Oday 30 & Ranger 23
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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Using a PC as Realtime Chartplotter with a Garmin GPS
I would second Negrini's advice on connecting your PC to your Garmin, and also add that you can use your PC as a realtime below-deck chart plotter, with two pieces of software. First, you need a Garmin Blue Chart CD for your cruising area. Garmin is discontinuing this format at the end of 2009, but you can still buy one for about $100 through dealers; V 8.5 is the latest. Next, you need Garmin nRoute, which will overlay heading, speed, depth, etc. on your PC's Blue Charts. nRoute is free, but no longer available through Garmin, either; if you Google it, you can find an archived version--the one I use is v2.7.6, which I believe was the last. You will be communicating with your Garmin in the Garmin language with this setup.
Rose Point's Coastal Explorer will do all of the above using NMEA 0183, and has the advantage of free raster and vector maps, but the basic software costs around $395. A free trial version is available if you want to check it out.
Hope this helps!