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Old 26-02-2024, 14:28   #1
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Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

I'm a year or two away from a major electronics refit.


As recently as 2010, books and articles on preparing a boat for cruising emphasized the importance of being able to shut down the chartplotter to save electricity during extended passages. The guidance was to have a separate wind instrument, depth sensor, and autopilot controller so that these functions could still be performed with the chartplotter shut down.


I am wondering whether that advice still makes sense.


I find that I am not comfortable running without radar and, as a result, I have the chartplotter on anyway.
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Old 26-02-2024, 14:45   #2
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

Well, sailors managed for years without all these electronic gizmo's, so don't see why it couldn't still be done.

But these days, everybody has their noses stuck in their cell phone. I'm starting to wonder if humanity could survive a day without them.

However, it you have a good supply of solar power, etc, don't see why it could not be done.
If push comes to shove, I suppose switch it off, but keep the refrigeration going to keep the beer cold !!
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Old 26-02-2024, 14:49   #3
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

As a side note....in the early days of electronic navigation, I had a portable satnav unit. I'd switch this on once a day to verify my running fix. It ran off batteries, so no chance of interfering with the boat bats. At the very least, keep a portable unit as a stand by unit if you wanna upgrade.
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Old 26-02-2024, 14:50   #4
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

That advice seems crazy to me in the modern world. Sure, it made sense a few decades ago when power was limited while sailing. But at this point, batteries have come a long way, as have methods of producing power to recharge them. I'd consider being able to keep a chartplotter running underway as pretty important and make sure the electrical system can support that.

The biggest reason to have a separate display (or multiple) for depth, speed, wind, etc. would be if you wanted them visible in an additional spot beyond where the chartplotter is mounted but don't need a second plotter at that location. Or to save clutter on the plotter display.

The days of "electrical stuff is scary and we should have as little as possible on board" are behind us at this point, I think.
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Old 26-02-2024, 15:55   #5
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

Every boat equipped with chartplotter that I've sailed on in the last decade leaves it on full time. Usually a lot of other info (AIS, Radar) is integrated to the same screen.
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Old 26-02-2024, 16:05   #6
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

The power draw on a tablet/phone/computer running a chart plotting software is pretty minimal, <12W (depending on what other systems you're using to feed into it, like AIS and Radar). So you'd have to go a week or so without any power inputs to start to worry.

In any case, I'd turn off my other systems before turning off the chart plotter if I was in conservation mode. Essentials would be lights, VHF, autopilot, chart plotter. Everything else could be powered down.
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Old 26-02-2024, 16:07   #7
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

"leaving it on" needs to be clarified....leaving it on for a daysail?...leaving it on for a 3 week crossing ??

Don't people have paper charts anymore? I wouldn't dream of going offshore without paper charts, regardless of the number of electronics I carried aboard.
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Old 26-02-2024, 17:31   #8
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

There is a significant different in power on a boat between 2010 and now. Both in the power that is available, and the efficiency of all our electronic devices. I would think that in most cases a chart plotter can be left on. Maybe not all of them if you have several, but at least one.
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Old 26-02-2024, 18:57   #9
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

Quote:
Originally Posted by MicHughV View Post
"leaving it on" needs to be clarified....leaving it on for a daysail?...leaving it on for a 3 week crossing ??

Don't people have paper charts anymore? I wouldn't dream of going offshore without paper charts, regardless of the number of electronics I carried aboard.
Getting harder and harder to find paper charts. But easier and easier to have multiple nav backups on tablets and phones. So I’m not concerned about not having paper.
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Old 26-02-2024, 19:47   #10
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

The highest energy consumer in my MFD is the display (screen). I leave the MFD energized and turn the display off once offshore. I only turn it on as needed. Just like my digital radar the display boots up in an instant. Plus all the modern stuff is very energy efficient.
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Old 26-02-2024, 20:58   #11
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

The biggest draw on most of these devices is the screen, so turning the screen way down, or off, will save a few amps. That said, if this is really going to make the difference in your electricity budget, then you probably need more amp-hrs, or better charging.

I do think there is a good reason to have independent controls and displays for wind, depth and autopilot. But that has to do with redundancy, not power saving.
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Old 27-02-2024, 04:52   #12
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

I value my stash of paper charts and wouldn't not swap them, trade them or otherwise pass them on...not ever
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Old 27-02-2024, 05:45   #13
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

You don't need the chartplotter on during offshore passages! My philosophy is always to save power whenever prudent. Offshore I just note the position in the logbook at the change of watch, which might average about every four hours or so, and I plot it on a paper chart so in case all electronics fail I have a fallback position. I usually keep a standalone GPS running that just displays position and I use that to generate the waypoints I am steering to. I don't want my course controlled by the chartplotter--I want to set it manually so I know what it is going on. The less integrated stuff, the better! Don't need the depthsounder offshore, don't need wind instruments--I just look and stick my head outside to know what is going on. I'll even turn off the compass light at night to keep the cockpit as dark as possible to preserve night vision, which is far more useful offshore than any chartplotter.
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Old 27-02-2024, 05:59   #14
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

Agree almost verbatim with the above.
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Old 27-02-2024, 06:06   #15
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Re: Fact or fiction: running with the chartplotter off to save electricity

Someone mentioned standby mode further up. I tend to use the standby mode on my plotter at night, so that might be a viable option to save some power. It wakes up almost instantly, but uses significantly less power in standby (depthsounder is turned off, display is off, etc.). Or the display could be dimmed to near zero. There's not necessarily something to look at all the time, but even on a long passage through the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't want to wait for the plotter to boot up when I want to look at something.

Running at night I tend to run with the compass light off, but the plotter screen on and as dim as it can be and still be readable (which is dimmer than the compass light). For the bit of light it produces, the plotter gives me more useful information than the compass does.
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