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  #31  
Old 12-29-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

OK, I finally pried the iPad from my wife's clenched fingers. Here area few questions for those of you who may have used it in BVI:
  • I've downloaded the free Garmin Bluechart Mobile software and the ActiveCaptain database, which has several useful entries for BVI. As Gerry pointed out above, it does pick up the internal GPS if I turn off the external GPS option in settings. As I look over Garmin's chart purchase options, I see some of the same issues that scared me off from buying their microSD cards for my Oregon. For $30 I can get US Coastal which appears to include the same range as my Oregon 400c. It's hard to tell from the little coverage chart, but it looks like it just barely makes it over to BVI (just like my Oregon), and it's less costly than the total North America coverage at $45. But then there's the concern about accuracy in BVI, as I illustrated with my Oregon above. Does anyone have experience with Garmin's US coastal accuracy in the BVI region for these downloadable charts? Is the $45 North America coverage any more accurate in BVI?
  • Charts&Tides, which Minnewaska recommended, looks interesting and much lower cost for the charts. But I do not see any coverage in the Caribbean. Is there something I'm missing? And if there is coverage, how is its accuracy?
  • I also downloaded Transas iSailor, recommended by Minnewaska. The instruction manual is very limited, and doesn't mention features like Import and Export. I'd like to import some GPX waypoints and tracks, but how do I "Add files to the iSailor Documents list"? Where is this list located? (I tried a File Manager program, but can't find any folder where this list might be located.) Also, how is the accuracy of their charts compared to Garmin and the others?

The whole chart accuracy thing is a real issue for me, given the discrepancies that I demonstrated above. So any help you guys can provide would be greatly appreciated.
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Formerly posted as "RhythmDoctor"
1998 Catalina 250WK Take Five (at Anchorage Marina, Essington, on the Delaware River)
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  #32  
Old 12-29-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

I use Charts and Tide in New England for the Active Captain database, float planning and as a backup GPS. It works great and is very accurate. It does not cover BVI, which is why I started the thread.

iSailor was a recommendation I picked up here and have only recently downloaded it. I like it's presentation compared to some of the other recommendations, but have not used it on the water.
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  #33  
Old 12-29-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
I use Charts and Tide in New England for the Active Captain database, float planning and as a backup GPS. It works great and is very accurate. It does not cover BVI, which is why I started the thread...
Sorry! Funny how after 30+ messages I forgot your original question.
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Old 12-29-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

Hi Take 5

The US Coastal does not cover the BVI's, you will need to buy the North America coverage. Your question about the Coastal chart accuracy is therefore moot.

As for overall accuracy, here goes (I know you know all this, but for the benefit of the peanut gallery);

1. With all electronic charts you have three potential errors, chart errors, GPS errors and the relationship between both. Without all three being 100% you are getting incorrect information. You have to assume that for pilotage, plotter info is not accurate.

2. I have used Navionics, Garmin Bluechart and Jeppesen C-Map in the BVI's and Caribbean. Which is most accurate? It depends. They all take turns and all claim to be the best. I tend to like Garmin because I drive on the white, slow down on the blue and stay off the yellow and green.

3. My favorite electronic instrument is a depth sounder. My favorite non electronic tool is a long boat-hook marked in one foot increments which I use to sound around my grounded boat in order to find the direction to kedge/get towed off.

4. These electronic charts are now relatively cheap. Buy as many as you can afford and have fun with them. If you really want to understand chart accuracy in the Caribbean you should have listened/read the discussions between Don Street and Chris Doyle about the accuracy of their relative chartlets.

If you have lots of spare time check this out;

Street's Cruising Guide to the Eastern Caribbean: Puerto Rico, Spanish, U.S. & British Virgin Islands - Donald M. Street Jr.

Fair Winds

Gerry
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  #35  
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

In RI, I turn on my Ipad at the marina and it shows me in the correct slip!

I will probably do the same experiment in Tortola, before casting off.
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  #36  
Old 12-29-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

For the peanut gallery:

The Garmin BlueChart for the US is fantastic in the Oregon or similar Garmin handheld chartplotter range (higher resolution/pixel count than the lower end Garmins, but you pay for that, of course.) However the US coverage extends to the BVI, but without the same resolution as in the continental US.

