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  #1  
Old 06-12-2007
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GPS/Chartplotter - Where to Mount? What to Buy?

I recently purchased my first sailboat - a Northern 25 (may not be familiar to U.S. readers - it was built in Ontario in the 1970s and early 1980s).

I've tried using a small handheld GPS I already own (eTrex Venture Cx) as an aid to navigation, but its screen is simply too small to be of much use for anything other than providing a location. So, I'd like to install a small Chartplotter GPS unit (approx. 5" screen - still a lot more screen area than my handheld).

I haven't yet selected a brand or model of Chartplotter - I have looked at units from Garmin, Standard Horizon, Navman and would lean toward units from the latter two manufacturers or others using C-Max charts, as the prevailing view in my area (Georgian Bay/Lake Huron) seems to be that the charts are superior to the Garmin BlueCharts.

But, aside from picking the Chartplotter itself, I need to figure out where to mount it. That's probably my bigger challenge. I know that on larger boats, Chartplotters are sometimes installed inside the cabin at a Nav Station. I don't have a Nav Station. Even if I did, I think I would prefer having at least one GPS display within sight of the helm.

One approach seems to be mounting instruments on a pedestal guard, forward of the wheel. My boat does have wheel steering--I believe it was likely installed after-market--however, my pedestal doesn't have a guard (a picture is attached at the end of this post). It might be possible to have one custom fabricated, but I would be happiest if I could avoid that sort of expense.

Another option might be flush mounting next to the companionway. The distance from the helm would not be ideal, however. I'd have to rely on my crew (being my girlfriend) to operate the GPS if I was on the helm. Also, I am not sure whether the sunlight would be a more significant problem with such a mounting location.

So, any suggestions? Are there any mounting options I haven't thought of? Does anyone have photos of their installations that might help me? Any horror stories about any of the brands I'm considering for purchasing a chartplotter? Thanks for your suggestions.

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Old 06-12-2007
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Zoom, I believe you can get a pedestal guard from Edson, may not be too much. You could also mount the GPS on a swivel arm that mounts inside the boat on the inner bulkhead of the forward cockpit wall. Like where you want to flush mount it, but on the inside. Then you can use it inside the boat and also swing it into the companionway when you are in the cockpit. I have seen it many times and there are probably guys here that have photos. Don't worry about the glare, most models have great screens.
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I would second mounting the GPS on a swing arm. That way you can use it in the cabin at the nav station and still use it in the cockpit.

Unless your boat's cockpit is a lot bigger than mine, which I seriously doubt, having it at the companionway shouldn't be an issue. I can sit in the aft end of the cockpit on my 28' boat and still read a Garmin GPSMap 192C just fine.

Most of the new chartplotter screens are transreflective and very readable in even direct sunlight. I like the user interface on the Garmin chartplotters more than that of the other brands. They seem to have the best software IMHO. However, I have not seen how the latest revision of their small dedicated marine chartplotters—the 4x0 and 5x0 series work, so I can't comment about them directly.

This is the installation on one of the sister ships to my boat. I don't have a photo of the installation from my boat.





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Last edited by sailingdog; 06-12-2007 at 12:57 AM.
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Old 06-12-2007
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And here is how I mounted my GPS on my prior boat, a Precision 23... the mount is a RAM mount... very well engineered - all machined aluminum. It was not lightweight. The balls on the arms allowed it to articulate in pretty much any direction. I through bolted it to make sure that when my kids leaned on it there wouldn't be any issue... I drilled a half inch hole in the ply that it mounted to and ran all the cables behind it to make it look a bit neater. At the end of the day I could just disconnect the whole thing and bring it home with me. The last photo shows all my instruments on a custom step I made.







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Last edited by labatt; 06-12-2007 at 01:16 AM.
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Old 06-12-2007
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Thanks

Thanks to everyone for the swing-arm suggestion. I like the idea and am going to have a closer look to see whether that will work for me.

Labatt: I like your instrument setup. I just bought a Navman 3100 Depth instrument - it was one of the best prices around for a large print instrument.

Sailingdog: The cockpit on the Northern 25' is no larger than average for a 25 footer (it's oriented to cruising, so the cabin is on the big side), so I'm sure you're right that if you can see the GPS on your 28 foot, I wouldn't have a problem.

Thanks again for the quick responses. Anyone have any comments on Navman chartplotters? I can get a Navman 5507 with a 5" 640x480 pixel display for a pretty attractive price, when compared to Garmin units with the same screen size and lower pixel count.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by labatt
And here is how I mounted my GPS on my prior boat, a Precision 23...
From a Precision 23 to a Passport 40... damn... and I thought my friend's three-footitis was bad when he went from a CD25 to a CD28... LOL...
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Old 06-12-2007
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Another option

Here is another option that works for me:

Because I sail OPB , some with, and some without chartplotters initially, I wanted a portable GPS/Chartplotter. Another issue was that of the boats that had chartplotters, different boats had different brands and models. Each different model, had a different user interface, different features. I couldn't keep them all straight. This was the situation until last year, when all the boats had Raymarine C80s & depth transducers installed with local charts loaded on the memory card. This year, some of the memory cards have been erased... thus reafirming my decision.

