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post #1 of 33 Old 12-03-2004 Thread Starter
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PC as chartplotter?

I''l like to use my laptop as a chartplotter. I know I''ll need to get a GPS accessory for it. What I''d like to know is whether there is software I can get that will allow the pc to use the GPS data and plot it in real time on a chart depicted on the PC screen (much the same way a stand-alone chartplotter works)?

Does anyone have any suggestions?
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post #2 of 33 Old 12-03-2004
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PC as chartplotter?

There are many such programs...two low priced versions are NavPak and Figawi. Others include The Capn, and Nobeltec. They all have different capabilities and may read different chart types but all provide GPS input and real time plotting. You''ll want to look at each to see what fits your needs. Look at what chart types they use as well. You can download free charts in the new ENC format from NOAA. They look different than the paper charts you are used to, but they are free. If you want to use them, make sure the software you get supports that format.

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post #3 of 33 Old 12-04-2004
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PC as chartplotter?

Gerhard''s exactly right; this is very common on boats.

Based on how you stated your question, I''ll bet you would appreciate reading a boat web site I just visited today.

www.yachtvalhalla.net/articles/imagelogs/imagelogs.htm is an article the Cap''n wrote on how to illustrate ship''s logs using chart segments from the laptop but refers you to Sea Clear II software, which is one of the free navigation software products out there today. (Mind you, the software does all the clever stuff but you still need the chart media, usually on CD for laptops).

BTW, an interesting site: the author is a retired Army officer who''s been cruising non-stop in the W Pacific for many years now on his Fuji 32.

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post #4 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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Maptech Software

I use Maptech's Offshore Navigator s/w. I connect my handheld GPS's Garmin 48, 72, GPSMAP 76, using a data cable, to a USB port of my laptop. Sometimes data cables have a serial plug and you have to use a serial to USB plug converter.
After you connect, following simple setup screen, your GPS reltime position will be plotted in the chart you are displaying in the laptop.
Maptech Chartkits include a CD with the corresponding paper charts.
You can also download charts from the maptech site.
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post #5 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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Coastal explorer and.....

Maptech Navigator Pro are actually the same program and are excellent. The Pro is bundled with Maptech charts. Download a trial copy of Coastal Explorer (the trial will not allow the GPS interface but will allow you to see how the program works). Just be careful trusting your life and your boat to Bill Gates. You don't want the "blue screen of death" to pop up as you are transiting a narrow reef entrance at night. I always like to have one actual chart plotter on board.

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post #6 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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I love my laptop/handheld GPS setup. I use Nobeltec. The older versions are widely available free. I am also concerned about the "blue screen" although in several years of use it has not happened. Of course my backup is to use the paper charts that I always keep handy. I would either plot visual fixes or GPS positions. Too easy really. The laptop is just another tool in my bag.


There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217
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post #7 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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Been using Maptech's Offshore Navigator for five years now. I have it installed on two laptops, as well as my home desktop computer. Being an old salt, fixed in his ways, as well as a navigation nut (taught piloting and celestial navigation), I insist on electronic reproductions of paper charts. That means raster charts -- which, in effect, are "photos" of real paper charts. They look exactly the same, and I carry both.

Electronic charting is very useful for voyage planning, as well as enroute monitoring. I connect one of my twin Furuno GP31 units to the laptop (it also goes to the VHF/DSC), and it displays the position of the boat right on the raster image. In practice, I've found it usually to be be extremely accurate.

Thus far I have eschewed all forms of dedicated chartplotters because they all use vector charts. These don't look anything like real paper charts (my main objection) and, due to the manner in which some of them were digitized, they may include errors of commission and omission. Chartplotters have the advantage of lower power consumption, waterproof construction and dedicated operating systems which are more robust than, e.g., Windows. But, so far, they only take vector charts.

Recently I stumbled upon a pocket PC solution which handles raster charts. Not new technology at all, but a very neat and very low cost package. My IPAQ 3850 runs a Maptech program which displays raster charts, and it takes a 20-channel GPS plug-in card, so you can see the boats position just as you can with the laptop-based setup. This used pocket PC, with all connecting cords, ALL U.S. raster charts on DVD, Maptech software, ActiveSync and Memory Map, plus a 1GB expansion card in addition to the 64mb internal memory, and misc. loaded programs (Excel, Word, Internet Explorer, etc.) cost just over $200. Great little device to have in your pocket in the cockpit, or in the local bar or wherever you do your planning/dreaming :-)

There are lots of other electronic charting solutions, but these two work for me.

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post #8 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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If you want to try something for free...SEA CLEAR is available for free download and uses all the free US charts so you can do what you want to absolutely free for the charts and the software.
Here's thelink you need for the download and more info.


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post #9 of 33 Old 01-27-2008
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I have used Capn software with the little gps that comes with MS Maps and streets. It is about the size of a scrabble tile.
I was plugging in a hand held garmond but it is nice to have the computer connected to seperate receiver so the hand held can be by the helm.
Also the PC screen is nice because it is big, but bad because sunlight washes it out. Also the PC will probably not like salt spray.
A chart plotter is usually left on but the computer battery will usually last only 2 to 6 hours. It takes a minute or two for the computer to boot up and the gps to get a fix.
I found it a two person job. Someone had to be on the helm and someone on the computer hiding in a quarter berth with the curtains drawn.

Last edited by davidpm; 01-27-2008 at 11:51 PM.
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post #10 of 33 Old 01-28-2008
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Can anyone recommend a good, non-proprietary GPS "puck" antenna that plugs via USB into a laptop? I saw a Garmin unit...but it apparently only works with Garmin everything else.
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