The BlueChart for the Southeast Caribbean fixes that. It provides detail in the Virgins that is comparable to that of the US chip in the continental US. Once again, you pay for that.

The small screen is a challenge after using the larger built-ins or tablets/iPads, but a device like the Oregon that is small, rugged, and waterproof and can be retained in a drink holder at the helm in bad weather has its advantages, like when you are threading a reef during a sudden tropical downpour in 100 yd visibility and can't read the bottom visually. That might be an infrequent occurrence, but it's nice be prepared for it.
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  #37  
Old 12-30-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

Quote:
Originally Posted by fallard View Post
For the peanut gallery:

The Garmin BlueChart for the US is fantastic in the Oregon or similar Garmin handheld chartplotter range (higher resolution/pixel count than the lower end Garmins, but you pay for that, of course.) However the US coverage extends to the BVI, but without the same resolution as in the continental US.

The BlueChart for the Southeast Caribbean fixes that. It provides detail in the Virgins that is comparable to that of the US chip in the continental US. Once again, you pay for that.

The small screen is a challenge after using the larger built-ins or tablets/iPads, but a device like the Oregon that is small, rugged, and waterproof and can be retained in a drink holder at the helm in bad weather has its advantages, like when you are threading a reef during a sudden tropical downpour in 100 yd visibility and can't read the bottom visually. That might be an infrequent occurrence, but it's nice be prepared for it.
Thanks for the excellent clarification. I look forward to trying the SE Caribbean bluechart chip.

Because of my overall distrust of any single chart supplier, I have really gotten to like plotting routes on my computer using the most reliable chart I can find (usually NOAA when in US waters), then transferring the routes to the Garmin Oregon. This gives me the opportunity to view the exact same route plan overlaid over two charts from different suppliers, and I believe that redundancy leads to better safety.

When we chartered last summer this became our normal MO - I would plot out the next day's planned rout in the evening, export the route to the Oregon, and we'd head out the next day. I liked it better than the boat's chartplotter because it was my own gear that I use on my own boat.

With this in mind, I put in a major effort today to convert the NGA charts (which I believe to be far more accurate than NOAA's charts in the BVI/USVI region) to a calibrated chart that can be imported to a chartplotter on my Netbook or an Android tablet (iOS devices are a lot more difficult to "sideload" content - charts, routes, waypoints - than the others, which I think over time will become a big negative for Apple). So far I have succeeded in getting the charts into a .WCI format that can be read by SeaClear II (without the menu corruption that I was having before), and I am 80% of the way there to converting them to BSB/KAP format that will allow using them in OpenCPN, which is by far my favorite free/low cost PC chart plotting program. The conversion is churning away as we speak. It's been a real learning experience installing VirtualBox on my computer, and Ubuntu Linux inside the virtual machine. I know more about this stuff than I want to know. But it also has given me a good view into how all these things work.

In the end, BVI is mostly line of sight sailing, so this level of redundancy is not really necessary, but I wanted to see whether I can do this myself.
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Last edited by TakeFive; 12-30-2012 at 03:00 AM.
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  #38  
Old 12-31-2012
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

As I mentioned last night, I have successfully managed to convert the nice NGA images of BVI into reliable electronic raster charts. This is the exact same format that NOAA uses for their freely distributed charts of the US waters. So far I have gotten them to work flawlessly with SeaClear and OpenCPN on my PC, and with the Marine Navigator Android app on my Nexus4 cell phone and Nook Color tablet.

I have yet to find any iPad app that will import the NOAA KAP files (or these new KAP files that I have created). If anyone knows of an iPad app (even a paid one) that has this capability, please let me know.
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  #39  
Old 01-13-2013
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

Having just returned from my BVI charter (and not wanting to fully let go of the memories), here's a brief summary of my navigational experience down there.

As I previously mentioned, I installed the newly released Garmin Bluechart app (free) and ActiveCaptain database (also free, but registration required) into the iPad. Just prior to going I decided to spring for the $45 North America Garmin Bluecharts. This was not required, since the ActiveCaptain data was still fully useful without the marine chart, but for $45 I was willing to give it a try.

