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  #21  
Old 02-02-2011
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One strategy which has proven itself to me over the past 8 years -- from Maine to the Virgin Islands -- is to use a computer-based charting program and NOAA raster charts, wherever available.

The raster charts are EXACT copies...pictures, if you will....of paper charts. And, as Labatt said, you can download the latest ones easily JIT (just in time, i.e., when you need them). They are dated and include updates thru the latest NTM before publication.

The chart plotting software allows you to do both short-term and long-term planning. It is VERY easy to plot waypoints and routes for future voyages. Much, much easier than doing it on paper charts. And, don't forget, if you're using NOAA raster charts, you ARE to all intents and purposes doing it on paper charts.

Moreover, you can retain these routes for future passages. On the first use, as Dog said, you need to be very careful to verify the accuracy of the waypoints. I'm careful to choose the routes to stay in deep water, away from obstructions, and at safe distances away from buoys. I choose the waypoints and routes keeping in mind the possibility of having to run them in absolute zero visibility conditions, which I've done several times in extremely heavy fog. This means that I don't always take the most direct route; rather, I take the safest route, even in low visibility conditions.

Once I have created a new route with appropriate waypoints, I upload it to all three of my Furuno GPS units (one at the helm, one at the nav station connected to the laptop, and one spare). That way, I can easily view my boat's position on the laptop as well as obtain detailed information such as distance and bearing to next waypoint, time to waypoint, XTrack error, SOG, etc., etc.

On portions of a route where I expect to see heavy commercial traffic, including large ships, I plot the waypoints outside the main channel, often in water too shallow for big ships. That way, I KNOW I don't have to worry about them hitting me. The Delaware Bay and Delaware River is a good example of this. There's a never-ending parade of large ships going up and down this Bay. If you stay just outside the buoys, there's still plenty of water for a yacht, but not a ship.

We are blessed at the accuracy of the NOAA raster charts for popular boating areas in the U.S. They are unbelievably good. I didn't come to that belief easily, knowing something about how charts are made and being an old navigation instructor. Nevertheless, as Dog and others have said, it behooves all of us to not follow chartplotters/GPS data slavishly, but to consider these as one of many navigational tools. A damn good one, but nevertheless only one of several we should be using when underway.

Bill

Last edited by btrayfors; 02-02-2011 at 06:55 PM.
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  #22  
Old 02-02-2011
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Of course here's the issue of going solely by Chartplotter (consider yourself someplace else - perhaps near a reef marked on a chart). Chartplotter maps often don't get updated frequently by most people. The cartography is expensive to maintain. In other words, while you can update your PC/Mac software NOAA ENC and RNC charts for free, it could cost hundreds of dollars to update your charts on your Raymarine or Garmin. This is being worked on however, as a few of the companies are offering lifetime updates, user added content and other features to their chartplotter cartography.

Anyway, here's a pic of innacurate cartography that could lead to some issues with pre-done waypoints on a chartplotter.

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  #23  
Old 02-02-2011
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I have a Garmin 541s that I bought in March 2010 and agree with many of the post here. There are times when it is spot on and there are times when it's not even close. Less the latter though and the problem is clearly that the charts are inaccurate.

Not really sure how to keep this device and its built-in charts up-to-date as there appears to be no mechanism to do this from Garmin.

Really do not like Garmin's Home Port application and prefer MacENC and the NOAA charts instead.

The most interesting use of the Garmin is it's track feature that I have used to follow a previous pass through an area. In the end, I really don't understand how to use all the features of the Garmin or it's just really limited for functions of storing and maintaing tracks.

I tried using Home Port to plan a trip and found that Active Captain and other online resources were much more valuable.
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Old 02-03-2011
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You can use MacENC to setup the waypoints and routes and then export them to the Garmin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeartsContent View Post
I have a Garmin 541s that I bought in March 2010 and agree with many of the post here. There are times when it is spot on and there are times when it's not even close. Less the latter though and the problem is clearly that the charts are inaccurate.

Not really sure how to keep this device and its built-in charts up-to-date as there appears to be no mechanism to do this from Garmin.

Really do not like Garmin's Home Port application and prefer MacENC and the NOAA charts instead.

The most interesting use of the Garmin is it's track feature that I have used to follow a previous pass through an area. In the end, I really don't understand how to use all the features of the Garmin or it's just really limited for functions of storing and maintaing tracks.

I tried using Home Port to plan a trip and found that Active Captain and other online resources were much more valuable.
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  #25  
Old 02-03-2011
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The primary use for our chartplotter is as a bookend on our shelves. It does it's job well.

Most of our sailing is daylight and we are primarily paper chart users. We rarely have it on due to the power draw. If we had solar or wind generation on the boat that might change our usage but I doubt it. With the LED and cold cathode ray fluorescent lighting on board we are able to go almost a week without charging the batteries. The CP would cut into that. Would rather save the juice for the autopilot.

We do use our chartplotter in stormy weather or when sailing at night as an aid. When the chartplotter is on the radar unit is also generally up as well. We like to confirm our track on the paper chart using the GPS in those conditions. But it is never our primary navigation device. It only takes one error. If I do not know where I am then I stop the boat or reverse course before relying on the GPS to close on an obstruction.

We view it as one of the many options marketed to sailors for our pleasure and enjoyment. Many times we think the items are vital. Look at the magazines - everything is.

