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Old 08-04-2016, 07:48   #1
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Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

My GPS is a Garmin dating to 1996. It still works perfectly, but the ergonomics are immature and while it plots, it doesn't chart.

I want a new chart plotter.

Being on Lake Ontario, where I've sailed my whole life, I don't need anything expensive, integrated, or powerful. I know how to plot charts, and I still do hard plotting when crossing the lake (I sqeeze my eyes closed and pretend I don't have the course memorized).

Crossing into Oswego two years ago we hit a solid fog bank. I knew, and GPS confirmed, we were 1/4 mile off the wall. Oh, did I mention the foghorn didn't work? I knew roughly where we were, but I didn't know for certain if we were 1000ft or 600ft from the breakwall (I don't trust GPS and charts to be perfect). It sure would have been nice to have a chart plotter.

Now, there are a million options, just like laptops. And prices run all over the place.

I don't need fishfinder, but it seems anything under $1000 is more focused on fish finding rather than chart plotting. Most come with a transom mounted sounder, which I certainly don't want.

I don't need AIS.

West Marine has a big sale, and I found the Lowrance Elite 5 for $349. Annoyingly, Gander had them for $299, but they are, of course, out of stock. And it seems like the Elite 5 is discontinued.

I want a GPS chart plotter. Preferably on sale, as inexpensive as possible for a mounted (not handheld) model.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please don't recommend open source or other stuff, I don't have the time. I want plug and play- install unit on pedestal, run cable, turn on.

Thanks!
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Old 08-04-2016, 07:57   #2
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
My GPS is a Garmin dating to 1996. It still works perfectly, but the ergonomics are immature and while it plots, it doesn't chart.

I want a new chart plotter.

Being on Lake Ontario, where I've sailed my whole life, I don't need anything expensive, integrated, or powerful. I know how to plot charts, and I still do hard plotting when crossing the lake (I sqeeze my eyes closed and pretend I don't have the course memorized).

Crossing into Oswego two years ago we hit a solid fog bank. I knew, and GPS confirmed, we were 1/4 mile off the wall. Oh, did I mention the foghorn didn't work? I knew roughly where we were, but I didn't know for certain if we were 1000ft or 600ft from the breakwall (I don't trust GPS and charts to be perfect). It sure would have been nice to have a chart plotter.

Now, there are a million options, just like laptops. And prices run all over the place.

I don't need fishfinder, but it seems anything under $1000 is more focused on fish finding rather than chart plotting. Most come with a transom mounted sounder, which I certainly don't want.

I don't need AIS.

West Marine has a big sale, and I found the Lowrance Elite 5 for $349. Annoyingly, Gander had them for $299, but they are, of course, out of stock. And it seems like the Elite 5 is discontinued.

I want a GPS chart plotter. Preferably on sale, as inexpensive as possible for a mounted (not handheld) model.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please don't recommend open source or other stuff, I don't have the time. I want plug and play- install unit on pedestal, run cable, turn on.

Thanks!
===

If you are mounting on your steering pedestal, two of the most important characteristics are bright sun visibility and weatherproof reliability. In my opinion nothing is better than Furuno for those qualities. They are not the cheapest but you get what you pay for.
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Old 08-04-2016, 08:00   #3
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
My GPS is a Garmin dating to 1996. It still works perfectly, but the ergonomics are immature and while it plots, it doesn't chart.

I want a new chart plotter.

Being on Lake Ontario, where I've sailed my whole life, I don't need anything expensive, integrated, or powerful. I know how to plot charts, and I still do hard plotting when crossing the lake (I sqeeze my eyes closed and pretend I don't have the course memorized).

Crossing into Oswego two years ago we hit a solid fog bank. I knew, and GPS confirmed, we were 1/4 mile off the wall. Oh, did I mention the foghorn didn't work? I knew roughly where we were, but I didn't know for certain if we were 1000ft or 600ft from the breakwall (I don't trust GPS and charts to be perfect). It sure would have been nice to have a chart plotter.

Now, there are a million options, just like laptops. And prices run all over the place.

I don't need fishfinder, but it seems anything under $1000 is more focused on fish finding rather than chart plotting. Most come with a transom mounted sounder, which I certainly don't want.

I don't need AIS.

