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Old 24-03-2009, 17:50   #1
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To Chartplotter or not to Chartplotter, that is the question.

We're outfitting our boat for a voyage and have long been pondering whether or not to invest in a chartplotter. Bottom line is we really can't find a whole lotta reasons to invest significant dough in a chartplotter. They're expensive. Installation isn't completely basic. Technology changes so fast they depreciate quickly. So we're leaning towards just picking up a couple of relatively inexpensive handhelds and going from there...if you lose one or it breaks, big deal. Take 'em on shore to get around town...

What am I missing? Why are all these people spending big money for a chartplotter?
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:00   #2
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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.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:07   #3
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Sounds like you already made a value judgment that they are too expensive for you. That's your choice but others prefer the convenience, large(r) size, integration with other instruments and better graphics, all of which comes at a price mny consider worth it. Depreciation isn't a real issue, certainly not more so than anything else and are one of the easiest things to install on any boat. Your choice.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:07   #4
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I would temper the question with another question............where is it that you intend to voyage?? If you are going to be within a few miles of the coast or going down the ICW, then a chart-plotter would be a very valuable investment. If you will be doing mostly offshore work, you might be better off with a handheld. My own experience with trips down the ICW made the chart-plotter an invaluable asset.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:08   #5
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Having spent years navigating by ded reconing, then using loran C, then a simple handheld GPS, I can't argue that a chartplotter is a necessity. The electronic charts are expensive and so are the units with larger color displays. Large screen chartplotters also take a lot of space in your cockpit and nav area. But they give you an element of real-time situational awareness that is very useful if you are navigating among rocks, shoals, especially in the fog or at night. This is true at least in the areas where the electronic charts are pretty accurate; with inaccurate charts they are worse than useless. For the last few years I have used a small Garmin 176 unit and a backup handheld Garmin gpsmap 76 and find them more than adequate for my needs.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:17   #6
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Well, can you live without them? Clearly you can. A handheld GPS is fine, two handhelds give redundancy.

I installed a small Garmin 545 chartplotter last season and I loved it. Great screen, sunlight viewable. All the US charts were pre-loaded with tide and current tables. Marina information, phone numbers etc. A great tool. It cost me under $1,000.
I was able to follow my track back to port in dense fog very nicely.
I mounted it on a swing-arm on the existing pedestal guard, used the same hole through the cockpit floor/pedestal foot that my autohelm used to get to power.

I don't know what your budget is, what other essentials you might need more, but a charplotter at the helm that's easily readible is very nice to have.

I pulled the trigger too soon and am now ready to move up to another plotter and add radar...So my 545 will probably be going on sale soon.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:25   #7
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We're headed way south and way west...so offshore stuff mostly. The money is worth considering, but won't be the be all, end all factor. We're open minded, just can't really see the value in an expensive plotter...keep the reasons coming!
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:37   #8
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It might be useful and fun to have a sextant and know how to use it, if you're crossing an ocean.
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Old 24-03-2009, 18:47   #9
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It is, imho, a revelation, an epoch moment, a running round the bath naked Eurekaing.

Why?
I think its because for the first time a nav chart is fundamentally in your line of sight while at the wheel. Nav becomes homogenous thing with controlling the boat.

Its difficult to describe, but I know the effect: That one could never return to not having a chartplotter. Has anyone here?

Yes, they are expensive. But a plotter about $1,000 is adequate.

Many come with an internal GPS aerial so theres little wiring needed.

The handheld GPS (like tha Garmin 76 that we have as backup) has a screen too small to really get any benefits of a chart plotter.

If you were here I would take you out for a quick nav course around these islands... and you would be able to do them with 1/10th of the effort you have ever used. You will enjoy the sailing and view better. I would just ask you not to do the Eurika bit!

If you have time before you need to buy, you may find a special on at the Chandlers, or a newish one thats being replaced for a bigger screen.

All the best


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Old 24-03-2009, 19:07   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tardog View Post
We're open minded, just can't really see the value in an expensive plotter...keep the reasons coming!
As you mention price twice, it would appear that is a significant determining factor. If you are trying to find an objective reason to choose one over the other besides simply a cost issue, all one need do is compare the screen sizes to even a smaller sized chartplotter. The difference in utility is obvious.

If you question is better stated as - is a chartplotter worth the extra expense, the answer I suspect you'll get from most folks is definitely.
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Old 24-03-2009, 19:07   #11
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:kissy:Strongly agree with all of this ..

I started with a basic handheld ... and it was a huge step up. But I mounted a chartplotter in the cockpit after making a basic / silly / dangerous error at night. Still have the handheld, but when things get sticky it is always the chart plotter that gets turned on.

You may like to consider:

[1] Safety: The first time you avoid a really nasty situation (e.g. in the night / fog / rain) because you had the plotter running, the price suddenly seems pretty darned reasonable.

[2] Hidden costs: I spent well over 50 hours entering & double checking waypoints, and marking charts for a single, complex cruising ground. Safe pilotage requires a lot more preparation on handhelds without charts, and handhelds with charts cost little less than a 5-6" chartplotter.

[3] Peace of mind: It is wonderfully reassuring to see all those unlit and scarcely visible marks and rocks popping up exactly where the chartplotter said they were. Particularly when skipper & crew are tired, and prone to relatively simple errors with pilotage.
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Old 24-03-2009, 19:10   #12
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Oh yeah ... and sorry for my dizzy experiments with the 'more' advanced smiley faces




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Old 24-03-2009, 19:45   #13
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The only thing I would say is a fixed mount (standard GPS only) and one hand held is a better option than two hand helds. I find a fixed mount with external antenna tends to update and initialize quicker. In the past I have had the Furuno GP32 and liked the large display for my tired eyes.
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Old 24-03-2009, 19:59   #14
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I agree with most here. Took my Raychart 435 from my ChrisCraft to the Catalina when I decided to go sailing. Mounted it at the nav station and, after tiring of death defying passages through the companionway in steep seas, picked up another (this time a 435i with internal antenna) which I picked up new via auction for $500cdn. Mounted it at the helm and now have one above and below decks.

The takeaway here is that they help and they're not that expensive.
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Old 24-03-2009, 20:23   #15
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Not intending to hijack thread, but I am wondering the same question myself. The pricing stays relatively low with a smaller screen (5" or so) Are there regrets out there from anyone who went smaller, or do you get used to them and are they sufficient?
Because if hand helds work well then I would assume a small chartplotter would still be a great benefit.
However, if they only seem like a hand held that isn't portable then I see the dilema.
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