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hriehl1 06-18-2012 05:18 PM

Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
After years of lake daysailing, we're moving up to a 28 foot keelboat we'll keep on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Use will be daylight only on weekends with maybe a couple cruises of a few days. I am not a gizmo guy... more of a minimalist, or traditionalist, or cheapskate.

The plan is a handheld Garmin 76CSx, not so much for navigation but using its NMEA 0183 support to drive a) a Clipper Speed Log display (for easily-read SOG), and b) the VHF for DSC support. I'm proficient with steering and hand-bearing compasses and charts. I am not planning on Garmin's Bluechart G2 chip on that little GPS, though the included basemap is useless.

Though I do not plan to use the GPS as primary means of navigation, I must also anticipate fog and the possibility of needing navigation help. So my plan is to permanently load scores of pre-defined waypoints within my expected cruising grounds into the GPS, with them also noted in ink on my paper charts. If needed, they'll provide some situational security.

So, 2 questions.
Is this a viable plan for one who is not interested in a Chartplotter or any electronic means of primary navigation?

Can anyone recommend a good PC program that'll allow me to easily build my library of waypoints and upload them to the Garmin GPS? Garmin's Mapsource software that came with the GPS seems very crude (at least with the baseline maps). I have not tried their more up-to-date Basecamp. I also have Maptech's Offshore Navigator Lite that came with my Chartkit that I have not yet tried out. I'm just trying to avoid using the Garmin's hideous little keyboard interface to define and name waypoints.

Thanks for your thoughts... Henry

klem 06-18-2012 05:43 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation

Where are you going to be sailing out of? The answer to your questions will depend on this.

Yes, your plan is viable, it is not the easiest plan but it will work. It is basically what all of us did in the loran/infancy of gps days. Having a good paper chart (ideally waterproof because you will be using it in less than ideal conditions) and plotting tools will be key so that you can plot any new waypoints as you go. Going from one buoy or waypoint to the next this way is not hard at all unless you have to beat upwind in a confined area, then it becomes much harder and many choose to motor instead if the visibility is poor.

I also sail on the north shore a lot and very rarely use my chartplotter. The good news around here is that visual navigation will work most days. Unlike Maine, there are only a few days of fog a year so it isn't a huge deal. The reason that I ask where you are going to be is that there are some places where it can be really nice to have a chartplotter. Also, there are a number of bays/rivers where the sand shifts regularly enough that they have to move the buoys on a regular basis. To deal with this, I paddle my sea kayak regularly in the winter which allows me to check the moving sands. Also, I put a waypoint at each buoy every spring on the first day out. Some of these move enough that you would never be able to find it in reduced visibility using a position off of a chart or from a previous year.

tempest 06-18-2012 06:19 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
Hi Henry,

You could purchase the unlock code from Garmin for your area for your Mapsource program. I think they're about $100.00. I plan routes from home using it, and then upload the routed to my 76csx.
(though, you'll also need a garmin usb cable to do that) Garmin stopped supporting real-time tracking on the updated mapsource that was free to me for download , which I wasn't happy about. I suppose I could re-load the original old disk.

But without the tracking, you can still use it for planning and upload the routes to your 76csx. Once you activate the route, your handheld will give you SOG, ETA, ETA to next waypoint etc etc.
Once you reach a waypoint it will move on to the next waypoint.

I have Maptech's Navigator lite, as well, that came with my chartkit. It does have real-time tracking, you can connect your laptop and your 76csx to it, and use it that way, for positioning.
I haven't planned routes in Navigator lite, but I know that it does it. I just don't know yet if it will upload the routes to the garmin handheld. I will tinker with it soon and report back. Unless someone else can confirm.

Once I have the routes uploaded I can use the handheld in the cockpit, or bring it below and connect it to the laptop.

This is my redundant set-up, as I do have a plotter with the entire east coast of the US at the helm. But, I find that use the handheld equally as much, running them both at the same time. I like that the 76csx has a graphing barometer, and tides and currents etc etc. So, I can check on things offwatch, without interrupting the helmsman.

I think your plan is fine. I think if your garmin will allow you to upload planned routes from Navigator lite, you'll be in great shape. Fog is fog, without radar and or AIS, you're right, you just need to know where you are, and be able to plot positions, courses, speed etc, that you obtain over security calls.

If you are Coastal and within cell phone range and have a data plan on your phone, you can often pick up on the internet with your cell phone hooked up to a laptop. That will give you an idea where any big ships are. I've used that set-up on the chesapeake bay successfully.

My wish list items are radar and an ais on one plotter, with overlay. But if and until that happens the above has worked for me.

hriehl1 06-18-2012 06:52 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
Thank you both

Klem, I will be sailing out of Salem MA.

Tempest, I have the USB cable. I do not plan to enter routes... waypoints only. Nor do I plan to have a laptop onboard. My core question is what PC package will allow me to create Waypoints for the 76CSx (at home) so I can avoid the tedious method of entering them directly into the Garmin, with its hideous cumbersome interface. A PC Keyboard is way preferable.

Continued Thanks

GMC 06-18-2012 07:28 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
I've got two handheld 76s that I use. Sail Buzzards Bay and up toward your area. I use OpenCPN for setting waypoints and then free program called "EasyGPS" (also free) that dumps the waypoints onto my 76, so I don't have to punch them in. That used to be a killer. So, I sit at home or work, set my waypoints (you will use routes once you see what OpenCPN can do) and then hook my 76 to computer at home or work, send the waypoints over using EasyGPS and then walk out the door to go sailing with only my 76s. Very nice and all I need. No computer on board. No chartplotter, other than the basic route screen on the 76, following a black line with no map on it. No PC on board. Works great. See you out there.

b40Ibis 06-18-2012 08:46 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
I would get a back-up or 2 handheld gps's using your method, which is fine, batteries,charger, et al, you knew that. Being sure or well versed in the weather conditions(water, air) is a big part of successful navigation especially with coastal cruzing since there are only small jumps anchorage to anchorage. Use real charts, they are cheaper. I don't think anyone has mentioned the nav instrumentation like the depth sounder. I remember one time sailing to Key West and just following the seabed as it curved west. We just steered the boat to a certain depth, 40' or something. There is dead reckoning of course. All these separate systems make up your complete navigation. And get a bell/horn. I think it required off shore(12m+)

GMC 06-18-2012 09:09 PM

I say with 76s, I have all I need, above, but didn't mean to imply I don't have paper charts as well.

b40Ibis 06-18-2012 09:09 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
Also train your dog to bark at buoys, specifically at buoys w/gongs. I am serious, I mean sic'em! Even in fog, a dog can hear better than we can. Plus they have a better sense of direction especially on well traveled routes.
The dog will bark strait towards it.
I call it DOGDAR.
Dog Originated Go Dog And Range, you just line up the yapping!

donlofland 06-18-2012 09:14 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation
Here on the west coast I've been happy with paper charts, and a handheld GPS for the 30 mile trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca-plotted the GPS position on the paper chart every 30'. Usually the GPS is turned off and I'm doing line of site/dead reckoning with the paper charts.

jackdale 06-18-2012 09:41 PM

Re: Advice Sought for minimalist coastal navigation

Originally Posted by Tempest (Post 886131)
If you are Coastal and within cell phone range and have a data plan on your phone, you can often pick up on the internet with your cell phone hooked up to a laptop. That will give you an idea where any big ships are. I've used that set-up on the chesapeake bay successfully.

Do not rely on, it is NOT real time. I have also used it on my smartphone, but it does have a caveat on the web site.

If you want to know where big ships are, listen to your local Vessel Traffic Services on VHF.

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