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Old 29-12-2015, 13:30   #1
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What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

So I am in the middle of learning opencpn on my windows PC, basic waypoint and navigation on my Garmin etrex10, and of course paper chart and traditional navigation.

I am finding opencpn to be like the solution to everything. Quite impressive. in fact the computer is suddenly the most useful vessel management tool ever. The learning curve is challenging because it is so intuitive I tend to play with it to learn it rather than read the instructions. (I'm lazy)

So now that I can create my perfect passage/voyage/cruise in opencpn, and print out a basic waypoint checklist with bearing and distance/time for piloting,
and even download it to my garmin etrex 10, and follow the route. At some stage I am envisioning a 3 dimensional vector chart combined with AIS, Radar, and Google Earth to create the ultimate Instrument approach tool for piloting...Wait a minute!

I need to pilot a boat, not play a video game.
I also need instrument guidance in times of low or zero visibility
I also need to use technology to perform tedious routine tasks
But I also need to understand the root of it all in basic reality.

So what makes sense is a screen in the cockpit near the wheel, with all my precious navigational computer output to refer to, while I am piloting the boat. not on a PC down below at the navigation station. I guess with good enough navigation equipment and a precise auto pilot I could pilot from my bunk or the head, But I know as well as you I will be on deck, at the wheel/tiller, looking at reality just to be sure.

So now the point: My etrex screen is quite small. Higher end models have charts on memory card and perform chartplotter function. But I cannot imagine a huge amount of text and graphical information on such a little screen could actually be of any use. For all intensive purposes the 15 inch screen on my PC is cluttered when on Raster charts.

1.At what minimum size does a chartplotter become a tool in the cockpit rather than a novelty?

2.does combining feeds require an increase in this size? how much? for example, throw in radar, sonar and apparent wind etc into an MFD.

3. Is combining displays into one screen a good navigational/piloting practice? Does it help?

4. Any direction or website on general instructions for operating electronic navigation gear? like a website that covers common input and behavior of all brands? Or do I need to learn each manufacturer by manual? (for chartering a knowledge base would be nice when confronted with new equipment)

I sincerely appreciate the knowledge base on this forum. And I appreciatee any feedback you give. Thank you!
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Old 29-12-2015, 13:53   #2
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

My experience began with a Garmin IQ300 which is a PDA with GPS and blue charts... the screen is smaller than most smart phones... but it's very readable and portable! I don't drive the boat from the helm... I use the AP 99% of the time except "in port" where I can usually do visual... but the depths are very handy!

The other thing for me... is I don't get into all the routes and way point libraries. It take 5 seconds to add a WP. I get to see the course to waypoint and on the IQ I have a very handy course / heading line which I can use to literally align with the waypoint. That's all I need and I can take it to the helm, or park it under the dodger on its charging stand... I use a below decks plotter which sends numeric data to cockpit displays. And I rarely go below decks to view it. I DO program a waypoint down below so I get the course to waypoint on the cockpit displays. I do not interface and never would... my AP with a GPS.

I've now owned a Standard Horizon, Raymarine, B&G T7 and the little IQue3600. The IQue is perfectly fine for use in the cockpit. Screen is brilliant and dimmable. Panning and zooming is much better than the big guys!

The radar is an input to the Raymarine C80 which is useful of course as well as AIS. THAT information would be handy in the cockpit. Unfortunately the IQue is no longer supported!
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Old 29-12-2015, 23:11   #3
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

I'm 67 and a navy trained navigator. I grew up on paper charts, shooting bearings, etc. And I have a powerboat.
I run on Maxsea on a powerbook pro but run OpenCpn on another computer as an emergency backup. I don't carry the powerbook around.
When operating a vessel, your most important job after steering, is being a good observer and lookout. I operate solo most of the time and I run on an autopilot unless docking, so most of my time is looking at the water ahead and observing conditions with only occasionally checking the chart and progress. There is always time for a quick look inside at the chart/screen. Where I operate, NE Pacific, there is a lot of debris and logs in the water. Your eyes belong on the sea and sky, not a computer screen.
In the ocean, away from land, I only glance at the chart every 1/4 hour or so. When ships or boats are close, maybe every 5 minutes. In heavy fog, shallow water or narrow spaces, you may need your instruments more, especially 1/4 mile fog. But still you need your eyes ahead. I've been in heavy fog and choppy seas where a large fishing boat didn't stand out on radar. Without keeping a good lookout, I might have hit him.
In clear weather and deep water, radar and sounders are in standby. Only the GPS, autopilot and chart plot is running. Because of navigation training, I occasionally check my position by by bearings or radar ranges. I never trust one source for position. I don't find the hand held instruments useful. When viewing charts, I want to see some distance around the boat.
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Old 30-12-2015, 02:56   #4
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

I'm with Lepke... only less.

