After feeding my sextant to the fish
... I completely tech'ed my boat. I don't use a dedicated plotter: (1) I don't have power shortage issues, (2) I don't get stuck with outdated hardware
and technology, (3) the computer is needed on-board anyway.
Actually I have two computers
- one built in, the other a wireless laptop were the screen turns around and folds back down to turn it into a Tablet PC (Navy-grade Panasonic Toughbook). I am very happy with the setup and it is very flexible with plenty of redundancy.
For those interested: I did install a cockpit mount weatherproof touchscreen (with surprisingly good daylight viewability). I did spend more on this than originally planned, but I figured that give the specific use and harsh environment
it was prudent to get the right one. I got it from Winmate
who made one up to my specs. To overcome the long cable run from the nav station PC to the cockpit, I managed to avoid spending several hundred dollars on a VGA amplifier/splitter by using the trick presented at this website VGA Cable from CAT5
Now for the best of tricks - to get all my instrument's data (GPS, wind
, log, fluxgate) to the wireless laptop: All the instruments connect to a MUX then to the nav station PC. I run SOB Pro (the Network version www.digiboat.com.au
) and my nav PC and laptop are networked via the WiFi
(built into the laptop, add-on card for the nav PC). With SOB I can send all the NMEA
data to any networked computer, so all the NMEA
data comes to the laptop from the nav PC, yet each computer can "operate" with this data independantly. So I can be in my cabin
with the laptop and have full navigation knowledge (ideal if I wake in the middle of the night - I can just flip up the lid, connect to the nav PC and check position, wind, depth
etc while horizontal with only one eye open!). And if the boat is anchored close to shore, I can take the wireless laptop to the local restuarant/club and monitor
the boat from afar! (I know, sounds a bit "wanky" but sure makes for great peace-of-mind). The wireless range is about 100 to 200m at its best, so not too bad for remote
checking. Of course, when the nav PC is in range of an Internet wireless hotspot, then SOB Server will send the ship's data over the Internet effectively extending the range indefinately!
For extra redundancy, I also use a cheap
USB GPS mouse and SOB for the laptop so it can become a stand alone chart plotter if necessary (actually, because the laptop is waterproof, we often take this mobile chartplotter
on the tender
to explore rivers, reefs
, bays etc. The track data and any waypoints we make etc can be simply transferred back to the nav PC for future reference. In fact, by changing the laptop to be the SOB Server, then we can track the tender
"live" on the nav PC running in Client mode (it shows up in SOB on the nav PC as an AIS
target - although it isn't using AIS
, but that's how SOB represents it).
My next additions will be to extend the functionaility of this setup (particularly the remote
monitoring aspect). I am watching closely some developments with wireless networking technology which is apparently now capable of a 40 nm range (see Meshcom
) which will revolutionise such remote montioring as the tender tracking. Also I will connect the nav PC to the Internet with GPRS (actually I'll use one of the newer/faster methods CDMA or EGDE or 3G ... I am still investigating these, but it seems very dependant on your cruising grounds as to what's available). Once I have the nav PC Internet connected, then I can montior my boat form anywhere on the Planet!
Sorry for the rave, but I am very happy with my current
setup and thought others may like to know what is possible. I'll finish by saying that it all works remarkably well, and I feel very secure with the redundancies available - I can use either computer for navigating independantly - one is very securely mounted and protected from elements and the other is designed for the elements! Total of 4 GPS devices on board - bracket mount Garmin
is the main Ship's Position for skeds, plotting position on the chart etc; cheap hand held waterproof Garmin; cheap USB GPS mouse and also a Bluetooth GPS (which I haven't played with much yet). The two Garmin GPS can be used stand-alone, but the Bluetooth and USB GPS must be connected to the computers
. Any of the GPSes can connect to either computer.
As through History
- the compass
, quadrant, chronometer, RADAR
, SatNav, GPS were readily embraced and each revolutionised navigation accuracy and thus safety
- the modern technology available advances this pattern radically - I start to smoke at the ears when trying to think of what our kids
will have available to them!
Safe passages to all!