I also travel for business and my company will not (knowingly ) spring for GPS in the rental car. I can find my way around Boston, but get completely lost trying to navigate my way to a street address in DC, Montgomery, or Minneapolis.

I therefore needed something portable, that would be useful in any boat, and a rental car. The best match that I could find for my needs was the Garmin GPSmap 478, which I bought last year. It is water proof (1Meter for 30 min), comes pre-loaded with all US coastal and street maps. I beleive that this unit also does not have a hard drive, but stores data on flash ROM. As a result, it starts, and updates very quickly.

To date, I am very pleased with the decision. I find that when I'm on the road, that my stress from being lost is GREATLY reduced (this alone was worth the price). If I do get lost (which still happens when I encounter a new road / development), I just blame the GPS.

In March of this year, a friend of mine and I took a motorcycle trip from Boston to Atlanta, to Key West (and back). We both found the local point of interest (gas, food, lodging, etc) invaluable. It also survived torrential rain and the vibration of 4K miles on the bike. Here is a pic (sorry about the grainy pic) of the unit on my bike:

On the water, this unit has ALL of the charts for the coastal US. Tide and celestial tables are pre-loaded. I can also add Garmin BlueChart g2 cards (for $160 a pop ) if I want to see aerial pictures, or add other regions (like the Bahamas ). It also works fine below at the nav station. If I ever mount it, it supports NEMA 0183, so I could connect it to my VHF and have DSC capability.

Other options that I could, but do not have include XM Sattelite "antenna" for XM radio and XM weather overlay ($300 for the "antenna" + monthly subscription of $30-$50), and a depth sounder / fish finder.

For obvious reasons I did not permanently mount the unit on a boat, but use the "sand-bag" mount and place it in the companionway, under the dodger, or if needed (and conditions warrant), next to me in the cockpit. I can always see the display (even in direct sun), and have infinite options of moving it if the need arises.

Should I ever have to evacuate a boat in an emergency, I like that the unit will run over 8 hours (I've verified this) on Li ION battery power. I have also found it reassuring to set the anchor drag alarm, and to keep the unit next to me (especially at dinner, and when sleeping), while at anchor .

One of the best aspects of having a portable unit is that I can learn what *all* the software functions are whether I am on the boat, in a car, or at home. I can set my waypoints and planned route while I'm at home using the unit, or the waypoint manager software that is included with it. I also like downloading and archiving my tracks to my home PC, so I know where I've been. (It's tough to get old )

Still, I drool every time I am in a boat and have this nice 10" (or better) display, and compare that to the 3" display on my portable. However, when that display dosen't show Georges Island, and I'm on a mooring 150 yards off the island, I get over it (this happened last weekend).

I wish that the unit was NEMA 2000 (I wish that everything was) so that when I get my own boat I could tie this unit into an overall information system. For now (and the next few years), however, this will suit my needs.

$0.02

Ed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
From a Precision 23 to a Passport 40... damn... and I thought my friend's three-footitis was bad when he went from a CD25 to a CD28... LOL...
Yeah.. I've heard it all We're on a 3 year plan, starting last year (2006). June of 2009 we take our kids out of school and I take a leave of absence from my company and we're gone for 15-18 months. Step one was "Get a boat" and teach the family how to sail - and make sure they like it. We did that and spent mucho time on our Precision 23. Step two was "Get a bigger boat" and learn about systems - DC, Diesel, Refrigeration, Plumbing, Boat care, etc. Step three, January of 2009, is "Get your final boat" - something in the 48' to 55' range - that you'll live on. I have a post around here somewhere about what we're looking for in our final boat. I get a lot of people who tell me that I'm an idiot and should take 10 years or more to learn before upgrading. That just ain't happening! I think it's more about immersion into your goal than time lapsed. It was really funny when I decked out my Precision 23 trailersailor with a big battery, lots of electronics, etc. and put a large investment into a brand new boat that I was flipping within 12 months. Everyone told me nobody would buy it and I'd take a major loss, but you'd be amazed at the market for a slightly used boat that's been well cared for and has all the toys...
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Last edited by labatt; 06-12-2007 at 09:49 AM.
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Old 06-12-2007
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Passport 40....NICE BOAT!!!!!!!!!!! Moving from your 23 footer to the Passport was definitely the right move. We jumped from a Hunter 25 to a Brewer 42 with no problem. Taking it out for a dozen day sails and docking her was all it took. My only question would be: why do yo need something larger than the Passport for a 18 month cruise? How many kids?

To the original question.....decide which charts you want to use first.
Then pick the plotter. Garmin, Navman, Furuno, etc all make good plotter. You can't go wrong with any of the major brands.

We also used a swing arm mounted at the companionway, but did not like it mounted there. You must leave the helm to manipulate the plotter and that is a pain in the ass and can be dangerous is a narrow channel. We now have ours mounted on the side of the binnacle on the swing arm. Much more convenient and easier to see.

Roger

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eherlihy-

The 478 is the descendent of the 276 unit I use in my truck. It is a great unit, but as a primary chartplotter on a boat, the small screen size works against it. He certainly couldn't read that screen, if it was mounted at the companionway, and he was at the helm.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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