I've seen huge errors in chart plotter data. The only things I've ever struck that caused damage were logs. Only rarely do I consult the depth sounder, and many days I don't turn the GPS on, even outside my local cruising grounds.

Way points are fine for power boats. Can you sail between way points, when the wind varies in direction? No, so even on auto pilot you will not be keeping a predetermined course.

You need to get your eyes out of the cockpit. In truth, given a choice between all of the instruments that are available and a smart guy with his eyes open, I would take the eyes every time. Besides, I would rather go sailing that manage a boat using a computer; it ain't a cruise ship, and I'm not being paid.Would you rather go for a hike or ride a bike, or ride in a car?

For the actual questions:

  1. Big enough to display lat/lon. If you only knew how valuable those 2 bits of information became when first available. In my opinion, you should be completely comfortable piloting day/night with no GPS.
  2. I don't like combining data. One glitch and you loose all of the information. Separate, multiple systems give redundancy.
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Old 30-12-2015, 03:01   #5
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

Just changed from a 11 inch screen to a 21 inch screen and boy is it much better. It sits on my dinette table and I can read it from the cockpit. A wireless mouse gives me control from the cockpit.
Bob
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Old 30-12-2015, 08:46   #6
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

I have used an old etrex (yellow) for many years as you describe. I have a list of WPs in a route, and the gps points the way. Combined with paper charts below, its all I need. It has worked for me cruising Lake Ontario and the thousand islands, and was surprisingly good crossing the atlantic.

I also had a garmin GPS60, which is essentially the same at the garmin yellow, but with a bigger display. I had it mounted in the companionway on a RAM swivel mount...excellent setup.

Having said that, my last boat came with raymarine chartplotter with a 6" display. It was certainly big enough for easy nav in the cockpit, and I quickly put away my etrex for backup. Although it was big enough for chart data, I doubt there would be space for AIS overlay, which I was considering.

So my short answer to you, 6" display minimum. 10" display preferred for overlays. And nothing beats a full size paper chart for planning.

Also, I must agree with the previous posters...keep your eyes looking out, not staring at the electronics. When entering shallow water especially, I find that everyone stares at the depth-o-meter, instead of looking where we are going.
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Old 30-12-2015, 09:08   #7
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

And I'm with Lepke too, not just cos, as he sez, your principal job is to keep a lookout, but also cos I think Willy Occam is one of the best shipmates you could ever have.

Also cos sailing gets boring if you don't have things to do :-).

So what works for me is my little Garmin GPS that was retrofitted my antiquated van. I take it with me. Every 15 minutes I take the coordinates off it (since the Garmin, even tho it's meant for cars, doesn't care whether I'm in Vancouver or in the Salish Sea) and plot 'em on a paper chart. Given that I run only a mile or so twixt "fixes", what need is there for more?

Since the Salish Sea calls for pilotage rather than navigation, to cross-check the plots derived from the baby Garmin against observable landmarks is no trick at all and keeps my eyes where they belong :-)

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Old 30-12-2015, 09:17   #8
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

With modern screens the size in inches is almost irrelevant because the quality is so good. For a main nav system you want about 1400 pixels horizontally, that will enable you to display all the information available on a good nav software system such as open CPN. the difference in size only effects the viewable distance. I use a 10" screen at the chart table and it works fine but would need to be bigger if I wanted to read it without going below. I have a 7" handheld as a backup and use it in the cockpit for pilotage with just the chart displayed. It is not a full size screen, ie less than 1400p across so shows a smaller chart area and would be to cluttered with any other information added. Still very useful for harbour entry.
Other factors are your eysight, you need to be able to read it reasonably without glasses and brightness. Sunlight viewability is great but expensive in both price and power, it's one reason chart plotters are so expensive. Screens need shading to be useful above deck.
Incidently on land I use a 5" smart phone, detail is fine but it would not display a wide enough chartarea to use at sea at a scale I could read!
So in summery it is pixels not inches you need to measure
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Old 30-12-2015, 10:07   #9
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

Ref.: to IEC 62376.

