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  #1  
Old 09-01-2006
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pc chart display

I just found out how much juice my laptop is using. I need to find a less expensive (in terms of power comsumption) way to display my boats position while cruising. I already own my NobelTek program and all of the BC Canada Charts and they are not even pirated! I would really like to avoid having to go to a Garmin or such system and buy the charts all over again. How do other sail cruisers solve this problem? Suggestions and advice are eagerly solicited.
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Old 09-01-2006
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Can you just turn off your monitor when you are not looking at it to avoid wasting the power to the LCD? Really, as cool as nobeltec is for planning and for looking back at your tracks, careful plots on paper charts will tell you everything that you need to know and a chartlight is the only power consumed. You could sell your electronic charts and software and have enough money to buy the entire pacific in paper!
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Old 09-01-2006
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Try using a Dc to DC adapter. Not a 120 volt power cord with an inverter.
Also once you have plotted a course upload it to the GPS and turn off the Laptop.
If you have a autohelm then tie it in to your GPS and thats the safest way to cruise
unfamiliar waters.......Forget DR plots with paper charts you'll end up on a reef!
Why do you think free ENC charts are being put out by the goverment?
Always have paper charts aboard as a back up. However if your electronics
are up and running ,knowing you are on a deepwater route you are good to go.

If you are interested there is a great nav program called Ozie explorer that uses
the Nobeltec raster charts and displays them as clear as vector charts. To buy
its only $85. I think they are available with a free trial period.

Last edited by chuck711; 09-01-2006 at 07:05 AM.
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Old 09-01-2006
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A DC-to-DC adapter would be a lot more efficient than the DC-AC-DC cycle you're using now. Also, look at the power saving features on your laptop. You should be able to dim the screen; turn off the devices you're not using, either in the bios or disable them in the OS—like wifi cards, bluetooth adapters, network adapters, etc; sleep the harddrive, etc. That should lower power consumption quite a bit too.
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Old 09-01-2006
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I was going to make the same suggestions as Sailingdog. I am new to big sailboats, but offshore electronics are not new to me. If you are using the standard AC to computer adaptor, you are wasting a whole lot of energy right there. Taking alternator dc to battery to inverter to AC to converter to end up with dc....well, its not very efficient. I have found little dc-to-dc converters at Best Buy in the US that are to run your laptop off your vehicle via the cigarette lighter style jack. Just cut the cigarette lighter end off and wire that to convenient dc on the boat.
Second, as suggested, go into your laptop' power saving menus. Easiest is to set up hibernate or standby mode after a few minutes inactivity. The LCD is a big source of power usage, and the fans. If you set it up to turn itself down after a few minutes of inactivity (that you set to personal preference), it will boot right back up with a single keystroke, usually an "enter" key, or a mouse click.
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Laptops eat a lot of power, whether or not you run them on DC. Yes, there's some savings by going with a DC power supply, but it's not as much as you'd think or hope. Tweaking the power settings on your laptop is a good idea, though, and will help somewhat.

Further, most laptop "car adapters" are designed for use in cars where the motor is running (producing in excess of 13.2VDC). With the typical house battery bank on a sailboat where voltage is only above 12.6 when the motor, generator, solar panel, or windgenerator is running, these devices typically will not charge or maintain the laptop's internal battery. There are specially designed power supplies which will work down to 10VDC input, e.g., those from Lind Electronics, but they're $80-100 or so.

Re: uploading waypoints and routes to your GPS, I think that's a good idea and routinely do so on my boat. I have two identically programmed Furuno GPS units, one at the helm for the helsman and another at the nav station which is connected to my laptop for chart display and tracking (I use Maptech's Offshore Navigator). This arrangement has worked flawlessly for several years.

Re: hooking the GPS up to your autopilot, I think that's a very BAD idea. While it seems like a smart thing to do, in the end it is likely only to increase the occurrence of "GPS-assisted groundings". GPS errors can and do occur, as do charting and plotting errors, computer errors and -- worst of all -- human errors. My advice is to use GPS and all the toys as INPUTS (among many others) to a navigation system which YOU control and monitor, not as outputs to your rudder.

By all means keep a running DR plot, and regularly record your position. Those who don't do this are simply courting disaster.

Bill
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Re: hooking the GPS up to your autopilot, I think that's a very BAD idea. While it seems like a smart thing to do, in the end it is likely only to increase the occurrence of "GPS-assisted groundings". GPS errors can and do occur, as do charting and plotting errors, computer errors and -- worst of all -- human errors. My advice is to use GPS and all the toys as INPUTS (among many others) to a navigation system which YOU control and monitor, not as outputs to your rudder.

Btraysfor,
In referance to " gps assisted groundings ". When close to shore, in unknown waters I've seen many more boats aground by sailing by the seats of their pants ( Old man in the Sea Sailing) than by " gps assisted groundings". I always have a route uploaded to my autohelm when my boat is underway. I can still sail off track but I always know where safe water is. In 2 years of sailing from the USA to Trinidad ( 8000 miles)We've only found the electronic charts off twice. It was not a GPS error. Just a bad electronic chart ( newer revision in fact). Not bad % at all ! We've found constant reading the water a must.

The inaccuracy of knowing exactly where your boat is in relationship to a paper chart will run you aground eventually .....

Last edited by chuck711; 09-01-2006 at 01:00 PM.
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Old 09-02-2006
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thanks for the advice

Thanks for the advice about the dc to dc. I will definitly explore that one more. RE: shut off plotter. After more than 30 years of pushing commercial boats around on DR I am more than willing to take ALL nav aids I can get esp when cruising inshore waters ; I have to find ways to make them efficient.
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Chuck,

I think you misunderstood the thrust of my remarks; maybe I didn't make them as clearly as I could have.

First, I totally agree on the use of ALL AVAILABLE MEANS to find and fix your position at sea. GPS is a wonderful tool. That's why I carry two identical Furuno units (with two other handheld backups). But I also carry a host of other navigational tools, both electronic and other.

I also agree on the use of routes. Normally, when under power or sail I have a preplanned route with waypoints displayed on the PC chartplotter. At a glance, I can then see where the good water is and where the GPS has positioned my vessel on the chart (not the same as where my vessel actually is, though close). I can then sail or power "off track" anywhere I like, but have a quick visual reference to the preplanned route.

My point is this: many sailors these days rely exclusively on their GPS-derived position as plotted on an electronic chart. This may or may not be an accurate representation of where they actually are, given the many sources for error including, inter alia, differing chart datums, charting errors, electronic glitches, etc. To my mind, this is dangerous.

Furthermore, to go that extra step and hook up your GPS to your autopilot so that the GPS is actually steering the vessel is, potentially, dangerous as well. Not because it isn't very accurate most of the time, but because to do so may psychologically relieve the user from the chore of steering and paying very close attention to navigating the vessel.

There are numerous documented instances of "GPS-assisted groundings" of small and large vessels, not usually because the GPS was wrong but because of misconceptions about its use and limitations. As good navigation practice and expertise is being seriously eroded in new generations of sailors, I think we're going to continue to see these increase.

Navigation is both art and science. The new electronic tools make it all too tempting to just forget about the art in favor of the science. This makes for dumbed-down navigators who are eventually going to come to grief, if they sail long enough and far enough.

Bill
S/V Born Free
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Old 09-02-2006
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I never intended to suggest DR plots. A carefully plotted position on a paper chart from a GPS not only tells you where you are but also forces you to be aware of your surroundings.
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