West Marine has a big sale, and I found the Lowrance Elite 5 for $349. Annoyingly, Gander had them for $299, but they are, of course, out of stock. And it seems like the Elite 5 is discontinued.

I want a GPS chart plotter. Preferably on sale, as inexpensive as possible for a mounted (not handheld) model.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please don't recommend open source or other stuff, I don't have the time. I want plug and play- install unit on pedestal, run cable, turn on.

Thanks!
LOL. A nicely written post.

For the specific task you just described, you don't need a chart plotter at all -- you need radar.


But if you decide after all to have a plotter, and I would in your case, just about anything on the market is going to work ok, so I think you'd be fine choosing just on price.

Have you looked at the econo version of the B&G Zeus? I think it's called the "Vulcan". It's not the cheapest, and if you don't plan to connect it to wind and boat speed transducers maybe no point, but it is a lovely device for very small amount of money.

Nothing wrong with the Lowrance Elite, either. Have you thought about snagging one on Fleabay?
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Old 08-04-2016, 09:03   #4
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Fwiw- I was always a dedicated commercial gear guy for years. Furuno, Racal-Decca, Sperry, Anritsu etc. Never liked the raymarine/navico stuff in comparison.

But- there has been a proliferation of reasonable quality consumer grade stuff now. I have been very happy with every Garmin unit I've used- even the wee ones. And, for the difference in price to commercial gear, you can sometimes get a compete backup system as well as a primary for close to same cost.

I have found that it's good to have different chart systems from different manufacturers at times though. I frequently 'truth' what the garmins (proprietary blue charts) are telling me with Navionics on an iPad or phone; and then compare to raster scans of actual govt charts.

It surprising sometimes how much they differ.

Ymmv- but for your application you may be able to manage fine with an iPad and/or phone app.

Totally second DH's observation on radar tho. Radar actually shows you what's real... Not what a piece of software thinks is real.


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Old 08-04-2016, 09:39   #5
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

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Originally Posted by NSboatman View Post
. . .

I have found that it's good to have different chart systems from different manufacturers at times though. I frequently 'truth' what the garmins (proprietary blue charts) are telling me with Navionics on an iPad or phone; and then compare to raster scans of actual govt charts. . .
I think the OP's primary cartography is paper -- and good for him. So he might not care too much about the cartography in his future plotter.

In case he does, though, your point is a good one. The closed cartography ecosystem of Garmin is a huge minus in my opinion. Navico (Lowrance, Simrad, B&G) are at the other end of the scale -- wide choice (Navionics, C-Map, NV, others). I think Raymarine has become more open with their latest plotters.


Maybe not relevant to the OP's situation, but although I have been a diehard paper guy for decades, I've started using OpenCPN on a laptop with a large high resolution screen, with raster charts as virtual paper, and I have been extremely pleased with how convenient it is for planning, as well as "truthing" the cartography in the main nav system.
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Old 08-04-2016, 09:46   #6
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

I'd purchase a display which can handle GPS and Radar. Most will also work as a Fish finder. So what if CAN be a fish finder as well. Don't install the transducer and don't select that option from the menu.

I have a couch that can turn into a bed, that doesn't mean I'm compelled to do so.

Garmin 741 will handle GPS, Radar and Sonar. $899.
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Old 08-04-2016, 11:25   #7
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Maybe not relevant to the OP's situation, but although I have been a diehard paper guy for decades, I've started using OpenCPN on a laptop with a large high resolution screen, with raster charts as virtual paper, and I have been extremely pleased with how convenient it is for planning, as well as "truthing" the cartography in the main nav system.
===

I also like the combination of Open/CPN with a dedicated chart plotter. Open/CPN is much better for route planning the night before in my opinion. It also serves as instant backup, and as a "second opinion" on cartography. As an added bonus it gives you real time tide and current information plus AIS plotting.
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Old 08-04-2016, 11:43   #8
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Agreed DH - Don't like the Garmin closed approach at all - but I sure understand for a short term business model. Eventually they'll either have to prove theirs is significantly superior to others (which I doubt), or open it up, or lose market share.

I'm playing with the OpenCpn option too - very nice for planning for sure.

...but at the end of the day, paper - preferably with a radar for real-time positioning feedback in low vis - has been proven time and time again to be the gold standard.

