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Old 05-02-2007, 03:32   #16
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Agree 100% with Gord.
The Pardys have done far more more miles than possibly I ever will but their choice of yacht (wooden clunker engineless) says a lot about their mindset to electronic aides.
IMHO in this day and age, you'd be as wrong to either soley rely on such kit as you would be in discounting the advantages it brings.

And I've never had a slipping issue with the grip type matting under ours - although would recommned the ziplock bag to keep the device watertight and adding a cheapie waterpfoof keypad that can take a splash or two.

Don't take life too seriously. No ones going to make it out alive......Go see our blog at
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:35   #17
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I love PCs and the internet especially. I keep a paper chart on my chart table and it is NOT covered by a laptop... so I can easily refer to it and plot on it.

If Shiva were large enough to have some sort of fixed mount screen, wireless keyboard and mouse which would stay put I would definitely want a PC at my nav station and use it a lot... especially if I could get internet access offshore / underway.

My reference is the few yachts I have sailed on with a laptop and I thought that it was not a great "set up". Because of boat motion it was not convenient to secure the laptop AND use paper charts.

When shorthanded (usually) and wet (occasionally) using a laptop was not a great idea. They're just not liking water dripping on the keyboards.

I found using the keyboard and the mouse was also not as user friendly as the interface on designated chart plotters... again in a seaway.

In relatively benign conditions the laptop was a breeze to use... but when things got rough the plotter works better.

I am not terribly concerned that the plotters are not using scanned paper charts. I have the real deal and the graphics of vector charts are pretty good these days... and getting better.

I believe in redundancy and have several position fixing devices and paper charts ((always) and the most handy position fixer is the Garmin IQue which I use in the cockpit and compare the plot with what my eyes sees instantaneously without having to go up and down and up and down to my chart table. Some are using cockpit mounted plotters for this handy purpose.. I use the little hand held. The idea of a laptop in my cockpit is pretty unthinkable... no place to secure or work on it and way too vulnerable to the elements.

This is my frame of reference for use of a laptop. I would love to have the power of the PC on board on all the time for charting etc... but for me it seems not a smart solution.

But if you are in the LIS area.. please come aboard with your laptop and prove me I am completely wrong. Pick a nice windy day when the wind has been blowing 20knots for several day creating some nasty chop and confused seas. I buy you dinner.

sv Shiva
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:12   #18

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Like Jef, I use redundancy as well. I have a PC at the nav station that I use to plot my course before I start out. I then transfer all of my wayponits to 2 GPS units. First, to the GPS at the helm, and 2nd to a handheld backup GPS. I use no paper, since I have no less the 3 GPSes available, with 2 running at any given time (including the GPS attached to the PC at the nav station). It works for the space shuttle (3 guidance systems), so I figure it should work for me.

I have paper charts as backups tucked away, and I always print out any harbor charts for my destination prior to starting my voyage, since my chartplotting on the PC is at the nav station. I pop down below from time to time to take a peek at the PC/chartplotter and double check myself while enroute, or to just look up an interesting marker, etc...

Ideally, I'd like to have a touch screen up in the cockpit to navigate, but this setup is cheap and works well.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:02   #19
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Travelled many thousands of miles with laptop on chart table. We actually have 2 of them. The old one (many years old) runs C Map fine and only draws 2 amps which is great as you can leave it on all the time. The new one draws 7 amps so we only use that for DVD's and email etc.

For our last trip we installed a LCD flat screen in the navigation area - and this is connected to both laptops which are now installed in a cupboard away from salt spray and secured on layers of foam with airholes for cooling. This is by far the best solution as we never had a worry about motion, but were always worried about salt spray getting onto the laptop.

The Pardy's didn't use laptops because they were not comfortable with the technology - the current generation have grown up with them and are comfortable with them. I seem to remember reading somewhere when someone dropped their sextant overboard on accident - at least I'm not likely to drop my laptop overboard!
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Old 07-02-2007, 00:52   #20
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You need to charter catamarans. Then you just put the laptop down on the table.

