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Laptop chartplotter

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pjbharrison says:

Hi All,
I'm looking for the groups expertise to advise me on using a laptop as a chartplotter. I have a Dell Latitude D600 laptop that I can set up to use Micro$oft Windows XP Pro or a Linux Distro, preferably Linux Ubuntu 8.10
What software, maps and hardware do I need?
2:41PM, 23 April 2009 PDT (permalink)

busy home [deleted] says:

Can you ask the question in english please?
ages ago (permalink)

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pjbharrison says:

Sorry Ron.
Computers are sort of a sideline of mine. Buying and reselling computer parts on Ebay paid for my first few years of sailing including 3 boats and club memberships! Bought computer parts off European sites and sold to Americans who won't deal with non English speaking sellers for 3 to 4 times the price I paid. I also help with my daughters school computers and networks, voluntarily.
Originally posted ages ago. (permalink)
pjbharrison edited this topic ages ago.

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Skykomish E29 says:

We use the Admiralty Leisure chart as this is cheap (around £50 for southern England) and simple to use as it is the "Real" version of the training disc that we used doing our day skipper course.
It is only a basic package in that it only displays standard charts, (not the flashy 3d topographic displays of the delux packages available) but does do all of the tidal calculations for you, allows waypoints to be entered and is simple to use.

I bought a cheap GPS head on e bay that plugs into the usb port of the computer, as the dedicated marine ones were £98 at the time ( these are the type that bolt to the pushpit rail) mine is a simple device that can be used in cars etc so is not weather proof, but works really well when placed on the cabin roof inside the shelter of the sprayhood. I also bought a cheap transformer/ power lead from Amazon which converts 12 volts to 19 volts that run the laptop and for the short periods that I have used it works fine. The alternative is a proper sine wave power inverter but these are around £50 and use a lot of battery power. ( my colleagues use them on the ambulance whilst doing coursework and have to have the engine running or else there is a noticable voltage drop, ok it can be argued that there already is a lot of power demand, but worth thinking about)
ages ago (permalink)

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pjbharrison says:

Thanks Malcolm,
Is any other software required or is it bundled with the charts?
ages ago (permalink)

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Mike A1 says:

The first thing to consider is how and when you will be using it. Are you planning to use it as your main navigation tool (with paper charts as backup obviously)? If so then the main thing to sort out is the power supply. You also need to think about waterproofing. Other than that, you will need something to get GPS signals. This could either be a dedicated receiver (as Malcolm describes) or a handheld GPS which can output position data. I'd suggest the latter as you can use it without the computer.

For more information on software I suggest that you have a look at the ybw.com forums - this topic seems to come up quite often.

What I am aiming for on my boat this year is to use a handheld chartplotter (Garmin GPSMAP 76) and a laptop for route planning & weather (and to keep up with work e-mail while I'm on the boat - sad I know). I've recently bought a pay as you go O2 mobile broadband dongle so I don't need to rely on getting WiFi. I have yet to see how well this works.

The GPS is wired to the boat's battery and also provides position data for the DSC VHF.

Hope this helps,
Mike
ages ago (permalink)

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Skykomish E29 says:

The software for chart plotter comes with the chart package and the GPS head driver comes with the head.
I particularly liked the Admiralty plotter as it is a straight copy off the paper charts and so is familiar to use straight away.
The admiralty plotter also gives instant GPS location co ordinates of any given spot by moving the mouse, but i would imagine that this would be a feature of most laptop plotters.
We have a very cheap laptop purchased as an end of line from PC world running on XP the beauty of this is that you can also connect AIS and NAVTEX engines to the same laptop and run all of these functions from one screen. We have not waterproofed the keyboard only using it below in the cabin ( partly as this makes it easier to view in daylight) we keep it stored in a normal Laptop padded bag with silica gel pouches. For the amount that we use it this set up has proven to be an affordable package with the obvious advantage of a big viewing screen upon which the charts can be magnified still further. We have steered clear of internet on the navigation laptop as being only a cheap low power model any security software eats up the memory and makes it pitifully slow
ages ago (permalink)

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NormanKlipspringer is a group administrator NormanKlipspringer says:

