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Old 16-10-2007, 10:28   #16
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We went with a chartplotter/radar in the cockpit with a laptop down below on the nav station. You can't bring the laptop into the cockpit--at least not in all weather so it would be limited in use when navigating through the rocks in the fog or other conditions of poor visibility. PC is OK for route planning but not for piloting. Recommend you consider a 4kw radar (36 mi) not for the extra range, but for the better discrimination it will give you at close range. We have a Furuno unit that we love, but Raymarine and Garmin also make good units. If you are on a small budget how about a small chartplotter/radar display in the cockpit that comes off to take to the laptop for route uploading.
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Old 16-10-2007, 11:48   #17
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We have used a laptop as our exclusive electronic navigation for about 6 years without issues more than the occasional glitches and the fact that it uses lots of amps. Since our cruising is about to change somewhat we are adding a chartplotter at the helm. The computer will still stay aboard and be used for many options.
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Old 16-10-2007, 17:42   #18
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Getting closer. . .

I am on the fence now. . . I have found the Garmin Radar unit I want 4kw, 36NM, (as suggested, thanks) for $800 and I thought I found a garmin Chartplotter to go with for $600, but it appears that only their more expensive models will work the the radar. . . so that puts me buying a unit that is around $850. . . I guess charts would be another $150-300. . . that's really not much more than the laptop setup. . . or am I missing something. . . are there a bunch of "add-ons" that I will have to buy to get full functionality from the Garmin unit? BTW, the gear I am looking at is. . .

https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=162&pID=291

https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=162&pID=8050

other than what I get when I purchase these two items and the charts, what else will I need? thanks, Dustin
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Old 16-10-2007, 18:05   #19
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Your assuming the laptop will only be used for chart work. It can be used to download weather, email, internet access, charting, and much, much more. The chartplotter will do only one thing, display information. So trying to do a cost comparison is not realistic. You need to decide what you want to get out of a piece of equipment and make your purchasing decision on that.
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Old 16-10-2007, 18:29   #20
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I see your point. So if I were to get a laptop set-up, I am guessing that if I used it only for nav. that the system requirements are extremely low. . . an older pentium 4 laptop can be had for a little of nothing. . . then if it craps out, who cares. . . I could have two. . .

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Originally Posted by Chuck Baier View Post
Your assuming the laptop will only be used for chart work. It can be used to download weather, email, internet access, charting, and much, much more. The chartplotter will do only one thing, display information. So trying to do a cost comparison is not realistic. You need to decide what you want to get out of a piece of equipment and make your purchasing decision on that.
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Old 16-10-2007, 18:45   #21
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mickmul has a good point. When all your systems are "talking" it seems to be the case that your entire system gets more fragile.

Its better to have things that can work on their own.

Also, I found that having a chart plotter made the boat less fun. You get stuck staring at the stupid thing. We now use a Mac laptop with a USB GPS, only if we really need it, like in fog or something. Other than that it lives below behind the sette. Paper charts work fine.

-jim lee
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Old 16-10-2007, 18:53   #22
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no matter what system you use to plot, nav and watch "Captain Ron" on, i think it is inherent within the world of cruising to use common sense and practicality, regardless of what model of whatever you choose. if you have a laptop already, it would be in my opinion, a good idea to use it for it's power to process data and information, and save the extra money you would have shelled out for the high-cost nav equipment for the other stuff you will definitely need it for. i use an omnibook (five year old laptop) for plotting, and nav with seaclear II and KAP charts from NOAA and pilot charts for the rest of the globe. i have not had one problem with this setup. it is stable and dependable. if it gives up the ghost, i can shell out another $250 to replace it.
but, i also tend to hold on to the tiller more than alot of modern cruisers who rely on hands-free systems for portions of their voyages. i still get the warm and fuzzy feeling of being in complete control, though i lose sleep and fatigue becomes a factor. this approach to cruising causes me to plot day by day, and plan my waypoints for shallow waters and harbour much more than some skippers, as i need sleep and food and a movie here and there and a good anchorage is the only option. hehe...
the ports and inputs of my laptop have been protected as much as possible thru modification by methods i learned in the military, to keep as much of the element out of the sensitive areas of my equipment. i have done this with ATV silicone, by making "covers" for all the ports that aren't being used by a component, ie. my usb gps dongle. i do not suggest you do this to your machine, just an example of what one can do to protect their stuff from the elements. you said you are planning to sail the caribbean, this won't be quite as bad as rounding the horn, so i think with common sense you and your equipment will prevail. i cruise with a small digital recording studio on board! which, by the way, is also powered by the same laptop!
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Old 16-10-2007, 23:17   #23
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Every separate unit requires a separate drink from the electricity fountain. Dual purposing units where you can makes incredible sense.

