Marine navigation on laptop?
You will also hear vector and raster in the world of graphic arts.

A raster is a fancy name for a bitmap image (Think photograph or a picture you scanned using a scanner). Yeh that's right, a scanner rasterises the image it sees into a bitmap.

A vector on the other hand is totally different and has its roots in pure maths because the image is described by a series of mathematical equations that plot each image. Vectors are smaller and can be scaled to any size without loss of quality. An common example of a vector graphic is a truetype font.

Street maps lend themselves to being vectorised (I use Odyssey Navigator) but topographic maps and marine charts are often produced as bitmaps or rasters by scanning the original paper charts. One popular raster mapping program is OziExplorer which I use and it allows you to scan a paper map and calibrate it by defining the latitude and longitude of a few points o the map (often the intersections of gridlines on the map). It supports a variety of industry standard raster map formats such as ECW and you can purchase or download from government sites many different maps and charts. I have about 20 Gb of maps for OziExplorer but the footprint of Odyssey vector maps for the whole country is tiny in comparison.
I sail on the Chesapeake Bay. These are my experiences using a laptop based chart plotter aboard my sailboat.

a) First and foremost, I usually find it to be somewhat impractical .. the screen is not visible at the cockpit in bright light. So, I basically use the computer to plan routes and generate waypoints for my GPS.

b) I find the laptop to be somewhat cumbersome with full featured software. There is just too much mouse clicking to functions buried deep in the menu structure. It gets somewhat stressful finding the cursor on a washed out screen and then remembering how to work the software with situations developing while under way.

c) I find the computer most valuable a night, during poor visibility or when I'm 'somewhat' lost (Heaven forbid that) or confused. So, despite my cited operational difficulties, I never leave port without it.

A few years ago, I've looked at vector charts. Back then, I found they required lots of customization and clicking to display the data I need. Somehow, I never could get the software showing exactly what I really want to see. Maybe I should revisit for current options.

So I settled on good old fashioned raster images of the familiar NOAA paper charts. Everything is in the 'picture' without a lot clicking to see it. Maptech software works well with the free NOAA raster charts and it doesn't cost an 'arm and a leg' to keep the charts current. Where possible, I hide the screen features I don't want to see maximizing viewing area.

But, I usually use a chart plotter that I programmed myself. It's a hobby project that's been ongoing for about ten years; a minimalist effort (not suitable for distribution) implementing only my essential features.

The chart occupies the entire screen except for scroll bars and the control/display bar at the bottom where the geographic coordinates of the cursor are displayed. When a GPS is connected, position, speed and course are also displayed on the bottom bar with a bullseye showing GPS position on the chart. When the right mouse button is pushed, there's a rhumb line drawn from the GPS position bullseye to the cursor with bearing and distance to the cursor displayed. Holding the left mouse button while moving from a start to stop point draws a rhumb line and displays bearing and distance between the points. Double clicking on the chart, generates a waypoint. Waypoints are formatted into a NMEA sentence that is recognized by my Garmin GPS for ease of entry.

Except for a chart select dialog box button and second seldom used button showing setup dialog for adjusting a few options, that's all I've found necessary as a recreational sailor.

--- CaptChas
I hope people don't mind me posting to these threads from last year...

MrUmbra's post is interesting, but opposite to my usage.

I charter 37' - 42' sailboats on the Canadian west coast and the BVIs. Most have a chartplotter in the cockpit, but rather than struggle with learning them I set up my 14" laptop below on the nav table or salon table. I have my planned route plotted and I can see it fine for general steering from the the cockpit.

I reply on paper charts and other publications for checking navigation hazards and other information, but I'm never alone on these trips so I have somebody to man the helm if I'm below looking at the PC or paper charts while under way. I haven't felt the need to try to set it up in the cockpit.
I'm looking for help. Marine navigation. I have a laptop running Windows 7, I have a Garmin Mobile PC 20, I have 3 CHS digital charts PAC04 Lakes and Rivers of BC. The GPS works fine for roads, but how do I get the GPS system to load the charts?

Thanks folks, be gentle, first post.
Ken in Regina
Those charts are a Fugawi product. They require Fugawi Marine ENC to use them on your Windows 7 laptop for marine navigation.

You should be able to use the GPS20x receiver with Fugawi Marine ENC.

