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  #1  
Old 03-26-2006
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Navigation Software Comparisons

I am sure this discussion has been brought up before but in a search of the forums I can not find a recent posting and things in this arena change all the time...

I am trying to decide whether to purchase new Navigation Software and am trying to fill in some missing points...

Evaluation Criteria (What I would like):
  • Accept input from the GPS (obviously)
  • Accept input from Nobeltec AIS
  • Support GRIB weather overlays
  • Support great circle plotting
  • Support vector (ENC) as well as raster charts
  • Support for Pocket PC (not critical)
  • Output to Raymarine autopilot (not critical)
  • Intuitive ease of use
  • Cost
I already own:
  • Memory-Map: I bought this primarily as a cost effective PocketPC program that would allow me to do some planning ashore, but it's a good PC product as well. Interfaces with a GPS, very intuitive, easy to use (click and drag waypoints and routes) and best bang for the buck (<$100) but doesn't do most of the list above, (GRIB, AIS, great circle, vector charts, autopilot). Still a great PocketPC application, better than the Fugawi PocketPC application (my opinion).
  • Fugawi Marine ENC: Purchased this (later) as a more comprehensive tool for the computer on board the boat, also supports the PocketPC. Does everything on the list except great circles, (serious limitation) and autopilot output. Great value - $199. But, really clumsy. Haven't yet found a way to select waypoints or routes with a mouse and simply drag them to new locations. You have to edit them from a list window.??? Also, the PocketPC application seems pretty limited compared to Memory-Map (again, my opinion)
Others I'm considering:
  • Raymarine Raytec - I've downloaded a demo version and it seems very intuitive, Great circles are the default when you create a route. Supports GRIB but not AIS. No aparrent support for Pocket PC. Cost: about $500
  • Nobeltech VNS: Seems full featured, no aparrent support for PocketPC. Supports AIS but not sure about weather/GRIB, rumours have it that the latest version does. Not sure about great circles. Cost: about $500
  • Maptech Chart Navigator Pro: Supports Raster, Vector charts, Suopports GRIB, supports AIS. Not sure about great circles. Cost: about $500
  • Nobeltec Admiral: Seems to have it all but most likely a lot more than I need for stuff I will never use on a moderately sized sailboat. Cost: >$1,100 ('nuff said)
It looks as though the three players in the $500 range (Maptech, Nobeltec, and Raymarine) are similar but each has a separate deficiency.

So, I guess the questions are:
  • What do people like, and why? (obviously people will like what they have and are used to)
  • Does anyone know if Raymarine supports AIS?
  • Does anyone know if VNS supports GRIB?
  • Can anyone answer the questions about great circle support in Maptech and VNS?
  • Does anyone know if any one of these will output to a Raymarine autopilot?
  • Does anyone have experience with more than one of these packages and would like to make a comparative assessment?
Thanks,
Sean

Last edited by SeanF; 03-26-2006 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 03-26-2006
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Great circle?

Sean,

Would you please tell this old salt why you think great circle calculations are necessary?

Terry
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Old 03-26-2006
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For ENC support I only have seen one program better than Fugawi. Nobeltec is at best acceptable but the rest frankly suck. These days any one in the US should demand ENC support or walk. It ought to look first rate too and support all the features. If it has "layer options" then they missed the boat. It's a lame design that you can't deal with in the real world. Fugawi does it right in that respect. You set youir depth zones and few other things and it knows the rest.

The one I really liked was a commercial shipping version of a product from Korea. The Korean Military use it and several commercial companies. They won't sell you a copy and I only got a beta from them that wasn't all finished.

The new Fugawi 4.0 adds a few things. AIS for one but I'm not spending that kind of money for an AIS receiver. If I sailed the English Channel - maybe. I do sail Norfolk harbor often enough. Radar helps. Fugawi does not do radar overlay - that could be a nice thing but not without a serious price tag.

Fugawi sure does do autopilot output but it's NMEA. You can set up a COM port for out that should write NEMA output for the course being naviagted. Many applications does do OUT. I expect to hook that up later this year. It's in version 3 if that is what you have now.

OK it does not do great circle calculations, but you can convert them to way points. It's not that hard to compute. Were you to sail a course that required it you would need to factor a whole lot of asspects to it than a simple great circle calculation.

They added Microsoft Mobility 5.0 support this last 4.0.12 update. franlky that is the new standard. PocketPC is dead. 2003 was and is the last version. I have an iPaq running Pocket PC for it and it is a bit limited but then so is the ipaq.

It does not do Raymarine out and for a lot of folks it's a deal breaker and for those folks you need to go else where and settle. You may not find a cheap product but there are some. As a general rul I never let the system drive the boat. I'll lock a course and leave it but that is as auto pilot as I go. My main reason to hook it up is for the display ability of more than 30 way points. My GPS won't store more than 30 and I rely on that ouput for routes. Fugawi will deal with unlimited routes and eay points so it would eliminate the need to upload to the GPS.

