Electronic charting on Estrellita: The State of Affairs
Notice that I did not claim this was state of the art.
One thing I enjoyed about running the IWAC Project particularly when I was prepping, was reading about what cruisers are actually doing – not what someone says is the ideal, not what a prepper has carefully researched (and is probably the best) but what people “out there” have cobbled together and are getting along with.
In that spirit, this is the set up we currently have that allows us to get around where we currently are...and we aren’t dead yet.
I loosely divide charting philosophies for cruisers into “gold standard” vs. “variety of options”. Of course, like any interesting dichotomy, most people think they are striking a balance between two extremes. However, since everyone’s balance varies from one side to the other, the dichotomy is still useful.
We have definitely taken the variety of options approach to navigation. This is probably not so much because of planning as it is because over time we’ve accumulated different resources and over time the options have changed. Still, although it may not have been put together with a master plan in mind, now that we have all of the options, we are glad to have them. We really like to see a few different types of charts for an area, plus satellite imagery when planning a trip.
Fairly regularly, on a short sail, we will have 4 methods of charting running. These four methods are:
- SAS Planet (freeware) running on a cheap netbook with a USB puck GPS.
- OpenCPN (freeware) running split screen on the same cheap netbook with the same USB puck being ported out to more than one COM with the software Franson GPSGate.
- A Garmin 76CX running Garmin BlueCharts.
- An iPad with iNavx and Navionics charts using only the internal GPS.
On passage we usually have either the Garmin or the iPad running, but not both. The Garmin and the iPad are low power consumers even compared to our old netbook. When we open the netbook for other things we will usually check in with OpenCPN as well but obviously for passages we rarely use satellite imagery – that would just show us a lot of blue water and clouds.
I’ll follow this post with a bit about each of the above.