Originally Posted by sailingharry
There are a few shareware plotting programs out there. Actually, not "shareware" but Open Source, which doesn't require any payment at all.
And the chart issue is the biggest reason to go to a PC. NOAA provides all the charts directly at no cost, and they are 100% up to date. All the commercial
vendors provide updates that are very expensive. It's not too expensive if you do an update every couple of years, but if you want to update more frequently, the commerical folks get astronomical.
Another issue with the proprietary maps is support. My current GPS
, which I have really grown to enjoy, is a Garmin eTrex Legend. Very small, but I like it. In 2008, Garmin decided that updates aren't needed any more. So, I'm sailing on 4 year old charts. Things don't change much here on the Chesapeake, but 4 years is getting really stale.
All in all, a computer based system is vastly cheaper, vastly more current, vastly more capable, and a no-brainer -- except it rots in salt water
Oh, and there are no piracy
issues or ethical issues.
I was talking about charts, not plotter programs. Plotter programs are so cheap
that they are not a problem in any case -- shareware or commercial.
Charts, you are right, are no problem in the US because of the NOAA free distribution -- a wonderful thing which I wish the rest of the world would emulate. In Europe
, where I sail these days, you have got no choice other than commercial charts (even the Admiralty distributes charts only on a commercial basis), or something out of date and/or pirated.
As to the equipment
-- the "except it rots in salt
water" is a pretty big "except". Navigation equipment
is something which should have an extremely high level of reliability
. To have this reliability
, the equipment should be built with components which can withstand years of hard use and which are also resistant to salt water
spray, sun, humidity, and all of the other elements of the harsh marine environment
. There is a very good reason why a good marine
chart plotter costs $2000 or $3000 and a PC costs $500. In fact, I am surprised that the difference is not even bigger.
If you can't afford a real marine chart plotter, then by all means, use a PC or a tablet with plotting software
. I have an IPad
charts as a backup plotter and for using in parts
of the boat where the main system isn't (for example, I used it a couple of days ago for an anchor alarm
next to my bunk -- love being able to half open one eye and see that the boat is still in place, instead of getting up and going to the chart table as before). I would hate to use it as my primary plotter, however.