A handheld/helm mounted GPS that can output to the laptop for charting makes sense. A separate LCD that makes looking at the laptop more enjoyable makes sense if it doubles as the DVD player screen.

GPS - Source - backup plotter
Laptop - information processor, email, charting, entertainment, weather etc. etc.
LCD screen - entertainment center
Handheld battery GPS - backup nav

I don't see how you would go without the laptop.
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Old 17-10-2007, 19:25   #24
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It all seems pretty complex

I cruised the caribbean with an IBM Thinkpad laptop for navigation tied into my GPS, my SSB for weather,maintenance log and it even had an inventory system. For me it was a major Amp consumer,cumbersome and with a printer it was a mess of cables; of course I had paper charts and handheld GPSs as a back-up.

I just set-up a new boat and went with a Raymarine C70 chartplotter mounted below on arm which swings so it can be seen from the helm. My radar is on the same screen and so is my autohelm data. If I want weather can be provided on the same screen. Same two handheld GPSs and paper as back-up. I love the simplicity, lack of clutter, and the low draw on the batteries. I think Garmin has a similar system.

I use a Blackberry Worldwide for email and Internet, which charges off 12 volt and is very low Amp draw.

If I want to watch a movie I use a 12 volt DVD player, which. holds a charge for six hours. I charge it while under way under power or when the solar panel is cooking.

Just a different approach, it works for me.
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Old 17-10-2007, 19:59   #25
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When that C70 quits you will be glad you have all of that back up. When an integrated system goes, and they do, quite often you are left with pretty much nothing.
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Old 17-10-2007, 20:59   #26
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I have done a lot of cruising in the intercostal, just did a trip into the Chesapeake from New Bern, NC. I single handed this trip. I have a complete set of charts and I have a Raymarine chartplotter at the helm. While navigating through channels and trying to make certain that I was not going up the incorrect river it was INVALUABLE to be able to see which is the correct direction. I could not ormit the chart, plot my position and figure out which was the correct direction. Having an e-chart with my position and direction plotted has let me focus on navigating around traffic and keep from running aground.

There have been times when I have been caught in squals while cruising the Bahamas. Once again, I have bee greatful that I can glance over and confirm where I am, and where I need to go. And of course, there have been those instances where I have not planned correctly and found my self navigating in near dark conditions. Having confirmation of position readily available has made me... less nervous!

I have lost my electronics, 3 times in about 7000 nm of cruising. I have learned to put hourly updates of postion, speed, heading true and heading magnetic in my log. I plot fixes on the chart when I am in clear ocean. This loggin has let me continue in a safe maner. Manual charting keeps my plotting skills current, but nothing like modern conviences for ease and safety.