For now...
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Old 08-04-2016, 12:10   #9
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Quote:
Originally Posted by NSboatman View Post
Agreed DH - Don't like the Garmin closed approach at all - but I sure understand for a short term business model. Eventually they'll either have to prove theirs is significantly superior to others (which I doubt), or open it up, or lose market share.

I'm playing with the OpenCpn option too - very nice for planning for sure.

...but at the end of the day, paper - preferably with a radar for real-time positioning feedback in low vis - has been proven time and time again to be the gold standard.

For now...
I absolutely agree -- paper, kept up to date, with GPS for positioning, and radar, is the gold standard for sure.


OpenCPN is an absolutely fabulous tool, which I recommend you keep exploring. It is immensely powerful, with, for example, the best AIS tools by far I've ever seen, far better than what my B&G nav system does.

Since I cruise every year over 3000 miles and 10 countries, keeping paper on board for everywhere I go, and keeping it up to date, is just about unfeasible, and would be immensely costly. This is different from the OP's situation.

So I use OpenCPN. I use CM93 charts as a "base map". For UK, Belgium, Netherlands waters I have the fabulous "for navigation" raster charts from VisitMyHarbour. I'm just about to acquire some raster charts and paper from NV, too expensive to get the whole Baltic, but filling in some gaps.

I have a large high res display at my nav table and I connect my laptop to boat network using GoFree. I also have a B&G Zeus at the nav table. So I can do planning or regular chart plotting on the laptop, while using the Zeus for radar, or plot on that.

Besides a superb solution for planning, this also gives a superb collision avoidance system -- I use radar on the Zeus and analyze AIS data on OpenCPN. Nav table surface is free for doing plots, writing down bearings, taking notes. Where I sail this is really important as we have to transit the heaviest marine traffic areas in the world, to get to the Baltic from the UK. In the Dover Straits and approaches to the Elbe, we get in situations where we have to understand up to 5 or 6 targets with complex crossings, simultaneously. The normal boat nav system gives you CPA and TCPA but does not show the geometry of crossings, so you are lost if you don't write down bearings, but OpenCPN shows you graphically, and also shows turn rates graphically, making it possible to deal with many targets at once. It's just fantastic and a real pleasure to use.
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Old 08-04-2016, 20:18   #10
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Like you DH I am really impressed with OpenCPN. I picked up a 15.6" laptop for it at the weekend, and that will be my main tool down below.

'Up top' I'm going to have stand alone radar, and alongside it, without the fishfinder hooked up, after coming across some very impressive reviews of it, the new 4" Raymarine Dragonfly Pro with C-Map on it. This so I can get the C-Map Max Central America, Gulf, and Caribbean package on it. I'll probably pick up the Navionics chip for Western Europe as well, for the run up to home.

Otherwise I think I had to buy something like 6 Navionics chips, and knowing my luck, the one I want to use will be unfindable when I need it.

As good as OpenCPN etc are, I am so behind the curve with new electronics, I want to run separates for at least a couple of years before I network anything, plus if I can get on ok with everything functioning as separates, I tend to prefer that to everything all in one (like hifi separates were always better I suppose).

I really do appreciate the insights you and others are providing though.
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Old 08-04-2016, 20:23   #11
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

I'll try this again: a handheld is just a small chartplotter. That's all I need for where I sail: familiar waters. If I went elsewhere, I'd reconsider. If my eyesight was worse, that, too!
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:50   #12
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

For those running opencpn, and other freeware nav programs, below is an interesting option for display in the cockpit. I have the 15" monitor on my boat with a total cost about $300. Yes, I could buy a cheap chart plotter for near the same cost, but I can watch movies, browse the net, etc.

what I bought:

http://szbestview.en.alibaba.com/product/1617244240-220856491/15_inch_waterproof_monitor_15_waterproof_touch_scr een_monitor.html


Screen Sizes: 10" 12" and 15"
Daylight/sunlight readable LCD/LED screen
Touchscreen
Waterproof to IP65 (if I remember correctly)
12v DC power, low amperage
Input is VGA or HDMI
1024x768 16.7m colors
OS: Windows XP thru 8 (my version), Apple, Linux


It provides video and audio from computer located elsewhere in the boat
Typical applications (navigation software such as OPENCPN, computer
games, movie player, pdf reader, and internet browser)
Requires mimimal remote input through touch screen
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:53   #13
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
My GPS is a Garmin dating to 1996. It still works perfectly, but the ergonomics are immature and while it plots, it doesn't chart.

