Peeking into the Crystal Ball Page 3

Electronics — October 2003
By Ben Ellison

Peeking into the Crystal Ball
Electronics Q&A
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: GPS
• Part 2: GPS
• Electronics Q&A
• Si-Tex
• C-Map
• Deluo
• Maptech
• SetSail

 Related Resources
• Electronics Column Index
• Electronics Feature Index

I’m looking at several brands of fixed chartplotters and wondering which is best for sharing data and charts with my home computer. T.Z., via e-mail
Frankly, this is an area where reality has not quite caught up to the hype, let alone the potential. For instance, C-Map’s PC Planner is a terrific design, enabling you to easily bring home both your chart card and a user card loaded with your cruise tracks and hot spots, and then return to the boat with the next cruise carefully laid out...if it works. Some people have had problems installing the specialized card reader on their PC and/or getting the user card to fully function with their particular model of plotter.

PC Planner is a relatively new product, and several manufacturers are involved in making the whole scheme fly—no doubt the bugs will get worked out in time. But by these criteria you’d think that Garmin would have it down; it recognized the value of a computer/GPS relationship early on and was the first to offer both digital charts and plotters under a single brand. Garmin’s Mapsource software is quite good at planning and definitely the most versatile at creating custom cards from CDs of BlueCharts and other cartography (a capability not yet offered by C-Map). However, when you want to move tracks and routes back and forth, you still have to bring either the plotter to the PC or vice versa.

Meanwhile, Magellan’s strategy for its new fixed plotters and BlueNav charts is just being revealed, but surely the use of standard memory cards for both maps and data is a good sign. The same is true at Lowrance, which has long been progressive about linking its plotters (and sonars) to PCs and has also adopted the Navionics Gold chart format that BlueNav is based on. It’s easy to predict that eventually you’ll be able to get charts by CD or Web, use them at home for planning, and then burn whatever you need to a common memory card and slip it in your shirt pocket until you get onboard. And hopefully you’ll be able to do the same thing on a Mac if you wish (or just stick to conventional cards if computers annoy you). All of which is easier to write about than do! The chart companies are competing to give us the flexibility we want, but they are also trying to guard their assets; they don’t want to go the way of the recorded music industry.

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: No phone calls, please.

Next page > Si-Tex > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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

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