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Second gps for sailing plus. Building a system.

Northoceanbeach 0 Points
edited November -1 in GPS Recommendations
Hi all. I am pretty new to the world of GPS receivers. I've got to say though, they are fun!

My first was a garmin edge 800 for cycling. I didn't know what to expect. I expected world maps built in but quickly learned you pay for maps. Anyways. I'm not a really tech savvy guy, I'm just learning. I have some apple products and I expected the garmin to look like google maps on the iphone right out of the box. So I was pretty disappointed that for $650 I got something that looked like 1990's technology. I returned it.

Last summer I took a six month sailing trip to Canada and used a combo of paper maps an a garmin etrex 20 with 100k topo. That was ok.

Next summer I'm sailing longer and farther and am looking to upgrade my system. I was thinking an ipad mini with mini sd cards with downloaded nautical charts for trip planning and then a handheld for sailing that can use the charts either by plugging into the ipad or putting the sd card into it. I'm making this up as I go. I don't really know what is and isn't possible.

Does this sound like it would work? I didn't know last summer but you can get charts for free. I thought you had to buy the expensive garmin cards for each location.

What handheld would work best for me? I'll pay what I have to if its worth it. Here's what I want:

Clear screen. Not the outdated graphics.
Decent size screen
But...would like it to be portable and fit in a pocket.
Intuitive interface
Fast processing
Good map selection
Rugged for getting banged around and wet
Good compass
Versatile, so I can take it biking or driving or hiking sometimes too.

I know most boaters use the gpsmaps 78 which I think is the same as the 62 just a different shape. Every review just loves those but the screen is so old looking. I'm open though if they really are that good.

Are magellans good? I like the way the screen on the explorist line looks but don't know much about them. I guess they use navionics charts and garmin uses g2. I don't know which are better. Or is there just a wide world of free charts online waiting for me to discover. And if so do they work for both brands?


  • alanb 557 Points
    Take a look at the Garmin Montana 600. It fits all of your requirements. Lots of maps are available for Garmin products, although you need to pay for the maps you get from Garmin. There are also free maps available from GPS File Depot and Open Street Maps.
  • Boyd 2028 Points
    edited November 2013
    I really don't have any familiarity with marine devices, but do have a few random thoughts....

    I think the significant spec for the GPSMap 78 is that it floats whereas none of the more advanced Garmin devices (with better screens) do. Don't know if that matters however, they all have the same water resistance rating but the othem models will sink if you drop them overboard.

    I think the comparison to an iPhone is tough to make. For starters, the price of the phone is generally rolled into a 2 year contract so it really is something like a $600 phone that you are financing over time. And Apple makes these things by the millions, giving them economies of scale that Garmin doesn't enjoy for their more specialized devices.

    Second, it is using the cellular data network to display Google (or Apple) maps that reside on their servers but Garmin devices must have the entire map database loaded of the device itself. When you use Google maps, you have to pay for the cellular data that you use - and if you want "world maps" that could be very expensive in a foreign country.

    Third, you will not get very much battery life running an iPhone at full screen brightness out in the sun. Handheld GPS devices are optimized for long battery life and use transreflective screens that can be seen with the backlight turned off. These screens have relatively low pixel counts in order to meet these design goals.

    Do you have some specific iPad software in mind for planning? Is it compatible with handheld gps devices? I know the iPad doesn't have an SD card slot, not sure what peripherals might support that. Garmin does make the Bluechart Mobile app and it's free. But I think it only works with their very expensive, larger marine devices.

    The most advanced Garmin handheld is currently the Monterra. It was supposed to start shipping this week but the date has been pushed back. It runs Android and has many new features, but the 4" 480x272 screen is probably going to seem pretty crude if you are used to iOS devices.

    The Montana is about two years old and was previously the top of the line. It also has a 4" 480x272 screen but uses an older technology and is not multi-touch like the Monterra. It also runs Garmin's proprietary software instead of Android.

    How are you getting free charts? You can download the free NOAA charts and turn them into Garmin "custom maps", but this kind of map is limited to coverage of very small areas.
  • Boyd 2028 Points
    Take a look at the Garmin Montana 600.
    In the past I would have also said this. But my lack of familiarity with Marine features and this thread now make me wonder.... :)
  • I'm not getting free maps yet, I had just heard that you could. Like noaa has made all the u.s. For free online. I guess I don't know how that translates to a GPS.

    Where do you guys get your maps?

    I think the only deifference when using a handheld on a boat is that I'll be usin nautical charts instead of topographic maps. But all te decent garmins say they run blue charts, even my etrex so it doesn't have to be a sailing specific device for me. I think they are the same.