The Garmin charts are useful, but since I did not have the Garmin WiFi network on the charter vessel (nor do I want to install one on my own boat), there appears to be no way to offload routes, waypoints, and tracks onto other devices. This will limit the functionality going forward.

Prior to leaving, I also borrowed a Bluechart SD card for the area and loaded into my Oregon 400c (thanks Frank!), which proved to be extremely useful. I quickly fell into my normal routine of plotting the next day's planned route on my laptop in the cabin (using OpenCPN with the NGA charts that I had calibrated for digital use), then using MapSource to transfer the routes to my Oregon for use in the cockpit. I installed the Oregon handlebar mount at the starboard wheel so I had the route available in the cockpit at all times.

I need to say that I consider the availability of pre-plotted routes to be a critical safety item when navigating unfamiliar waters. No matter how good your ded recking skills may be, when you look out along the hazy horizon in a place like BVI, it is impossible to tell whether a certain feature in the distance is a cove, a bay, or a cut between islands. There were numerous times when I would have missed a critical turn if I did not have the little purple line telling me it was time to turn. For example, when I left Marina Cay toward Guana Bay, the Camanoe passage came up much faster than I expected, and I just know that I would have wandered into the rocks between Beef Island airport and Little Camanoe (which were on Sunsail's prohibited list, and we had been explicitly warned to stay away from). Things just don't look the same as you expect them to from the chart, and that little purple line is what saved me there.


The Garmin iPad app may find some eventual use in my normal route planning, but for now OpenCPN is much more powerful. I prefer the precision of clicking a mouse on a screen, and not sure I will get to like tapping on a screen with my finger. Also, the more robust sailing in BVI caused more water in the cockpit than I was comfortable with the iPad. On my own boat on our protected river, my cockpit stays much drier, so I have a bracket to mount a netbook, which allows display of AIS targets onscreen using OpenCPN. Until there is an iPad app that displays real-time AIS targets from my boat's NMEA data, the iPad will be of secondary use.
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  #40  
Old 01-14-2013
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Re: BVI chart/nav app

Quote:
Originally Posted by TakeFive View Post
Prior to leaving, I also borrowed a Bluechart SD card for the area and loaded into my Oregon 400c (thanks Frank!), which proved to be extremely useful. I quickly fell into my normal routine of plotting the next day's planned route on my laptop in the cabin (using OpenCPN with the NGA charts that I had calibrated for digital use), then using MapSource to transfer the routes to my Oregon for use in the cockpit. I installed the Oregon handlebar mount at the starboard wheel so I had the route available in the cockpit at all times.

I need to say that I consider the availability of pre-plotted routes to be a critical safety item when navigating unfamiliar waters. No matter how good your ded recking skills may be, when you look out along the hazy horizon in a place like BVI, it is impossible to tell whether a certain feature in the distance is a cove, a bay, or a cut between islands.

Also, the more robust sailing in BVI caused more water in the cockpit than I was comfortable with the iPad.
The last statement of the quote (which I've condensed) is why I would not consider a non-marinized chartplotter for my helm. Anything will work when the seas are calm and it's not raining. But when that squall comes along while you are in tight quarters, you want something in the cockpit that is rugged and waterproof.

When you are going on a charter, you don't necessarily end up with the installed equipment you'd like to have. Bringing your own portable equipment with preplanned routes will surely add to your peace of mind when you are away from home waters, but you want something that can stay with you at the helm when the going gets tough.

I also have a Garmin Oregon and have used it in the Virgins as my primary piece of navigation gear. However, I programmed the routes (primary and alternates) directly on the Oregon before leaving home, after consulting the guides and my own waterproof charts. Programming your routes on the device you'll have at the helm will minimize confusion when it matters. The only other electronics I bring on a charter is a cell phone.

BTW, I bring my own waterproof charts--typically Imray-Iolare--on Caribbean charters and rely on them to keep the small Garmin screen in context. They are also a familiar backup for dead reckoning, should the batteries run out or the electronics fail. I also bring detailed chartlets for certain areas, like the approach to Anegada or Christiansted (St. Croix) to augment the larger charts when necessary.
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