My wife and I asked ourselves last season if the next boat we buy does not have one would we purchase one? The debate is not over but I would guess probably. Because when I used the term aid I meant that under those conditions it can be a real help and provide peace of mind.
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Old 02-03-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeartsContent View Post
I have a Garmin 541s that I bought in March 2010 and agree with many of the post here. There are times when it is spot on and there are times when it's not even close. Less the latter though and the problem is clearly that the charts are inaccurate.

Not really sure how to keep this device and its built-in charts up-to-date as there appears to be no mechanism to do this from Garmin.

Really do not like Garmin's Home Port application and prefer MacENC and the NOAA charts instead.

The most interesting use of the Garmin is it's track feature that I have used to follow a previous pass through an area. In the end, I really don't understand how to use all the features of the Garmin or it's just really limited for functions of storing and maintaing tracks.

I tried using Home Port to plan a trip and found that Active Captain and other online resources were much more valuable.

Garmin's MapSource program works well for me but I'm using Garmin's Blue Chart that I have on CD's. I'm not sure and I have not tried to upload from a unit any charts/maps preloaded onto that unit for use with MapSource. Is that what the Home Port program is used for as distinguished from Garmins MapSource?
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Old 02-03-2011
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Once again my two cents - People, it's generally OK to use your Chartplotter as your primary navigation device. You don't have to feel bad about it. We use it as our primary navigation device (with our CoastalExplorer software as our primary planning tool for longer trips). Even without regularly updating the chartplotter cartography the only places you really have to worry about (in the US), when using it as your primary navigation device, are areas prone to shoaling. New islands don't pop up overnight, so even five year old cartography won't have you bumping into some new landmass that didn't exist before. AND, since most US cartography is based upon the NOAA charts, if your chartplotter is off your paper charts will be too (not talking about buoy numbers but rather navigational hazards). Just don't be stupid and don't put a blindfold on. Use your eyes to make judgement calls. We also take a quick look to see if there's a difference between the latest NOAA charts on CoastalExplorer vs. the charts we have on our chartplotter (this is how we found out that all of the Ambrose Channel buoys going into New York Harbor were renumbered a month before we transited). Yes, buoys are moved, added and changed, security zones are put in place, etc. but general navigation is fine. There are few places I'd always want to make sure I had the latest cartography (like New York Harbor), but outside of that I'm OK with working on charts from a couple of years ago. We've sailed over 10,000nm this way.

What are our paper charts good for (and we do carry paper charts for every area we visit)? We mostly use them as an activity to pass the time on longer passages - charting our GPS position on them every 30-60 minutes so we have something to do. And yes, they will be there in case of a lightning strike (which we've ALMOST had).

I guess what I'm saying is you should always have paper charts aboard, but don't feel guilty about using your chartplotter as a primary navigation device.
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Old 02-03-2011
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My post has gotten a lot of good responses that will take some time for me to sift through. Thanks to all.
Iharmon Ė thanks. I do like your approach. I do like to play with the technology but I also love to sail. Last summer, I found myself turning the GPS off numerous times because all it was doing was draining the batteries. Iím still evaluating what the thing is really good Ė when and how Iíll be using it. I canít say that it adds to my sailing enjoyment but if it adds to safety then Iíll use it as an aid. Last summer, I found myself often over using it because of the learning curve. Iím spending some time here at home over the winter playing with the software and hardware so Iím better prepared and not distracted when Iím back on the water. Hence, the reason for my post.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harbin2 View Post
My post has gotten a lot of good responses that will take some time for me to sift through. Thanks to all.
Iharmon – thanks. I do like your approach. I do like to play with the technology but I also love to sail. Last summer, I found myself turning the GPS off numerous times because all it was doing was draining the batteries. I’m still evaluating what the thing is really good – when and how I’ll be using it. I can’t say that it adds to my sailing enjoyment but if it adds to safety then I’ll use it as an aid. Last summer, I found myself often over using it because of the learning curve. I’m spending some time here at home over the winter playing with the software and hardware so I’m better prepared and not distracted when I’m back on the water. Hence, the reason for my post.
Keep in mind the contex of the situation and type of sailing of the various responses and suggestions you got. For the most part they are all usefull in different situations. I'm not an "all or always" type of person. Different situations require different approaches. Sometimes the paper charts are put away (for example when I'm in my home waters on a nice sunny day). Some times I have the paper charts out, the chartpolotter and radar on with a spare handheld GPS at the ready and a crusing guide out after reading and re-reading the remommended entrance to a new harbor in unfamiliar waters in the fog.

One thing I did not notice being suggested that I use the chartpoltter a lot for is the ETA and ETE features for purposes of selecting the destination for the day, when we need to depart, etc.

I have built up a large library of waypoints and routes for my sailing area over a 20 year period or so. The waypoints are in general named using some abbreviation of their locations name. Early on I found this easier to use than some type of numerical reference. The routs became a bird's nest jumble when they were all displayed in MapSource or were tough to find in a list on a GPS unit. What I did to keep them straight was to take que from the airline industry and consolidate and altered so that most of the routes started and ended in various "hubs". It made it a lot easier to find what I was looking for.

Don't be afraid to use the chartplotter, It can make your life easier. Just use common sense and compare what it is telling you with any other information you have.

Last edited by LinekinBayCD; 02-03-2011 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 02-27-2011
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Mapping software for std-horz 180i chartplotter

I have just bought the above plotter and the manual doesnt name a brand of mapping software that I can use on my pc to create waypoints/routes.
It only mentions the type of nema sentences to have.
Can anyone recomend compatable pc mapping software.
I have Cmaps MAx Lakes chart chip that I bought with the plotter and this covers my crusing grounds just fine.
Looking forward to any suggestions, RVS.
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