You can use ipad at nav. table and a iphone i cockpit when using Seapilot nav. system.

"For recreational vessels less than 24 meters in length, which are not used for hire, no equipment requirements for nautical charts on board. There is instead demanding that the driver follows the procedures of, among other watchkeeping provisions, to plan and control the race.
In practice this means that if the recreational sailor sailing with electronic equipment from a manufacturer whose cards are based on official data provided by the manufacturer purchased by example. The Geodata Agency, as can the cards in this context are considered official when the cards are displayed with a quality corresponding official date paper charts ".

Do not forget official updated paper cards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nematon785 View Post
So I am in the middle of learning opencpn on my windows PC, basic waypoint and navigation on my Garmin etrex10, and of course paper chart and traditional navigation.

I am finding opencpn to be like the solution to everything. Quite impressive. in fact the computer is suddenly the most useful vessel management tool ever. The learning curve is challenging because it is so intuitive I tend to play with it to learn it rather than read the instructions. (I'm lazy)

So now that I can create my perfect passage/voyage/cruise in opencpn, and print out a basic waypoint checklist with bearing and distance/time for piloting,
and even download it to my garmin etrex 10, and follow the route. At some stage I am envisioning a 3 dimensional vector chart combined with AIS, Radar, and Google Earth to create the ultimate Instrument approach tool for piloting...Wait a minute!

I need to pilot a boat, not play a video game.
I also need instrument guidance in times of low or zero visibility
I also need to use technology to perform tedious routine tasks
But I also need to understand the root of it all in basic reality.

So what makes sense is a screen in the cockpit near the wheel, with all my precious navigational computer output to refer to, while I am piloting the boat. not on a PC down below at the navigation station. I guess with good enough navigation equipment and a precise auto pilot I could pilot from my bunk or the head, But I know as well as you I will be on deck, at the wheel/tiller, looking at reality just to be sure.

So now the point: My etrex screen is quite small. Higher end models have charts on memory card and perform chartplotter function. But I cannot imagine a huge amount of text and graphical information on such a little screen could actually be of any use. For all intensive purposes the 15 inch screen on my PC is cluttered when on Raster charts.

1.At what minimum size does a chartplotter become a tool in the cockpit rather than a novelty?

2.does combining feeds require an increase in this size? how much? for example, throw in radar, sonar and apparent wind etc into an MFD.

3. Is combining displays into one screen a good navigational/piloting practice? Does it help?

4. Any direction or website on general instructions for operating electronic navigation gear? like a website that covers common input and behavior of all brands? Or do I need to learn each manufacturer by manual? (for chartering a knowledge base would be nice when confronted with new equipment)

I sincerely appreciate the knowledge base on this forum. And I appreciatee any feedback you give. Thank you!
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Old 30-12-2015, 11:17   #10
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

I'm in the process of replacing a Standard Horizon 7" with a new B&G Zuess 12" touch screen. I also have an iPad Air 2 and a smart phone. All the devices connect via wifi over the Veper AIS NMEA network. Pick what's comfortable for location and or use at the time you need it.
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Old 30-12-2015, 12:41   #11
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

My only contribution would be to use raster over vector if possible. I don't like the damn vector charts. Too easy to loose your frame of reference, especially on a smallish screen. Easy to see where you are, but not where you are going or where others are likely to be going.
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Old 30-12-2015, 14:12   #12
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

I used to do a few videos for West Marine, and thus had a chance to try out many products. Garmin had very popular 4" and 5" chartplotters (diagonal measurement) and the 4" model had a QVGA display (320 x 240) while the 5" had a VGA display (640 x 480). While the feature set was virtually identical, there was no question that the additional screen area and the additional resolution would make the 5" model the best choice unless one was extremely shy on space or $$.

