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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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  #1  
Old 04-30-2011
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Cool GPS Chart Plotters VHF Radios

Hello to All.

New to Sailing here,

I am looking to purchase a GPS/Chartplotter for use mainly in long Island Sound and maybe out to Nantucket Block Island MV. I have a 27'. Theres just so much out there what should I be loooking at. Im not looking to break the bank here and Ive been told to keep paper charts on board and be able to use them but also to have a back-up hand held GPS. The VHF on board looks old and could probabally do with updating also. So if you were looking at this picture where would you start and would you be looking at equipment that has some sort of compatability or does this not matter.

Reallyappreciate your help

Thanks

Eire1 (Brian)
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Old 04-30-2011
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and may I add that this is my first post
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Old 04-30-2011
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My recommendations would be:
Fixed VHF radio - If yours is iffy, replace it. They're cheap.
Paper charts - get a Maptech chartbook. The LI Sound one will cover out to Block Island. The Region 3 covers Cape May to Nantucket. And you get a CD with digital charts and software.
Handheld GPS. One with the buoys in a database makes setting waypoints easy. No entering of Lat/Lon data.

Enjoy cruising the Sound. Been doing if for over 30 years and still finding new places to explore.
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Old 04-30-2011
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Hey JIm

Thanks for getting back to me, not to sound completely dumb but could you maybe give me a little more info on the hand held. and what your thoughts are on a mounted unit with antenna

Brian
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Old 05-01-2011
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My reason for recommending a handheld is the difference in cost. A decent handheld can be had for under $200. A decent fixed mount is going to cost at least $500. And with the fixed mount you are going to have a lot more work to mount it somewhere, including making or buying a bracket, running power and antenna cable, etc. I am not a big fan of relying on the charts in a chartplotter. Even the screen in a $2000 unit won't have the size and resolution of a paper chart. The waypoint feature is what make a GPS so easy to use. It tells you what course to steer, how far you have to go, when you will get there, etc. And having the buoy data built in makes using that feature as simple as a couple of clicks. Either a 12V power cord or a couple sets or rechargeable batteries is worth it to avoid going through lots of AAs and risking running out. And the handheld becomes a backup if you later decide to get a fixed mount chartplotter.
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Old 05-01-2011
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Jim

Point taken, I was in the local west marine yesterday and looked across the wall of electronics available, if its not too much touble could you reccomend a Hand Held for the LIS. Should I be looking for one that is compatable with a fixed one that I mount later ? if theres such a thing

I have to replace the VHF, as mentioned earlier. I assume that the antenna on the mast is fine however will the exsisting antenna cable be compatable with a new unit ? (hopefully I dont have to change that)

Thanks Brian
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Old 05-01-2011
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Brian:

Compatability between the handheld and future fixed mount is pretty much a non-issue. Garmin seems to be the major player in the handheld market today. A quick look at my WM catalog shows the eTrex Venture HC and the 72H as good possibilities in the lower price end. The 72H is not a plotter, but apparently has a database that includes all US bouys. The eTrex HC is a color plotter that comes with cable and software that allows you to load waypoint data from your computer.

Chances are your current VHF antenna is fine. No compatibility issues between brands. If your current radio can receive and transmit your antenna is OK.
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VHF and GPS -- Opinions...

The fittings on fixed-mount VHF units pretty much universally connect, including to the back of the radio.

If the existing fittings are not corroded, you can just use them as is. If mildly corroded, try to clean them up (small, relatively soft, wire brush). Same thing at the antenna end.

Install the radio. If it works well, you are good to go. If not, try using your radio on someone else's boat (that has a known working radio) ... process of elimination. I've replaced several radios on multiple boats, and so far no problems. (Though I do know a few people that have had problems.)

VHF radios are pretty much line-of-sight, so distance for communication is more a function of the earth's curvature and "stuff" in the way (buildings, mountains, sand dunes, etc), than anything else. Sailboats have a distinct advantage in height of antenna if they use a mast mount antenna.

For example, if your antenna is at 6 feet and the other guys is at 6 feet, you'll get about 5-6 miles of coverage. You can look up the tables for distances in just about any write-up of marine VHF's. Truth is, it doesn't normally matter because 99% of us just use whatever we have.