Closest I ever came with a sextant was 15 miles from my actual position. I always felt great if I could get it down to 25 miles. Last time I used celestial navigation was 2 years ago. I was 150 miles off in position and threw the sextant and almanac overboard.
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Old 13-02-2007, 03:09   #21
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Kapena, Here, Here! On both the cat's flatness and the sextant's accuracy!
Figured my sextant was always wrong because the batteries were dead, but when I couldn't find how to replace them I deep-sixed it - well I tried anyway, but it was made of plastic and just slowly floated away...
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Old 13-02-2007, 04:21   #22
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We sail a cat, and don't get lulled into a false sense of security. In rough conditions things are thrown about. You may not heal, but it can get rough. Still our laptop has sailed along on a piece of nonskid cushiony rubber without problem.

Our problem was water on the key board.

We had redundancy up the yinggy so no problem. We were in the Bahamas and nearly always had a chunk of land or two in sight so good coatsal piloting skills and paper charts were all we needed. It was good for the Admiral to be reiminded that we could navigate without the little blue line on the computer screen.

We sailed from Great Sale, through the Abacos, accross to Royal, then onto Nassau where visiting guests brought us a new laptop.

What we missed more than navigation was catching up on email when we had a wi-fi signal. It is also our entertainment system. Small speakers make it our stereo and movie watching DVD player.

We had email with Skymate so were not totally out of touch but since we pay "per character" on Skymate, we don't give everyone that address.

She took my address and my name
Put my credit to shame
Sunspot Baby, sure had a real good time
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Old 13-02-2007, 06:47   #23
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Securing Laptop Underway

I found convenient way to use my laptop while underway. I bought a 7 inch LCD touchscreen that attaches to the CRT and USB ports. The mouse is replaced by touching the screen. Once I get it connected, I close the laptop and secure it.

The biggest problem that I have is that the touchscreen is not waterproof, so I cover it with a zip-lock freezer bag.

Regards, Ron
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Old 13-02-2007, 18:01   #24
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After feeding my sextant to the fish ... I completely tech'ed my boat. I don't use a dedicated plotter: (1) I don't have power shortage issues, (2) I don't get stuck with outdated hardware and technology, (3) the computer is needed on-board anyway.

Actually I have two computers - one built in, the other a wireless laptop were the screen turns around and folds back down to turn it into a Tablet PC (Navy-grade Panasonic Toughbook). I am very happy with the setup and it is very flexible with plenty of redundancy.

For those interested: I did install a cockpit mount weatherproof touchscreen (with surprisingly good daylight viewability). I did spend more on this than originally planned, but I figured that give the specific use and harsh environment it was prudent to get the right one. I got it from Winmate who made one up to my specs. To overcome the long cable run from the nav station PC to the cockpit, I managed to avoid spending several hundred dollars on a VGA amplifier/splitter by using the trick presented at this website VGA Cable from CAT5.
Now for the best of tricks - to get all my instrument's data (GPS, wind, depth, log, fluxgate) to the wireless laptop: All the instruments connect to a MUX then to the nav station PC. I run SOB Pro (the Network version and my nav PC and laptop are networked via the WiFi (built into the laptop, add-on card for the nav PC). With SOB I can send all the NMEA data to any networked computer, so all the NMEA data comes to the laptop from the nav PC, yet each computer can "operate" with this data independantly. So I can be in my cabin with the laptop and have full navigation knowledge (ideal if I wake in the middle of the night - I can just flip up the lid, connect to the nav PC and check position, wind, depth etc while horizontal with only one eye open!). And if the boat is anchored close to shore, I can take the wireless laptop to the local restuarant/club and monitor the boat from afar! (I know, sounds a bit "wanky" but sure makes for great peace-of-mind). The wireless range is about 100 to 200m at its best, so not too bad for remote checking. Of course, when the nav PC is in range of an Internet wireless hotspot, then SOB Server will send the ship's data over the Internet effectively extending the range indefinately!

For extra redundancy, I also use a cheap USB GPS mouse and SOB for the laptop so it can become a stand alone chart plotter if necessary (actually, because the laptop is waterproof, we often take this mobile chartplotter on the tender to explore rivers, reefs, bays etc. The track data and any waypoints we make etc can be simply transferred back to the nav PC for future reference. In fact, by changing the laptop to be the SOB Server, then we can track the tender "live" on the nav PC running in Client mode (it shows up in SOB on the nav PC as an AIS target - although it isn't using AIS, but that's how SOB represents it).

