Q&A, Backup For Electronic Charts

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Steve, a member of the AAC Bookclub, asked an interesting question that got me thinking…always dangerous!

Question:

[Edited for brevity] We are planning a 3-4 year circumnavigation leaving next July and are well on our way with our preparations. However I’m struggling and a bit stumped with navigation software and electronic charts.

I have the new Raymarine E125 chart plotter for our catamaran and a Mac Pro computer that will act as a redundant navigation system as well as for route planning, weather routing, etc. I have not yet purchased any navigation software or any electronic charts.

Evaluating Navionics charts I discovered that I can purchase charts [for a round the world voyage] for approximately $1500 but I can only use them on the chart plotter. I can not use them simultaneously on my Mac. If I wanted to do this then I’d have to purchase them twice. That seems ridiculous.

Am I missing something here? Could you please offer a solution or advise for the above, knowing I’d have the E125 and a Mac computer? This could be apart from the Navionics. I just don’t want to have to purchase charts twice.

Answer:

Hum, a tricky one! I should start off by saying that, although I’m an electronics technician by training, I don’t keep up with all the latest in electronic gadgetry.

Frankly, once I go through getting our stuff working and keeping it so, I have little interest in such things and much prefer to tinker with and think about The Big Five (see sidebar). So, I’m not going to get down in the crab grass (as we say in Bermuda) of the specifications of plotters and chart programs. Rather, I will have a go at helping from a more overall systems point of view.

Sharing Cartridges, or Not

The only way I know of to use the same charts on a computer and a plotter is to use C-MAP cartridges and then buy a USB reader to plug into your computer and use a navigation program like this one from Digaboat that can read the charts from the USB reader.

I have tried this and, although it works, it’s not a particularly elegant solution and I’m not even sure you can get the reader any more. Even if you can, this does not help you with your Raymarine plotter, since I don’t believe they use C-MAP.

Also, the problem with this solution, or one like it, is that you have no real backup since, if the chart cartridge dies or gets damaged, you are in deep yogurt with no charts.

Might Not Be a Fix

Basically I think that most chart companies are going to want to get paid twice for supplying their charts in different formats so I’m not even sure this is solvable with the gear you have, or maybe at all when mixing plotters and computers.

John Sticks Neck Out

But is that really that bad? I know its de rigueur in the cruising world to try and get charts for little or nothing and be offended if the issuing authority, or the company that reformats and packages them, charges much at all for them. On the other hand, making good charts involves a huge amount of work, as does vectoring them, so if we want them to be there and up to date, we need to pay.

Frankly, $3000 (twice $1500) does not seem unreasonable for two sets of electronic charts covering an entire circumnavigation—a fraction of what the same used to cost on paper, even in the good old days of government chart subsidies.

Two Computers

OK, I suspect that didn’t fly too well. How about this? On Morgan’s Cloud we get around the backup problem by having two computers both loaded and ready to go with all charts and software. (Most computer based navigation programs allow you to have the software and charts on two computers.)

You could buy a cheap windows laptop as a backup and then use the Mac you already have with BootCamp to run a windows navigation system. By the way, although I’m a Mac user and used to be an Apple dealer, I recommend the Great Satan…uh, Windows…for navigation and weather—cheaper and more software choices. This option definitely has trade-offs, which I discuss in depth in this Online Book.

And, of course, going the full computer navigation route means your plotter won’t have a lot to do, although I guess it would still be a screen for your radar, if you are so equipped.

iPad Option

Or, let’s see (I’m now talking about 150% more than I know), how about keeping the plotter and buying an iPad and loading charts onto that as a backup? I know you would still be buying the charts twice, but charts for the iPad tend, I believe, to be a lot cheaper. Maybe you could even buy an older iPad second hand. Might be your most cost effective choice?

Don’t Buy Everything

Here’s another thought. You say your circumnavigation is going to take three to four years. Even if that’s the way it turns out, that means that by the end of your voyage your charts will be as much as four years out of date unless you buy an update service of some type, and that will cost you each year.

So maybe the best thing to do would be just start off with charts for say the first year and see how it goes from there? Sure, you might spend more in the end, but plans do change and this would mean that you only buy charts for places you are pretty sure you are actually going, rather than the whole works.

Of course you could mix and match this strategy by getting all the charts for say the plotter, and just enough backups for the computer for the first year.

