Far Out Page 2

Far Out
Far Out
Part 2: Electronic Charts continued

By Capt. Bill Pike — March 2001
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Far Out
• Part 2: Far Out continued
 Related Resources
• Gear and Electronics Editorial Index
• Gear and Electronics Resources
 Elsewhere on the Web
• C-Map
• Maptech
• Navionics
• Nobeltec
• Pinpoint Systems
• Raytheon Marine
• Si-Tex

Another dramatic breakthrough heretofore reserved for professional navigators aboard commercial vessels, entails the overlaying of radar targetry on the comparatively small plotter screens of yachts. Nobeltec again is a player here, with the Si-Tex Radar PC, a 2-kW radar sensor/GPS/personal-computer combo it developed with Si-Tex. While the power and range of the unit is fairly low, Nobeltec says it will put gutsier, open-array,  primary-type radars on the market soon.

Pinpoint Systems, which sells The Cap'n software navigation system, offers another approach to the radar overlay concept. Add a Titan Targetmaster processing board to your PC as well as a Radar Watch upgrade to The Cap'n, and you'll have a package capable of superimposing transparent radar images atop charts displayed by the system's SoftChart electronic cartography.

Another player in this area is the Raytheon RayTech Navigator PC software mentioned earlier. When interfaced with the company's 80 Series Pathfinder radars, it will not only overlay a radar cursor, EBL (Electronic Bearing Line) and VRM (Variable Range Marker) on Maptech or C-Map NT cartography, but also, via a Mini Automated Radar Plotting Aid (MARPA) feature, will provide on-screen collision-avoidance data for up to 10 targets. Whether a navigator opts for Nobeltec's, Pinpoint's, or Raytheon's product, the resultant ability to cross-reference radar and chart data with sure-fire accuracy is bound to prove useful.

The most radical extras packaged into electronic cartography and software these days seem closer to science fiction than anything else. The wildest of the bunch are the programs that show the ocean floor in 3-D. Nobeltec's Visual Navigation Suite 6.0 offers such capabilities, as does the 3D Cap'n, an option that delivers simultaneous, split-screen views of cartography and 3-D bottom structure. Raytheon also expects to package ocean-floor topography with its next incarnation of RayTech, to be issued some time this spring. Maptech's Contour program relies on detailed soundings from NOAA and other sources and, via split-screen imagery, allows you to plot in 2-D on a NOAA raster chart and in 3-D on a Contour chart at the same time. What is perhaps even more exciting is Maptech's Data Collection Module, a related feature that lets a navigator augment or create his own Contour charts with his own soundings, a tool presumably useful to professional cartographers as well as amateur ones.

So are there other useful, cutting-edge tools available? Some manufacturers are offering automatic update services that bypass having to deal with U.S. Coast Guard Notice to Mariners bulletins. Maptech has a weekly update feature that automatically copies corrections from the bulletins to its electronic charts via the Internet. Nobeltec automatically updates its Passport cartography four times a year by mail, and C-Map updates twice a year more or less the same way. The latter manufacturer, by the way, laces its vector-based C-Map NT cartridges with lots of point-and-click "Quick Info" windows with oodles of useful information on ports, marinas, fuel docks, launch ramps, hospitals, and tide tables.

Which brings up one last point. Virtually all of the electronic cartography available these days contains way more information than conventional paper charts do. Consider Nobeltec's Streets, Roads and More, for example, a feature which extends maps inland for 50 miles. And then there's Maptech's Light Lists and Coast Pilots, Navionics' new Tides and Currents package, and the North American Tides and Currents module available with the latest version of RayTech software. Combine goodies like these with all the others already mentioned, and it's easy to see why the field of electronic cartography is growing fast these days and getting, in the best sense of the phrase, pretty darn far out.

C-Map USA (508) 477-8010. Fax: (508) 477-6168. www.c-map.com.

Maptech (888) 839-5551. Fax: (978) 933-3040. www.maptech.com.

Navionics (800) 848-5896. Fax: (508) 291-6006. www.navionics.com.

Nobeltec (503) 579-1414. Fax: (503) 579-1304. www.nobeltec.com.

OceanGrafix (877) 56CHART. Fax: (651) 726-5639.

Pinpoint Systems (631) 288-0264. Fax: (631) 288-0294. www.pinpointsys.com.

Raytheon Marine Company (800) 539-5539. Fax: (603) 864-4756. www.raymarine.com.

Si-Tex (727) 576-5995. Fax: (727) 576-5547. www.si-tex.com.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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