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Old 14-10-2007, 14:28   #1
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Chartplotter Vs. PC based set-up, questions???

Hello, My name is Dustin, I am new to cruising and new to this forum. I am considering my options for my nav/entertainment sys. aboard my first yacht, 34ft mono-hull that I plan to sail in the Caribbean. I was planning a particuar set-up but would like some advice before I get too carried away with myself. . .wondering what I will need as far as navagational/electronic instuments. I have a PC with a 32" flat screen monitor that I intend to use for my entertainment system as well as for my PC/charts, etc.. I wanted to integrate a GPS, Radar and chart software into the PC, the video card I have will allow me to hook up another (smaller, hopefully waterproof type) monitor in the cockpit. I would like a system that would be able to notify me via some type of alarm if parameters, that I select, such as an object in my proximity, etc. are surpassed. Is this possible? I would have a handheld GPS unit as a back up, and was planning on getting paper charts as I have heard that would be wise. I am trying to find a 12V power supply for my PC, may have to switch to lap-top, but that is here nor there. Can I have set-up such as this, that will be able to interface with the autopilot/radar/depth sounder/wind inst. etc? By doing it this way what are the pro's and con's. I would really apprectiate input or advice on this, Thanks, Dustin
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Old 14-10-2007, 15:25   #2
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Not hard to do at all. You will need a link cable to computer (for handheld appx $35.00 with 12v for handheld) a program for computer (I like capn's but is expensive $499 for the newer version though is easy to find an older version for free) charts can be found for free for most of the US at Free Boating Charts, though carib charts cost $, though arent all that bad. Depending on your GPS and radar, you can link them together and have the output sent directly to the comp and integrated through CAPNs prog. Your VHF can be set up also for emergency transmissions by linking it to the GPS. These have to be newer electronics, though. Maybe past 5-6 years at max I would guess. As far as your setup goes, take into account how much you can afford for AMPs, whether you have a generator or run your engine most of the time etc, I would go for a crappy dedicated laptop with a DVD ROM, for your normal needs and reserve the 32" for entertainment while in port or have the engine running. AMPs go very fast when running home oriented electronics. A power inverter can be used to supply AC from DC or even the other way around. Bring those paper charts, as they can save your life. Power outages happen, though paper, or better yet waterproof, charts do not. Know how to shoot objects as a backup along with Celnav just to be extra safe.
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Old 14-10-2007, 16:21   #3
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Thanks. . .

I plan to integrate an alternative source for electricity. . . more batteries plus solar or wind gen. . . so another question comes to mind. . . do most boats have 2 alternators? one to charge the house bank and another for the starting batt.? does the engine charge the house batteries or just act as a generator while running? I plan to run a lot of electronic devices and want to never be without electricity. . . what is my best (cheapest) bet?


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Not hard to do at all. You will need a link cable to computer (for handheld appx $35.00 with 12v for handheld) a program for computer (I like capn's but is expensive $499 for the newer version though is easy to find an older version for free) charts can be found for free for most of the US at Free Boating Charts, though carib charts cost $, though arent all that bad. Depending on your GPS and radar, you can link them together and have the output sent directly to the comp and integrated through CAPNs prog. Your VHF can be set up also for emergency transmissions by linking it to the GPS. These have to be newer electronics, though. Maybe past 5-6 years at max I would guess. As far as your setup goes, take into account how much you can afford for AMPs, whether you have a generator or run your engine most of the time etc, I would go for a crappy dedicated laptop with a DVD ROM, for your normal needs and reserve the 32" for entertainment while in port or have the engine running. AMPs go very fast when running home oriented electronics. A power inverter can be used to supply AC from DC or even the other way around. Bring those paper charts, as they can save your life. Power outages happen, though paper, or better yet waterproof, charts do not. Know how to shoot objects as a backup along with Celnav just to be extra safe.
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Old 14-10-2007, 16:40   #4
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A 34 foot boat will not likely have a big enough engine to run two alternators. Both banks can be charged by one alternator with a battery combiner or isolator. A 100 amp alternator can take about 7 hp. A 34 ft boat might have a 30 hp engine in it, tops. In my opinion relying too much on electronics or electrical stuff is not a good way to go. I don't know if you have the boat yet but think it would not be wise to spend too much money on what might be termed peripherals. You have to remember that a big alternator is just the thin edge of the wedge. You'll have to upgrade your wiring too, then there's the combiner and regulator. I don't know what your budget is but hi output alternator, solar, wind, regulators, batteries etc. can run up to at least $6000. Depending on the boat it might not be advisable to put so much money in one area. Not trying to discourage you but much of this stuff adds little value to the boat on resale.
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Old 15-10-2007, 19:17   #5
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I see...

