Computer based navigation solutions - Any experience?

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

  1. cthippo
    Joined: Sep 2010
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    Location: Oregon

    rangebowdrie Junior 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".
     
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