Either way, one of the biggest benefits of electronic charts is that they are easier to keep up to date and this plan preserves that.

Also, if there is one thing I have learned from my some 45 years of messing with electronics and computers, it’s never buy anything before you need it since by waiting it will almost always be better and cheaper.

The Elephant in The Room

Of course this whole discussion is about electronic charts, but what about the ultimate backup: paper charts? At one time, not long ago, I would have said that all boats should have a full set of paper charts, but now I’m not so sure. (I’m cogitating on a post about exactly that, so let’s not go there now.)

If you did decide that you should have at least some paper charts, say passage planning and a few strategic ports, the electronic backup problem goes away.

Comments

I’m guessing that those of you with more interest in, and knowledge of, electronic gadgets than me will have better ideas to solve Steve’s problem. Please leave a comment.

But please don’t get into the whole paper chart, or not, debate now. I will be posting on that soon and at that point we can have a real knock-down, drag-out, shit-fight. Just kidding, we never do that here at AAC.

Disclosure

In light of my comments about the reasonableness of chart pricing, everyone should know that we at AAC have a partnership with Jeppesen C-Map in which we licence rights to our Norwegian Cruising Guide on an annual basis.

Having got that out of the way, that’s not the reason for my rather unusual position. It’s the result of having spent much of my working life putting bread on the table by selling my own intellectual property—wouldn’t want to be hypocritical.

Further Reading

I summarized the great information we received in the comments to this post, in this post.

{ 27 comments… add one }

  • Rann Millar November 22, 2013, 10:30 am

    For a very good answer to your question about e-charting, go to ActiveCaptain.com and click on the navigation tab. There is a wealth of information there.

    Rann

    Reply
  • Marc Dacey November 22, 2013, 10:35 am

    I don’t find yours an unusual position, John. I think it’s reflective of an evolving reality at both helm and nav table (which is increasingly just “helm”, isn’t it?)

    I favour the all-computer nav solution with some kind of “repeater” screen at the helm if needed. Having just come back from RYA instruction in the rocky, shoal-filled, highly tidal waters of southern Brittany, I also favour traditional paper charts, three-line fixes, depth contours and looking at the weeds under the mooring buoys to confirm direction of current!

    In other words, there is no “one” solution, and I find your suggestion to just purchase (and duplicate on a Windows box) Year One, plus selected paper charts, to be pretty balanced.

    To rely upon one set of charts, which may or may not be accurately updated or not updated in as timely a fashion as one might wish, seems incautious. We’ve seen some fairly spectacular accidents in recent years (U.S.S. Guardian comes to mind) where traditional watchkeeping and navigation might have avoided the disaster of over-reliance on “off” electronic plotting or even GPS functioning perfectly for me to elevate such methods above all else.

    Reply
  • Horatio Marteleira November 22, 2013, 11:00 am

    I totally agree with the purchase-as-you-go idea (including paper charts).
    Also, experience has taught me that you absolutely need a chartplotter in the cockpit unless you have inside steering with a superb view…but even then that’s not ideal. In a tricky channel or a tight situation near shore with swell, wind and rain, a computer down below won’t do the trick.
    A backup handheld GPS and basic charts are a must.
    If money is not an issue, get it all: chartplotter, computer/iPad, handheld and paper charts. I would.
    I’ve heard too many money-conscious (aka money starved) sailors poking fun at sailors who can afford the “works”. Although I sail a naked boat, I find that logic absurd. My boat is naked because a fancy 39-foot costume is too expensive for my budget.

    Reply
  • Neil@mccubbin.ca November 22, 2013, 11:15 am

    We have used computers exclusively since 2004′ amd gave up buying paper in 2007
    At today’s prices it is easy to have lots of backup.
    We have two laptops, one desktop and an iPad, all capable of navigating, with a mix of purchased software Nobeltec iPad and some freebies
    iPad or equal with navionics charts is a no brainer. Very handy on board and great backup. Also maps for hiking and driving

    Reply
  • Serge Paul November 22, 2013, 11:26 am

    I sail with a Raymarine C-120 chart plotter and for charts a Navionic Compact Flash format.
    For backup I do carry paper charts but only high level something similar to Imray format but exclusivly Imray and for electronic backup I use to carry 2 PC both with all the navigation software installed and backup on CD also. On the PC I have Fugawi and Navionic card reader Plus OpenCPN(free) and free Charts also plus means to connect GPS both the fix Raymarine one and a handheld Garmin.
    1 of the PC is no longer fonctional and I have decided not to replace it.