I want a new chart plotter.

Being on Lake Ontario, where I've sailed my whole life, I don't need anything expensive, integrated, or powerful. I know how to plot charts, and I still do hard plotting when crossing the lake (I sqeeze my eyes closed and pretend I don't have the course memorized).

Crossing into Oswego two years ago we hit a solid fog bank. I knew, and GPS confirmed, we were 1/4 mile off the wall. Oh, did I mention the foghorn didn't work? I knew roughly where we were, but I didn't know for certain if we were 1000ft or 600ft from the breakwall (I don't trust GPS and charts to be perfect). It sure would have been nice to have a chart plotter.

Now, there are a million options, just like laptops. And prices run all over the place.

I don't need fishfinder, but it seems anything under $1000 is more focused on fish finding rather than chart plotting. Most come with a transom mounted sounder, which I certainly don't want.

I don't need AIS.

West Marine has a big sale, and I found the Lowrance Elite 5 for $349. Annoyingly, Gander had them for $299, but they are, of course, out of stock. And it seems like the Elite 5 is discontinued.

I want a GPS chart plotter. Preferably on sale, as inexpensive as possible for a mounted (not handheld) model.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please don't recommend open source or other stuff, I don't have the time. I want plug and play- install unit on pedestal, run cable, turn on.

Thanks!
A couple of suggestions. B&G produced too many Zeus Touches. They're still on the market, Defender had the 7" model on sale last weekend for ~$300. Nice full featured unit for a very attractive price.

A more current version is the Vulcan, more expensive but newer technology. Similar technology as in the Zeus2 models, but doesn't support radar.

The Lawrence line is basically the same, but geared towards powerboats and fishing.

Years ago the lighthouse in Oswego was converted to an on demand lighthouse. You had to key the mic on your VHF 5 times, but I forget which channel for the fog horn to come on. Not sure what it's status is now.
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:58   #14
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

You DO have a depth sounder don't you??
Bill



Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
My GPS is a Garmin dating to 1996. It still works perfectly, but the ergonomics are immature and while it plots, it doesn't chart.

I want a new chart plotter.

Being on Lake Ontario, where I've sailed my whole life, I don't need anything expensive, integrated, or powerful. I know how to plot charts, and I still do hard plotting when crossing the lake (I sqeeze my eyes closed and pretend I don't have the course memorized).

Crossing into Oswego two years ago we hit a solid fog bank. I knew, and GPS confirmed, we were 1/4 mile off the wall. Oh, did I mention the foghorn didn't work? I knew roughly where we were, but I didn't know for certain if we were 1000ft or 600ft from the breakwall (I don't trust GPS and charts to be perfect). It sure would have been nice to have a chart plotter.

Now, there are a million options, just like laptops. And prices run all over the place.

I don't need fishfinder, but it seems anything under $1000 is more focused on fish finding rather than chart plotting. Most come with a transom mounted sounder, which I certainly don't want.

I don't need AIS.

West Marine has a big sale, and I found the Lowrance Elite 5 for $349. Annoyingly, Gander had them for $299, but they are, of course, out of stock. And it seems like the Elite 5 is discontinued.

I want a GPS chart plotter. Preferably on sale, as inexpensive as possible for a mounted (not handheld) model.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Please don't recommend open source or other stuff, I don't have the time. I want plug and play- install unit on pedestal, run cable, turn on.

Thanks!
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:58   #15
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Re: Selecting a $#*& Chartplotter worse than a new laptop

I would suggest avoiding anything without NMEA 2000, which would exclude the Elite. There is another Lowrance, the HDS 5, which does have it. The latter is what I have, and I like it just fine.

It has a feature that is really handy in SF bay. Projected line of course. You can instantly see where you are really headed, taking current into account.

NMEA 2000 allows for easy networking of instruments, and sharing of data between them.

Even if you dont want it now, you may do in the future.

I started with the plotter, but now have wind instrument, speed & depth, and another display, all on the NMEA 2000 bus.

I also hooked the plotter up to the AIS VHF, which gives me AIS targets on the plotter.
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