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Old 02-05-2012, 22:18   #1
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To Plot, or Not ? Is a Chart Plotter a Luxury or a Necessity ?

Hello,
Planning to set sail this Fall for parts lesser known. Being less experienced a sailor than my partner I am wondering if anyone has fallen in love with any of the lesser expensive(smaller) chart plotters while cruising. Though i intend to learn and use paper charts i feel like a plotter would make me more comfortable/safer. Is this an illusion? How hard is it to find cards for the more remote parts of the world, i.e. westerns south America, south pacific...
Any insight or experiences to share would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for any help!

Lindsay
CavaloatSea.com
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:40   #2
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Yes a chart plotter does add safety, not essential like a good depth sounder, but nice to have.
A marine chart plotter is still the best and it's what I have, but the maps can be very expensive. Much cheaper are an iPad with navionics maps or open cpn or maxsea.if you get a chart plotter it is worth considering these as a back up
If you go for a chart plotter a smaller gps unit with a b&W sceen is still nice to have. This will act as a backup gps and the very low power consumption means it can be left on for long periods for an anchor watch etc.
Your blog looks good great photos.
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Old 03-05-2012, 03:09   #3
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Consider posts 76 and 81 on this page:Sad News Again Off Mexico
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:47   #4
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Yes, it is an illusion. No, having a chart plotter absolutely WILL NOT make you any more safe!

A chart plotter is just a tool. Like a hammer, in and of itself, it cannot make you any more or less safe. You can use it well, and thereby enhance your safety. Or you can use it badly, and thereby place yourself in extreme danger.

If you do not understand basic navigation via chart and compass, using a chart plotter to try to make up for that lack of skill is a pretty certain route to making yourself less safe. If you understand basic navigation, and use the chart plotter as an enhancement to your own skills, then it can be a great convenience and can improve your situational awareness.

In the end, though, your safety is in your own hands. You cannot get it from any electronic device.
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Old 03-05-2012, 07:23   #5
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
..............In the end, though, your safety is in your own hands. You cannot get it from any electronic device.
Well said!
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:11   #6
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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You cannot get it from any electronic device.
Hmm so GPS, radar, AIS, VHF, SSB and satellite phones don't enhance safety either? I started sailing before these were available, well not marine radios and radar, I am not that old
We're we as safe in those days- no way.
Knowing how to use a sextant doesn't stop you using GPS and a chart plotter a good navigator uses the best information available.

A simple example that happened to a frend recienty, where the chart plotter probably saved the yacht.
He started dragging rapidly, towards rocks in the middle of the night. The bay was enclosed with a narrow entrance garded by rocks. It was raining with very poor visibility, he sprang up on deck with no dark adaptation, as he came on deck all shore light went off no doubt due to the lightening from the storm.
He kept the yacht in safe water in the middle of the bay using his chart plotter.
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:40   #7
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

I never use chart plotters on my own boat or commercially. With a chart plotter you are staring at a little display, and when you use traditional navigation you are staring at the world around you. You can take a wild stab at which one is safer and gives you more situational awareness. There are lots of cases of people crashing boats while staring into displays, or the chart plotter going tits up and them not having a clue what to do after that.

I had a chart plotter crap out 140 miles offshore while running a sport fishing boat. The other "captain" (who holds a license as myself) had absolutely no idea what the hell to do. I had to do all the navigation myself (on paper charts that I always bring with me, getting the chuckles from other skippers along the way) and tell him "steer x course at y speed for z time", like I was dealing with some kid.

Far from being a safety feature, I will completely mark them in a pile of things that makes you lazy and is frequently found as the navigational method for boats that crash.

Taking it a step further, let's take your passengers and we'll explain what navigation methods you know versus the ones that I know (as can perform right there, on the spot). Unless you do traditional navigation and practice it, you're a software glitch or a lightning strike away from being in a seriously bad way.