    Reply
  • Patrice Venne November 22, 2013, 11:40 am

    Good article John!
    I’ve never used my electronic charts on a passage. I once owned a Simrad CP30 that I Ebayed, a Standard Horizon that is still it it’s original box that should have been ebayed a long time ago. What I found useful was for coastal sailing when solo and then my problem was that I did not have the space for a cockpit installed chart plotter. Not very convenient to check your position below while driving the boat. Paper charts are a PITA in the cockpit too but better than the other options. My wife got an IPad last Christmas and I spent a hard time trying to find a meaningful use for it, it was not easy task but eventually I prevailed; My solution was to convert to the “new” Simrad system were everything could be streamlined on one (or many) wifi devices; You can go to bed with your charts plotter, broadband RADAR, AIS Class A (with ALARM on) and the on watch person could have the same in the cockpit, all from one set of electronic charts. But as Simrad refused to answer my questions without me having to pay them a consulting fee I decided to go another route (not as sexy (streamlined) as the Simrad or for that matter Raymarine but more energy efficient and a LOT cheaper). I’ve already installed Navionics Raster charts on my IPad (quite affordable and works perfect) and next spring before leaving the Baltic I’ll install a Wifi multiplexer, that way I’ll stream my NMEA 0183 data to as many IPads, Tablets, Smart phone I whish. I installed 2 12VDC outlet at the wheel and I can fix the IPAD in a water proof sleeve. I can move the IPad in any position I want for convenience (it’s wifi after all). I can turnoff my Simrad instruments displays as the Ipad offers the same. For Backup I can have another IPad or tablet. The only bug is that I won’t have the RADAR layer and the option to operate the Simrad system from my IPad. But I’ll be able to operate the autopilot by creating/changing waypoints (only good if you motor . . .) One bugger is that IPad/tablets screen works poorly in full sun. But for me it is a big plus anyway; being able to monitor traffic with the AIS layer is my main purpose. So the next time a freighter is heading in my direction, I hope that calling him over the VHF using his MMSI or name the pig will answer. The small form factor tablets, smart phones are a game changer in the industry; there is other options than to pay $4000 for a monitor. I’ll use my PC for HF communication; email, weather grib files and routing work (Expedition software).

    Reply
  • Bob & Judy Bailey November 22, 2013, 12:10 pm

    John, after 17 years as live-aboard cruisers (15 years of it in Europe) we have switched from totally paper to totally electronic charts. We have a C-80 chart plotter that is visible from the helm and two Windows 7 PCs running mostly MaxSea 12.6, but have SOB and several other charting programs. We have found it is much easier to plan a route on the PC, then transfer the route and it’s waypoints to the C-80 for active navigation. Yes, we must have both C-Map charts for the PC and Navionics for the Chart Plotter, but there are some differences and we can cross check between the two. And while not maybe the most convenient we can continue safely if either one should fail (which in the 10 years since we abandoned the backup paper charts and acquired the chart plotter) has not happened. But we are pretty safe if either one should fail.

    And we have 3 GPSs – the fixed Furuno GP-32, a Garmin handheld with a cable to plug in immediately, and the GPS internal to the AIS (can be switched on to the PC with a few clicks on the PC.

    All in all, we feel pretty comfortable with the setup – and though not the least expensive, it is good insurance.

    Reply
  • Deb November 22, 2013, 12:15 pm

    Ever since the US coast guard said they were stopping paper chart it has bothered me since that is one of my backups. Being a technical person I prefer layers of backup. I have a garmin chart plotter and a iPhone and ipad with navionics. Additionally I backup paper charts. I just figure if there is no power then you might want an old fashion compass and chart at a minimum. Cost is definitely a factor. Navionics does let you use both for ipad and phone the same charts. Garmin bluechart seems to allow integration with chart plotter and PC use or apple. I would suggest whatever system you use you can get PDFs or rasters and before you leave on that leg make yourself a printed guidebook. Be safe out there.

    Reply
    • Daria Blackwell November 22, 2013, 1:54 pm

      Deb, the USCG is not stopping paper charts, it’s just not going to print them anymore. They will still be available from commercial printers who acquire the data from the USCG.

