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Old 04-05-2016, 16:16   #1
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Chartplotter selection advice


Currently in the process of selecting a chartplotter and would really appreciate some solid advice.

Consider a blank canvas if you will, as I have almost zero knowledge of marine GPS systems. I am able to wonder in to a local West Marine, but my wallet may be too thin for the "advice" given (unit selected) from some of the "knowledgeable" staff. The hope here is for some good advice based on experience, be it good or bad.

I understand human error can cause folks to blame the manufacturer, however, when 20+ people say "------ is junk!" I might listen..and then ask those folks why they believe that..if it's a personal preference..that's another story (or thread). Same for "------ is the best!". Please enlighten the audience here.

The desire is for a unit that is:

1. Easy to use (e.g. - I want to go to '---' and I'd like to push a button or two to do that, similar to a automotive unit).

2. Preferably a lager (10"+) screen, WELL LIT for daytime use. I'm okay with a smaller screen IF it is easy to see / read.

3. Used (Craigslist or eBay) is acceptable if the price makes sense. (I've bought some really, really nice "used" items, including electronics for 10-30% of original cost and the items were still supported and worked well).

3a. - Sub-point: The product should be updateable with new maps. The product should offer free manufacturers technical support via telephone. The product should have easily replaceable parts (or items found used which are fairly common and easy to find).

4. Will need: - Depth, Direction (N,E,W,S) Would like: image of bottom IN FRONT of boat (not directly over). In other words, as I'm cruising in a narrow unknown channel I'd like to see the bottom terrain to decide what to do BEFORE running aground. I believe this is available. Color seems nice, but monotone (B/W) is fine if it meets all other criteria.

5. Used mostly (90%) on West coast of Florida.

6. Reliable.

Easy, right? I hope so.. PLEASE voice your advice / opinion (and maybe why you suggest a certain device / brand / style / etc.)

Thank you in advance. Your advice will be appreciated.

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Old 05-05-2016, 04:37   #2
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

I have a Garmin 741xs. It has a depth port to attach transducer several choices available and one for radar, I have both. It is plenty bright in the cockpit. It is touch screen and intuitive, has pinch to zoom. Also NMEA 2000 and 0183 (which gets AIS info from VHF) even has a video port, so I added a camera on my mast...

With Garmin Helm it mirrors to my iPad.

The biggest thing I would point out about marine electronics, using the Garmin unit I have (and W/M pricing) was $1600 when released and can be had now for $899 when on sale....the new fangled 8" model is out. Buying used at 30% off?

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Old 05-05-2016, 06:10   #3
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

I had Garmin on my old boat and now have Raymarine. I wish I could go back to Garmin. If you ever plan on going to the Bahamas you really do want Garmin since their charts are based on Explorer and Navionics is based on who knows what.

However, my advice would be to go to a boat show or to West Marine and play with all the display models to see which one you like the best. If there is a competent salesperson there you can get questions answered while actually playing with the unit - The West Marine mother ship store in Fort Lauderdale is a good place to do this
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Old 05-05-2016, 18:36   #4
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

While they have made improvements, I think Raymarine equipment was not based from the viewpoint of a sailor. I bought it for my previous boat, but I should have gone with B&G or Garmin.
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Old 05-05-2016, 20:28   #5
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

One of the toughest questions to ask and answer. In the end, I went with B&G Zeus2. Upgradable with good map options (the map set included was not a favorite of mine), and designed with sailor in mind. Optimal layline calculations sold me but I believe Garmin and Raymarine now offer the same features. The intuitive user interface is touch screen or button based. I kept my old Garmin as backup. These days, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the top vendors. I would follow the advise of previous posters and test drive them all at a boat show or superstore.

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Old 05-05-2016, 21:45   #6
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

Welcome to CF......
To clarify...I think what you are after is a 'Multi Function Display (MFD) and the various sensors needed to display the type of data you wish.

It would be helpful if you told us something about your boat and the space/screen size that you can fit.
Lots of interesting stuff out there.

I have just installed the FURUNO Touch 2 15" MFD as my cockpit display
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Old 06-05-2016, 09:04   #7
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

To be specific, I think Raymarine does a poor job of displaying enough data boxes and a chart at the same time.
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Old 06-05-2016, 10:13   #8
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

From scratch?

