Cruising for Hotspots Page 3

Electronics — July 2005
By Ben Ellison

Cruising for Hotspots
Electronics Q&A
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Any suggestions as to which is better, C-Map or Navionics? M.G., via PMY Electronics forum
That’s a tough question, only getting tougher. When Navionics introduced its Gold format, I found it about equal to C-Map’s NT+ in terms of readability and detail and to Garmin’s BlueChart format, too—all pretty good. But Gold and NT+ each have certain special features—like Navionics’ Xplain easy-to-understand nav-aid descriptions and C-Map’s Guardian antigrounding alarm—that you may or may not care about and also may or may not work the same, or at all, from one model plotter to another.

Then there’s the question of coverage. Aside from unique “homemade” items like C-Map’s detailed marina charts and Navionics’ high-resolution lake maps, all the chart companies offer complete NOAA-based U.S. saltwater portfolios, but foreign charts are a different matter. Cartography for certain areas like the Bahamas varies widely depending on whose source data was used, and in fact, for that area neither brand you’re considering offers the best detail. Plus well-informed region-by-region comparisons are hard to find. I suggest asking a major dealer like Bluewater Books & Charts, but don’t be surprised to learn that no one electronic chart brand is best everywhere; that’s why so many passagemakers have at least an auxiliary PC charting program that can read multiple chart formats.

The plot thickens. You may have read by now about C-Map’s and Navionics’ new formats (see “Electronics,” June 2005). Each is full of features not seen on plotters before, but they are quite different from each other, and hardly anyone, including me, has had much chance to really work with either. Add to this Garmin’s recent announcement that its new 192c plotter will ship with every U.S. coastal BlueChart built into memory and ready to use, though the model’s $946 price remains similar to its chartless predecessor. Meanwhile, more information is coming out about Lowrance’s first foray into full-detail plotter charts, called NauticPath and apparently based on the same data Garmin started with. They’ll be included on new plotters with hard drives and also on a $109 card that works in all the company’s current machines, including handhelds. And coverage extends to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. All these developments strike me as good news (and I hope to further investigate each), except that choosing a plotter/chart combination is getting more complicated.

Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: For fastest response, visit the Electronics forum at No phone calls, please.

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This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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