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When shopping for a used boat, the last thing we wanted to spend money on is still functioning, but old and out-of-date electronics. I’d rather there be no electronics on the boat than 5 yr old stuff that the seller feels is still worth what he paid for it, but that has really lost most of its value. The Maramu that we just purchased is completely absent of a chart plotter, which in my mind, is perfect. It does have a Furuno radar system which appears to be still functioning. I have next to no experience with radar though so we’ll have to see how that goes.

We really like the Garmin chart plotters.

I created a thread on the ZTC Facebook Page asking readers to post what brand of chart plotter(s) they have on their boat, and their experiences with it(them), positive or negative. At a glance, the Garmin systems are popular, and thought of. That jives with my personal experiences too. I really like the Garmin 546 that we have on ZTC. I found it much easier to use than the Raymarine C80 that was originally on the Leopard, and the C95 that we replaced it with. I also like the Garmin cartography better too.

For our initial trip to Grenada, we’ll be relying upon the Garmin Bluechart Mobile app on our iPad. After that, who knows. Feel free to post your thoughts on chart plotter (and radar) systems. Positive and negative reviews are both appreciated.

28 Comments

  1. My only comment is to have some paper as a back-up. I know that sounds silly, but I’ve found big errors in Navionics (I think the program picked up numbers from nearby text and translated them to depth–50 feet vs 6 feet) and Garmin (for a while, one section of the Chesapeake was plotted off by 10 minutes when you changed zoom–they fixed it).

    Another alternative, of course, is several systems; given how cheap tablet systems are, why not? While something marine is needed at the helm, if I were going far and did not have paper for all of it, I would have perhaps 2 back-ups (laptop + tablet). Currently, I often use the tablet side-by-side with the Garmin at the helm in difficult areas; it is nice to have 2 windows open with different information.

    And don’t pull a “Vestas Wind!” With an all-pro crew, that must have been very uncomfortable to explain.

    • Ha… no kidding. I am all about redundancy, and I’ve heard from friends who have been down south (Chile) that the electronic charts are off by a considerable amount. Radar becomes more important there, I believe.

  2. Love my garmin 740s .seems that all the bib guys have come out with a model to compete with
    That system. Simrad has some awesome new units. Think I will stick with Garmin. Their customer service has been awesome to me. When I was putting it on the boat I had
    An air at transducer already installed , that was actually for a different brand plotter.the Garmin tech actually called air airmar , figured out what would and wouldn’t work.
    Then he hand drew instructions for me to cut off the factory plug, and such wires to jumper and color coded the drawing for wiring on a new connection. All in all I’m sure he spent
    A couple hours helping me make it all work. And did I remember to say he spoke perfect English 🙂

  3. Be sure to ask Garmin how long they will be providing an updated chip! That’s why we dropped the dollars & purchased the lastest made chart plotter. We got the 12″ screen, easier to see for us older folks!

  4. Integration between charts, radar and AIS, the combination adds a lot of value.
    May that be on a plotter, or laptop/pad in a networked environment.

    Do you want or need multiple chart vendors on one device? Or a specific one?
    Update availability. Is there already an announced end of life for the device? And if not what will it likely be? Or is the vendor prone to suddenly announce the EOL?

    It does not sound like there is much of instrumentation on the boat. So in the long run much of it will be a new installation which will be networked. Don’t forget a way to access to instrument data if plotter dies? Say a small MFD for essentials like depth. Or again networking with laptop/pad.

  5. Ours came with an outdated Raymarine, and we upgraded to a Garmin a few months after buying the boat. I definitely feel like the Garmin is more intuitive and user friendly.
    But hey – whatever you choose, it will be better than no chart plotter!
    Have fun making her “yours!”

  6. I’m less up-to-date on marine electronics than I have been in the past because over the last few years, marine electronics have come into the modern networking age and I was letting all that work itself out before I started paying attention. I’m just now starting to do some research on what I want get to replace my older garmin chart plotter on my monohull.

