Making a Chartplotter out of your Laptop for under $225

Presented byLt/C Bob Eure, AP, February 10, 2009

        This article assumes you already have a computer that you can use on your boat, therefore, this cost is not included.  To make a chartplotter out of your laptop, you need four things, (1) a laptop computer, (2) chartplotter software, (3) a GPS receiver, and (4) electronic raster nautical charts.   Very specific items are required to bring this together for under $225.

 

       

        For the chartplotter software, you need Maptech’s Offshore Navigator.  Offshore Navigator GPS planning and chartplotting software is a real-time navigation program fully compatible with Maptech/BSB charts.  You can use it to plan routes, print route plans and show your real-time GPS position right on the PC screen.  Maptech’s web site claims this is available for sale separately without charts though no price is provided at

         http://www.maptechnavigation.com/water/offshorenavigator/index.cfm.

It is also available for the low price of  $99.95 from

         http://www.landfallnavigation.com/emonav.html and

         http://www.captainsnautical.com/11828/Maptech-Offshore-Navigator.html.

Make sure your laptop meets the minimum requirements to run this software.  I know Windows XP works.

 

 

                For the GPS receiver, Maptech offers two compatible units. One is the iGPS USB GPS Receiver for $99.95 and features a 32 channel design, is WAAS & EGNOS enabled, NMEA compatible, & a magnetic housing for secure positioning.  The other is the Zenstar III GPS with USB Connector for $119.95 and features a 3 meter cable that connects to standard USB ports, an antenna that draws power from the USB port, a compact size of  1 3/4" x 2 1/2" x 3/4", a waterproof integrated antenna/receiver, 20 channel design, with 1 to 5 meter typical accuracy and quick satellite acquisition time.  You can order either of these from http://www.maptechnavigation.com/accessories/usbgps/index.cfm.

 

                You are up to about $220, but what about the charts?  Through an agreement between the government and Maptech, the NOAA offers free compatible electronic nautical charts.  Charts are available at http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/Raster/index.htm.  NOAA’s Raster Navigation Charts (RNC) are geo-referenced, digital images of NOAA navigational charts. Because the images are geo-referenced, you can display your vessel’s position on the chart image with a computer-based navigation system that is connected to a Global Positioning System (GPS) as explained above.  As long as you have a dry location to use the laptop, this can serve as a primary or backup navigation capability!

P/C Bob Eure, AP