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northoceanbeach 10-28-2013 11:44 PM

Handheld GPS differences
Hi. All this summer I used a garmin etrex 20. Along with paper charts I thought it worked well. On to bigger and better things next summer I am contemplating moving away from paper charts and going all electronic.

I'll keep the etrex for my backup. I never really got any charts for it except the topo it came with. So what am I looking at next? I like the versatility of the handheld but obviously would need to get some nautical charts. Should I be looking at more advanced handhelds or get a full fixed mount?

I'm not going to get too crazy with full on integrated systems but may need at least a bigger screen size. Recommend a good handheld or fixed chart plotter?

For maps, do I have to use garmin or can I get a blank sd card and download a lot of world charts onto it so my chart plotter had a large selection and you don't have to switch cards all the time. Thanks.

mad_machine 10-28-2013 11:48 PM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
I am not sure I would ever do without papercharts as a backup.. you never know when the electrons are going to die.

But I am going to follow this with interest.

MarkofSeaLife 10-29-2013 02:09 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
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I have a Garmin 76cx and it can take charts from my laptop. I use it a lot... even toight theres a bit of wind and its anchor watch is good so I am snuggled up in bed with it.
It also can plug into my laptop to supply GPS if I need it (as a back up)
Primarily I use OpenCpn with CM93 charts.

One of the things to look for, and watch out for, if the restriction to only using expensive charts for the Handheld. Make sure you know what it uses before you buy it.

Also price it against an iPad with GPS. you might be finding that a handheld isnt necessary for your use and you can do better with the multi functionality of iPad (etc)

Gladrags1 10-29-2013 06:32 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
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It sounds like you really need a fixed mount chartplotter that has a screen big enough to see the "big picture" of what's around if you are going without paper charts (please keep paper charts as backup). What kind of boat is this and how do you sail it? Day sail or cruising for weekends or more? This makes a difference. Some points I think are important:

The chartplotter should be able to connect to a laptop or comp so you can do route planning on a bigger screen. This can be through a wire connection or SD Card connection. You will need a special charting program on your comp. Garmin includes one with many of their plotters.

Garmin is a very good, easy to operate, intuitive choice. Their charts are proprietary though and must be purchased. You do get your home area with the unit. They do not read the CPN charts like some other plotters do. OpenCPN are the free charts downloadable. They are made by NOAA. Harmon's proprietary charts are good and very user friendly.

Some plotters don't stitch together the OpenCPN charts into 1 overall chart which gets problematic as you sail off 1 chart onto the next.

You will need to develop a system of managing your routes and waypoints in an easily remembered pattern. Otherwise it becomes too chaotic.

You really don't need the 3D charting of many of the last gen plotters. It's neat but unless your sailing is entering new and unfamiliar ports with dangerous shoals it becomes "overkill."

Play with the machines before you buy. Create routes and waypoints because some units are much easier to figure out.

While connecting the plotter to other electronics is nice, it isn't necessary. Connecting it to the VHF with dsc is highly recommended for automatic transmission of lat/lon to the Coastguards Rescue 21 system though.

Connecting your plotter to the ships power is advise alb as they chew up battery power.

Size matters. The small hand held units don't allow you to see the overall route or a big enough picture to make sure you are not sailing across a landmass. I'd say the you would want the 5" screen as a minimum. You set a route for best distance but the wind doesn't always allow this. You need to pan back to see where you are going in relation to your route and see if your heading is taking you into shoal waters.

There are more thoughts but these are a good start to help you decide what system is best for you.


tommays 10-29-2013 08:06 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
The one thing I have found is GPX seems to at least be a standard format to transfer data for waypoints and routes between units
Garmin supports it and for example I find I can plan on open CPN on the PC or Isailor on the Iphone or Ipad and then use a PC (which is the crappy part) to put the info on my 72H handheld

My slightly older Lowrance 3500C is a nice unit BUT it lives in it own data formant world and does not share info well with anything else

You can however make a route very fast and easy right on the 3500C screen and in fact for me it is about the fastest way to plan a route

I still favor the 72H on a helm mount as once the planning is done it gives me the most important data in a Sailors format

The 3500C is on a RAM mount so it can stow in the cabin and the only time I used it this year was tacking in narrow channels around shelter Island

Ajax_MD 10-29-2013 08:32 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
The Garmin GPS 72H is monochrome and doesn't display any land or depth curves. The government marks just hover in space with no points of reference. It's barely a step above the eTrex. I own one as a backup unit.

The GPS 76, and it's cousins- 76Cx and 76Cxs are much better, but discontinued and still have kind of small displays.

The GPS 78 is better still, with a slightly larger display.
Yes, you have to buy the charts because they're in a proprietary format.

Delezynski 10-29-2013 09:00 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences

Originally Posted by northoceanbeach (Post 1111745)
Hi. All this summer I used a garmin etrex 20. Along with paper charts I thought it worked well. On to bigger and better things next summer I am contemplating moving away from paper charts and going all electronic. ----

You might want to look at a Yeoman chart plotter. It's portable, uses paper charts (ANY AND ALL paper charts) and I use an ETrex to drive ours.

We use ours mostly any time we go off shore, not so much in very local areas. The good thing is that you still have and use your paper charts, but with GPS accuracy unless a problem happens. Then you just pick up with normal plotting.


Delta-T 10-29-2013 09:42 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
I use an older Garmin 76maps. Interfaces with laptop for map, routes and waypoint up and download. Can be used as a GPS antenna for laptop Garmin blue charts. Also I can interface it with my Raymarine Auto pilot for navigation to waypoints. Holds a better coarse and tracking than auto's mag. I love it, but it needs upgrading. I paid like over $400 for it 12 or 14 years ago, upgraded same model is like $170. Hope the newer model will interface the same, I know I will no longer be able to use the blue charts for the new hand held, but the storage is so large today that mapping uploads are not needed. I have only 8 meg mem now.

tommays 10-29-2013 10:40 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences

Once I have planned out a route I am most interested in sailing it as efficiently as possible

I find the 72H has the ability to display the info of my choice to do this

Dave_E 10-29-2013 11:07 AM

Re: Handheld GPS differences
My old Allmand has a table that the helm mounts to and they put the big compass right in front of the helm. Nowhere to mount electronics without a cockpit makeover, so a handheld works for me. Going to get the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc (unless I hear much to do bad about it).

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