ON my current boat, I recently upgraded from a B&G Zeus 7 Touch (6.4" actual measurement) to their new Zeus2 9 Touch. What a remarkable difference, even though the physical size of the two devices is pretty similar. The 9" display appears to extend from one side to the other, and reduces the amount of effort necessary to select the perfect chart representation. That's really the Achillies' heel of the small display: you end up spending much more time zooming and panning to get the display "just right".

Larger displays also allow you the liberty of displaying navigation data on the periphery without taking up too much chart space, and chart space is why we buy the devices in the first place.

So, bottom line: I think around 9" is my new normal. Yes, I would love to have my MacBook Air with edge to edge charts, but I find this new Zeus2 9" model to be a really good compromise on a sailboat that is always short of space.

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Old 30-12-2015, 16:56   #13
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

It's not a one-size fits everything answer. IMHO, you need both (or more). This is also an evolving issue for me so YMMV. I have a B&G Zeus 7 under the dodger. Have since determined that it is critical to have a chart plotter at the helm for close, in-shore maneuvering especially under reduced sight distance (night, fog, rain storms, over-powered, etc.). Have also recently decided that I will install a PC with OpenCPN at the nav station that can interface with my radar at the same time that it can provide other functions for offshore use (such as weather faxes and emails). Yes, it's best to have eyes on the water at all times, but as a solo sailor, this is not practical under all scenarios and there are many hours when you are more effective when you are warm and protected from the elements, such as during the night and when way, way offshore when few things happen....until something does.

To your specific questions:

1.At what minimum size does a chartplotter become a tool in the cockpit rather than a novelty? Right now, the B&G Zeus 7 works well under the dodger but I think I'll step it up when I install one at the helm. Maybe a 12". The older I get, the harder it is to see the depths displayed on the chart plotter....

2.does combining feeds require an increase in this size? how much? for example, throw in radar, sonar and apparent wind etc into an MFD. Rather than an MFD, I plan to go with the biggest PC that can fit at my nav station. Though I don't think it makes a difference as to the type of feeds you need (for example, you will need Ethernet to connect the PC to the radar), I am not very knowledgeable about this so others will need to chime in.

3. Is combining displays into one screen a good navigational/piloting practice? Does it help? I have no experience in this either. I understand you can turn charts on and off on the PC when radar is running. Not sure why you'd want to, but I don't have the experience level to say one way or the other.

4. Any direction or website on general instructions for operating electronic navigation gear? like a website that covers common input and behavior of all brands? Or do I need to learn each manufacturer by manual? (for chartering a knowledge base would be nice when confronted with new equipment). I wish there were people who have sailed around the world short-handed and with limited funds that could just come onto my boat and tell me what is the very best thing for me. The information is out there, that you can research for hours on end, though it seems more efficient (and funner) if you were to sail a lot in different areas and try different things to find out what works best for you in your particular sailing environment and where you want to go in the future. However, if you do find someone or some web site that has all the answers PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let me know!!! Technology is just exhausting. Makes me cross-eyed
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Old 31-12-2015, 05:59   #14
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

When you power up any chartplotter, the first words to appear on the screen are to the effect that; "This product is not suitable for marine navigation"....
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Old 31-12-2015, 06:50   #15
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Re: What size screen makes a chartplotter a tool rather than unusable?

Lots of opinions will be generated, including my own. I believe in redundancy, We carry a full set of charts on board. Electronically, we currently have a low power netbook on the nav table. It is connected to a 19 inch computer monitor that is located in the cockpit under the bimini off to my starboard side above eye height. I dont navigate by staring at it . It is there, and it is big enough that I dont need reading glasses. On the software side, we have in that netbook 3 choices, Max sea with vector charts, OPNCPN with raster charts and OPN doesnt skew Cdn strip charts making it often not so good and finally we have Sea Clear running the same raster charts. On the bulkhead in the nav station is a Lowrance elite 5 with Navionics charts, its task is to pass on GPS data to our VHF radio for MMSI purposes and as a plotter back up. In the nav desk is a Garmin handheld CX76 with charts. Like I said redundancy..the admiral likes that. To access the big screen and manipulate it we have a wireless mouse in the cockpit, it takes some right brain work to manipulate.
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