Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Long Island, NY
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Some answers and some comments
Here are some answers and some of my opinions.
Most boats with GPS will have one main chartplotter. The GPS is internal to the plotter. It may have an external antenna, but the GPS unit is in the plotter. Other devices that need position information (DSC VHF, repeaters, autopilot, etc.) get the data from the chart plotter. The 'standard' way devices communicate today (as previously mentioned) is NMEA 0183. This is a two wire system. Most devices will have a NMEA in and NMEA out connections, so the data can travel round and round. This is bad because the wires have to go all through the boat. There is a new standard, NMEA 2000 which is much faster and easier to use. With NMEA 2000 you just connect the wire with a standard plug and it does the rest. Unfortunately, there aren't many NMEA 2000 devices out there yet.
IMHO, for safely reasons you should have at least a DSC VHF. Then when you press the 'distress' button the coast guard will know where your boat is. There is lots of info on DSC if you are interested.
I recently bought a newer boat and will be upgrading the electronics on it. I am adding a 5" color chartplotter and DSC VHF. I will connect the autopilot to the chartplotter, but I don't know how often, if ever, I will use that feature. On my old boat I had a smaller chartplotter. It was great when I was trying to get somewhere to have accurate ETA, distance to next waypoint, tide and current information, off track information, etc. I still make manual log entries every hour, and I record my position on chart.
I don't think of the GPS as a modern version of the sextant. It can do so much more. When I sail I am, for all practical purposes, singlehanding. My family may be with me, if so, my wife will be watching the kids and helping, but sailing and operating the boat is really my responsibility. So anything that will reduce my work load and provide highly accurate information is a great benefit. A sextant can't give you tide and current information, instant ETA, distance to next waypoint, identify the navaid 2 miles away, etc.
Considering how cheap they are, there is no excuse not have a primary and a back up. I have an older Garmin Etrex Legend for that.
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY
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