Part 3: Super Software
By Brad Dunn — December 2000
In a move that marks a first in the boating industry, Maptech began offering its entire range of charting software for free at its Web site, maptech.com. The company's new Mapserver program lets you log on, view, save, print, and e-mail any of its nautical charts and topographical maps.
"It's all about choice," according to Maptech president Ed Markham. "Boaters can instantly get a screen image of a chart for free, or they can purchase a Maptech CD-ROM that has up to 80 NOAA charts per CD." In addition, the company offers to e-mail weekly chart updates to its customers.
Furthermore, at the 2001 Miami International Boat Show, Maptech plans to start offering real-time weather reports in a partnership with satellite-imaging companies Echo Flight and Orbimage. The graphical weather reports will be delivered over the Internet by subscription and can be overlayed onto live radar screens or chartplotters. Report data will include sea-surface temperatures, wave-height data, and wind speed and direction.
Weather reports are also one of Raytheon's software specialties. In fact, when it comes to integrating all your electronics into a PC, this electronics giant is leading the way.
The RayTech Navigator is a software package that combines everything from chartplotting to depthsounding. For starters, the program's Weather Animation Forecast, based on an international standard format and available from RayTech's online weather center, animates evolving weather patterns in six-, 12-, or 24-hour intervals. Another handy feature is the Track Coloring chartplotting program, which lets you choose different colors to indicate different tracks on a course. You can even store routes and analyze courses during different weather conditions.
RayTech Navigator displays a customizable Databox, which can be configured (and placed anywhere on your computer screen) to show depth, wind, and speed data. The program, which is compatible with all Raytheon SeaTalk instruments or NMEA-approved systems, essentially lets you transfer your entire helm to a single computer screen. But probably the best part of the RayTech Navigator is that you can lay out a cruise at home. Before you head to the docks, you can use your home computer to plot courses, analyze routes, and research the weather. Then you can save all your data on a disk and take it to the marinized laptop on your boat.
Of course, wading through all this cutting-edge marine technology and deciding what makes sense for your boat may be daunting. But it's worth it when you consider the extent to which you can improve your boat and make your cruises safer and more enjoyable.
Keep this in mind: If you still doubt the power of PCs on your boat, you probably once doubted the power of PCs in your office or your home. Take another look. With hardware that's never been tougher and software that's never combined more critical features, computers can make great cruising companions.
NetSea Phone: (508) 563-1177. Fax: (508) 563-2255. www.maxsea.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.