These decisions are influenced by many factors... and there is no one answer to this question of where to put the electronic data on a boat.... especially the "chart plotter" which these days is an MFD and can aggregate all those "eggs" in one basket.
Usually more information is better... but this too can become a distraction as one gets lost in "screens" if integrated robust data and not in seat of your pants sailing/seamanship.
Very few sailors will be at state of the art in the visual data display possibility because things are changing so fast. And this is the also the economic model for the companies who sell the stuff. Software
upgrades if possible only get you so far and then if you want the new set of bells and whistles... you need to replace with the latest and greatest.
And then there's the whole issue of putting all sorts of holes in the boat to mount the stuff. At least the cockpit
displays seem to have standardized around the 4" square so upgrading them is not a joinery project
Actual sailing is informed by both watch keeping / situational awareness and the plotter and radar
can augment this making you safer.
I have found in 30 years of sailing... that I don't like to sail/ drive from the helm for multiple reasons. The main one is I am a single
hander with only some watch keeping help (look out) from the wifey. This means I have to trim, steer, plan and evaluate the sailing conditions. Unless there is poor visibility.... a chart plotter at the helm is not sensible. Our helm is not protected from sun, wind
and rain. But a location forward in the cockpit under the dodger/spray hood
is. And so are the cockpit display where there function buttons are reachable. AP and engine
instruments and controls are right there as well.
There are times when I drive from the helm.... going to and from a dock
in the harbor.... weaving a narrow (usually) harbor entry channel. In these close situations a chart plotter is of little use.
Another time I take the helm is when the SAILING is pure joy... usually on clear days with optimal wind
and sea conditions. Why give Alison the AP all the fun? I don't need the plotter then but it's nice to have the wind and depth
and accurate speed data. My B&G reports to .01 knot
accuracy so you can see the results of your "helming".
And finally I drive when the conditions are a but much for Alison. She can see waves and think like a helmsman should in such conditions. We get knocked about and sail a lot of S's. At these times it's possible that visual conditions are limited and so radar
and plotter at the helm are very helpful... but one can't dwell on them either.
As previously stated... my cockpit plotter "solution" as my MFD and w/radar are in below... was to get a Garmin
IQue.... This was back in the day of PDAs... personal desk assistants.... little devices with phone
, calendar sort of thing. Garmin
added a WAAS GPS and one could load Blue Charts
. It uses a stylus and has awesome flexible zoom and pan functionality. It's small, but very detailed and readable. I can take it to shore... for all sorts of handy uses. It does not support nav features.. but has a heading/course line and you can choose the "density" of data (clutter) as well. Rather than use a waypoint.... I use the heading line w/ the AP to steer to where I want to go... even when the marker is not visible. It sits in a little cradle
under the dodger
I've recently added B&G Z7 touch which I picked up for a good price
. The touch screen features mimic the IQue's for zoom and pan. It has more bells and whistles such as waypoints and can support data inputs like radar and AIS
. The latter will be added next summer. The radar is a hardware
upgrade and very spendy. The T7 is portable, selof contained GPS antenna
and sits in a simple inexpensive mount which drops into a very little used winch
under the port side of the companionway
under the dodger
. It can swivel so I can see it from sitting in the companionway
, feet dangling or from sitting in the forward port side on the coaming with visibility over the dodger.
Obviously this chartplotter solution works for my way of sailing, my boat and my budget
... and I don't have to deal with holes in the boat.... aside from a cable access for future data. So now I rarely use the screen on the below decks MFD... except to enter a waypoint so it can repeat to the cockpit displays. No GPS will be steering
my boat.... I do dat... with Alison's help after I consult the "screen".