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Thread: Chartplotting software for laptops

  1. #1
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    Default Chartplotting software for laptops

    A search of the forum indicated discussions on the topic are a few years old, and as the tech changes a lot Iím hoping for some more up to date info.

    If you use a laptop as a chart plotter, what program do you use/recommend? I have been using Maptech for years but it is no longer supported, nor will it interface with radar or AIS. I need to upgrade. I have also decided that Iím finally comfortable with vector charts like Navionics after using them on my iPhone. A dock neighbor highly recommended OpenCPN which is open source freeware which looks pretty good, but as there is a learning curve with any new software, I want to be careful about choosing my upgrade. Anyone here use OpenCPN? Or what other would you recommend?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I just started using OpenCPN and I found the learning curve to be so slight as to be nearly nonexistent. I've used other nav software as well as dedicated chart plotters but so far I like OpenCPN as much as or better than all of them. It did help that all of the electronics on Skookum Maru are set up for it already. There might be a little work needed to configure the hardware on Snoose but that shouldn't be too difficult. And the radar plugins only support a few newer broadband antennas but since you need to replace your radar antenna anyway I think it's the perfect time to set that up.

    And of course I'd be happy to come down and help with any technology-related setup you need. And I have a laptop configured with OpenCPN already if you want to try it out before committing.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Thanks Chris. I installed OpenCPN on my desktop at home and played with it a bit and I like what I see so far. Do you use vector charts on it? I’m also thinking an iPad with Navionics might be a consideration. On our recent Gulf Islands trip I was surprised at how often I used the Navionics app on my tiny iPhone.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by ron ll View Post
    Thanks Chris. I installed OpenCPN on my desktop at home and played with it a bit and I like what I see so far. Do you use vector charts on it? I’m also thinking an iPad with Navionics might be a consideration. On our recent Gulf Islands trip I was surprised at how often I used the Navionics app on my tiny iPhone.
    I use both vector and raster charts with OpenCPN. I like the detail on the vector charts but I've found some errors on them, in particular a missing channel marker buoy on the entrance to Drayton Harbor in Blaine, so I tend to use the raster charts for any areas where accurate detail on channels and hazards is critical. Switching between them is easy to do in OpenCPN.

    I've used an iPad with Navionics before and I liked it fine. Right now I have iNavX on my iPhone as a backup to the laptop and it works fine too. But I do like the open source factor in OpenCPN as it means that the people writing the code are also trusting their lives to the software and are using it in the real world. I also like the ability to choose my own hardware to run it rather than being locked into Apple stuff, although I've never had a real problem with using an iPhone or iPad so that's probably more of a personal preference than a decision factor.

    My ideal setup would be OpenCPN on either a Windows Surface tablet or a Linux tablet of some sort. Having a mobile device running another app is nice for peace of mind but honestly if the chart plotter tablet died for some reason I would probably just go back to compass, paper charts and dead reckoning to make the next port. I'm far more comfortable steering by the compass or a landmark than the screen in any case.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I’ve used both OpenCPN on a laptop and Navionics on an iPad. I think they are both great and are nice complements to one another. I actually prefer Navionics on my iPad and use it to plan my trips.

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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    We dont get free charts here which is a bugger. I've found navionics on iPad to be very good. Free medical care, but no free charts.

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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops


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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by navydog View Post


    Exactly. Bloody communist if you ask me.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I use Coastal Explorer. My brother uses another program, not sure which one. We came down from Port Hardy to Anacortes using it. I liked the way in which it showed currents. There was an arrow for the direction and the size of the arrow reflected the velocity. Several of the rapids had huge arrows. I will ask him what program it is.
    Elect a clown expect a circus

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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Sounds like nobltec. I have that on my old computer.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    I use Coastal Explorer. My brother uses another program, not sure which one. We came down from Port Hardy to Anacortes using it. I liked the way in which it showed currents. There was an arrow for the direction and the size of the arrow reflected the velocity. Several of the rapids had huge arrows. I will ask him what program it is.
    Quote Originally Posted by gilberj View Post
    Sounds like nobltec. I have that on my old computer.

    Actually OpenCPN has that exact feature. As well as tidal bars showing direction and state of the tide at different points, AIS overlay with indication of collision risk using red/yellow/green and a lot of other stuff that I haven't explored yet.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by gilberj View Post
    Sounds like nobltec. I have that on my old computer.

    Thanks. That is it
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Been using NavX chart plotting software, mainly because it is Mac-compatible. Also bought it online in a remote area, so it seemed accessible. Has pros and cons in its display features; otherwise it's OK.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I have nothing to add other than thanks for the thread. I downloaded OpenCPN and now I'm thinking of using it in an upcoming powerboat build.
    "You may be orange, you may like hamburgers, and you may be a clown, but you sir are no Ronald McDonald" - John Stewart

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I haveOpen CPN as another arrow in the quiver,but I haven't got the AIS or radar overlays , thats on other devices. You can toggle between raster and vector charts easily.
    I have isailor on a tablet. I didn't like it and still don't because like many software boffins do, whoever developed it decided to go counterintuitive or counter established nautical methodology at least.
    But it was accurate where I was using it,( Tonga and Fiji) so for a straight position plot on screen relative to hard stuff it was a great option to use in conjunction with the chartplotter navionics and the other tablet google earth position plot.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I have OpenCPN and like it a lot but have settled on Coastal Explorer for one simple reason: the cost of the Canadian charts. Yes, CE itself is rather expensive, but MillTech Marine has some killer deals during boat show season!

