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post #31 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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Originally Posted by dadio917 View Post
check out Coastal Explorer for a windows system. Its really a great tool for planning and cruising, very easy to use yet extremely rich. One license covers 3 systems so you can have it at home and on the boat surface pro. It is windows only. NOAA charts are free. Couple it with an AIS device like vesper marine 8000 (which you should have anyways for safety) and you've got GPS over nema, usb, or wifi. Our boat is well equipped with simrad (with wifi) so we currently use coastal explorer for planning and backup but we used to use it exclusively for coastal sailing. worked fine for coastal but wanted more for offshore. it does cost a few $hundred but in my opinion well worth it.
We used Coastal Explorer for many years and really liked it. Also had MaxSea, but kept going back to Coastal Explorer because it was easier to use and a better program. At that time, OpenCPN was out and everyone was buzzing about it. I tried it and it was crap, so tossed it and didn't look back for several years.

Then on a whim I downloaded it and took another look. Holy cow did that thing develop and mature! If there is anything any other program can do that it cannot, I'd like to know what it is. OpenCPN can swallow more chart formats than anything, create and run customized polars for your boat, automatically create charts from satellite images, view and operate radar for Navico and Garmin radars, do AIS, get weather, do weather routing, and many, many other functions.

And it is completely free. And runs on Android phones/tablets, in addition to Windows, Linux, and Mac computers.

I now don't understand how any of the other charting programs stay in business.

Mark

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post #32 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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Originally Posted by capta View Post
OK, were I to go the tablet route, how would I mount it at the helm (in a pod?), and be able to alter screens and views as I do on my MFD, use the touch screen, have a power cord running to it, and have it waterproof enough to take water (not spray) on it?
There are waterproof tablet/phone cases that allow touchscreen and have waterproof power ports. Mounting can be easily done in many ways ranging from just sitting it in a cupholder to RAM mounts, to building it into navigation stations.

The newest tablets and phones use wireless charging, so the power cord connection goes away. This opens up even more waterproof case possibilities.

Plotters are not waterproof. Most are only IP56 rating, which is waterproof only to spray, and not immersion. Most waterproof tablet cases are rated for immersion to 7'.

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And, if one is stuck on the helm for an extended time steering through some heavy weather near shore, what would you folks touting the computer/tablet route use for navigation once your battery has worn down, given that the computer/tablet you are using has survived the several waves that most likely have engulfed the cockpit in those conditions?
As above, power is not a problem. Waterproof is not a problem until your cockpit is more than 7' continuously submerged.

If our cockpit is ever engulfed, we have much more to worry about than the plotter!

Mark
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post #33 of 72 Old 12-17-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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We used Coastal Explorer for many years and really liked it. Also had MaxSea, but kept going back to Coastal Explorer because it was easier to use and a better program. At that time, OpenCPN was out and everyone was buzzing about it. I tried it and it was crap, so tossed it and didn't look back for several years.

Then on a whim I downloaded it and took another look. Holy cow did that thing develop and mature! If there is anything any other program can do that it cannot, I'd like to know what it is. OpenCPN can swallow more chart formats than anything, create and run customized polars for your boat, automatically create charts from satellite images, view and operate radar for Navico and Garmin radars, do AIS, get weather, do weather routing, and many, many other functions.

And it is completely free. And runs on Android phones/tablets, in addition to Windows, Linux, and Mac computers.

I now don't understand how any of the other charting programs stay in business.

Mark
Had the same experience with OpenCPN. It constantly crashed in earlier versions and I deleted it. Now it is my goto program. I wish I could afford a new Toughpad. They are very expensive now but I'm thinking the price for excellent refurbs will come down once the military starts to dump more of them for newer models. That's what seems to have happened with Toughbooks. I've bought units that went for many thousands for a couple of hundred bucks in the last few years. With the Microsoft/Android OSs seemingly coming together, I also think we may not have to choose between the two in the near future. Electronic Nav has come a long way since SeaClear!
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post #34 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

I see that the LATEST version of OpenCPN is 5.0 - released in March 2019. The last that I tried it was 4.xxx, and it was clunky as hell.
This is implicitly acknowledged on the OpenCPN website; "Important note for OpenCPN 4.0 (and earlier) users. Upgrade to the latest version of OpenCPN. Really. It is much better and more stable than the version you are running now. We will not post any more updates to the older version plugins available here, ever."

