SailNet Community banner
1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear all,

I am leaving for a solo circum. Not a massive budget as no sponsors and just doing it for myself. Have been looking at the charts, chart plotters and so forth.

My finding is that paper charts are easy and cheap to get and I may run with that, but I was wondering, given the prices of laptops if anyone has solely used his/her laptop in-lieu of a chartplotter/radar screen.

My boat has an old Raytheon radome and I am pretty sure I could work out a connection to some general interface to get it flowing info into the laptop. futhermore, the GPS and other stuff can also go to the laptop and I can get c-maps as well...

I was thus wondering if people have tried this and found it to work well or if it is a stupid idea and I am saving money somewhere where I shouldn't...

JP
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,552 Posts
With the laptop, you can all but guarantee a blue screen of death at THE most critical point of your trip. If you can deal with that, by all means go for it.

If you do decide to use the laptop, I would get going now, and learn as much as possible about the operation of the laptop (backlight, sleep, interfaces, etc), the charting application, the interfaces to other devices and those other devices. Now is the time to do that, not when you are out there and need to depend on this.

If I were to venture more than 5-10 miles off shore, I would certainly invest in an EPIRB/PLB as well as a backup gps, chartplotter and radio setup.

All the best on your voyage, I am envious.

dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
987 Posts
Laptops with charts and nav programs are nice toys, they are especially good for sitting around the house dreaming of places you would like to go since you can look at the charts and imagine yourself being there. They are also pretty useful for planning a voyage as you can see which paper charts to buy and places to anchor and fish. For your situation it would be pretty much useless when you really need it.
If you are sailing at night in force 6 or 7 with heavy seas and pouring rain and you see a light in the distance but your not sure if it is a ship or a nav aid how long do you think the laptop is going to last in the cockpit? Even if you put it inside where you can see it what happens when it goes into screen saver mode? I speak from experience since once I have sailed on a boat that just had a laptop for navigation and it sucked, for the reasons listed above. Spend your money on a decent chartplotter, a few sailing charts, and charts or guide books of the places you want to visit
Of course if you have a pilothouse with inside steering then the laptop would probably be as good as a chartplotter.
 

·
Telstar 28
Joined
·
992 Posts
I wouldn't recommend using or relying on a laptop as a chartplotter in a marine environment, especially on a smaller sailboat. Notebooks aren't terribly reliable in marine environments, and you really don't want such a crucial function on a notebook PC. While they can be very useful for planning purposes, paper charts are the way to go... and if you want electronic charts, a chartplotter might be a good addition, if you can afford it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,706 Posts
As somebody who's been dealing with computers since before the PC was even a gleam in IBM's collective eye, I'll tell you this: I absolutely would not even consider relying on any laptop I could afford in a mission-critical role in a harsh environment. I especially would not rely on a typical consumer-grade Windows-powered machine in such a scenario.

I would like to have a laptop aboard for various reasons, but it going tango-uniform at some point wouldn't even amount to anything more than a minor inconvenience, much less a problem.

A laptop instead of real marine electronics? No way, no how.

Jim
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,253 Posts
Even with a dedicated chartploter with electronic charts for the cruising area, I would still have a complete set of paper charts and one (or two) backup handheld GPS units.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,647 Posts
I use the lap top down below at the nav desk when on longer trips.
That way I can keep an eye on our progress on my off watch and don't have to go up to the helm.
I agree with the others and would not recommend relying soley on the lap top for navigating, but for me, I already had a dedicated plotter at the helm, we already have a home lap top, the electronic charts are very resaonably priced and easily optained; add a USB/GPS and I have a back up plotter down below where I can keep an eye on things.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
515 Posts
I agree with the other comments. I often bring the laptop with charts on a trip, but only to be used for planning when down below, and as a fourth backup, after the paper charts, printouts, and chartplotter.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13 Posts
Please consider that no on should rely on electronic navigation without a suitable and comparable backup. It isn't allowed in commercial shipping and although their budgets are much larger than ours we should use their safety standards as a baseline.

I use a Mac w/ macENC and free NOAA charts at home for planning - I'm terrified at the cost of replacement to bring it aboard in my little boat in my little sailing area ... I know I wouldn't be comfortable relying on it (or any other electronic device) on a solo circumnavigation.

Paper is expensive but reliable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,297 Posts
Somewhere between Costa Rica and Hawaii, I can't remember exactly where, I was sitting at the nav station looking at the PC-based charting software, when the low-battery alarm went off on the PC followed almost immediately by a PC shut down. Attempts to reboot were not successful. I spent days and lots of satphone and SSB/Ham radio minutes seeking advice on how to reboot the machine.

When the PC quit we lost: charts, email, weather fax. Charts were backed up with paper. Email wasn't essential as we had Ham radio to keep the folks at home up to date on our 'health and welfare'. Weather fax was replaced by spending a lot of money on the sat phone with a wx service (we were on the early edge of the Pac hurricane season and we were in the box, so I wanted someone "watching our six".)

When we got to Hawaii the geek squad said it was such a hard crash (probably from the power shortage) they couldn't even recover the data on the hard drive. I bought another hard drive and another PC as back up. (Eventually "presented" the new PC to my spouse as a "present").

Long and short of this story is ---- if you rely on a PC as your only source of navigation data, you need to sail no more than a few hundred miles of home.

Buy paper charts, and cruising guides and think of the PC charting software as a luxury you can do without.
 

·
Cal 9.2 SilverSwan
Joined
·
302 Posts
Saltwater and electronics just don't mix. Electronic devices that survive have a lot of design consideration for being water resistant/ proof. If a laptop could be made with solid state drives, membrane keyboard, hermeticaly sealed, it would stand a chance of replacing the chartplotter.
I did experience a complete electrical failure on a charter boat, we sailed by charts, compass and the stars(we cheated, I had a handheld gps tucked away for a second opinion) It gave us appreciation for our heritige.
 