      Reply
  • Erik Snel November 22, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I use a Standard horizon plotter with C-map cards at the helm. I have acquired a C-map card reader + usercard + PC software, but I have not tested this yet. The C-map card is western Europe and extends all the way to Greenland. I also have a Nordic Europe card. Expensive, I think an upgrade (which I buy every 2 years) is around 150 euro per region. On the other hand, if you zoom in and see what paper cards are represented, it’s actually very cheap!
    As backup I have an iPad and iPhone, both with Navionics, and paper charts. The Navionics charts for iDevices is very cheap, by memory 50 euros for the whole of Europe, including update. If this is any indication of other regions, Navionics voor iDevices should prove a very cheap backup solution.
    I also still have paper cards. But I very much wonder whether I will buy them for a longer trip, say across the Antlantic…

    Reply
  • Scott Flanders November 22, 2013, 1:39 pm

    You will find that most world cruisers, vs coastal or local area cruisers use C-Map CM93 charts with Max Sea software. We spent tons on paper charts in the beginning but never unrolled a single chart. We have never navigated with charts except for a short period in Chile where there is no electronic navigation. However, being terrified of a lightning strike we carry (I’m embarrassed to even say this), 5 laptops with navigation software. We use the laptop to calculate routes but let the GPS drive the autopilot and follow on the laptop. At the time we bought most of them used for peanuts and keep them stored in a dry place. We only had one severe lightning storm over the years and two laptops and 2 bps’s went into the oven along with the radar. Never a problem. What’s ironic, we have never had a laptop fail. I’m sure this will stir the pot, but it just our experience.

    S.

    Reply
    • Marc Dacey November 22, 2013, 3:11 pm

      As a run-up/testbed for offshore nav, I’ve been using SeaClear and now OpenCPN on a series of relatively cheap ($300-$400) netbooks here on Lake Ontario. Like you, our plan is to “ghost” several identically configured netbooks and to “bag them and tag them” in dry locations should the netbook du jour come to a bad end. Once a month, they would all get a charge.

      When one thinks that *four* netbooks/tablets/transformer-types with current OSes and maxed out RAM could cost less than $1,500, I think that answers the objection. Get a screen for the outside helm, sure, but just use it as a weatherproof auxiliary.

      Like you, I considered picking up used laptops, as nav and comms aren’t very needful of processor power, but the form factor of a 12 inch netbook has a lot of stowage appeal.

      I also, however, would never give up a rugged handheld, and I like the fact that lat/lon. are available through many VHFs and AIS setups.

      Reply
  • Nick Kats November 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Big picture. It sounds like this person has a deep pocket. What’s the budget for 4 years of cruising? How much was paid for the boat, and how much to set her up? I’m guessing 500,000 to a million dollars all totalled up, could easily be more.
    In this context, a 2nd set of electronic charts with separate computer etc, is really small potatoes.
    Hopefully one unit will stay up if & when the other goes down. Just do it.

    Reply
  • Alan Teale November 22, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Steve, John and All, Navionics isn’t the only option for the iPAD. iSailor by Transas looks very good. The charts are certainly nice, and in my view much better to the eye. Although they are vectors they have more of a raster appearance, which I prefer. Transas is a Russian company that is strong in the commercial marine market. I believe their products are high quality.
    I support John’s suggestion of an iPAD backup for Steve’s Navionics-based plotter, with a few paper charts as the backup backup, and a build-as-you-go plan for the portfolio. And pay the money. Alan

    Reply
  • Daria Blackwell November 22, 2013, 2:12 pm

    We have a Raymarine chartplotter which now interfaces with our new AIS. Love it. The Raymarine uses Navionics Gold charts which can be read by Fugawi on our pc laptop. New for Fugawi is an app that can read the Navionics charts on an iPad. http://www.fugawi.com/web/x-traverse/navionics_faq.htm I don’t know how good it is.

    So our system is:
    - Raymarine chartplotter as primary on the bulkhead in the cockpit
    - Laptop below as backup; uses a GPS mouse. Only have used it for planning since getting the Raymarine.
    - Redundant GPS below hooked up to VHF radio for position
    - Handheld GPS for dinghy
    - Navionics and Google Earth on my Samsung android for most up to date coastal and land navigation
    - Paper charts as ultimate backup. We’ve lost power three times. Twice in lightning strikes on a previous boat and once through an alternator failure. We know what can happen.