I'll give it another shot based on the newer version and @smurphny 's recommendation.


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Last edited by eherlihy; 12-17-2019 at 10:30 AM.
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post #35 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

OpenCPN is my primary chartplotter. I have it on 2 identical 8" Windows tablets and a 10" Windows tablet. RAM mount at the helm, and suction cup mount that can go under the dodger, at nav station, or anywhere else with a flat surface. It pulls in the GPS and AIS from my VHF radio over Bluetooth, and my Raymarine instruments by Wifi. The two 8" tablets also have GPS built in, so that's another backup, and can also be used when on someone else's boat. My old Garmin 2010 chartplotter that came with the boat sits at the binnacle unused as a backup (I test it once or twice a year), and I keep my Garmin Oregon 400c handheld in the cockpit running whenever underway as a track logger and emergency backup.

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
...Then on a whim I downloaded it and took another look. Holy cow did that thing develop and mature! If there is anything any other program can do that it cannot, I'd like to know what it is. OpenCPN can swallow more chart formats than anything, create and run customized polars for your boat, automatically create charts from satellite images, view and operate radar for Navico and Garmin radars, do AIS, get weather, do weather routing, and many, many other functions.

And it is completely free. And runs on Android phones/tablets, in addition to Windows, Linux, and Mac computers.

I now don't understand how any of the other charting programs stay in business.

Mark
I share your enthusiasm for OpenCPN, and have written a couple chapters of the documentation. It is, by far and away, the best example of successful Open Source software development that I'm aware of.

I still think the biggest barrier to its putting all the paid programs/devices out of business is the need for users to supply their own charts and point the program to the chart directory. No matter how simple that is, and how necessary it is for a program that is truly global (since everyone wants different charts for their region), it seems to be more setup hassle than many people are willing to accept. It's a very simple concept to those who can mentally separate the viewing software from the chart database, but too many people just don't want to be bothered by this. They'll just buy whatever Garmin product is sold in their area.

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post #36 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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I still think the biggest barrier to its putting all the paid programs/devices out of business is the need for users to supply their own charts and point the program to the chart directory.
Coastal Explorer and MaxSea (now TimeZero) have the same requirement.

Mark

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post #37 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Our radar is at the helm because it is also the plotter display - and I prefer it there - but if I was honest about it, there really isn't much reason for radar to be at the helm. Even using ARPA doesn't generally require immediate and constant attention to the display.

Installing a NMEA wifi converter will give you all your instrument and AIS data wirelessly to phone/tablet/computer. They aren't too expensive, and with a phone in your pocket, you could stay connected to the boat data while off helm/watch.Mark
The first statement above confuses me. Where else other than the helm would a radar unit be useful in inclement weather? Going into the Tobago Cays in rain so heavy I couldn't see my bow, I had no problem with the reefs and islands as I had placed my own waypoints (marks actually) where I wanted them on the chartplotter, but needed the radar to avoid the myriad of anchored and moored boats. I could not have entered had I not had the radar at the helm.
Without Installing a NMEA wifi converter or anything other than a second GPS chartplotter I've had a tattletale GPS chartplotter in the aft cabin since I bought the boat. It shows everything the plotter @ the helm does or anything I wish it to display. Anchor/proximity alarm (perfect for single handed sailing), radar, heading, cs, speed, etc. And should the helm unit fail, the tattletale unit can be moved to the helm in about 5 minutes. They both share the same chart chips, so there's nothing to download or a new navigation program to learn. Both units are secure and can not be dropped or damaged inadvertently. In the long run, I believe the installed marine chartplotters are actually cheaper than the tablet/computer route, because of their longevity.

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post #38 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

Just to be clear, we have a chartplotter at the helm. An intentional decision we have made twice during refits when tablets were options. Our tablets and phones are used for incidental and supplemental navigational things, so I'm not advocating for portables, and when given the choice, I twice went with fixed plotters. I do, however, fully understand and appreciate the arguments for those that do use them as primary plotters.

To put the radar thing in perspective, having radar at the helm is a fairly recent thing. In the not so long ago, almost all boats had them below for practical reasons unrelated to navigation.

For MOST of the time radar is used, it is not needed at the helm because it is not used for immediate in-the-present navigation. It is used to find and track ships, find squalls, find inlets or see how far charts are off, etc. These functions are occasional glances over time, or notice once and adjust sort of things.

