Using iPad and Navionics as Chart Plotter


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mina
mina
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Many people are being woo 'ed by the cheap Navionics (and Garmin I believe) apps for iPhones and iPads. I have been experimenting with using an Ipad as my principal chart plotter and have concluded that the concept is a non-starter.

I have been cruising the east coast of South America over the last three years from top to bottom (and back). The C-Map coverage on my chart plotter for many of the places I have been to has been non-existent. The Navionics cartography was infinitely more comprehensive. So I decided to experiment with using an iPad in a waterproof housing as my principal chart plotter, using iNavX chart plotting software and downloading Navionics charts. I also have a Vesper XB8000 WiFi AIS transponder that streams AIS data as well as all the boat 's NMEA 0183 or 200 data to the chart. In theory this gives you almost everything a dedicated chart plotter provides, but for a fraction of the cost (and you have all the other functionality of the iPad to boot). However, I have found that it is unusable as a principal chart plotter because:

1.In bright sunlight, the chart can barely be seen
2.In hot climes, just at the point when you need it most, the screen blanks out with a message saying it is too hot, and cannot be rebooted for at least 10 minutes
3.When the screen gets wet from rain or spray, the touch screen doesn 't work - it has to be wiped dry every time you want to do anything like zoom in or out.
4.During the day, even when plugged in to a charger, the draw from the software and the brightest setting causes the battery to slowly drain.

Whilst the arrangement is great as a standby that you can use, for instance, at the helm when conning in or out of anchorages, it is sadly not fit for purpose as a principal chart plotter. So back to the drawing board and the cheque book!

Tim Barker, S/Y Mina2
Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell
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Tim, thank you so much for this post. We have been discussing this issue at length, deliberating which way to go. What you have said makes great sense. At least you can use your iPad for reading books and email!

Vice Commodore, OCC 
David Tyler
David Tyler
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"Different ships, different long splice", I guess. My experience is very different, anyway. However, I see any type of chartplotter as not being the principal means of navigation until you get up to the full-on ECDIS big ship nav systems, with built in redundancy and backup. Until you get to that stage, paper chart and GPS is the principal means, and a chartplotter is a great means of adding another layer of information, even if it 's not 100% reliable. Even the big ships carry paper charts.

Anyway, back to the iPad. I 've just sailed up through the tropics, Tahiti to Hawai 'i. I kept the iPad running all the way, plugged into the 12v socket. I read some novels in iBooks, listened to some music. No problems with keeping it charged. I don 't need to keep it out in bright sunlight. If I need to see it from the helm, I put it on the companionway step. If there 's any moisture about, I put it in a Ziploc bag, and have found no problem with the touchscreen. The screen is much, much better for daylight viewing than my Macbook, and Ive given up on OpenCPN and the like for navigation.

No, the iPad is great for those times when you actually need a chartplotter for info in real time, such as entering a strange port at night, and weaving between hidden dangers when the visibility is poor and landmarks not abundant. Other than that, when you 're offshore, what need of a chartplotter? Only, as far as I can see, to avoid having to buy and carry a shipload of detailed inshore charts. For my trip through the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound this summer, I 've got 1:200,000 paper charts, and will happily be using the iPad, and Transas iSailor and Garmin BlueChart, when the vis is poor, and when I 'm exploring the nooks and crannies.
the Admiral
the Admiral
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I thought I would add my experience with an iPad. We have a Ship Modul multiplexer that outputs NMEA data inc AIS over wifi. We are able to add waypoints and drive the pilot from the iNavX system. However, if the iPad is set to go to sleep then that function switches off!

We have a Raymarine plotter below and I was keen to be able to switch off the plotter whilst on longer passages and so the iPad is great for a quick check. We also use a waterproof bag that works well in wet conditions.

The other advantage of having a wifi tablet (iPad and Kindle Fire) on board is to be able to connect to the ship 's wireless router that can be connected to wifi (when in range) or satphone (when funds allow)

So, I like it very much and it suits our use perfectly.

Peter
dcaukill
dcaukill
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I would not dismiss the IPad so quickly.

We use it a lot, particularly where we can also get a phone signal because we cross reference the Navionics against a Google Earth.

I spent about $100 on a purpose built water/ shock proof cover - don 't recall the name - but it works and is pretty much bomb proof. If you don 't have a 3G signal you will need to spend time caching charts before you set off but I have found it in valuable because you can cross check your chart against. Google Earth using the same GPS fix.

Why is that important? Well, it allowed me to get out of the Fiji reefs leaving Musket Cove about A mile earlier than those using charts alone. It allowed me to navigate around Fiji where the Navionics simply gave up, and in Bland Bay, NZ it showed me the rock we were to ground on, some 70 metres from any navigational danger marked on the chart - sadly, after we had hit it!
dcaukill
dcaukill
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And the IPad proved a great back up when my chart plotter failed ( or more accurately, the SD Card corrupted) in Vanuatu last month.

iPad invaluable.
igsims
igsims
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We use IPad that does not have GPS but with XGPS150 unit connected by Bluetooth. Navionics basic app, UK chart package.. Used it instead of our laptop CMap system during Scottish OCC cruise recently. Accurate, fast, no prob with bright sun but we usually keep it below decks. Big bonus is it uses less power than laptop, good for ships batteries.

Doubt if it is robust enough for long voyaging but I 'm quite happy to use it for coastal cruising with paper chart available.

Ian Sims
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David Tyler
David Tyler
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I 'm in Prince William Sound, Alaska. I have the paper charts, but they 're difficult to read when I 'm exploring the minor channels and tiny coves where the US Coast Pilot says "not to be entered without local knowledge". The iPad is proving to be totally reliable, and I can zoom right in to see the detail that I can 't make out on the paper chart. However, one app is not enough. I have Garmin Bluechart and iSailor, and frequently have to compare one with the other, and choose the one which has the better detail. Though they 're both based on the NOAA charts, they do vary as to what they choose to include.
EdKelly
EdKelly
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We have loved the iPad and used it as a strong adjunct to our Raymarine E120 and our Mac MacENC computer when crossing the North Atlantic to good avail in 2011... We use it intermittently inside & out in good wx only. (The 1st non-3G iPads in USA did not have GPS chipset, but that was not a problem with us.) During our circumnavigation of Europe (at least the old Roman Empire part of it) we particularly have liked both the Navionics Charts and the iGrib program. We used it navigating the rivers Rhein, Main, and Danube but found no charts of value on the lower Danube (where they just show the river in a useless solid use blue color). But from the Black Sea, through the Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles and Aegean to the Med, all the way to Gibraltar... where we are now ... it has often been a Godsend. We also have relied on the App from the Cruising Assn with all its Captains Mate for finding good anchorages, which are available when offline! We also are very impressed with upgrades that continue in iNavX program and like the newest WeatherTrack app. You can see the latter in operation on YouTube. Finally, we are today downloading the App for iPad that Iridium and App for XGate that let you do email and wx downloads from our Iridium Sat Phone via WiFi accessory.
Simon Currin
Simon Currin
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Ed I think iPad navigation has really come on in recent months. It 's worth taking a look too at the Garmin charts for iPad (BlueChart) which are also relatively inexpensive (when compared to Chart plotter versions) and integrate with Active Captain as well as GRIBS, weather radar etc.

It won 't be long before we are all wondering how we ever managed without an iPad on board!

Simon
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