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Old 08-02-2006, 05:59   #1
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Chartplotter or not?!

We have been using handheld GPS units for some time now along with paper charts. We have thought about a fixed GPS unit but not sure that we will really get that much from a chartplotter when measured against the cost. First, we would never sail without paper charts. Second, we take the information on the chart with a grain of salt, especially the soundings. Therefore we may just be as well off with something like a Furuno 32 which is a non-chart fixed GPS. We have been watching the cost of chartplotters come down and yet the economical ones seem to have very small screens and all are subject to difficulties if being read in any type of sunlight.

Any thoughts? Any recommendations on particular units? Thanks.
Roger Rippy
SV Tin Cup
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Old 08-02-2006, 07:06   #2
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Do you have a laptop?
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Old 08-02-2006, 08:31   #3
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I started with a small decca unit and plotting onto a paper chart, I upgraded to a H/H GPS in 1994 and continued to plot on paper. I upgraded to a Navman 5500 abt 3 years ago, sited near and visible from the helm and was delighted with the reduction in worry when sailing single handed in a crowded environment. I continued to put a fix every hour onto a paper chart.

Last year I added a laptop with chart package and mainly use it for planning and as a back-up, but I can view the chart table from the helm (just) and have occasionally had the laptop on, on one scale, and the plotter on another for tricky bits.

I make a habit of comparing plotter depth against echosounder - tidal height. Made easier cause plotter and laptop both have tide programmes.
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Old 13-02-2006, 17:10   #4
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Check out JRC 1800

This alternative is a bit more pricey but will really stand by you in questionable conditions. If you get a really decent chart plotter, you're looking at sizable bucks. The JRC 1800 is a colour combo of radar/chart plotter. The radar is great and chart plotter is "average" - not great, not bad.

4000 of these puppies were built then the line was discontinued due to part shortages. In the good old USA, you should be able to find a unit for around $1600 or better; there's still some on the market. You probably aren't familiar with JRC as they don't really advertise in the recreational boating market. JRC has been around since 1910; they invented the megartonic tube (or whatever it is called). JRC is one of the largest radar manufactures in the world, but are better known amongst commercial shipping types.

I visit several forums and people who have had to contact JRC directly for help have been extremely happy with their service support - unusual these days.

http://www.consumersmarine.com/produ...l.cfm?i=160034
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Old 13-02-2006, 18:27   #5
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Electronics are expensive and depreciate quickly. It is a hard swallow for many, including me.
Where we play, we have shoal waters, ledges, fog and heavy commercial traffic. I have been using smaller chart plotters for years and I would definitely have a small one rather than none. We have a small handheld WestMarine 276C. It is a great tool ($800). It was our only GPS going from Long Island to Buzzards Bay and it quickly told us when currents were setting us. We saved a lot of time making early corrections which helped us make our home port just before dark. It works well in bright light, but can be moved around as desired. We mounted it's holding bracket at the helm, but can pop it free as needed. That also means both of us can stay on deck. 2 pairs of eyes in shipping channels is a good thing. We will keep it when we sell the boat.
Once we had the boat home we added a larger plotter that could have radar added. These goodies are not needed most of the time, but are invaluable from time to time. The expandable Raymarine is below for chart work and plotting to paper charts. I find having a second plotter at the chart table is a great tool, and the larger screen is a real luxury. I believe the GPS is our most important piece of electronics, and having a fixed unit as a primary and the hand held as "back-up" was worth the cost. I think the question you ask yourself is "if we drop the hand held (we have - twice !) and it craps out, are we comfortable without a plotter. We were not.
I would also tell you that whenever I go off on someone else's boat, the "back-up" WM goes with me along with the handheld VHF.

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Old 13-02-2006, 18:35   #6
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Roger

Before I give an opinion what type of cruising / sailing are you doing and where?
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Old 15-02-2006, 05:37   #7
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Jon, we are full time liveaboard cruisers. We originally cruised back in the late 70s early 80s (i.e. Frieberger sextant (still have), Walker log, RDF, depth sounder, and handheld compass comprised our navigation suite). We cruise the East Coast, Bahamas, Gulf Coast, and Mexico. Currently we have two handhelds (not charplotters) and lots of charts. Still maintain a DR plot etc. and rely heavily on eyeball navigation, compass resections for coastal, GPS fixes, and depth sounder. This past summer we bought a laptop (now using with wi-fi) but we have not loaded any navigation or chart software on it yet. I suppose I would need to get busy and hook up our Xantrex inverter so we could keep the batteries on the laptop up while running any navigation software. So that is the long and short of it. Chartplotters still are not very cheap; Lowerence seems to be the least expensive but then you need to buy the charts. Thoughts? Considering adding a Furuno 32 fixed Gps but that is not a chartplotter.
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Old 15-02-2006, 05:44   #8
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Rippy, you can buy direct 12V power supplies for laptops which are a lot more efficent than going the inverter way. Also available are USB GPS units (have just bought one but haven't used it yet so can't say how good they are) that will lower your power requirements further.
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Old 15-02-2006, 05:55   #9
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Rippy

I am a believer in real time graphical representation of navigation info. Have been using chart plotters and/or PC based systems for years. They make it much easier to keep track of where you are and what's ahead once you understand how to use them. They both have advantages and disadvantages IMHO.