Your example is one where it would be used in an immediate way, and most convenient at the helm. In contrast, if it was a separate unit from the plotter, it could be below and ARPA would automatically be painting those boats and sending the information up to the plotter at the helm.

Again, I prefer it up at the helm, and because radar is integrated with the plotter, that is where it is located. I was just saying that if I was honest with myself about this preference, I could understand it isn't as critical as having, say, the autopilot control at the helm. If it was a standalone radar, even we would have challenges mounting it at the helm in addition to the plotter and other instruments.

A second chartplotter is one way to have navigation data away from the helm, but it isn't the most versatile and convenient way. My phone goes to bed with me in whichever cabin I decide to sleep in (yes, this does change underway depending on conditions). My tablet is usually providing supplemental navigational information at the helm - for example, I really like having AIS on the tablet with all the crossing situations, ship lists and info, etc. This leaves the plotter display clean in terms of not needing to have crossing lines, names, speeds and course, etc displayed on it. Same thing with Active Captain when we use it - that really makes a holy mess on the plotter display, but the tablet can be dedicated to it for that period of time. I will often have the tablet and plotter showing the same charts at different scales in certain situations. When I want full-screen radar on the plotter, it is nice to have a chart showing on the tablet.

Otherwise, the tablet can be used for navigation below anywhere on the boat I choose to be. Since it can control the plotter itself, I can actually go inside and make route changes or other such where it is more comfortable, and make them happen out on the plotter from there. I can fill in the logbook using it at the table, do course and distance estimations there, and many other things.

And all of the portable data is coming free of wires off wifi.

I don't know about the cost effectiveness. My tablet is 7yrs old and cost $550. It was one of the more expensive ones) It would depend on the exact plotter one compares with, but likely a plotter would cost a minimum of twice as much. At the end of 14-18yrs (two tablets worth), the plotter would likely be of limited use, so the costs are the same. For our current plotter, we would have to go through many, many tablets for them not to cost less.

Before anyone gets too excited about my views on tablets for navigation, please reread my first paragraph.

Mark

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post #39 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

It was an aside. Have one mail, saimail on the iPads as well as the laptops. RM does have a weather product but donít use it. Use a weather router so beyond gribs and the 500mb like voice and email. Find it helpful to avoid the snot as well as hunt for favorable winds/currents.
RM (As does everyone else) has reasonable WiFi so theoretically could helm from the dinghy with the lifeproofed iPad and/or the wireless remote.
Excuse my ignorance is there any tablet that could run the boat without a MFD already in place?
Understand there are still independent APs but not aware of any that will go to a waypoint nor steer a wind angle. Are there any that allow alarm zones? Even when under vane do like AIS and radar. Know if the bearing is changing things are usually ok but the VLCC and even the cruise ships put a big hole in the water so knowing closest distance is most helpful to me. Coastal find real-time depth very valuable. Even with crowd sourcing and updating via internet find both places with sandy bottoms, recent storms or not frequently visited can lead to surprises.
So you have a weather hardened tablet, independent depth, AWA/AWS, radar and AIS. Iím a idiot but would have trouble processing. Sure I have depth running on a small screen at the companionway when in soundings and the other stuff can be projected on the various small screens as well but when behind the wheel itís nice to look one place and see all you need.
Iím still waiting for the heads up display on wearable glasses controlled by voice +/or taps on the stems. The brain down below out of weather and damp. Have several so some could be worn by crew and some charging. Maybe a charge socket and wire if no spares easily at hand. Until then feel stuck running both tablets and MFDs.

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post #40 of 72 Old 12-17-2019
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Re: Charts and Chartplotters