I use a Garmin GPSMAPCX and Garmin bluetooth (small) chart for my region. I got a very good deal last Christmas for both inc pp for £192 from MailSpeed Marine Ltd, Cheshire. The chart comes on CD which loads onto my computer. It also came with a cable allowing the GPS to be connected to the computer for 2 way transfer of waypoints, routes and tracks. This allows passage planning on the PC and then the transfer of the waypoints and routes to the GPS for use on board so the PC does not go anywhere near the boat and the handheld GPS can be used on its internal batteries or as I do on the boat's battery ,and when connected to NMEA it also communicates with my DSC radio providing position data. It also, via NMEA communicates with my Raymarine ST2000 tiller pilot, although this is less useful. There is no reason why the software should not be on a laptop on board , but would in my case only need to be used for changes of plan or additional planning.
The maps only have limited tidal information so passage planning is not as good as it could be. I thought that the Admirality charts also had only limited tide information, ( I stand to be corrected on that one Malcolm). For better passage planning I use Neptune passage planning software on my PC. This has all tide information so allows for optimum departure time calculations and also if you want to get that complicated, you can use polar diagrams of your boat speed and wind direction and leeway for fine tuning the plan. However I have found it not particularly user friendly. A GPS attached turns it into a realtime chart plotter, or waypoints (but not routes) can be transfered from this software to a GPS, but there is no transfer the other way. It can be used as I do with a basic outline map supplied or with one of the standard products on the market. Good luck
ages ago (permalink)

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pjbharrison says:

Thanks for all the advice, Mike, Malcolm and Norman. You can't beat advice from those with practical hands on experience. Its much better than any sales patter you get in a shop.
I intend to get a handheld Gps but since I have an idle laptop I thought I'd try exploring that avenue as an experiment for longer passages and to expand my knowledge.
I have being considering a Garmin GPS 72 as a handheld.
Has anyone got any criticisms or suggestions?
ages ago (permalink)

elite request [deleted] says:

I have Garmin GPS 72 and it's fine for my needs except you can't display maps only waypoints and Citys.

I connect it to my pc with a data cable and can view my tracks on a free gps package called easygps. I will try to get a screenshot up.

And it works on Vista!!!

It's a good cheap workround and you can add a map to the Easygps if you know how!

You can merge trips and it gives a lot of data.

I have cabled it so it can run off the Boat Batts and it can talk to the Autohelm, but havent tested it all out yet.
ages ago (permalink)

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Andrew Curry says:

Its fine going the laptop route which is fine in good conditions. But when its blowing hard maybe at night with a sea running and you have the wash boards in how will you use the laptop? If you go this route make sure you have a back up GPS system.
ages ago (permalink)

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Skykomish E29 says:

who goes out in an Achilles 24 at night in a gale???????
apart from Norman..hahaha
ages ago (permalink)

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NormanKlipspringer is a group administrator NormanKlipspringer says:

I have a GPS 72 as well as the GPSMAP 76CX. The 72 is a good handheld which I have used successfully for 2 years. It does everything that I said before about the GPSMAPCX (talks to radio, tiller pilot and my PC), and is ok in areas where you have set up plenty of waypoints. I used it successfully when racing at Dale in 2007 and found all the marks even in thick fog. In areas where you do not have waypoints and have to refer then positions to the chart then the charting version comes into its own and in my opinion is well worth the extra.
ages ago (permalink)

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Mike A1 says:

Another vote for the GPS 72.

It's definately worth using something like easygps. It is much easier to enter waypoint information using the computer and upload it to the GPS. You can also download any waypoints you put in while underway and tidy these up. For example, the GPS will record the time and date when you create the waypoint but you can change this to be information about the colour and light.

The Garmin data/power cables are quite pricey. I shopped around on eBay to find the best deal. You probably need a bare-wire version to plumb it into the boat's electrics and a USB for the computer. I'm sure you can make something up yourself if you are handy with a soldering iron.
ages ago (permalink)

elite request [deleted] says:

Aggree with Mike A1 you can download the waypoints from a web source and transfer onto the Garmin gps 72 and add your own names etc.

You can save your tracks with a meaningfull name like NeedlesToCowes.

Viewing you tracks on the computer gives some good information and helps you see where you can improve your routing.

The Cables from Garmin work very well! but yes cost quite a bit.
ages ago (permalink)

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