Garmin Mobile PC does not show most of the marine navigational objects so it's no good for marine navigation even if you buy Garmin's charts for it.

OK, thanks. I have a Navman 5500 GPS plotter on the boat, but I was hoping that I could use the CHS charts on a PC to save some $$. The CMAP charts are about $100 each lake, and I got the major BC lakes for $50. Any other suggestions?
For my own education, Ken, how do you know that these CHS charts are from Fugawi? If they are direct form CHS or another vendor, you can use them with other software, such as the free PolarView from PolarNavy (well, $33 to activate moving map display for on-the-water).

FiddlersDad, where did you get these charts? Have you installed them to any device or computer yet? What 3 charts do you have besides PAC04 (BC lakes and rivers)?

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning to spend a week in the San Juan Islands! I wish the CHS would make our maps free as the NOAA has done in the US.

Ken in Regina
If Fugawi Marine ENC is more than you want to spend to be able to use the CHS charts then look at Fugawi Global Navigator. It's half the price and the charts can be used with it. It's a road navigation program so I'm not sure what features you would be missing from the Marine program or if they matter to you. You can check and compare the features of each on Fugawi's product pages.

My recommendation, if you want to use those charts, is to go to Fugawi's product pages for the two navigation programs, download them for a free 10-day trial and see if they're what you are looking for.

You won't find anything free that will do anything useful for you and I doubt if you will find anything more cost-effective than the Fugawi solution. Fugawi's prices for those two navigation products are cheap for what you get and their support is rated very highly.

I must admit to being a little bit puzzled about why you bought the CHS charts in the first place? What did you plan to use to view them if not one of the Fugawi navigation programs? The CDs don't contain any viewing software. Is there something else out there that you can view them with?

I know for a fact that you can use CHS charts, both BSB and ENC, with the $33 PolarView program if the charts are purchased from a generic vendor. I _think_ if you buy them from Navionics or Fugawi (X-Traverse, etc) then they are "pre-locked" to only work with their respective viewing/charting software.

PolarView has a ways to go but is fully usable now and has full marine chart-plotting features.

Once you unlock charts to one program it's not easy to move them to another, but it apparently can be done.

Ken in Regina
Thanks Rick. This marine stuff is all new to me. I use water for drinking and showers.

PolarView looks like a good planning program. It allows you to do routes that you can export to a GPS navigation device using the GPX file format. But doesn't that kind of require that you have some sort of useful maps on the GPS device in order for the routes to be useful?

Would standard road maps like, say, Garmin's Metroguide, or perhaps free topos like the Ibycus Canadian topo maps, be useful for this if someone first plotted the route with the CHS charts in something like PolarView?

Fugawi's solution is a little more expensive but includes both the planning and navigation functions.

There are two programs, PolarView and PolarCom. The latter adds instrument displays. These are free. The $33 activation adds full navigation, moving map display just like Fugawi Marine ENC, Garmin MapSource, MapTech Chart Navigator, etc. Don't let the price fool you. With a laptop, it _is_ a chartplotter device just like all the other programs. So, it's not just for planning!

To use my Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx with PolarView, I have to use the free Garmin program called "spanner" for PolarView to recevie the GPS data via a virtual com port. You can also use Franson GPSGate, but it's not free. I have successfully used both but will go with spanner since it's free.

I exported gpx files from PolarView, imported them into Garmin MapSource, then downloaded them to my handheld GPSMAP 76CSx. That works fine.

PolarView is a work in progress but usable now. I've exchanged many emails with the programmer. You don't get to do that with the big commercial packages!

Here are the PolarComa and PolarView NS links:

I noted that it was suggested early in this thread that you could purchase SeaClearII and NOAA charts bundled on a CD off of eBay. Both of these resources are offered for free at there respective individual websites. They can be found by Googling.
Yes, I see that the US folks have their nav bundles available free. I have downloaded several of them. It would be great if the Cdn govt would provide our charts the same way, but that's the difference between a socialist and capitalist society. We pay for govt services and the Americans get their stuff for free. (He said with his tongue in cheek.)

I think I will probably end up getting the offshore navigator from Maptech and their GPS unit. Those will both work with the Canadian charts and give me the flexibility to add other Canadian Charts for the Westcoast.
Can someone please give me the name of a free gps ais or radar download.
thanks in advance About