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It was an aside. Have one mail, saimail on the iPads as well as the laptops. RM does have a weather product but don’t use it. Use a weather router so beyond gribs and the 500mb like voice and email. Find it helpful to avoid the snot as well as hunt for favorable winds/currents.
RM (As does everyone else) has reasonable WiFi so theoretically could helm from the dinghy with the lifeproofed iPad and/or the wireless remote.
Excuse my ignorance is there any tablet that could run the boat without a MFD already in place?
Understand there are still independent APs but not aware of any that will go to a waypoint nor steer a wind angle. Are there any that allow alarm zones? Even when under vane do like AIS and radar. Know if the bearing is changing things are usually ok but the VLCC and even the cruise ships put a big hole in the water so knowing closest distance is most helpful to me. Coastal find real-time depth very valuable. Even with crowd sourcing and updating via internet find both places with sandy bottoms, recent storms or not frequently visited can lead to surprises.
So you have a weather hardened tablet, independent depth, AWA/AWS, radar and AIS. I’m a idiot but would have trouble processing. Sure I have depth running on a small screen at the companionway when in soundings and the other stuff can be projected on the various small screens as well but when behind the wheel it’s nice to look one place and see all you need.
I’m still waiting for the heads up display on wearable glasses controlled by voice +/or taps on the stems. The brain down below out of weather and damp. Have several so some could be worn by crew and some charging. Maybe a charge socket and wire if no spares easily at hand. Until then feel stuck running both tablets and MFDs.
I think you were addressing me, and there is a lot here to decompress, and I don't understand some of what you ask, but I'll try and answer some of it.

Is there any tablet that can run the boat without an MFD? I'm not sure what you mean by "running the boat".

There aren't any tablet apps that will operate commercial autopilots directly, although I think the open source PyPilot can be controlled by a tablet. The commercial manufacturers seem to have made a deliberate decision to not allow control of AP's even from their own apps. Strangely, most of them make wireless remotes that can control the AP, but still don't allow apps to do so. Radar is also a weak point with apps, although OpenCPN has radar drivers for Navico and Garmin (for the computer application - I'm not sure about the tablet app).

Otherwise, tablet apps can do a lot.

Understand there are still independent APs but not aware of any that will go to a waypoint nor steer a wind angle.

This might be semantics. ALL AP's are independent. They only become "dependent" when they are connected by a communication cable, but they don't become slaves when they are. If I pulled the communication plug from ours, it would operate as before, only it would not have wind or waypoint data. It would still be connected to its rudder reference, compass, and control head. One could choose to wire those units on the shared main communication bus, but it would be trivial to connect them directly to the AP if required. However, to get waypoint and wind data, that information needs to be exposed to the AP. It has always been this way, and is a logical constraint, unless the AP becomes the plotter and wind instrument also.

Our AP alarms for many things, including shallow depth, slow speed, and others. Way more things than I like it alerting me to (voltage, holding tank level, high GPS HDOP, etc - just kidding about the holding tank), so we have almost all of them turned off. The tablet can also alert to AIS targets based on criteria, and many other things. Not sure why one would want their AP doing all that.

So you have a weather hardened tablet, independent depth, AWA/AWS, radar and AIS. I’m a idiot but would have trouble processing. Sure I have depth running on a small screen at the companionway when in soundings and the other stuff can be projected on the various small screens as well but when behind the wheel it’s nice to look one place and see all you need.

I might not understand this one. All transducer data on N2K are independent. Depth, wind, speed, etc all just throw their data on the bus for anything that wants to use it. Some tablet apps do a very good job of integrating these data so they exist in a holistic view. More than just a bunch of small data boxes.

For example, some present AWA and TWA, along with AWS and TWS as vector lines coming into your boat (or away from, depending on perspective). Barbs or vector length show the speeds, while the vector angles show the angles. Depth is almost always a data box, but how else would one use that datum? AIS, of course, is shown as targets, and some apps do an excellent job of visually presenting the CPA crossing situation. Radar is rare on a tablet, and this is where they don't work well.

I’m still waiting for the heads up display on wearable glasses controlled by voice +/or taps on the stems. The brain down below out of weather and damp. Have several so some could be worn by crew and some charging. Maybe a charge socket and wire if no spares easily at hand. Until then feel stuck running both tablets and MFDs.

I'm waiting also, but for different reasons than you. I think heads up displays will excel at augmented reality, not at just another way of presenting data. Imagine looking at a shore line and having a radar overlay on it. Imagine looking down at your engine while in the cockpit and seeing it operating in real time (cameras in the engine room) with relevant parameter data. How about marking dangers in the water ahead just by looking at them and your AP makes the dodge? Maybe looking at a boat and having the VHF hail them? The possibilities are endless for augmenting human functions.

I mean, I hit the age where I have to now wear the damn things to see, so they might as well do something more useful...

Mark

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Last edited by colemj; 12-17-2019 at 06:37 PM.
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