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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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  #1  
Old 10-18-2009
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Navigational Aids for the Chesapeake

We just finalized our purchase of "First Light" - 1994 Hunter 30T last week. We have paper charts and Plastimo compass. Binoculars. Raymarine ST40 Depth/Speed Indicator. VHF. Autohelm ST4000. Garmin 60CSX Handheld GPS with non-specific maps. A laptop.

I don't have warm fuzzies yet. I would like some type of GPS chart plotting on the cheap. Talking about stimulating the economy! The vacuum from my wallet created this last storm!! Deep cleansing breaths....

Been reading articles throughout SailNet and wondered what the best laptop software or Garmin Handheld GPS Maps would be for getting around the Chesapeake Bay. Is there such a thing as a quality chartplotter with maps for less than $400?
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Old 10-18-2009
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Relax. Do without.

GPS is just not necessary on the Chesapeake, at least in daylight. Getting use to the charts and compass first is better anyway, and if you get turned around, you have GPS for a long/lat check.

Honestly, it's better to get your head out of the electronics and observe your surroundings. What does the wind feel like? What do the waves look like and is the color of the water different near that point of land? What does the weather look like? Where are the other boats (is one hiding behind the genoa)?

My first trip around the Delmarva my GPS fried at dawn day 2. I didn't even miss it.

Work on the boat first.
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  #3  
Old 10-19-2009
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I prefer a Garmin to other gps' out there. I think they just make a better product.

I agree, in principle, with the previous poster about it being better to navigate by non-electronic methods before you go to using a gps as you need to have that skill down for back up. Navigation on the Chesapeake is easy. However, having a gps chartplotter is very handy and makes it comforting when sailing in bad weather, and navigating around the ship channel when ships are around.

In getting a gps, you should decide whether you want a plotter or not. Having a chart on the unit and seeing your boat's position on that chart is cool. However, looking at a small screen doesn't give you the view that is worthwhile, in my opinion. The Garmin 76Csx is a handheld plotter which sells for $400 @ west marine. (For another $75 or so, you can get a larger fixed mount unit with a bigger screen.) If you can find a Garmin 76 gps, it is a great unit with WAAS capability and 12 receivers, making it extremely accurate. It is not a chartplotter so it does not suffer from having due to it's small screen.

My first gps was not a chartplotter and I did my chartwork on the computer and transferred waypoints into the gps so I would have general routes in the unit. I could then track my progress and correct for deviation on the paper charts. I think this is probably your best bet until you determine your cruising and navigation needs.

Have fun with your new boat!

Tod

Last edited by Gladrags1; 10-19-2009 at 06:49 AM. Reason: grammer
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Old 10-19-2009
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Dakine,

I have a Garmin GPSMap 478 that I use in the Chesapeake. I love it. I generally prefer paper charts and compass, but the Garmin is a great backup. I also use it to figure out how close I am to charted shoals. Sometimes it's hard to judge just how far off land they extend from just looking at the chart. I purchased mine from Amazon for around $500, I think, but there was a rebate at the time.

I don't see much benefit to having the laptop on board for navigation in the Chesapeake, to be honest. Most of your navigation will actually be visual piloting, which is done up at the helm and not down at the nav station. And you generally don't do much longer-distance planning on the Bay that might require complex way points to be entered into the laptop and transferred to another unit, etc. etc.

I'd say get yourself a MapTech paper chart kit, a navigation kit (dividers, parallel rule, etc.) a good pair of binoculars and a little Garmin for peace-of-mind in those "oh, crap, I'm not where I think I am" moments.

West Marine sells a great pair of binoculars called "Tahiti" that are quite affordable!
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Old 10-19-2009
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I also agree that navigating the Chesapeake is very easy without a chartplotter. You can download free charts from NOAA so you always have the most up to date charts. A good pair of binos (I second the Tahiti's) are a must for finding the small channel markers on the way into port. I have sailed on my boat for two years without any electronic navigation aids.

I did just by a Garmin GPSMAP 441 (couldn't find any new 440's). I got it for about $450 online. It has a 4" screen and is semi-portable. It is very useful for going into busy harbors with complex channels like Rock Hall. Not a must, but nice. The wife and I plan to start doing longer trips and venturing out of the Bay next season so I was able to convince her that we needed to get one now and get used to it before we ventured out.
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Old 10-19-2009
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Hello,

IMHO, if you want a chartplotter, these are some features you should consider:
  • color screen (not required but it's a lot easier to see a red nun and green can when the colors are displayed on the screen
  • big screen - the bigger the better. IMHO, 3.5" MINIMUM, with 5" being better and 7 or 9" even better
  • charts that can be updated
  • easy to network to other instruments
I don't know if you can get all that for $400, but it won't be much more.

Some good brands include Garmin, Lowrance, Standard Horizon, Eagle, Humminbird, and a few others.

While you may not NEED a chartplotter, they certainly come in handy. You can plan a route when you tied to the dock or mooring, and then navigate it safely when weather gets bad. A novice can easily steer the boat when you get an arrow pointing the way. You get a lot of good information, like Estimated Time of Arrival, Velocity Made Good, Distance to Waypoint, Time of High Tide, Predicted Tide, plus all sorts of Points of Interests like marinas, fuel docks, etc.

Lastly, if you think you might want to connect other instruments to your plotter, like VHF radio with DSC, autopilot, etc, then look for a unit with NMEA 2000 interfacing.

Barry
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Old 10-19-2009
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A chart plotter really takes the mystery out of where you are. Go to west marine and see what they have, you dont have to buy but it will let you know whats what. I like the 4-5 inch screens much better than a hand held most garmins have charts included and you can get one for 500 or less
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Old 10-20-2009
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You don't have to be locked into NMEA 2000 to connect instruments togeather. I have my Standard Horizon VHF 1500GX connected to my GPSMAP 441 using NMEA 0183. It works just fine. I do not like running power and communication wires in the same bundle. Plus it is much less expensive to get cable for NMEA 0183 than NMEA 2000. my 2 cents...
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Last edited by nickmerc; 08-18-2011 at 05:31 AM.
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Old 10-20-2009
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I recently purchased a Garmin 440 online for right around $400 and I'm very pleased with it; although, as said above, it's more than what's needed. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 10-21-2009
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I have been using Garmin handhelds for 15+ years (GPS 12, GPSMAP 12, GPSMAP 76, GPS MAP 478) and for 4 years-5 seasons a fixed mount GPSMap3000c chartpoltter on the Maine Coast and the Chesapeake. Non charting handhelds are almost so cheap that it is almost unseaman like to not have a basic handheld and know how to use it. Garmin's propducts and support IMHO are top notch. In terms of value their handhelds and chartplotters that are preloaded with all US coastal charts are a real bargan when you consider the amount of charts you are getting. You can use them on any coast without buying charts. They have many preloaded models at various price break points. I'd get one of those that is closest to yout price cut off. Online sellers like GPS City, Tiger GPS, are where you'll find the best prices.
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