Scrap it. Ignore anyone who gives you grief. If you want to use opencpn or the such for planning purposes, that's great. Underway, use paper and hand tools. A DR will keep you a pencil lead's distance from your true position which you should get from a GPS every few hours, and do a sextant position every day as well.

And regarding anchor alarms, nearly any maritime gps for a couple of hundred bucks has one of those. You can toss a brick in the water with a string lead through a porthole tied to a fork to do the same thing. An anchor alarm is hardly sufficient reason to use a chart plotter.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:05   #8
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
I never use chart plotters on my own boat or commercially. With a chart plotter you are staring at a little display, and when you use traditional navigation you are staring at the world around you. You can take a wild stab at which one is safer and gives you more situational awareness. There are lots of cases of people crashing boats while staring into displays, or the chart plotter going tits up and them not having a clue what to do after that.

I had a chart plotter crap out 140 miles offshore while running a sport fishing boat. The other "captain" (who holds a license as myself) had absolutely no idea what the hell to do. I had to do all the navigation myself (on paper charts that I always bring with me, getting the chuckles from other skippers along the way) and tell him "steer x course at y speed for z time", like I was dealing with some kid.

Far from being a safety feature, I will completely mark them in a pile of things that makes you lazy and is frequently found as the navigational method for boats that crash.

Taking it a step further, let's take your passengers and we'll explain what navigation methods you know versus the ones that I know (as can perform right there, on the spot). Unless you do traditional navigation and practice it, you're a software glitch or a lightning strike away from being in a seriously bad way.

Scrap it. Ignore anyone who gives you grief. If you want to use opencpn or the such for planning purposes, that's great. Underway, use paper and hand tools. A DR will keep you a pencil lead's distance from your true position which you should get from a GPS every few hours, and do a sextant position every day as well.

And regarding anchor alarms, nearly any maritime gps for a couple of hundred bucks has one of those. You can toss a brick in the water with a string lead through a porthole tied to a fork to do the same thing. An anchor alarm is hardly sufficient reason to use a chart plotter.
Hahaha, I get a kick out of reading your posts. Mr. Cynic. My grandkids call me Mr. Meany for similar reasons. You're absolutely 1000 precent correct on this. I call it getting lost in Technology. Middle of the the ocean, batteries die, now what. Start the engine, starter battery dead, now what. Out of AA and AAA batteries, now what. I am planning a circumnav this year, well pseudo, I plan to go until I stop. I'm constantly thinking through problems. What if's. The more you're are in tune with the fundamentals, the better off you'll be in the long run.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:06   #9
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Im sure glad airline pilots don't still use paper charts for navigation. Their chart table might take up some valuable first class space...
Seriously though this was the one area where most of the testees failed on the exam. I agree knowing how to navigate is critical for offshore and trips. I still enjoy using electronics for navigation and while I carry a mechanical old school drill I use the cordless electric first!
I Love technology
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:17   #10
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
I never use chart plotters on my own boat or commercially. With a chart plotter you are staring at a little display, and when you use traditional navigation you are staring at the world around you. You can take a wild stab at which one is safer and gives you more situational awareness. There are lots of cases of people crashing boats while staring into displays, or the chart plotter going tits up and them not having a clue what to do after that.

I had a chart plotter crap out 140 miles offshore while running a sport fishing boat. The other "captain" (who holds a license as myself) had absolutely no idea what the hell to do. I had to do all the navigation myself (on paper charts that I always bring with me, getting the chuckles from other skippers along the way) and tell him "steer x course at y speed for z time", like I was dealing with some kid.

Far from being a safety feature, I will completely mark them in a pile of things that makes you lazy and is frequently found as the navigational method for boats that crash.

Taking it a step further, let's take your passengers and we'll explain what navigation methods you know versus the ones that I know (as can perform right there, on the spot). Unless you do traditional navigation and practice it, you're a software glitch or a lightning strike away from being in a seriously bad way.