    Anyone know more about magellan?
  • Boyd 2028 Points
    I'm not getting free maps yet, I had just heard that you could. Like noaa has made all the u.s. For free online.
    This is true. However this kind of map is known as "raster imagery". Basically, it's a picture, such as a TIFF or JPEG file, that has been aligned to the surface of the earth.

    These are very different from traditional Garmin maps which are vector-based. A vector map is really just a database of coordinates along with instructions on how to connect them.

    Each kind of map has advantages and disadvantages. Raster imagery is good for satellite photos or for capturing the subtlety of hand-drawn maps. But as you zoom out everything gets too small to read and as you zoom in it breaks up into big pixels.

    Vector based maps maintain constant line thickness and text size through the full zoom range.

    But on Garmin, you must make raster based maps yourself which will involve some special software and some effort. And the big limitation is that Garmin devices will only accept relatively small maps of this type (probably so they don't compete with their own products).

    Their spec calls for breaking the map into 1024x1024 pixel "tiles" and many models will only allow a total of 100 tiles to be loaded on the device. The newest models (Montana, Oregon 600, Monterra) allow 500 tiles to be used.

    I am not familiar with marine charts, but have made many of these maps myself from USGS 24k topos. 100 tiles would only make a topo map about 20 miles x 20 miles. 500 tiles would cover about 45 miles x 45 miles. So I don't think this is going to be such a good solution for a sailing trip. You actually would need to physically swap memory cards to change maps because you cannot enable/disable separate maps of this type on Garmin.

    Garmin has - by far - the lion's share of the market. One reason is the growing number of free maps available from places like gpsfiledepot and openstreetmap. Really nothing like that on Magellan.

    Personally, I have some maps I purchased from Garmin and I make my own specialized, highly detailed vector based maps. I have shared some of these at GPSFileDepot as well.
  • privet01 231 Points
    As a sailor, IMHO you really need a dedicated marine chartplotter. Garmin makes some good ones. Some for less than 600 bucks. If you do any serious sailing, you'll regret not having a bigger screen. So I'd advise buying the biggest screen you can afford in a chart plotter. Features for the most part are common through out so you won't find a lot of difference there unless you truly need some niche feature. I've bough some older chartplotters off ebay, but only when they are a steal on the price. And I've been very satisfied with them. I wouldn't buy from ebay just to save a 100 bucks though.

    I do use a marine handheld too, an old GPSmap76csx, it works great for many things including boat navigation. But the small screen is a nuisance for planing, getting an overall view of where you are at, and for use at night or in fog. Seems to take to much effort for my eyes to focus on it, then readjust for looking out into the dark or fog. But I do keep it close by for a backup. Sometimes I even put it and a waterproof VHF in a bag on my belt, just in case I go overboard when on watch by my self at night. It may not work, but there is some comfort for me that I might be able to reach someone on the radio and tell them my position if I go overboard.

    My primary GPS for the boat only has a 5 inch screen. It too is still not adequate for serious trip planning or to give that overall view of where you are at. But it's good enough for knowing your immediate surroundings and for sailing at night or in fog. So DON'T throw away your paper charts. I almost always have mine out when going on lengthy trips. Another thing you can do is download all the free rasters from NOAA and convert them to a .JPEG (google raster to .jpeg) and I store them on my ipod, usb drive, laptop, tablet and phone, so I'll have them when needed.

    "Free charts" especially marine, for your GPS just are not there yet, believe me I've looked at the options regularly for the last 7 years. Maybe one day. Making your own is tedious and time consuming. The benefits don't outweigh the effort for me. Thankfully, you don't really need to keep your GPS maps up to date, provided you keep your download rasters or paper up to date. Plus you should be getting the NOTAM's (notice to mariner's) from the Coast Guard for your area too. There is some good info in them. They are published weekly for each CG district.

    I've only used Garmin Marine devices, so I can't make any comparison. There is plenty to both like and hate about them.

    Oh yeah, don't get the idea that GPS is accurate enough for passage through narrows and around shoals or such. If your visual cues are telling you one thing and the gps is telling you another, go with your vision. Otherwise you'll go aground or hit a piling.
  • Great info guys thanks. I guess garmin it is.

    You know the one thing that threw me entirely in garmins camp? When I called it was and easy to talk to, friendly lady in kansas. When I called magellan it was a weird Indian who couldn't understand what I was trying to ask about maps. So I think a garmin oregon for my handheld and ill work towards a garmin chart plotter to integrate with my autopilot in the future.

    I'm liking these little handheld ones a lot though. Because I am not always on the boat. I'm on the road, I'm hiking, biking, whatever so I do need low than a chart plotter.

    I am also a road biker and while I found garmins road biking GPS to be an overpriced pos imappreciate the fact they sponser a professional team.
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