Well, I could take the eqipment off and keep it for my next boat. . . So you are saying most of the boats that length (even though the engine is small, mine will be 27hp) will have an alternator that charges the house bank or the starting bank via the flip of a switch??? So I guess I need to find out how many amps that alternator is and see what battery set-up I have. Then determine which to add, wind or solar, I was guessing that one or the other with the addition of the time I run the engine, plus when I can get to shore and charge up would be adequate. . . I am not trying to power Las Vegas, just a fridge/freezer combo, nav equip, lights, a microwave, laptop, and tv. . . you really think that will run me 6K?


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A 34 foot boat will not likely have a big enough engine to run two alternators. Both banks can be charged by one alternator with a battery combiner or isolator. A 100 amp alternator can take about 7 hp. A 34 ft boat might have a 30 hp engine in it, tops. In my opinion relying too much on electronics or electrical stuff is not a good way to go. I don't know if you have the boat yet but think it would not be wise to spend too much money on what might be termed peripherals. You have to remember that a big alternator is just the thin edge of the wedge. You'll have to upgrade your wiring too, then there's the combiner and regulator. I don't know what your budget is but hi output alternator, solar, wind, regulators, batteries etc. can run up to at least $6000. Depending on the boat it might not be advisable to put so much money in one area. Not trying to discourage you but much of this stuff adds little value to the boat on resale.
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Old 15-10-2007, 19:27   #6
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"I am not trying to power Las Vegas, just a fridge/freezer combo, nav equip, lights, a microwave, laptop, and tv. . . you really think that will run me 6K?"

Fridge/freezer and microwave will suck your reserves dry in no time. Use ice and propane or get a small generator. Solar and wind wont put a dent in the requirements of your freezer. Ice is cheap and block ice will last you a long time.
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Old 15-10-2007, 19:53   #7
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And this has what to do with Chartplotters and computer navigation?
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Old 15-10-2007, 21:21   #8
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A navigation system using a laptop although cheaper then dedicated systems have two problems.
1. A laptop uses considerable more power, so get a machine that is efficient as possible.
2. Most laptops use Windows. Nuff said.

At maximum you would want a 100 amp alternator. 80 amps would be better considering the size of your engine. Make sure it is a proper marine alternator and not a marinized automotive one. Also a smart 3 stage regulator is a must.
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Old 15-10-2007, 22:50   #9
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...

a little off topic I know, I am sorry. I would like to get a laptop system, I know windows can be a problem but, I will have the back up equip. to navigate also. . . I guess if I get a laptop set-up and I don't like it what am I really out of? I can get a chartplotter then I guess. So let me get this right. . . Here is a list of what I "think" I will need. . .

1. a laptop (obviously)
2. this Cap'n program or something like it ($500)
3. free charts of US coastal + Carib. charts ($400???)
4. an auto pilot (already installed on my boat)
5. a usb GPS
6. a basic radar system, 20 mile radius??? ($1000???)
7. wind, depth, etc.
8. radio

ok, I may be dreaming here but if I am someone needs to tell me. LOL, I want to be able to plot my course and have GPS steer my boat toward a given destination all the while being able to monitor parameters such as my specific location, my progress, my speed, deviation from said course, plus (on the same screen) a radar overlay of my location and what I may encounter, i.e other vessels, tsunamis. . . with the ability to set alarms if certain parameters are met or exceeded. . . for instance if an object of a certain size gets within a specific proximity to my vessel. . . anyway, you get the picture. How do I tie all of this into the laptop "exactly"? Thanks again for all of the help. I am a fast learner, I promise


I am gonna start a thread in the "Solar, wind, etc." catagory to find out some more about my electrical needs. If anyone would like to chime in, feel free. . .
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Old 16-10-2007, 08:34   #10
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IMHO

In my humble opinion, a laptop computer may be the most unreliable invention in recorded history. Plus, they are (typically) not made for marine environments. If you want to rely on a laptop to integrate your nav systems, plan on having a spare on board and budget for another spare in the near future.