I would go for a ruggerized tablet.

there is also Lowerance (?) sonar that seems to deliver what you want from the depth data.

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Old 06-05-2016, 10:25   #9
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

Just about every feature you asked for has a $ value attached. Mostly with multiple zeros at the end of it.

Little-known fact is that West Marine CAN be competitive on price for electronics, if nothing else. A salesman once told me their mark-up is pretty slim, or they wouldn't sell any. But I can only speculate what WM considers a "slim" margin.

I second the idea of buying new, but last year's model, at a substantial discount. The problem is, anything more than a year old starts to feel obsolete very quickly. Nothing worse than wishing you'd waited for that helpful new feature, or for the new base model to include what you paid extra for.

I also agree that Garmin has been offering some nice stuff. Much as I've looked for others, I keep coming back to them for price vs. performance.
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Old 19-05-2016, 17:39   #10
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

So far, so good.

Great ideas and opinions. Thank you all for responding. It's May 19, 2016 and I'm continuing the search. I did go to my local West Marine and decided a 7" -10" screen would be best. The brighter the better. Garmin seems to have a couple of nifty options which sound like they might work "Side Vu" and "Down Vu" (the latter is used to look forward I believe. Has anyone had any experience with these features or another manufacturer which offers something similar or better?

The boat is a 28" Regal cabin (express?) cruiser.

Thank you all again! The more advice and opinions, the better!
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Old 19-05-2016, 17:49   #11
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

Originally Posted by captjcook View Post
Buying used at 30% off?
...for 10-30% OF original cost...
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Old 20-05-2016, 00:18   #12
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

Just went thru this process. Went with Raymarine. Chart selections are independent from your MFD choice. I found Garmin to be about 20% more expensive for our whole package.

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Old 20-05-2016, 03:36   #13
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

Hi Peaceful, have to agree with Pelagic that I think a Multi Function is what may suite your needs best. I have recently gone through the process of upgrading the electronics on the boat and after finally decided on the B and G 9 " MFU at the helm. It can control a large array of items and uses Navionic electronic charts on a mini card that can be upgraded when ever you need. You can buy the silver model and at a later date upgrade it at home for the gold or platinum unit. Watch for special from differenct retailers as sometimes they offer the gold level at no extra cost.

I was open to all brands but found the Garmin and B & G unit most user friendly and intuitive. I had our up and running with a good understanding of how to lay waypoints, routes etc very quickly. I have the AIS and depth connected via the NMEA 2000 connections and it works a treat. The access to read tide data is also very easy to access and is a great bonus. I have a 7" Garmin unit at the Nav table and it is as easy to operate as the B & G but uses its own Blue Chart that does have differences to the navionics charts. Blue charts can only be used on Garmin units where as Navionics can be used on a range of chart plotters.

The screens on both are very good in the sunlight and I have never had an issue with water ingress or using the units in the wet. For me the Raymarine units while are good product are not as user friendly as the other units IMO. The other units came with instructions manuals, Raymarine require you to download your manuals.
If you are looking for see whats ahead of you when sailing you will require a forward looking sonar (which should connect to your MFD) which is an expensive peice of kit.

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Old 23-05-2016, 18:16   #14
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

I have the advantage of an indoor wheelhouse, so I can be a heretic and say I don't want to combine my functions in one screen. I use a monitor connected to OPN for basic chartwork, a GPS with simple mapping for backup, radar, depth, fluxgate compass (steel boat), autopilot, and AIS all with their own screens and antennas. I keep track of our location on a paper chart. If I lose one, I've got the others, and that seems to me important. The biggest difficulty is that the manufacturers don't want to sell GPS or radar or whatever, they insist on systems. What do you do when the screen goes "ping?" I do agree with the majority above in liking Garmin electronics.
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Old 26-05-2016, 14:08   #15
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Re: Chartplotter selection advice

I think Furuno is the only company left who still makes dedicated devices like radars, fish finders, etc. Simrad came out with two devices, but they are just their chart plotters turned sideways. Performance is the same, and problems are the same.

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