    One problem with the chips on our chartplotter is that they can be stolen. We always remove them from the unit when in a marina.

    Reply
  • Phil Streat November 22, 2013, 2:39 pm

    We have a Furuno Navnet plotter at the helm and Maxsea on a laptop for backup and planning. Charts are stored as files in the plotter rather than on a removable card. When we buy a chart Maxsea provide unlock codes for both the plotter and the PC so we can buy one chart and use it on both systems.

    Reply
  • John Rushworth November 22, 2013, 3:21 pm

    Hi,

    I went down the Navionics and C-Maps with USB readers for both, neither of which I found useful. I sold them. I am now happy with my dedicated Raymarine and C-Maps on it with annual fee download updates on a regular basis.

    For a stand alone computer I would use OpenCPN http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ which works on Mac, Windows and in my case Ubuntu.

    In my professional life all our sytems were ECDIS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Chart_Display_and_Information_System and are legally replacing the need for paper over time, but we carriied paper anyhow.

    For local work I like ANTARES CHARTS http://www.antarescharts.co.uk/ and see this as a future cost effective solution, that may be taken up in other areas.

    I think it comes down what you can afford and what format you choose, with a suitable back up, unless going ECDIS. For me I find a dedicated plotter and paper charts sufficient.

    The USB readers are clunky and are primarily meant for passage planning (although I did like the weather download overlays) using a laptop. As a standalone I would always choose a dedicated plotter.

    Probably just as important and assuming you take a Sat Phone or low orbit Thuraya then http://www.mailasail.com/ using GRIB files along with info from http://weather.mailasail.com/Franks-Weather/Home

    John R.

    Reply
  • Hans Vernhout November 22, 2013, 4:00 pm

    As I understand it Steve’s problem is paying twice for the same (electronic) chart data. Apart from discussions about the actual costs of electronic charts and what system configurations work well, I think that’s a valid question.
    In The Netherlands we already pay twice for our FIRST copy of electronic charts: one time as a tax payer for our Hydrographic Service and again for the commercially licensed version of this data. for our chart plotter, laptop or tablet. For a backup on a different system you will need to pay again (third time) for the same data.

    At present, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) does not specify Governmental responsibility for producing charts, but most of the chart data is collected by government Hydrographic Services and it can be argued that any maritime data (intellectual property) that is collected with taxpayers money should be available in the public domain, or at least be free for its citizens. The freely downloadable NOAA charts for US waters are a logical consequence, but not all governments that participate in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and comply with SOLAS regulations practice this same principle at the moment.

    Although paper nautical charts will still be available for a good number of years, the writing is on the wall now Hydrographic Offices are moderating or abandoning their paper chart publishing schemes (http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/staff/news/2013/papercharts.html) and electronics only navigation with (non-paper) backup is accepted under SOLAS (chapter V) regulations. The Office of Coast Survey (US government) has certified commercial Printing on Demand companies to produce quality paper charts of their FREE data but the users are not locked-in with these commercial companies. You can also print the charts yourself (from the NOAA PDF-files) or use the continuously updated chart data freely on modern chartplotters, your computer or laptop.
    With advancing technology, the charting industry will eventually have to follow the music industry, where it is no longer possible to let the customer pay again and again for having the same content (intellectual property) on different media/systems.

    So, to cut a long story short: I think the lock-in politics by traditional marine electronics manufacturers and charting companies will not be sustainable in the future. Firms like Navionics and Maxsea are already adopting different pricing schemes for new market segments or providing unlock codes for more than one system. They also advertise with unique, additional chart data to differentiate themselves in this new, more competitive chart market. For now you’ll have to endure the remnants of the old situation, or choose to vote with your money and invest in more open and sailor friendly initiatives. The old players will follow sooner or later.

    Reply
  • Victor Raymond November 22, 2013, 4:34 pm

    John,
    Great topic and interesting to hear such similar setups inspite of the diversity. The iPad seems to be a common thread.
    But whether it is iPad, Nexus, PC or Mac it seems plausible that it is not long before a networked disk storage device is marketed that has the world’s charts embedded in RAM that all electronic navigational devices can access. The fact that the software on one device reads only C-map or Navionics or this or that chart is basically marketing. There is no intrinsic reason why the software could not read raster, vectors or even google maps. If there are any developers out there listening here is a clue for a new project.
    Also interesting for me would be radar scanner that sent all the data to the wifi device for any hardware device to read and integrate into their display.
    All control of the scanner would be by raw data manipulation ie filtering, enhancing etc. on the display device not the scanner itself. This would similar to the radar display and choices available on the web today from NOAA, Weather Underground etc.