·
99% landlubber, 1% sailor
Joined
·
140 Posts
I had visions of adapting my netbook to the sailing environment. Perhaps it could be possible to do if the right enclosure were constructed. I am plenty happy with the reliability of my netbook, although it runs linux, not windows.
That being said, on a round the world trip, i'd want bulletproof and redundant. check ebay and you will find older chartplotters by the dozen for under 300 bucks. who cares if they're black and white, as long as they give you the info you need when you need it.
As many others have already said, there is no substitute for paper maps. they don't require you to have power. all you really need besides that is your lat & long., so a chartplotter is not even that necessary, as long as your charts are up to date. there are many threads on sailnet singing the praises of radar for collision avoidance. and NEVER go bluewater sailing without an epirb.
you can't afford NOT to have one. it's a good investment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Guys, this is awesome. Thank you very much for the unanimous feedback.

Idea scrapped. I will try to see if I can get an electronic chart plotter in my budget, but it is likely I will go for old-fashioned paper charts instead. I learned the old school way with compass and sextant anyway.

Plus these electronic charts are confusing: you never know how many you need to buy to get the right level of detail. Navionics claims the XL9+ is sufficient detail like their classic series but I doubt that - for $250 get the whole East Coast in super detail or same for the whole of Europe??? sounds wrong.

Incidentally, I was wondering if you guys had recommendations on where is best to get large number of second hand paper charts. Here in the UK where I am right now the Admirality sells them at outrageous prices...

Furthermore, storage. By the time I have bought most of the charts I need, I'll have a pile 1 foot high if not more. how do you guys store that? my nav table can't accomodate that and I think tubes may damage the charts a bit... I am on a Passport 40 by myself for a solo circum so I have room, but I want to be optimized nevertheless... Current plan I have is to add a large shelf above my pullman berth at the bow and store the charts there above.

Jp

Keep-Searching.net
" a life of adventures "
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
846 Posts
I am using a laptop nearly for all my needs. The windows system crashed more than twice a week. This is not on the boat. It takes approximately 3 days to install the system, drivers, programs, data. One could say that it only takes a few hours. That is true. But you can never find that a few hours to spare for thr machine. A laptop is a good toy, but should be kept as a toy, not something to rely on.

Paper charts are my favorite selection. At least they do need electricity.
 

·
1977 Morgan OI 30
Joined
·
438 Posts
Charts a must...

I would get a chartplotter and integrated steering system. There are some great deals [ebay?]

I have read of circumnavigators trading charts at arrival destinations. Easier said than done, but doable.

Have fun, come back and best wishes
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
27 Posts
If you are reasonably proficient using a computer then using a laptop as a chart plotter is a doable plan.

Chances are you are going to bringing a laptop with you anyway. No reason you can't make it a secondary navigation source.

It won't need to be on 24/7. And it doesn't have to be visible from the helm to be useful.

Since you have the skill (I'm assuming) to navigate without electronic aids I would suggest DR using plotting charts with celestial and hand held GPS for position checks on whatever schedule you decide to keep when offshore and a good pilotage plan close to hazards. As you approach navigation hazards/landfall having the laptop chart plotter running down below will give you peace of mind and it makes a great telltale below decks.

And the laptop can be used for all sorts of other stuff. SSB weather, entertainment, communications via the internet when in port, etc etc.

With Sea Clear and a USB GPS antenna you have a very inexpensive secondary nav suite.

And if you want a display at the helm for landfall/manuevering in restricted waters most laptops have video out that you could hook a cheap secondhand flat screen to and velcro it to the companionway. Laptop stays dry and you get a full color moving map.

I wouldn't discard the laptop chart plotter idea unless you absolutely will not be traveling with a laptop.

The USB GPS antenna can serve many different types of devices. I have one from Delorme that can go USB to a computer or bluetooth to a cell phone (or any other blue tooth device) It makes a great backup device for all sorts of unexpected situations.


I'll post a link to another thread shortly

(This is my first post so I'm not allowed to post a link...sorry)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
I have taken a laptop with me to sea for over twenty years. First ones were little screen Toshibas. I have had a few crash, but they crash ashore as well. When we were first developing Maptech we only had large monitors for displaying our charts. I used put them in plastic garbage cans and duct tape and have a monitor cord run below. We made housings for them and ran them off a desktop with a UPS on it plugged into a heart inverter. What an amazing thing that was, having your position on a chart in the cockpit. But you find if you are not careful you spend more time looking a the display and lesstime fixing your position visually. I just looked on Ebay, you can buy a refurbished dell 600 laptop for 200 bucks. Make a good back up stowed in a plastic bag. Pretty cheap insurance. You can buy a garmin USB GPS for around 75 bucks. I put my charts on a Passport usb powered external drive, and have a second one as a backup. They are very small and handy. (they are about 54 bucks at costco or online at e-cost). Strip the junk off the computer and only use it for navigation and sailmail and there is not too much problem using xp. And unless it is a calm sunny day near shore I don’t put my computer in the cockpit. I never take my paper charts to the cockpit either, lost a harbor chart doing that years ago put me in a bad position.
People are used to looking at a screen nowadays for their exact position when near shore or entering a harbor. We never used to have that ability, we would go below, try and memorize the entrance, come out and fix what was in our minds with what we saw, light characteristics etc. I admit it is a great plus having it displayed in the cockpit when you are making an entrance, but off shore it is only a novelty.
In the end, it is whatever you are comfortable with. Don’t forget to spend some time learning good old pilotage.
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
Top