My next additions will be to extend the functionaility of this setup (particularly the remote monitoring aspect). I am watching closely some developments with wireless networking technology which is apparently now capable of a 40 nm range (see Meshcom) which will revolutionise such remote montioring as the tender tracking. Also I will connect the nav PC to the Internet with GPRS (actually I'll use one of the newer/faster methods CDMA or EGDE or 3G ... I am still investigating these, but it seems very dependant on your cruising grounds as to what's available). Once I have the nav PC Internet connected, then I can montior my boat form anywhere on the Planet!

Sorry for the rave, but I am very happy with my current setup and thought others may like to know what is possible. I'll finish by saying that it all works remarkably well, and I feel very secure with the redundancies available - I can use either computer for navigating independantly - one is very securely mounted and protected from elements and the other is designed for the elements! Total of 4 GPS devices on board - bracket mount Garmin is the main Ship's Position for skeds, plotting position on the chart etc; cheap hand held waterproof Garmin; cheap USB GPS mouse and also a Bluetooth GPS (which I haven't played with much yet). The two Garmin GPS can be used stand-alone, but the Bluetooth and USB GPS must be connected to the computers. Any of the GPSes can connect to either computer.

As through History - the compass, quadrant, chronometer, RADAR, Loran, SatNav, GPS were readily embraced and each revolutionised navigation accuracy and thus safety - the modern technology available advances this pattern radically - I start to smoke at the ears when trying to think of what our kids will have available to them!

Safe passages to all!
Ben Goodwin
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Old 14-02-2007, 07:01   #25
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Ben (and others):
You're definately "Out There", on the cutting edge.
Having almost no idea what you are talking about, it all makes me feel totally obsolete.

I don't know how we managed to stumble around Lake Superior's fogy shores, with a compass, watch, floating chips, and lead line. Those pre-technology days were as recent as little more than a decade ago (for us), when we finally bought a simple portable GPS.

Please don't mistake this for criticism or derision (except self-criticism) - I'm envious of your grasp and use of the available technology (and amazed at the technology, itself).

From the dark ages (BAD old days),
Gord May
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Old 14-02-2007, 09:48   #26
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That's very impressive! Can you tell me more about your waterproof touchscreen from Winmate. I went to the link, but there were many choices.

Thanks, Ron
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Old 14-02-2007, 09:58   #27
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Originally Posted by GordMay
Ben (and others):
You're definately "Out There", on the cutting edge.
Having almost no idea what you are talking about, it all makes me feel totally obsolete.

ROTFLMAO You and me both But I wasn't admitting it!

I don't know how we managed to stumble around Lake Superior's fogy shores, with a compass, watch, floating chips, and lead line. Those pre-technology days were as recent as little more than a decade ago (for us), when we finally bought a simple portable GPS.
You had a lead line AND savoury snacks?? You must have been rich .

Please don't mistake this for criticism or derision (except self-criticism) - I'm envious of your grasp and use of the available technology (and amazed at the technology, itself).

Same here. I would now not be without my (Cheap and cheerful) GPS.

On a more serious note, one thing I have become aware of is that folk who started with stuff like GPS do not seem as comfortable with the concept of not knowing (or even caring ) exactly where you are 24/7 without being lost or IMO more importantly have great confidence in following a course because the Electronics say it is possible, not always factoring in whether it is a good idea. I am particularly thinking of when undertaking tight navigation inshore that they would never attempt without a machine guiding them and without any thought to the consequences of problems arising (Electronic or good old fashioned mechanical) i.e. do you really want (or even need) to be that close inshore........

It has been quite interesting dealing with a mate who turned to boats only a few years ago. he is a real computer nut and unsurprisingly has decent kit onboard............but I do get the nagging feeling that if the Chartplotter said go accross dry land he would, because it projects a certainty that is not always true........and predicts a future that is even less so.
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Old 14-02-2007, 17:32   #28
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I must admit that I spent a looooong time on the Winmate site "designing" my screen - researching the various touch technologies etc (some work with wet fingers, some don't; some work with a touchpen only etc etc.) Even after all my research into it, I'm still confused!