Fuhawi way point editing has it's problems. You can drag the points but you can't insert in the middle of a route. It easy to make them so I don't find it that hard, but it could be better. I often just display the last route and make a second over the top then delete the first one. I've been meaning to write my own insert function but have not been motivated enough.

For the money you have to spend at least $500 to compare it. At $200 with ENC support it's the best deal going. I think in the end a lot of fancy features don't play too well on the water. Too many things to think and worry about. If you can work with NMEA in / out then this is the sure ticket at a great price.

I've been through most all the "free" aplications. Most are hideously poor and / or hard to use. It's not that they can't work but they do so in a terrible manner or exceptionally limited.

All the other Low cost low feature aplications I've played with don't do enough to make them worth using. Sometimes a paper map is just easier too.

If I were to choose again I would go for Nobeltec Admral. I write software for a living and did a lot of GIS mapping software some years back BUT, at $1100 I sure like Fugawi a lot more. I won't spend that much. I love gadgets and high tech stuff but unless I laso had the money for radar overlay and all the other bells and whistles I would go that far.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yachtvalhalla
Sean,

Would you please tell this old salt why you think great circle calculations are necessary?

Terry
Umm..... Is this a trick question?

Generally, if your sailing more than a few hundred miles, the shortest distance is the great circle route. Granted, if you're sailing from Boston, US to Falmouth, UK, you would need to portage Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and a bit of the British Isles. As well, there may be other reasons not to adhere to the strict great circle course... fog, ice, currents, adverse wind, no wind, storms... sea serpants, sailing off the egde of the world... So you pick a couple of way points around these obstructions but the shortest distances between these points, separated by a thousand miles or more will be ... ummm ... the great circle routes.

Given that, I like to plot my intended course and then track my route so I can see where I am relative to where I thought I would be. True, you can calculate a few intermediate waypoints, plot those and then sail the straight line segments of the great circle(s) but wouldn't it be easier to start with the great circles?

I dunno, maybe in 40 years of sailing, I just haven't learned very much.

Last edited by SeanF; 03-26-2006 at 10:38 PM.
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Old 03-26-2006
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SeanF.
For the route you mentioned I suggest you put your money in a good radar and an ocen current map. That will probably bring you both safer and quicker to UK.
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Old 03-27-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeanF
Umm..... Is this a trick question?

I dunno, maybe in 40 years of sailing, I just haven't learned very much.
Sorry, this post was obnoxious; I apologise.

S.
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Old 03-27-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haffiman37
For the route you mentioned I suggest you put your money in a good radar and an ocen current map. That will probably bring you both safer and quicker to UK.
Thanks,
I have both and, to be frank, I'm not planning on going that far North; I'm just not doing the Azores thing.

Tentative route, depending on weather and Gulf Stream location at the time:
  • Boston, US
  • 40N, 60W
  • 40N, 45W
  • Falmouth, UK
This avoids the 20% fog line, the lower limit of potential ice (SSE of Labrador), and, hopefully, the Azores High (perhaps a dogleg to 47N, 30W).

Obviously, there will be reasons to deviate from this or add more waypoints as we get closer to the departure date, late June.

Last edited by SeanF; 03-27-2006 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 03-27-2006
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OK .. apology accepted. So I did a few calculations for the tentative route. The great circle distance from Boston to Falmouth via the intermediate points is 2,976.9 nm. The rhumb line distance is a whopping 20.9 nm more at 2997.8 nm, or 0.07% greater.

BTW, the MaxSea program calculates great circle or rhumb line distances .. you can choose which one you like. It also meets most, if not all, of your requirements.

Terry
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Last edited by yachtvalhalla; 03-27-2006 at 07:59 PM.
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Old 03-27-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yachtvalhalla
OK .. apology accepted. So I did a few calculations for the tentative route. The great circle distance from Boston to Falmouth via the intermediate points is 2,976.9 nm. The rhumb line distance is a whopping 20.9 nm more at 2997.8 nm, or 0.07% greater.

Terry
Yes, but the "intermediate points" lie on the great circle route so, in order to find them you need to start with the great circle route. If your navigation softare does not support great circle routes, these "intermediate points" must come from external calculations. In the last analysis, the difference between GC and Rhumb us probably less than a day so it's not that big a deal. It's my racing background... I always like to start with the shortest distance...

Back to the main point... the differnce between the various software packages... I spoke ith the Rep for Nobeltec VNS today and he confirms that VNS does do weather, AIS, and great circle plotting. It also sounds as though it's a lot more user friendly, dragging courses, etc. So I'm going to arrange a hands-on demo and I may me upgrading from Fugawi.
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Old 03-28-2006
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Mate, I don't wish to belabor the point but ...

>the difference between GC and Rhumb us probably less than a day

If, after over 2900 NM you can't do 21 NM in four hours then you need to clean the bottom or trim the sails.

Ever heard about elephants stomping on piss ants?

Have a good trip.

Terry
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