MFDs are the rage and are trying to exploit the power of computing to get more information to the sailor.
This is both a good and bad development.
First, when you use an MFD you put all your eggs in one basket. This is a risk and furth makes it more complicated to use because they have to cram commands into layers of menus. Raymarine
does a horrible job of this, but perhaps they are not the only one. This is inevitable when you have only so many buttons to press to get at the information. Cell phones are experience a similar explosion of information/function and faced with cramming more commands onto the same buttons or adding more "keys" and now we have the touch screen
models as another solution. (same in marine
electronics). Perhaps a wiser approach is to have stand alone instruments with their own interface which can port data to an MFD. This offers redundancy. However this seems to be an expensive approach, takes up lots of precious real estate and requires some sort of workable data language.
Second, there is a diminishing return on the increase in data to the point that sailors are messing about with their instruments and not sailing, keeping watch and using traditional navigation
skills on the water
While it's hard to stop technological progress, a lot of all the new bells and whistles is really unnecessary. My own experience with feature phones proved to me - that in the end I use the cell phone
to make and receive calls when I don't have access to a land line, or a PC/ internet
. I don't need to access all the information "on the go" that many seem to feel is so important, because I am not "on the go" very much. So after trying a ful featured phone
and realizing that I wasn't using all these features, I went back to basics. I think there is an analogy in here with respect to marine navigation
A few years back our stand alone Vigil Radar
when south and it seems like MFD was the way to go. So I bought a Raymarine
C80 to use as a radar
. I already owned a Horizon CP170 plotter which used different chart cards so I was SOL if I wanted to use the charts
with the C80. When I discovered that the C80 could plot on charts
, I went and added their antenna
and bought their charts . The price
was creeping up. The overlay feature was handy as were the advances in radar like MARPA. However, I found the C80 interface a complicated disaster and am always re learning
it and going back to the manual to find "things" now may 4 or 5 years since I got it.
A few years ago I bought a PDA which allowed me to manage countacts and carry it with me wherever. I found this a sensible approach and more user friendly than a cell phone
contact list. I got a Garmin
IQue which, of course, is a GPS
anc an be loaded with the street maps supplied, and with their BlueCharts for marine use. Again a new chart format. I gave the thing a shot at street navigation and found it useful to find my way to and from unfamiliar locations. Two years ago I sprang for the BlueCharts and tried it on board. It's not a full featured GPS
navigator with routes and so forth. But for me it works well as a reference in the cockpit
, which is where I sail from 99% of the time ( and not from behind the helm
as I use an autopilot). Now the raymarine is an expensive radar where I may program a waypoint to so see the data on a cockpit
repeater. I rarely sit in front of it and "use it" as a "plotter". The old Horizon is rarely turned on, but it's a below decks back up. I am using the small Garmin
as an assist to confirm what my eye are telling me. If I want to steer to some "point" I can use its heading line to show me if I am on coarse and it will of course show the coarse made good not the course steered which is all that matters.
I added an AIS
interface to the C80. It's an interesting collision
avoidance feature, but it doesn't work with all vessels and so it's not as helpful as it could be and could give one a false sense of "security". Right now it's a "fun gimmick", but it cost less than a meal or two at a fine restaurant.
The real work horse in my navigation suite are the B&G Hornet Cruise
pack and Hecta Depth sounder
which have been working dutifully for going on 23 years and. I have nothing but praise for the AWI which has been atop the mast
in the weather
, winter, summer, spring and fall for all but 3 or 4 winters when I took the stick down.
I need to mention the KVH flixgate compass
which is a handy device and allows me to see compass
(and GPS data) from any place in the cockpit. My only mechanical compass is in the binnacle and best read from above and behind, a position I am rarely in as I don't drive from the helm
So I have experienced instrument creep. It's all complex, on a NMEA 0183
network (except the old B&G) and hardly used. Who needs hundred of waypoint and scores of routes when you sail anyway? We sail in mostly famiilar waters and I know them as local knowledge. The current
information on these things is not accurate. I am now wary of all the new gadgets and advances because they offer diminishing return for the expense and they do little in making my sailing safer and or more enjoyable.