I written before here and on other forums
about what I do and why.
I use the autopilot
99% of the time so I am not behind the helm
. We don't have a bimini so I usually site on the bridge deck
under the dodger
where the instruments are located over the compainionway. The plotter(s) are fixed mount and below decks at the nav table, so I can't be doing watch and messing about with "charting".
I got a Garmin PDA IQ3600 which not only does street navigation
and hold my address book and calendar, but it loads blue charts
and is tin y enough to fit in my shirt pocket. The bright crisp screen
shows me all I need to "see" on a chart and it can zoom to ANY acale not just fixed ones. You can zoom with a stylus by drawing a rectangle or use a few different keys. You can pan with the stylus as well. It is not a full on plotter with routes and so forth, but it gives a heading arrow and COG and SOG and serves as a handy reference with a can correlate to what my eyes tell me. With the auto pilot controls and the heading line of the plotter I can steer to distant and usee "way points" (if they are bouys for example) without using way points) But you can create waypoints as well. I simply like it as a handy where would I be on a chart reference.
I can take it ashore and use it for hiking and points of interest when we cruise
. It also leave a bread crumb track which can be handy when anchored in the fog
if you have to dink ashore.
Since it is handled, you can refer to the chart when facing any orientation on the boat, which is handy too, as opposed to look forward where the fixed mount instruments are mounted.
This is a good solution which has multiple additional uses. I need my contact list since I don't drag a laptop
along and my cell phone
contacts are limited. Street nav is great and the POI are handed when visiting ashore, like making a reservation. And it's inexpensive and I use it in the car for street nav.
The downsides are that it is not waterproof, so it stays under the dodger
most of the time of on a shelf in easy reach from the bridgedeck, when it is really wet out there. And the battery
life sucks so it is tethered to a 12v cig outlet on the cockpit instrument dash over the companionway
I think the flexibility in my situation far outweighs the down sides to a fixed mount unit, the main one being visibility and mounting and replacing/remounting, not to mention antennas and so forth.
Chart use is different since the days when I plotted on paper. Digital charting lets you see at a glance the "big picture" and zoom in for detail in an instant. I don't have much use for routes at all.
I do use a waypoint entered into the below decks plotter which repeats essential data to a few cockpit repeaters. This allows me to plan my tacking and VMG to destination
and so forth from the cockpit by analyzing the wind
I suppose if you are motoring from point to point, a route
may be useful. And if you cruise
a LOT and over a large area you might need hundreds of waypoints in a library. But how much time does it take to set a waypoint these days? 2 seconds. It takes more time to find a waypoint from a library if you can remember the name of it.
I set them as go. No biggie. I just want to see the boat positioned on a chart and where I am headed.