    I have Navionics on an Android tablet as a backup; this is probably the second most cost effective way to get the Canadian charts.
    --​Anson, M/V Kingfisher

    Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~The Dalai Lama

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I now have OpenCPN up and running on my old laptop nav computer. A couple of glitches because it is a very old XP laptop that I intend to replace. But the tech support for OpenCPN is great thru the Cruisers Forum
    http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f134/
    As Chris said, learning curve is pretty easy if you have used other plotting software, and the features are great. I just ordered the dAISy AIS receiver ($59) and will get a dedicated AIS antenna (another $60) and I'll have AIS overlay on my charts. Really looking forward to that. I had been using an old MapTech Offshore Navigator which is no longer supported and isn't compatible with AIS and radar overlays. And the OpenCPN quilting and scaling of charts is seamless. No more having to wait for a new chart to load when you cruise off the edge of the current chart.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Watching with great interest. I'm finally stepping forward 2 centuries in my navigation. I'm still using compass and paper charts, but my navigation shores are pretty simple...I'm on the Columbia and you just need to keep it in the wet bit..

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I use paper charts and a magnetic compass if I need to reference them. I know my local waters well enough that I seldom actually need any of them. I do not have a chart plotter, or PC/Tablet on the boat. My electrical budget as it is now would be strained, were I to use any of these tools very much. If I were to relocate to an area where I am less intimately familiar with the waters, then I would probably have to consider improving my electrical system. I do carry a GPS chart system (GPS Nautical Charts, similar to Navionics) on my phone.
    Prior to having this installed, I was caught out in dense fog. I did use my paper charts and compass to get home, with no hick-ups. The most difficult part was that, after sailing for a couple of hours in thick fog ( hands free sailing meant I could effectively navigate and watchkeep), the wind died away to nothing, and I had to power. When powering I have to steer by hand continuously. Maintaining a course and navigating, and keeping a situational awareness, were difficult enough, but the noise of the engine brought real added difficulty in hearing other vessels in the vicinity. It was a bit of an adventure. I loaded the nav system onto my phone pretty much immediately, should I find myself in a similar situation.
    I think the availability of these system is one of the real advances made in safe operation of vessels. Having these tools does not diminish the need for proper training/knowledge/skills in navigation on the water.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I also have the Navionics app on my iPhone. I am amazed at how much I use it even on the tiny screen. The Navionics charts are a lot more detailed than the government raster charts and I used it a lot when entering tiny coves in the Gulf Islands recently.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by gilberj View Post
    I use paper charts and a magnetic compass if I need to reference them. I know my local waters well enough that I seldom actually need any of them. I do not have a chart plotter, or PC/Tablet on the boat. My electrical budget as it is now would be strained, were I to use any of these tools very much. If I were to relocate to an area where I am less intimately familiar with the waters, then I would probably have to consider improving my electrical system. I do carry a GPS chart system (GPS Nautical Charts, similar to Navionics) on my phone.
    Prior to having this installed, I was caught out in dense fog. I did use my paper charts and compass to get home, with no hick-ups. The most difficult part was that, after sailing for a couple of hours in thick fog ( hands free sailing meant I could effectively navigate and watchkeep), the wind died away to nothing, and I had to power. When powering I have to steer by hand continuously. Maintaining a course and navigating, and keeping a situational awareness, were difficult enough, but the noise of the engine brought real added difficulty in hearing other vessels in the vicinity. It was a bit of an adventure. I loaded the nav system onto my phone pretty much immediately, should I find myself in a similar situation.
    I think the availability of these system is one of the real advances made in safe operation of vessels. Having these tools does not diminish the need for proper training/knowledge/skills in navigation on the water.
    When I was a kid we were caught in a thick fog bank in Rosario Strait one day. Couldn't see 15 feet off the bow. Navigation was by compass and paper charts, which my dad was entirely competent with, but Thatcher Pass isn't all that large and one rocky island looks much like another when they loom out of the fog. Fortunately we encountered a gillnetter who had radar and all the electronics available back then so we just asked them where we were. Answer given, we crept off to find our way through Thatcher and on to Deer Harbor. I've always wondered what that fisherman thought of the lost family on the classic yacht who appeared out of the fog, asked directions and vanished again.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    When I was a kid in the San Juans, we were jigging for rock cod in the fog. A boat came out of the fog. The guy aboard asked us what island this was and then went away in the fog...
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    When I was a kid in the San Juans, we were jigging for rock cod in the fog. A boat came out of the fog. The guy aboard asked us what island this was and then went away in the fog...
    Ha! It wasn't a 40' Matthews Sedan, around 1981 or 1982 was it? That would be too funny.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    Ha! It wasn't a 40' Matthews Sedan, around 1981 or 1982 was it? That would be too funny.
    No it was a little fishing boat, known locally as a "puker."
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Chartplotting software for laptops

    I have not very often encountered serious fog as a recreational sailor. With a reasonable amount of care it can be avoided....Stay put rather than proceeding. I bear some fault in poor decision making for at least some of my fog adventures. With a full battery of electronics (pun intended) Radar, Sounder, electronic charts, GPS etc. it is really not a huge worry. When I had my big power boat I did not really hesitate in fog, but really did not like rough weather that much. As a sailor,( not having all the toys) rough weather is just more fun (within reason of course) but fog is less fun.....I prefer sailing. I'd add that usually when you approach the edge of your comfort zone you develop/sharpen skills and competency....not a bad thing for the most part.

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