Originally Posted by Valiente
My choice is PC and paper and to avoid the proprietary cartridges of the chart plotters. My experience is that some skippers pay more attention to the creeping movement of the little boat icon of the chartplotter than they do to the sea around them. Needless to say, this is not only a grave navigational error, but also turns the experience of sailing into, in part, a glorified video game.
Good luck. Play with these gadgets at West Marine, and view the simulations. But if you just coastal cruise, I think paper and GPS and plenty of practice alone will suffice.
After having using Maptech Chartplotting Software on a Compac laptop computer mounted at the inside helm for one year and a Raymarine Chartplotter for 4 years at an outside helm before that on a previously owned sloop I wish to offer an experienced opinion to add to your opinion about chartplotters.
I have found them to be useful and costly. From a saftey point of view, they are useful. From the expense column, they are costly. Ray Marine that used C-Map chips was very expensive, but a laptop at an outside helm was out of the question at that time 6 years ago. Now with an inside helm the maptech chartplotter software has eliminated that expense with free electronic online NOAA chart downloads. The original maptech software package cost about $100 US last year with good tech support.
I could explain of one instance where I have been at the helm and was able to pilot my vessel safely using a chartplotter through an unmarked channel at Rogers City, MI at night during restricted visability, where the buoys were removed "what a stupid
city manuver and only the 2nd week of October" and I needed to stay inside of the channel due to draft restrictions. The chartplotter gave me the information that was needed and I made it to safe harbor, and made it out again the next day before light. Day or night would have made no difference as without a chartplotter I would have had to remain outside of the harbor in unprotected deep water.
I would go again with a chartplotter if I had only an outside helm in a future vessel as they provide the same grapical information as does the PC ran chartplotting software. Of course the PC is much easier on the eyes, and can also provide real time satelite graphical XM Weather information.
As far as chartplotters cost, what is ones saftey worth? Does a skydiver look for a deal on equipment? Scubadiver? Home security? National Security? As long as it's afordable a sailor should have a saftey mindset and hopefully a safe vessel.