Radar, great at night, essential in fog, just as good in a squall. Less critical in clear sailing.
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Old 17-10-2007, 21:48   #27
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My experience with oth has been very positive. I have an old IBM Thinkpad I use on the boat and it runs just fine and its handy for backup for charts, tides, and related data. After much research I opted for a Standard Horizon color plotter with the C-Map (Jeppesen) charts. It's been great. It also pays big to join the Club C-Map. The membership netted me a new Atlantic coast--S.America series chart chip for under $100 plus you get a free update each year. If you are a USPS member you also get a discount.
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Old 18-10-2007, 07:25   #28
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Marine grade equipment

I have not had my current or previous chartplotters leave me in the dark; knock on gelcote. As a prudent mariner I log my positions while offshore and have much redundancy of navigation equipment, including a sexton and current sight reductions in addition to back-up GPSs.I also remember when sailing navigation included dead reckoning and a compass as your only tools. A chartplotter failure would not be a serious concern. Having said that, I feel more comfortable relying on equipment designed and manufactured for the marine environment. Sealed unites and tinned wires give much more confidence that used laptops with a throw-away expectancy.

There is also the matter of usefulness and ease of operation. If I have to scramble below to check my position on a regular bases it seems that I might have to leave the helm when it is not convenient or prudent. When I'm offshore that maybe fine but not so in a busy seaway. Having use both a laptop and a chartplotter with a chip I can see the advantage of the chartplotter. At least for my wife and I.

The Amps used is also huge. I hate to ever start up my engine to charge the batteries, at anchor or underway. I am able to maintain my batteries with just solar charging most of the time. We use many other power saving alternatives like LED lighting and never an inverter.
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Old 18-10-2007, 07:43   #29
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Marine grade equipment

I have not had my current or previous chartplotters leave me in the dark; knock on gelcote. As a prudent mariner I log my positions while offshore and have much redundancy of navigation equipment, including a sexton and current sight reductions in addition to back-up GPSs.I also remember when sailing navigation included dead reckoning and a compass as your only tools. A chartplotter failure would not be a serious concern. Having said that, I feel more comfortable relying on equipment designed and manufactured for the marine environment. Sealed units and tinned wires give much more confidence that used laptops with a throw-away expectancy.

There is also the matter of usefulness and ease of operation. If I have to scramble below to check my position on a regular bases it seems that I might have to leave the helm when it is not convenient or prudent. When I'm offshore that maybe fine but not so in a busy seaway. Having use both a laptop and a chartplotter with a chip I can see the advantage of the chartplotter. At least for my wife and I.

The Amps used is also huge. I hate to ever start up my engine to charge the batteries, at anchor or underway. I am able to maintain my batteries with just solar charging most of the time. We use many other power saving alternatives like LED lighting and never an inverter. Also using diesel to charge your batteries is not environmentally friendly or courteous to folks you share an anchorage with. I have left an anchorage or two because some folks constantly run their engine or a generator. Also finding and hauling diesel fuel gets in the way of my cocktail time.
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Old 18-10-2007, 16:16   #30
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One of the time I lost my instruments was when I had a near strike by lightening! I could FEEL the heat!!! For a while, all the instruments were dead! But, after some thought, I pulled the connector from the Seatalk buss (Raymarine data integration) on the Wind vane, everything, except the wind vane started working again.

I lost instruments my chart plotter once while I was cruising from Florida to North Carolina. I had just received my plotter back from Raymarine. I had sent it in for an upgrade. I figured since I was several hundred miles away from any place I could send it in and I really wanted to use it for the trip! I'd open it up and see what was up. Anyway, one of the ribbon cables to a set of multifunction switchs had come loose. I put it back on, no problems since.

The last time I lost electronics was when I shorted out a starter and my main buss fuse blew! Fixed the short, replaced the fuse, instruments back. Thank goodness for diesels, engine didn't even stop! Did lose the starter, but what the heck, I carry a spare engine anyway!

I guess the moral is, yes electronics go out, but they are amazingly reliable! Far more so than I'd originally assumed. But, We will see as they age a little bit more!

Big thing to remember, I guess. is integrated instruments are like ice and Hot showers. None is essential, but dang, a hot shower when I am cold, a cold drink when I am hot! sure makes life a little sweeter!
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