Note all new fixed mount VHF's have a capability called DSC, which most of us will never use except for its Emergency function. You can even hook them up to a GPS (not an adventure for the faint of heart) and that emergency button (and other functions) will supply your Lat/Lon to with in about 500 feet! Most handhelds do not yet have DSC, but it is becoming more common.

Handhelds are convenient and as noted above, less expensive, but not a lot less. As prices go up (fixed or handheld), you get better selectivity (picking out one transmitter) and sensitivity (picking up weaker signals), but those improvements go up much slower than the price. You also get other features, especially on fixed mounts, like a workable PA system and automatic fog horn signals. However, any VHF with a standard price over $120 bucks will do a great job. So will quite a few under that price level, and of course, they DO go on sale!

GPS... I agree with the above post that handhelds are fully adequate, have all the needed functionality, are often a bit easier to deal with, and are less expensive; though sometimes not much. On other big advantage to handhelds is that you can take them with you (the fixed mounts can be removed, but they NEED that 12 volt power supply to function. Besides that, most of us with "smaller" boats don't really have a good place to mount a fixed unit.

Almost all GPS's sold now come with (built-in) either US Coastal or US Inland Lakes charts (yup, the entire US coast, usually with the Bahamas thrown in). Even the new Garmin GPS 78 series has their better US coastal charts built in plus the capacity to add other charts on SD cards.

Most GPS manufacturers have some kind of software that will let you use those detailed maps on your GPS'es or on your SD Cards for trip planning. Very handly feature, as it is usually a bit of a PITA to plan routes directly onmost GPS units (excepting those big 12-16 inch screen jobs.

FWIW... I have both a fixed and a handheld VHF on board. The fixed stays on channel 16 and the handheld stays on whatever I feel like that day. MOst of my general communication is on the handheld from the convenience of the cockpit. If a signal is weak, then I might go below and use the fixed mount. If you are only going to have one, I'd go with the handheld first.

My GPS is a Garmin 76Cx handheld, which has a really good bright sunlight screen! If I had been able to wait a bit longer, I'd have gone with the new GPS 78 as it has built-in coastal maps, a slot for and SD card (more maps if wanted), AND a bif slug of built-in memory for things like waypoints, routes, tracks, etc. My 76 doesn't have internal memory,nor built-in charts, so my waypoints, routes, etc have to share whatever space is available (left over) on the chart SD Card.

BTW: My advice... never set your waypoints on top of or really close to, bouys, especially entrance (fairway) bouys. LOTS of people do that , crank on the autopilot, and go below for a beer or whatever. No sense piloting your boat to the SAME location dozens of other yahoos are using. Just set your waypoints a few hundred yards away.

Hope this helps... Happy Sailing!
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Old 05-02-2011
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Electronics

Hello Brian,

Here are few things you should consider (in no particular order):
  • Are you going to install the gear yourself or pay someone?
  • Are you handy with wiring and mounting electronics?
  • Do you want or need fancy gadgets?
  • Do you plan on keeping this boat for a long time?
IMHO, if you do this, at a minimum you should have a chartplotter mounted where you can see it and use it from the helm. This can be a mount at the wheel (or tiller) or on a swing out bracket inside the cabin. The plotter should be networked to your VHF radio for DSC functions (including distress broadcasts).

The simplest way to get this done is with a combo plotter / vhf, like the Standard Horizon CPV350 / 550 / 750. Otherwise you will need to buy a radio and plotter separately and then connect them. This isn't that difficult, but it's more work.

Next up the scale would be a networked system with more features: Like the ability to display or broadcast AIS information, RADAR, XM weather, connection to an autopilot, connections to other instruments like wind speed direction, etc.

Note that just about all modern plotters can be connected to just about all modern VHF radios. Some will require you to connect 4 or more itty bitty (that's a technical term) wires. Others just require you to plug in a wire.

good luck,
Barry
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Old 05-03-2011
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Jim,Sam & Barry

Thanks for all your wisdom.

Brian
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