I, too, have used a laptop at the nav station for many years. My laptop runs XP, dummed down a bit for more stability, and Maptech's Offshore Navigator. A cheap Windows98SE laptop, programmed exactly the same way, constitutes my backup in case the main laptop goes south.
I very much favor the raster charts (which are free for U.S. charts) because they are EXACT copies of the real paper charts, which I keep close at hand as well.
I will not buy a chartplotter unless and until someone comes out with one which will take raster charts. The vector charts on all chartplotters today leave me cold -- they don't look like "the real thing", they don't include loads of shore detail which are useful for navigation, and they may/do contain errors which were introduced during the digitizing process.
Yeah, I know all about the "virtues" of vector charts but I'm not convinced.
My laptop chartplotter is powered by a Furuno GP31 at the nav station. I have three identical ones, all programmed exactly the same way with waypoints and routes from Maine to the Eastern Caribbean. One of these is mounted at the helm. The third is a backup.
I, too, can see the plotter from the cockpit. Several years ago I experimented with putting a remote LCD screen in the cockpit. No matter where I moved it, I found it to be VERY distracting. Further, it absolutely spoiled my night vision -- I like to sail at night -- no matter how low the screen brightness was set.
I concluded that I really don't want anything in the cockpit that's not absolutely essential and might destroy my night vision. Another experienced night sailor who sometimes sails with me thinks my red night lighting throughout the boat is too bright. I tend to agree with him.
Finally, I agree completely with the comment that nothing beats a laptop chartplotter for planning purposes. It has become essential to my style of sailing.
BTW, I have an identical setup on my home/office computer -- Offshore Navigator and all the charts. This allows me to do planning, checking, etc. in comfort on a big screen, save the results, and transfer them to the laptop and the GPS.
Old Curmudgeon & Navigation Instructor :-)
Last edited by btrayfors; 08-08-2009 at 07:11 PM.