Anyway, I ended up emailing the Winmate guys and describing exactly my requirements (mounting options, power options, touching requirements, strength and durability, exposure to elements etc etc) and received very good advice from them and in a timely manner. I was impressed with their knowledge and ability to explain the various options to me. And most importantly to objectively advise the best solution (as they can assemble a screen using ANY parts, they don't have to push their own barrow at all).

If you want, I can hunt down my bill from them which itemises the components - but your requirements may differ from mine, so first I'd email them and see how you go??


I also admit to not actually knowing as much about this as it may sound. Certainly I'm "into" technology, but fortunately have a few friends who really know this stuff and help me to set it up - and answer my emails when I'm at sea experiencing problems (which are mostly stupid things I've done, or unrealistic expectations about what it should do). Tellingly, these "friends" are a generation younger than me!
Also, the SOB User Manual has very good coverage of the Networking setup which I reckon anyone who can read and turn on a computer should be able to follow...

I spend most of my time on Oceans (hence the origin of "Outhere", but works in other contexts too) - where I find this technology first rate, and have come to trust it implicity (well when both computers agree with each other at least). However when in sight of land I do manual piloting and use coastal navigation techniques, the computer systems just provide me with a lot of extra useful information - distance and time to go etc - and is a great double-check for converting the Mag-to-True etc.


First, sorry, what's ROTFLMAO?

One of the benefits I really like about this technology is that I can do extensive pre-voyage planning in the comfort of an office, without distractions and plenty of time. Although I like to remian flexible when cruising and doing passages, most of this "flexibility" can also be planned for! I will step through an intended route on SOB and the C-Maps in minute detail, I can make light lists for instance so when approaching a new coastline I already know exactly what lights I should be seeing. Of course all shallows, obstructions, future tides and currents can all be accounted for. I do love to have such detailed pre-knowledge for my cruise, it provides great confidence and yet you still get the warm fuzzy feeling when you arrive at a destination after 1000 miles and perfectly hit your destination.

But I agree that using this technology can be a substitute for having a clue. Extensive knowledge of navigation theory and techniques will always be very important - the computer nav program is just a tool, and should never be regarded as a solution in itself. Just because you own a sextant, doesn't mean you can do celestial sight reductions; and just because you install a chartplotter, doesn't make you a navigator! (And just because you buy a boat, doesn't make you a seafarer!!)

I remember seeing a quote somewhere from a decade or two ago after the introduction of GPS:
"For the first time in history, a navigator knows where he IS, rather than where he WAS!". I believe this to be a very significant observation about how we navigate by modern means. And the immediacy of having at-hand all possible navigation information without any thought or on-going observations required will breed an era of reactive rather than proactive navigators - "Oh s#%t - we hit an uncharted rock - turn on the EPIRB" rather than "Stop staring at the screen and get on deck and have a look around!"

PS: if you can locate a book callled "Sopranino" by Patrick Ellam and Colin Mudie - I highly recommend it. It's about two Brits sailing their 19-footer across the Atlantic to Bahamas then up the ICW to New York. The voyage was made in the 1950's and the book probably hasn't been reprinted for 50 years, (but the Internet makes finding such classics possible). Apart from its context to this navigation thread, the story is historically significant as it started the whole JOG movement (in consultation with Capt. Illingworth). I suspect that only a minute percentage of those who safely cross oceans today, would have the ability to do this using Patrick's methods...
So are we ultimately better or worse off having the other 7/10ths of the Planet as our playground?

Cheers, Ben
(Actually not very Out There right now - boat is holed up for a few months and I'm in an office where the floor doesn't move)
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Old 14-02-2007, 17:51   #29
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First, sorry, what's ROTFLMAO?
rolling on the floor laughing my ass off...
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Old 21-12-2016, 08:44   #30
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Re: Securing laptop underway

Originally Posted by S/V Elusive View Post
I'm not sure how a charter company would feel about adhesive velcro remaining on their nav sta. I think that you owned the boat, then that would be an excellent answer ... but not on someone else's boat. They have that non-skid cushiony pad stuff that I use and it works very well. Put down a triple fold, put the computer on top of two of those folds and take the final fold over the top (when closed) and tuck it under. It won't go anywhere unless you have a knock down. If you believe that a knock-down could happen, then you have no choice but to rig something more permanent.
Hi, can you be more specific about what non-skid cushiony pad you use? It looks like tree frog pads are out of business
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