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.
Vectors are free too.
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.
If you're going to wait until they make a plotter that read rasters, then you're never going to get one.
...doesn't matter to me though.
There is only one problem with raster charts, and that is how often they are updated. Since rasters are just scanned copies of real charts, a raster is not updated until the real chart is updated...and in many cases that can be 'years'. Not so with vector charts. Vector charts are updated very regularly, many charts being updated weekly. If the real chart had an error in it, the scanned raster chart will have the error also. Since the real chart is used in the digitizing process in making the vector chart, any error in the real chart will also be transfered to the vector chart...but the error can be corrected and distributed much faster than with a raster chart. Another limitation between rasters and vectors is the amount of information contained contained in the file, where vectors have huge amounts of information contained in them that can be updated anytime. [/QUOTE]
Yeah, I know all about the "virtues" of vector charts but I'm not convinced.
Reminds me of the old saying "You can drag a horse to water but you can't make them drink."
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.
Plotters can be distracting until you get used to them, and only use them for general reference while you're manning your post. If the brightness of the plotter bothers a person's vision at night, they can either turn the brightness down or turn the display off while at watch...the plotter will still be on with the display off.
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.
I agree that they are great for pre-planning.
Old Curmudgeon & Navigation Instructor :-)