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  Topic Review (Newest First)
03-15-2012 01:48 AM
Navigation by OpenCPN and Android Phone

Hey all,

I've been searching for a free method of navigation and after several days of work I found a way to use an Android phone as the GPS NMEA source for OpenCPN 2.5.0. To do this, you need a phone and PC with bluetooth capability. To me, buying a chartplotter doesn't make sense because I only sail around Pensacola Bay and I really only want a chartplotter to record routes for my own curiosity.

The general idea is to establish a bluetooth connection between your phone and your PC, turn on the GPS capability in the bluetooth wizard on your PC, download a program to test the NMEA data coming from your phone and once confirmed, set the port that OpenCPN samples data from to match the port that your phone is using through the serial over bluetooth connection. Here's how to do it.

1. Download and install OpenCPN on your PC
2. In the Android Market (now Google Play) via your phone, download the "Bluetooth 2 GPS" app. BT2GPS is a widget that you set on your screen that functions just like the bluetooth or wi-fi on/off buttons. Once you have the widget on your screen, pressing the button will start the program and the bar on the button will turn green(or yellow?).
3. Pair your phone and your PC. To do this,in the command tray on your PC click the bluetooth icon to open the Bluetooth Devices wizard. Find the Bluetooth menu on your phone, turn bluetooth on, and turn on the discoverability feature to allow your PC to discover your phone. Once you turn on discoverability on your phone, turn back to your PC and in the Bluetooth Devices wizard click "Add". Follow the onscreen prompts to pair and connect your phone and your PC.
4. Once they're paired, in the Bluetooth Devices wizard, click your device once and then click "Properties". Click the "Services" tab and at the bottom of the list you should see a checkbox that says something about GPS, or "Serial port (SPP) 'Serial Port'". Ensure that box is checked and click OK. Next, click the "COM Ports" tab. This will display which com port your GPS data is coming in through. It might seem counter-intuitive but NMEA data will come into your computer via the "Outgoing" port. Remember the outgoing port number.
5. Open OpenCPN and click the "Toolbox" button. Click the GPS tab and in the "NMEA Data Source" box type the port name you found in step 4. For me I entered "COM6". Select 4800 as the Baud Rate and check the box that says "Show GPS/NMEA data stream". When you click OK you should see the box pop up with the NMEA data streaming, and the map should center on your location with a red boat.

You're in business now. Put your laptop in your boat, keep your phone in your pocket, and let the good times roll without spending the $32 on a bluetooth reciever. OR...Buy a $120 tablet PC at walmart, install OpenCPN etc, rig up a docking station on your bulkhead and you've got an inexpensive and fairly accurate nav tool for your daysailer.


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