Chartplotters...best at helm or at nav table? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 06-07-2011
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Chartplotters...best at helm or at nav table?

After sailing into several coastal ports at night, a few times in low visibility conditions, (I know that better planning can sometimes avoid those circumstances...but S.H.) and while single-handing, I was primarily relying on a handheld GPS (Oh, I look at charts too, but when you don't have auto pilot and it's dark and raining, it's not real easy to open a chart while at the helm to check the course one more time). Naturally, I have tried to swear off being in those circumstances again...but just in case I also promised myself to have a larger chartplotter at the helm to improve those situations.

Here is the question for all those more experienced sailors...Where is the chartplotter best installed? I set out planning to install at the helm based upon my short experience, but maybe what appears obvious...single-hander can't make much use of chartplotter if not installedd at helm...is not so obvious.

For example, issues like interference with night vision, and the ability to use all the features of the MFD chartplotters is best suited for use below deck, may be more important most of the time. In addition, with my chartplotter, Garmin 3206, which has a video out, couldn't I install the unit at the Nav table and then connect a sort of repeater display on the video out to the helm that would at least show, for instance, the chart of the area I would be sailing for a easy reference (presumably, if I understand how it works, the video out feature would allow another display to show whatever was on the chartplotter screen, so you could effectively have a waterproof, although not interactive, chart in front of you at the helm while the chartplotter remains at the nav table). Meanwhile, paying more attention to the world around you and your compass rather than playing with instruments and reading GPS directions at the helm.
Thanks in advance for your input.
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Old 06-07-2011
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I believe the only place for a chartplotter is at the helm. Would you drive your car with the GPS unit in your backseat to get somewhere you have never been? I don't think so. The Chartplotter is an aid in getting you from point A to B. It will help you avoid hazards along the route; shallow areas, mark a narrow channel, underwater hazards, and buoy locations for you to sight off. Unless you are Superman with super-vision eyes, the only to see the chartplotter is at the helm where you steer the boat. Down below at the Nav station is good for route planning but worthless in navigation while underway. I have seen chartplotters in various places around the cockpit to include near the companionway, below the center cockpit table on twin wheel steering, and under the dodger. Each time I ask the owners how they can read the chartplotter from the helm station. They all said they cannot. The only advantage I have heard is on long passages the skipper can keep on eye on the progress of the boat while lounging in the cockpit. If you have radar and/or AIS wired into the chartplotter the screen is either split or overlay on the primary screen. This makes reading the screen even more difficult from any distance other than the helm station. Having just cruised the Bahama islands this spring I wouldn't have it anywhere but at the helm station. The business end of any sailboat is the helm station. The chartplotter belongs here.
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Old 06-07-2011
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I have them in both places networked, Garmin 3200 series. If I had to choose only one location the helm is the easy choice. You can always add one later at the nav desk..
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Old 06-07-2011
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Hello,

IMHO, if you are single handing or short on crew, the helm is the place for the plotter. If you have a complete crew, with a navigator, then at the nav station would be best (and I'm that if you have the money and boat to have a full crew and navigator, you will have a plotter at both places).

Back in 2004 when I was looking for a boat, I saw lots of old nav gear mounted down below. I guess things weren't as water proof back then ,or maybe cost made the owners paranoid. But what good is RADAR if it's down below and you can't use it when you need it?

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Old 06-07-2011
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We have our C-80 at the helm. Doesnt affect night vision at all. We have older units down below at the nav station for reference to do planning at night. I recently purchase an IPAD2 which has made the in the cabin stuff obselete. Last week my wife was shocked when I called out after taking my shower (we were underway) telling her to course change and take the bouy on the starboard.....I was spying on her with the IPAD navionics. It also alllows the helmsmen to have their chartplotter and guests others to follow along in the cockpit.

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Old 06-07-2011
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Easy enough to run navigating software with downloaded charts on a lap top down below to have redundancy, but your plotter you want close at hand as everybody has previously stated.
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Old 06-07-2011
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Thanks everyone for sharing the experience and weighing in. Time to put this thread to rest. I am convinced. Will install as planned at the helm. It seems those new pad notebooks are going to provide the new wave of cabin toy for navigating.
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Not to drop on the 'closed' thread but I must say for some boats you can rig a basic swivel mounted chart plotter. When at the helm swing it out of the cabin and when in the cabin position it where needed, just mount next to vhf...
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Old 06-07-2011
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Swivel Mount

I have this on my boat and it has it pluses and minuses.

Pros:
  1. Only one unit to buy
  2. Only one unit to wire
  3. No need to take in each night or over the week to avoid being stolen or damaged
  4. Protected from spray or rain.

Cons:
  • Swivel arm can get int he way of egress through the companion way
  • Farther away from helm so maybe more difficult to read
  • Ackward viewing angle from Nav table (behind head)
  • Two people can't use in different parts of boat

DrB
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Old 06-07-2011
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Are night vision color schemes available in software?
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