I am being lured by the siren song of cheap dollars of buy it now on ebay one of the $99.00 GPS mouse and a gazillion charts that turn my otherwise unsuspecting laptop into a chart plotter.
However the old adage of " to good to be true" is ringing in my ears. Does anyone have experience with any of these? Are they worthy of my investment or should I just buy a Garmin with the appropriate chips?
I run MaxSea on my P4 (and MBP) connected through a either a Garmin 276C or 478. I don't have any experience with the GPS mouse.
As for Garmin charts, you should check their site. It seems that they've pulled all their charts due to inaccuracies (and other reasons that they're not publishing).
I won't use any software that locks me into one specific chart provider. Some companies produce better regional charts than others. There are a number of charting programs out there (check Practical Sailor) that will do what you need for a reasonable price and won't lock you into the proprietary format.
I use the chart software to plan the route, then upload the waypoints to the GPSs (which I know and trust more than some of the boat systems). The GPS tells me everything I need to know: lat/long, XTE, COG, SOF, DTG, and other info that gets transferred to paper charts.
I carry paper charts and plot on them. The trend in large boats is to requiring electronic and paper charts.
Comments about scan accuracy are well found. I'm sure all of us have been driven to distraction when map based GPSs tell us to turn down a road that doesn't exist, or hasn't been integrated into the mapbase despite being years old.
One example: I was bringing a 145' yacht into an unfamiliar anchorage one dark night. The charts sat on the chart table, in proper order, and we had the radars (2) spinning. We called out range and distance bearings, depths, and the occasional buoy. I plotted them and provided the captain with depth changes, course changes, and times to course change. It was a tense time and the crew was silent. We made it in fine, dropped the hooks, and only then looked at the electronic charts. In some cases we were shown aground and others matched the paper charts. Neither the captain or I ever considered following the electronics; radar and visual bearings were far more accurate and real world.
Finally, a lot of mariners consider the display on a chart plotter as gospel. It is not. The wise mariner uses every source of data to arrive at his position; whether fixed or DR. On deliveries, I prefer charts and my eyes to the tube on the nav station.