Is there some advantage to the Open CPN technology or way of doing things vs say and I pad and an E7 chatrtplotter.
I am totally ignorant about what you guys are talking about. Should I be looking into this or is this something to do if you dont have a chartplotter
Can you help educate me.
For a guy like you who has been sailing for 40+ years, you probably have all the routes you need already in your E7 and don't need to do anything more. You might not even need routes because of your wealth of local knowledge.
For those of us who are still going places for the first time, and who may have to deal with significant tidal currents, computer planning tools can be useful. Just as Raymarine software is useful for moving routes and tracks back and forth between a computer and Raymarine chartplotter, Garmin software is useful for doing that with Garmin devices.
OpenCPN is very compatible with Garmin devices (less so with Raymarine). I hear these complaints about it being cumbersome, and I just don't get it. Judging by posts to the OpenCPN forum on CruisersForum, many of the complaints are from people who can't seem to figure out how to get the charts to load (not sure if this applies to Minniewaska, or if he had a different complaint). If you go in knowing that you're going to have a folder that contains all your (freely downloadable) NOAA charts, and that you're going to have to tell the program (whether it's OpenCPN, SeaClear, or something else) where those charts are located, then the concept is very simple - especially since you only need to do this once when you first set up the program. In fact, it's a good thing, because you can have one folder that has all your updated charts, and multiple programs (OpenCPN, SeaClear, PolarNavy, etc.) accessing the same charts. It actually makes maintenance and updating of the charts easier.
I find the OpenCPN user interface to be very simple and intuitive. Others may not. But it has amazing capabilities for a free program, and I can use the best, most up to date charts all the time by simply downloading them from the NOAA website.
I've tried a couple of paid programs before, and I found them to be more cumbersome than OpenCPN. They may have some greater capabilities than OpenCPN, but it comes at the cost of greater complexity, and some of them require you to buy their proprietary charts.
Also, I have the Garmin Bluechart app on the iPad, and although it has some potential, it can only send/receive routes to Garmin chartplotters via the Garmin network device. Since I don't have a Garmin chartplotter (just the Oregon handheld GPS), this is a pretty severe limitation. For me, the iPad app can only work as a standalone device, and I don't really want the iPad to be in the cockpit with me at this point. Maybe someday I'll change my mind.