    What is important to me is that I can reduce screens at the helm. I have a separate radar screen at the moment and I want to integrate that into the chart plotter – and that’s pretty standard nowadays. The raymarine (E series I believe) that I just was able to get a demo on at West Marine had a feature that really appeals to me. Using wifi, it will mirror the very same screen on an iPad and you can do EVERYTHING on the iPad that you can do on the chart plotter (according to the salesman). I really like that feature. I’ve not determined what I’m gonna go with during my upgrade/replacement, but that was a feature that I can see lots of use for.

    • The C95 that we had on the Leopard had a companion iPad app that I could use to mirror the chart plotter. While it sounds really cool, in my case it was more of a novelty. I think I used it for real only in once instance. Your milage may vary.

  7. For me, the most important consideration is whether you can integrate your chart plotter with the rest of your systems. Having radar overlay on a chart plotter is a great way to alert you to chart discrepancies. AIS overlay is nice, but other than in crowded waterways, more of curiosity comfort than a navigational aid. Depth, wind direction & speed are essential unless you have other displays for these values. For me, the most important is that it interfaces with the autopilot. Having automatic compensation for leeway and current frees me up to look around and visually see where I’m going when entering a tight spot without having to constantly check the plotter and slipping into tunnel vision with it. I have a really old Raymarine system (not supported anymore), that I supplemented with my laptop and Android Tablet for backup, and have Navionics, C-Map, MX Mariner , OpenCPN and another two or three navigation apps on them. I find the tablet apps clumsy to use, no where near the precision I can get on the char plotter or laptop, and the tablet apps do not give me anywhere near the information I can get from the chartplotter or laptop, like crosstrack error, time to next waypoint, time to destination, velocity made good to windward or destination.

    • Plenty to consider. It’s interesting how we each have our own priorities. What is the “most important” for one person is unnecessary, or sometimes even undesirably for another. Reading the comments here and on the Facebook thread are evidence of that.

  8. I dislike having too much information on one display. That in itself has led to accidents in aviation (pilot forgot what was on which screen), which led to some changes.

    I would prefer that wind, actual depth, and speed through water (if you have it) be separate, with GPS and radar allowed to overlay, though in good visibility I would probably turn AIS and Radar off; too much information.

    I really like the eyeball best. What is it they stress to pilots? Aviate, navigate, communicate.

  9. Remember – all these fancy MFD, etc are nothing more than aids to navigation. I’m with Drew – you need paper charts for backup. And do a regular position fix using the electronics when in the middle of nowhere. I saw a great 1968 C.Plath sextant for sale the other day, but it was snapped up.
    And be sure you are able to make espresso.

  10. We installed a Garmin 741xs ( http://svgimmeshelter.com/2014/12/17/charting-our-way-towards-the-holidays/ ). Love it. We added a wind instrument, and I plan to add the radar dome and AIS if my wife ever lets me spend the money.

  11. Hi
    I have been following you on this site since you first started.
    I enjoy your comments greatly, but this is my first comment.
    I have had a Garmin 4008 for several years and love it. There are many reefs around my part of the world (Queensland Australia) and the maps are so easy to read.
    The Blue chart maps for the plotter are MUCH better than the Blue chart for IPads that is available and also much easier to use than Navionics. I use the other two as backups.
    Only criticism is they don’t update the charts regularly enough.
    Go Garmin.

  12. B & G are the best and the integrative module, with third parties for Radar and etc’

  13. Hi guys,

    We recently upgraded the electronics in our boat. We sailed for several years with the iPads and we got to where we wanted to without incident. However it was time to take the plunge for more stability and reliability.

    We went all B&G with Zeus2 MFD, 4G radar, V50 VHF and WIFI-1 router. We still use the iPads but now all units are getting their nav and AIS data directly from the Zeus2 via WIFI. We have one stable platform that we don’t have to worry about charging or running out of juice at an inopportune time. We still use iNavX, we still use Charts and Tides for the Active Captain data but now we enjoy a greater sense of ease.

    I am sure whatever you end up choosing will be good for you. Enjoy!

  14. Mike, check NKE Marine Electronics products. Lower price than B&G. Many french solo sailors use NKE. NKE does not offer any chart ploter, but why would you want one these days? Just get couple android tablets (one as backup) and laptop with Adrena or MaxSea. Stream data from laptop to tablet or just use tablet software as Navionics Boating HD. Chart ploters are just bricks for one purpose at a high price.

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