    Reply
  • Neil McCubbin November 22, 2013, 4:43 pm

    Victor is probably correct about the future of charts
    However, let’s remember that the issue under discussion is back-up. Thus sailors should have a handful of totally independent electronic charts.
    I suggest one or two good systems, and a few based on old and/or second hand computers, iPads,.Android pads or whatever.

    Reply
  • Henrik November 22, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Hello you all..!
    We use Furuno NavNet 3D in a MD12 plotter in the cockpit, and a pc “down under”, both hooked up through the Furnuno network. The pc runs Maxsea Explorer navigation program, and both the plotter and the pc uses the same charts, which we get away buying only once for all items together in the Furuno network.
    It´s possible to use the pc as a data server for the plotter, but we prefer to have the maps installed in both items, to maintain redundancy.
    The Maxsea Explorer license allows two pc´s in use, so we also carry a laptop with the Maxsea and all charts installed. This lap top can also be connected to the Furnuno network via cable. (there is possible to use wireless solution, if one prefer).
    What we find really enjoyable with this solution, is that it´s possible to run the radar from the pc down stairs. It´s also possible to ad weather information, a routing module or even a sounder module to this pc setup, should you prefer.
    Backup? So far we also have carried paper charts. I guess the paper will be out of the boat as the digital solutions continue to show endurance and reliability.
    Finally we have a iPad with Navionics chart, but they stop at about N70´, so north of that, paper charts is a must.
    Henrik

    Reply
  • John November 23, 2013, 10:03 am

    Hi All,

    Thanks very much for the interesting and useful comments. I will have a short post up in a few days summarizing what we have learned.

    Reply
  • Scott Fraser November 23, 2013, 10:11 am

    Back in the time before I invested in electronic navigation redundancy I experienced a hard drive crash while 2500nm offshore. With electronic charting gone (to say nothing of the HF email and weather fax), we had to revert to navigating the old fashion way — GPS position plots on paper :-). We made our landfall and approach into Hilo with a paper chart of Hawaii and the harbor sketches in a Charlie’s Chartbook. I would recommend that at a minimum a skipper needs paper back up sufficient to permit safe entry to the major ports along an intended route — a coastal approach chart and some source of harbor entrance detail should do. Area cruising guides usually provide the later. Often harbor entry data can be found on the Internet and printed out before departure.

    Reply
  • Sherry McCampbell November 23, 2013, 8:22 pm

    Someone mentioned this already, but maybe with not enough emphasis… when thinking about backups, also think about different charting systems. Out in some of the nether cruising regions (Fiji, Marshall Islands, etc), there is quite a variation in detail and accuracy between chart systems. One one island, the Navionics charts may have you tracking right OVER an island, where the Garmin is spot-on, or vice versa. So it is GOOD to have your backup be different than your primary (ie Navionics vs CMap vs Garmin). We are budget cruisers and have a Garmin 76 csx with old (2008) Mapsource maps installed. Though Garmin doesn’t support them any more (SHAME on them), it is still possible to find the software and charts to download among the cruising fleet, though the charts are getting a bit dated. But the Garmin hand-held is waterproof and floats, can be quickly disconnected and go with you into the liferaft, VERY light on power consumption, etc. We also have a spare and a handful of extra batteries in our ditch bag, plus another older B/W one down below in our cabin which we use for an anchor alarm (and backup backup backup).
    To the Garmin in the cockpit, we have connected a laptop down below velcro-ed on the nav station, which connects to an external monitor which swings out into the companionway when we need it (ie, when doing close-in navigation). We use a wireless remote mouse to manipulate the computer from the helm. We do our planning on the laptop and push the waypoints to the Garmin with a few clicks. Once at sea, we don’t really need the map capabilities, and so we shut down the laptop and the external monitor, except when it’s time to log a position.
    The external monitor is a 14″ LCD from my daughter’s 10 year old PC (long since scrapped), and has already survived 6 years at sea. We have an identical one we bought for $50 on eBay a few years ago, as a backup. We also have an old iPad 1, (alas with no GPS), which can be configured to wirelessly act as a remote monitor–but this is so much electronic wizardry that I don’t rely on it.
    With the laptop solution, we can use raster charts (including Google Earth charts we make ourselves), CM93 charts, scanned paper charts hand-geo-referenced, whatever works… If the computer goes down we have 2 more pre-configured that we could hot swap if we need to. Plus a second identical Garmin that normally lives in our ditch bag. Plus a USB GPS. And we still have an adequate complement of paper charts, but which we never look at except for “chart talks” with other cruisers.
    I agree with one of the early suggestions to not buy all your chart chips upfront, unless you are a planning a really fast trip. Electronics are prone to failure, and you really wouldn’t want to be holding $1,500 worth of chart chips for a chart plotter that has failed and which isn’t available anymore. It’s not that hard to get mail/packages shipped out to you when you are world cruising, so not that hard to get the next chips you need as you need them (and who knows what you might find on the used/free market while hanging out in cruising destinations with other cruisers).

