigger is better) mounted at the helm, capable of being linked to a laptop used for planning waypoints and routes down below, and capable of displaying radar side-by-side or overlaying the electronic chart. For sailing into very busy waters at night or fog, AIS display is slowly becoming a must too.

Bear in mind proprietary electronic chart coverage limitations that might be present in foreign waters.
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:03   #27
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We are not 'Out There' yet but I find our C80 invaluable for coastal cruising. Especially in nasty weather. We have a difference of opinion on the orientation: do most of you prefer Heads Up or North Up?
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:55   #28
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I have the C80,and love it.I use head up mode.The radar overlay comes in handy,along with autopilot.Combine that with integrated AIS and laptop below,Garmin 76c usb connect for backup.When coastwise I get internet by aircard with external antenna,I have a Sitex Wefax to get running still.I also have sextant and almanacs ,with some knowledge of taking noon sights.I plan on adding a Linear Drive for steering in heavier weather.Its powered by 3 80 watt panels and a Rutland wind genny.Down to about 90 days to get ready for southbound leg.
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Old 02-04-2009, 08:28   #29
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I like a north up mode on a chartplotter and a head up mode on radar.

Each to his own.

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Old 02-04-2009, 08:57   #30
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There is a solution: Garmin has a smaller chartplotter that has a screen so good it is a reasonable substitute for a larger unit from another manufacturer. It is very economical to operate, and can use memory cartridges loaded and reloaded from a CD, for much less than the price of paper charts (though I hesitate to suggest going without paper.) Mounted at the helm, it is easy to use and completely non-intimidating, but it will accept DSC and AIS, and drive your autopilot. And you can use the same CD to put charts on a handheld. Both can accept routes and waypoints plotted on a PC, using the same CD, and tracks can be retrieved to the PC to free up memory on the GPSs.

Its the Garmin 440. You will only be looking at it from the helm, so its size is acceptable. It won't dominate yout field of view at night, is waterproof, and can be disconnected and locked up when need be.

BUT: For a couple hundred more, the 545 is the prize.

Just one rainy night, feeling your way into a tricky harbour without tracking up and down the companionway steps, dripping water all over the chart table, and then going back to the helm with your dark-adaptation compromised, will easily pay for one, or two!

If a certain salty image is required, you can always hide it in the sextant box.....

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