Scrap it. Ignore anyone who gives you grief. If you want to use opencpn or the such for planning purposes, that's great. Underway, use paper and hand tools. A DR will keep you a pencil lead's distance from yourtrue position which you should get from a GPS every few hours, and do a sextant position every day as well.

And regarding anchor alarms, nearly any maritime gps for a couple of hundred bucks has one of those. You can toss a brick in the water with a string lead through a porthole tied to a fork to do the same thing. An anchor alarm is hardly sufficient reason to use a chart plotter.
Having a chart plotter does not stop you from maintaining a lookout or situational awareness. In many situations it can enhance these skills by removing the burden to frequently go down below and plot a position.

All salors should be able to manage if electronic devices fail. Having a chartplotter does not prevent you maintaining these skills.

I fail to understand the merit in using a less accurate means of fixing your position, ( DR) when a more accurate means is available (GPS). It's always sensible to cross chek your position by at least a couple of independent means, but if I understand correctly you are advocating not using the GPS, at least not for several hours. Why when it is such an easy and quick cross reference?. This sort of stubborn adherence to traditional methods does not enhance safety IMHO.


It was not the anchor alarm that saved my frends boat, but knowing his position in the bay when other clues were absent, only a chart plotter could have given him this information under the circumstances.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:22   #11
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

I suspect this thread might become a "live" one .

FWIW, I would say a CP is neither a luxury nor a neccessity - but it is firmly on the nice to have list of equipment to have onboard.

me comes from the school of thought that if you couldn't get somewhere (and get out from - in all possible circumstances, excepting maybe a Tsunami ) with only a pencil and a chart you would be unwise to be there in the first place.

Not to say that being unwise is strictly verbotten - more that being unwise should be a conscious decision.....and not a surprise!

Chartplotter says could - but will never say should. A Chartplotter is not a substitute for Navigation.

In regard to the circumstance described by OP, I would say it was less an illusion and more a delusion that a CP will make "you" safer. But will certainly make life more comfortable, at least until things do go wrong.....and you don't have the pencil stuff nailed down, including in your head - even if 99% of the time you do use a CP, hey, they do make life easier.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:38   #12
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Went sailing last weekend on a 38' charter catamaran that didn't have radar or a plotter. It felt quite primitive, not having the data I'm accustomed to having at the binnacle.

My own boat has a plotter at the nav station with a full repeater at the binnacle. I can overlay radar on each plotter, and when I'm running the radar I have an advanced collision avoidance system. The system integrates with the autopilot, which means I can make course corrections from the nav station. I carry two handheld plotters as well, but these don't integrate with the system--they function only as backups. Both of the integrated plotters have a MOB button that will help guide the boat back to the exact spot where someone went overboard.

There's no way someone could convince me that those systems don't contribute to my safety underway.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:54   #13
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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My own boat has a plotter at the nav station with a full repeater at the binnacle. I can overlay radar on each plotter, and when I'm running the radar I have an advanced collision avoidance system. The system integrates with the autopilot, which means I can make course corrections from the nav station. I carry two handheld plotters as well, but these don't integrate with the system--they function only as backups. .
It sounds a very dangerous set up to me

I suggest you throw it overboard and go back to traditional methods. I use the the lunar method for longitude, because those fancy chronometers will fail and lead you astray every time.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:57   #14
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

There is nothing wrong with technology, and using as much of it as $$ and ability allows.

Chartplotters, multiple GPS, AIS reciever, hell, AIS transmitter too, radar, SSB etc. etc all are great to have.

However, one always needs a backup system of some sort. Extra batteries? Should be standard equipment. But so should paper charts.

Don't forget if all fails (and it usually happens when you don't want it to), it is your responsibility to be able to safely get you, crew and passengers back to a safe harbor. Pick your method, but know a couple of alternatives.

It's just common sense.
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:35   #15
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

openCPN is very easy to setup on a laptop
with your blog page skills you can do it in 30 mins
buy a gps dongle, download openCPN and world charts and you have a good plotter
also iphone apps like navionics are fantastic for $30
I also have a chartplotter and paper charts
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