As a boater that has been using electronic navigation
in many of it's forms from LORAN
A - then LORAN
C (when they were just used to give you a point to look up on your paper chart) to all the iterations of GPS technology I have never had the experience I see reported by some on this forum. My experiences ( which are limited to Florida and the Bahamas) find that they have shown an ever increasing usefulness and accuracy. I have used Raster and Vector charts from several providers - Garmai, NOAA, Navionics and a couple of others displayed on PC's and/or chartplotters. I have traveled with friends using other systems and they are reasonably good as well.
My experience has always been that as I travel along I am amazed to regularly see the "chart" show a rock and look along that bearing and there it is just as predicted. More often than not the level of details is little short of amazing and fantastic.
Mostly these last 25-30 years I have settled on Garmin for my chartplotters and backup things with Navionics on an Ipad
and Raster charts on the PC running Open CPN
Vector charts that I have looked at that are free are pretty much worthless IMO with little more than giving you the ability to see land contours and larger islands. Virtually no sounding data that is useful.
My mix is Garmin or Navionics on plotters and iPads and Raster charts (many free) on the PC. For general traveling from place to place and just wanting to know where you are and relative positions to your destination
there is plenty of info on the Raster charts that should suffice most boaters.
For those who want greater detail for fishing
purposes nothing beats the chartplotters with their proprietary electronic charts.
As far as Garmin's marketing
decisions everyone has a position on that and I understand the frustration where chart packages can't be individualized to each and every persons wants. Not like the old days when you could pick out one or two charts of different places and scales for this or that location - skipping some if not needed.
Their decision to divide the Bahamas into two groups I suspect has to do with demand from buyer research
. The number of powerboaters who would want to purchase
the lower half of the Bahamas is nowhere near those that desire Florida and the Upper and Central portions which are easily reached from South Florida - that's a much busier traffic pattern.
Keep in mind that with Garmin's newer systems - if more than one device is onboard they can "share" the one purchase
Their charts and instruments are managed much like your PC software
- with licenses. We don't "own" the charts anymore than the software
on our PC's.
All in all the cost of charts is small potatoes in the expense of owning and operating any boat be it sail or power.