    Reply
  • David Higgs November 24, 2013, 5:21 am

    iPad – This is the way to go as a backup. Independent of the yachts power, and if you have a relatively up to date plotter, using wfii routers such as the ones available from Digital Yacht means you can plan and upload waypoints to the plotter. In my previous yacht I didn’t have a plotter in the cockpit and the iPad was incredibly useful coming into new destinations etc. You can also jump the dingy with it.
    David

    Reply
  • Jim Thomsen November 24, 2013, 8:46 am

    All the above comments are good, but I think one of the most important points to using an iPad is that the charts are cheap, so we have Navionics, C Map and some from Imray. Our Raymarine system is good but some areas are covered much better by Cmap (Chesterfield Reef, many islands in Papua New Guinea, northern Indonesia,) so we will often have the iPad out when Navionics is off or has little detail.
    Also I think the comment about waiting to buy charts until the last minute is important. We had an older Navionics chart for New Zealand, but much of Fiordland and Stewart Island was re surveyed in 2009 . We bought the new card in 2012 and it had much better information than the old one. Cmap was off so it was good we had the new Navionics.

    Reply
  • Steve Poulson November 25, 2013, 2:46 am

    John, All,
    Thanks for all the inputs and reviews. As expected, each has his/her own methods and systems for navigation and redundancy and evaluate thier risks individually and accordingly. All is good as all these sailors are still floating! Understanding how sailors prepare thier vessels and perform their risk assessments certainly influences my selection and provides validation of what Im proposing. This is no doubt one of the great benefits of these forums. As you known, Im at the stage of kitting out a new yacht and these insights and experiences help.

    Since this post, I have found suitable nav software for my Mac/Parallels which is PC Plotter (www.pcplotter.com) out of the UK which incorporates weather, route planning, WP entries, etc. They, unlike Fugawi, have an arrangement with Navionics where I can purchase the charts once and use on each chartplotter and computer (one time unlock code) – perseverence and research pays off!

    For the interest of the readers, this is the setup Im planning:
    - E125′s at helm and repeater in salon, w/ AIS, radar.
    - MacPro w/PC Plotter, USB plugged into the GPS however I have a backup/dedicated GPS receiver (Evermore SA-920).
    - Navionics for each of the above.
    -iPad3 with Navionics and Garmin Blue (allows me to cross reference, each has their areas of strength/weaknesses and the cost of having these app downloads is quite affordable). My wife also has an iPad with some of the Navionic charts installed.
    - Paper charts – limited to large bodies of water. I do like to see the big picture on my table during crossings and do a little hands on charting enroute (keep up this skill level!).
    - Google Earth images of all expected arrival locations.
    Im also planning to run OpenCPN as a redundant system but also because I support the open approach and contribution these folks have made to our community. However I, personally, have found OpenCPN a bit of effort to configure – but I’ll get there!

    Weather (GRIBs, synoptics) will be arranged, downloaded via SSB (mailasail) or Iridium and Im likely to contract weather services at least for the first year until my expereince/confidence builds.

    My range of travels for this 2-3yr period is between S40 and N30 – the artics are for a later date (I grew up in northern Manitoba so had my share of the chillies – thought I’d love that challenge of the NW Passage).
    Thanks all again.
    Steve

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