Given that you are cruising full time my inclination would be to go laptop navigation using the Furuno. In fact I am adding that unit [supplementing an old chartplotter - don't want to spend the money to replace but want a newer GPS engine] to my boat for just that purpose. Fix mounted WAAS GPS - almost a black box that provides NEMA output to the laptop.

On the laptop you can run one of several programs depending on how many features and functions you want. Raster/vector charts of the US are now free [note: only one format and not all programs can run the native format seamlessly]. This gives you an inexpensive way to get most US charts. I find the PC much easier to use than chartplotters.

Advantage of the chart plotter is you can easily mount it on deck as they are all weatherproof. Disadvantage is you have to by chips with charts and plotting routes etc can be time consuming. On the other hand if you have the chip the plotter will easily show exactly where you are.

As far as powering the PC goes you can run it off a small inverter [250 watt or so] or can get the DC power converter as mentioned above.
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Old 20-02-2006, 06:08   #10
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Thanks guys for all the timely feedback and advice! Pete, where can I find a 12v power supply for our laptop (compaq presario)? Jon, we are leaning toward the Furuno/laptop approach but the thing that we do not like with the set up is that it is only good at the nav table. I like our handheld just fine, so maybe we will rethink this and go with a chartplotter for use in the cockpit that may or maynot be handheld. Defenders has boat show prices ending today that have both the Lowerence fixed and handheld chartplotters on sale. Granted these are the low-end price wise type of charters but if they work well we can use the saved money elsewhere. The handheld is monochrome, but that may be better in sunlight than the color.? Thanks again. Roger
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Old 20-02-2006, 06:19   #11
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I'm assuming you're in the states, I got mine in NZ. Tried to post an eBay link but no good. Search car+laptop+power+supply on eBay.


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Old 20-02-2006, 06:46   #12
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Roger for a laptop power supply look here --

http://store.yahoo.com/shopbattery/index.html

We have been coastal cruising with that set-up[laptop below - paper on deck] for years. Now that we are getting ready to take off full time wife asked that I repeat chartplotter in cockpit so I bought a weather-proof 10" color display that will mirror the laptop display. Don't know how it works have not installed yet. But it also means can watch movies in the cockpit without bringing the laptop up .

Re mono vs color issue in the past was brightness and contrast -- that has been fixed. Color tells you more at a glance so if you can justify the $.

BTW if you're going with some new Furuno stuff most of the radars are chart plotters already that may solve the issue.
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Old 05-03-2006, 07:51   #13
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Hey Jon that idea of a waterprood 10" color monitor in the cockpit used as a repeater for your laptop sounds like a very good idea. After a lot of research, emails, talking with others, etc. we have decided to use our laptop, a GPS antenna unit like US Global for $65, free downloadable charts, and software yet to be determined. Probably use something like Maptech's Offshore Navigator. So we will need to purchase a dc car adapter to power the laptop for extended periods, the GPS antenna for another $65 or less, and the software. We will probably leave the laptop in the pelican case to start with and bungy cord the case to the navigation table. Thanks again for all the help.....
Roger
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Old 06-03-2006, 08:07   #14
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Roger, this seems to be the day I find your Q's luring me to reply.<g>

We continue to do pretty much what Jon describes. We have not found the need for a cockpit plotter of some kind, perhaps because we mount a small H/H GPS unit in the cockpit with the same waypoints as are running on the laptop's nav software. With a little use, you will find a simple H/H unit gives you a lot of feedback re: your intended track.

A paper chart is always out and being worked, with us as well. The three issues re: using a laptop non-stop on passage seem to be a) the footprint needed for both laptop & chart on a small chart table can be demanding; b) weather protection for the laptop, and c) physical restraint of the laptop. These last two become more problematic in smaller boats simply based on the geometry involved, so give them a good think.

The laptop charting + cockpit gps + paper back-up is IMO a 'good value' system, and gives you everything a prudent seaman needs. Is it the 'best' system? I think that's a moot question.

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Old 07-03-2006, 07:25   #15
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We are now of the same opinion Jack. One exception is that we will probably have a dedicated GPS for the laptop (perhaps the US Global BU 353 for $68) and in the cockpit, it will be paper charts and a handheld Garmin 76 for course/speed/waypoint checks. Can you remember the Walker Log, handheld compass for resections, DR plots, and maybe the RDF for coastal work? Ha!
Software decision is still up in the air; would like to find a freebe from someone around here, if not then Maptechs Offshore Navigator from Defenders for $77.

Reaching this decision has been far easier than the one of whether we go up to the Bay or head down to Georgia for the spring and summer! We are still working on this one.........
Regards, Roger & Marie aboard SV Tin Cup
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