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post #1 of 15 Old 10-17-2007 Thread Starter
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Handheld GPS recommendations?

Anybody got any recommendations for a good hand-held GPS with some capability for sailing use?
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post #2 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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Garmin 76 CSx or Cx The CSx has a compass which I have not found that useful for my purposes. These are durable handhelds and have good color display. Uses AA batteries instead of a proprietary battery - I find they last about a day.

"Tell 'em I'm busy. I'm on a sails call."
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post #3 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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How much do you want to spend?

For under a $100 you can get a simple unit that will display lat/long, speed, heading, etc. No maps or charting. This will be a Garmin Etrex or similar.

For under $150 you can get the same unit, but with marine charts built in for the entire USA. This will include marine nav aids. This will be a Garmin Etrex Legend or similar.

For under $200 you can get the same unit as above, but with a color screen. Think Garmin Etrex Legend HC

Moving up in price gets you bigger screens, but not too many more features.

If you plan on casual use, the Legend series is fine. For more extensive use, like for longer trips, a bigger screen would be a real advantage.

If you want the ability to send / receive info from your pc, you need cables and PC software. Not too expensive, but be aware of it.

Good luck,

Barry Lenoble
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY

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post #4 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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I have the Garmin 76(?? - not sure which version but there are some letters after the number) color charplotter, without the compass. Often wish I had the compass, so Pamlico's comment is interesting. These are nice little units, but I find it works best with a paper chart handy for cross referencing and quickly seeing the big picture.

My primary complaint is that this unit seems to be designed as much for land use as marine, so there are many unnecessry features for boating. Also, I don't seem to be able to customize some of the display screens the way I'd like to for boating -- but this could be me as I am "technology challenged". I did notice, though, that West Marine worked with Garmin to produce a variant of this unit with software that was tailored for boating -- so there may be something to my complaint.

As for the batteries, we run ours off the 12V receptacle in the cockpit with the internal AA batteries as back-up.
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post #5 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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I have a Garmin GPSmap 478. It is designed for use in the car, and on the boat. It has street maps and coastal navigation charts for the *entire* US. It also includes Garmin's Mapsource (trip and waypoint managment) software for your PC. The screen is small (~3") but useable. The screen is comparable in size to what you would see on an automotive GPS.

I find that the anchor drag alarm works great when I'm in the cabin, and I use it in the cockpit when sailing. Also, it works great on business trips in the rental car.

It's pricey (~750 right now) but I love it.
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post #6 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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It all really depends on what features you are looking for. My first GPS was a garmin eTrex. I got it for sale at Wallmart for $79. It was very basic, but got the job done. It told you your location, speed, and heading (as long as you were moving - no built in compass). It didn't have any mapping capabilities.

That unit unfortunately got stollen. So I decided to upgrade. I have a Magellan Explorist 600. It has it all - mapping, compass, barometer, altimiter (hopefully you shouldn't need one of these sailing). Unlimited memory via SD memory cards. It also has a rechargeable battery - awesome feature! I really like this unit, but 90% of the time just use the basic features that the eTrex had.

I also like the Garmin GSMap 60 units. I got the Magellan because I do a lot of backpacking as well and it is a much smaller unit. As said above the GSMap 70 is also a good unit. I have seen some refurbished models online for just over $100. That is a really good deal.
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post #7 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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I have been very happy with my Garmin GPSMAP 76S. I've had it for years (so long in fact that the color screen version - GPSMAP 76CSx - wasn't available when I bought it). Very reliable and the AA batteries last along time if you don't use the compass feature.
It has many useful features - altimeter, electronic compass, tide tables, sun/moon rise/set info and all the GPS functionality you'd expect.
My favorite feature is the mapping software (Mapsource) from Garmin that you can use on your computer to very easily set up waypoints and routes on the large screen of your computer and download to the unit. When in use it records tracks of sailing trips that you can upload to your computer and even overlay on Google Earth. Very cool.

That being said, if I had to do it over again today, I'd spend the extra $$ and buy the color screen for readability.


Ramble On
1986 Pearson 28-2
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post #8 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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Seems this is Garmin country. I don't know if it's just my "if it ain't broke . . . " yankee nature, or don't feel the need to upgrade. But I'm still using my old 400 series greyscale Magellan handheld I bought about 12 years ago.

Does the job very well as a backup to the onboard Raymarine chartplotter, and has every waypoint, route and course I've ever plotted on my paper charts, loaded into it's memory.

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sold the Nauticat
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post #9 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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I too have the GPSmap 76csx. The electronic compass is only really important if you need a bearing while you're sitting still, if you are moving the GPS can give you a heading. This is pretty much the top end of their hand held line; it has some nice marine features like anchor drag alarm; the only thing I've wished for is tide calculations. Battery life is better than my eTrex Vista, but I usually plug it into 12v on the boat anyway.
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post #10 of 15 Old 10-17-2007
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I have two elderly Magellans that are mainly lat/lon with limited tracking graphics, a "Pioneer" and a 315. But as I plot on paper, they are fine. One of the Magellans sits in the "crash box": if we have to abandon ship, I have a VHF DSC ready to go, a personal EPIRB and the ability to tell rescuers where I am. The Magellan isn't waterproof...but it lives in a waterproof box!

I also have a very old (1993) Trimble unit intended for aircraft that just displays two alpha-numeric lines of info, but due to a well-made external antenna, is surprisingly accurate. It can be considered a hand-held, even though it looks like a phaser from "Star Trek TNG".

Were I to upgrade to a newer handheld, I would stick to something simple without extensive charting features (I use ETAs and XTEs, but I don't need to see maps on screens little bigger than a digital camera viewfinder). I would want a simple, auto-configuring USB connection to a PC, plus the ability to use a USB external antenna and a decent battery life, however. Otherwise, I see great utility in simply getting a USB external GPS antenna, and using one's PC as a deluxe plotter. The same functions in handheld form are available in palm pilot style handhelds, for which it's possible to get external GPS antennas. Whether you can complete the picture with limited chart storage and simplified plotting functions is not known to me, but I'd be surprised if someone isn't already doing it.
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