You and I usually agree on things, but in this instance I've gotta present a different perspective.
Laptops are invaluable appliances
on a cruising boat. We agree that their use in port is important, for email
, inventory, wefaxes, web surfing, etc. I've found they are also GREAT for trip and voyage preplanning. You can easily and quickly plan a trip, lay out the route
and waypoints, and upload these to your GPS.
Where we disagree is in their utility when underway. You mention the following points:
1. laptop vulnerability to "rattling and abuse";
2. power consumption
3. unneeded because dedicated chartplotters are available.
I disagree on all points.
1. Vulnerability to damage in a seaway. Production laptops are more robust than you think. We're in the IT business, and have furnished laptops to users here and overseas for 8 years. It's rare to see one diabled because of jarring. I've used laptops on my boat for 15 years, in calm and in heavy weather offshore
. I have NEVER had a physical breakdown.
I do believe, however, that the degree of jarring of laptops differs not only by the sea conditions, but by the boat. Smaller and lighter boats, in particular, experience comparatively rough going, with sharper jarring. Laptops on smaller boats may also be more susceptible to water
2. Power consumption. This is certainly a factor, since many laptops draw 7 amps or more @ 12VDC. It's like having another electric
frig running! Smaller boats may not be able to sustain this without special gear
, but on a larger cruising boat with lots of house battery
power and generators, etc., this isn't a problem.
3. Redundancy with dedicated chart plotters. Here is where I think personal choice and preference is very important. I personally want to do all my preplanning on charts
which look exactly like the printed paper charts
. In other words, using electronic raster charts, which are simply exact copies of the paper charts. Similarly, when underway I want my electronic charting to look EXACTLY like the paper charts I have close at hand. Sorry, but vector charts are not the same thing: they don't LOOK exactly like the paper charts, and they are subject to sometimes considerable errors due to incorrect digitizing. They're getting better, but to my mind just aren't there yet. This is a personal view, of course.
Further, the available dedicated chartplotters cannot use raster charts. And, in my view, they have limited utility. I used a new Garmin
model on my son's 42' sloop
this fall, and didn't like it worth a damn, certainly not when compared to the large, clear chart views shown on my laptop which mirrored exactly the paper charts.
Being something of a navigation nut and having taught celestial navigation
and piloting, as well as having written nav programs for early computers
and calculators, I tend to be quite conservative in regard to electronic charting and navigational gear. It was a long time before I married up my Furuno
GPS with my laptop chartplotter
, and only after I had experimented on long trips. Since doing so, I'm very happy with the combination and only wish that: (1) I had a built-in small computer instead of a laptop; and (2) that the computer used less power. Intel may solve the latter problem, having just announced a more powerful chip technology which uses considerably less power. Apple may already have the solution for the first problem, since the miniMac and gpsNAVx and such software
look increasingly attractive.
Sorry to go on for so long, but I believe others may be interested and are wrestling with the same questions.