That said, laptops have a legit place on a ocean going vessel for some communications (e-mail, weather, etc. via SSB or HAM).

For the unreliability reason, many folks stick to the multi-function display approach to integrate chart plotters, radar, weather (Sirius, XM) with the other NMEA networked items (auto pilot, speed, depth, wind).

Your mileage may vary..........

Dave
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Old 16-10-2007, 09:07   #11
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Look around this forum and others, and see how many people are having various types of "system" issues, and then rethink your plan.
Unless you can keep your laptop and its various ports (usb, video, etc. ) completely free from salt you can count on problems, sooner rather than later.
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Old 16-10-2007, 09:51   #12
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Prudent Navigation

I agree with 2 hulls. I have 2 laptops and I don't use them for navigation only for route planning.

Call me a Luddite, but I feel uncomfortable having all that technology directing my boat. It may lull a skipper into a false sense of security.Yes, I have a chart plotter, but it does not direct the autopilot, although it could. I feel more comfortable inputing the information to the autopilot and using other methods of navigation as well. My hand bearing compass and paper charts are at hand even though I do not use them as much as I use to.

A prudent navigator will use all methods available to him. Now I'll get off my soapbox.
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Old 16-10-2007, 10:00   #13
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I use Raymarine instruments and Raynav PC software. It provides integration between all the instruments and the PC. Works wonderfully!!!!

The PC I have is built in. Two issues arise, One, I used AC and an inverter to power this is inefficient. I'll convert to a DC-DC power support in the next couple of months. The other is heat. I built mine into a cabinet. The heat builds up after several hours and results in system shut down. I have to open the cabinet door to vent the heat. I actually ended up removing the cabinet door. But, the solution for me is to go to a water cool system. Lot more envolved than is usually necessary.

I use lap tops as a backup. After 3 years, I had to replace a laptop motherboard. Not sure whether it was just normal wear (had the lap top 5 years) or the marine environment. Have no problems with the built in yet. UPS is recommended if you go with an AC solution, but DC-DC power supply addresses that. Additionally, it is nice to have a laptop, it makes it possible for you to have access to the internet at local cafes.
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Old 16-10-2007, 10:11   #14
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This discussion is the result of the power of the personal computer. No doubt it is an amazing potential.

And because of that software was written which allowed it to be the hub of an on board navigation network handling all sorts of tasks simultaneously and effortlessly. And the PC can do all sorts of other useful things.

This all sounds wonderful, so what the downside?

The laptop or PC is power hungry. It is not designed for environments where recharge is not readily available and they use a lot of power to do all that number crunching.

Next comes the salty and very humid environment where they are being asked to perform. They are not designed for these aggressive environments as a rule. When they are, they are much more expensive.

Next there is the user interface issues. Laptops and PCs are not meant to work in pitching, heaving and unstable platforms. Even when secured, the user interface makes executing commands with a mouse difficult.

And finally, when you put all your eggs in one basket you risk loosing them all if the basket breaks. The same argument applies to some MFDs networks.

Purpose made instruments which are stand alone and can be networked to communicate and have their data processed and displayed is handy. A laptop, PC or a MFD can do this.

My position is a laptop is almost essential these days if you want to be "connected" to the world... the internet and all that. This means that most live aboard cruisers will have one. But should be the network hub and a navigation instrument in itself?

My opinion (worth nothing) is that it should not. It can be a supplemental one and this may mean of course extra expense.. but all redundancy costs MORE. redundancy is a prudent thing to have for your navigation... paper charts then digital ones and then PC based. Don't make it the primary device... and if you do, you'll want to have a spare.

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Old 16-10-2007, 10:17   #15
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I agree with the previous posts. Having electronic items "talking" to each other is creating a chain that can fail. laptop is very handy for route planning and other comms, even DVD watching, but why not passage-plan from the charts, input your waypoints, and use your GPS or chartplotter (or laptop) to monitor your cross track error, correct on the autopilot, and alter course when waypoint is reached. It's not as though, when extended cruising, you won't have the time on your hands to monitor each system. Good luck!!
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