Computer based navigation solutions - Any experience?

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by cthippo, Jan 18, 2021.

  1. cthippo
    Joined: Sep 2010
    Posts: 813
    Likes: 52, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 465
    Location: Bellingham WA

    cthippo Senior Member

    I'm considering a couple different options for my new boat for navigation systems and I'm wonedring if other people have used either of them. One would be a Windows based system running something like OpenCPN which is basically just a chart plotter program that uses NOAA charts. The alternative would be an Android based system running on a tablet with something like Navionics. Both options seems to have the features I need and can be made to work at reasonable cost.

    Any experience with either of these?
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 3,287
    Likes: 1,315, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 37
    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Do you often have dense fog in the area where you will be operating?
    If you do, then I can see a need for a proper chart plotter (one could then even argue a case for having radar) - but if not, and if you are just coastal cruising in calm conditions (which I hope you will be, as your boat will not be a good candidate for going offshore with) then buy a paper chart of your cruising area and keep it to hand - maybe laminate it so it does not disintegrate if it gets wet.
    One advantage of a paper chart is that it does not break down if you lose your power supply.
    You will be well supplied if have a charts program on your phone as well.
    A simple fish finder depth sounder would be a useful addition.
  3. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 16,475
    Likes: 1,494, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Any Microsoft or Android device is not allowed for critical applications. Navigation systems can be run on them, but would require a backup adequate for critical applications. Paper charts, if you keep up a copy of your navigation on a regular system are enough. However, if you want a computer based system, it is not likely you will keep up marking your position on a paper chart. There are navigation packages that are plug and play with robust operating systems. At the very least, a handheld GPS could be used as a reliable backup.
  4. cthippo
    Joined: Sep 2010
    Posts: 813
    Likes: 52, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 465
    Location: Bellingham WA

    cthippo Senior Member

    The Sidescan unit has GPS built in, and I will doubtless have a portable, plus paper charts, but neither is good for plotting out search patterns and up close navigation. The ability to set up waypoints ahead of time and upload them to the nav system on the boat is a big attraction of these systems, and the commercial chartplotters are both annoyingly small and also limited in capability in terms of number of waypoints, etc.
  5. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
    Posts: 1,643
    Likes: 953, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 39
    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Depends on what you decide is a "computer based navigation solution". Nowadays almost everybody has OpenCPN on a laptop (there is also an Android version) and one or several nav apps on tablets and phones. The problems are also clear, the laptop is in the cabin, and the tablets and phones are not really sunlight readable, and can suffer from battery problems like heat strokes.
    There are more dedicated installations using a hard wired boat computer, either single board (Pi & Co) or bigger more powerfull ones, with separate monitors and integration into the NMEA backbone. Google "open plotter" and you will find a ton of info. The biggest problem with this approach is usually the price of a sunlight readable, waterproof monitor.

    Basicly it depends on your needs, particular conditions, and desire to go down the tech rabbit hole. People have circumnavigated using only a phone, and have not complained about it.
  6. KeithO
    Joined: Jul 2019
    Posts: 329
    Likes: 66, Points: 28
    Location: Michigan

    KeithO Senior Member

    If you will be using the device inside an enclosed pilothouse, some of the environmental concerns may be moot. The stability of the operating system is a potential concern, although if you are not connected to the internet or virus prone USB thumb drives, you might also be OK. In addition, if the device uses a solid state drive (no HDD spinning at 7k or 10k rpm) and is fan free, you have less to go wrong. Heat always needs to be managed and hopefully you have a nice regulated power supply...

    If it is to go outside in the weather, I would consider it expendable. Navionics have come down in price (unless you are trying to buy the best, there is never a limit at the "top end") and the way the companies support their hardware over time is no longer predictable in this throw away society that we live in.
  7. rangebowdrie
    Joined: Nov 2009
    Posts: 205
    Likes: 77, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Oregon

    rangebowdrie Senior Member

    To paraphrase, (from Bowditch?, I can't remember exactly,) "The prudent navigator shall use all means at his disposal in order to properly ascertain his vessels position".
    It's comforting to be able to put a mark on a paper chart and be able to say; "This is where we are".
  8. yOyOeK1
    Joined: Jul 2022
    Posts: 12
    Likes: 1, Points: 3
    Location: Poland

    yOyOeK1 Junior Member

    I'm using opencpm on phone (android) / tablet ( android ) / laptop ( linux ) for 6 years now.
    I recommend that way. It's much chipper and more fixable then gray / black box from companies for lot of muny. You can spend xxxx $ of mony for "marine grade equipment" and it will come with charts :) or outdated.
    By going with route phone / table / laptop you can have for same amount of mony ~10x backups. You will need to set up it by your self and then you will know your system.
    Phones / tabletp with android not Istuff it's ower priced.
    Laptop ( linux ) more control more futures more control.
    Also by going diy way you can make IoT on phone or tablet as a server and then you don't need all that expensive battery monitors or "inteligent" gizmos.
    IoT project on phone base: Home · yOyOeK1/oiyshTerminal Wiki
  9. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
    Posts: 2,339
    Likes: 755, Points: 113
    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell . . . _ _ _ . . . _ _ _

    Essential, not just comforting.
    Eyes and chart, the primaries (and I don't mean American politics).
    bajansailor likes this.
  10. jehardiman
    Joined: Aug 2004
    Posts: 3,597
    Likes: 974, Points: 113, Legacy Rep: 2040
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington, USA

    jehardiman Senior Member

    The article
    Incident Photo of The Week - M106 Grömitz
  11. comfisherman
    Joined: Apr 2009
    Posts: 412
    Likes: 190, Points: 43, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Alaska

    comfisherman Senior Member

    I've used rose point since 2012 with an external USB GPS antenna. I've no open cpn since 13, but was underwhelmed at the time. In an enclosed pilot house it's a very useful tool. In my application several of my fishing districts only crude noaa charts, rose point is handy to have always running. My current setup has a digital yacht external antenna hooked to a laptop.
  12. Janis_59
    Joined: Aug 2022
    Posts: 14
    Likes: 1, Points: 3
    Location: Riga, Latvia, European Union

    Janis_59 Junior Member

  13. yOyOeK1
    Joined: Jul 2022
    Posts: 12
    Likes: 1, Points: 3
    Location: Poland

    yOyOeK1 Junior Member

    In my oiyshTerminal I have automated system running in a background recording in 5 min intervals my last known location. Stored on a phone. Phone is a host of oiyshTerminal aka boat terminal / computer.
    Phones dose days you can buy then any wear. First phone shop phone (magnetometer inside the phone nice option) and your set.
    Working offline, can do proxy, and be a access point By WiFi to your GPS and boat terminal / computer.
    If you have magnetometer then you can make autopilot for less then 20$. Reparable. You can build it so you can repair it!

    it can do also small tactics information multiplexing.
    example is reseeding navigation way point to autopilot and screens. Screen you can see is a cheep phone/ tablet any thing with the browser and working wifi or bluetooth.
    So broken devices can be adapt to become permanent display for instruments :)

    More information on how it setup on project github
    link to Wiki: Home · yOyOeK1/oiyshTerminal Wiki
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.