Cruising with Garmin wireless: BCM, 741, HomePort & quatix
Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 22, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Some of Garmin's many wireless strategies are coming together on Gizmo and there have been some nice surprises. Since there's now a GPSMap 741 with built-in WiFi mounted at the lower helm and networked via NMEA 2000 with the 7212 on the fly bridge, one of the first things I did when we began our cruise last week was to see what that meant in terms of route planning on an iPad running BlueChart Mobile (BCM). It was a minor thrill to realize that I could spec out the day's plan on the pad, send it to the 741, and have it pop right up on the 7212 as the active route my sweet mate was using to steer by...
The feature is activated with that "Navigate To" button on the BCM route menu. You do have to accept the route transfer and activation on the 741 but then it's pushed over N2K to other Garmin MFDs on the network. Nice! (And note that while BCM is not itself a navigation program you can u se it to keep an eye on your sweet mate's steering, as shown on the top screen.) The iPad, indicidentally, is using Gizmo's GPS over the same WiFi link. I'm pretty sure that Garmin could also be sending depth, wind, AIS, and other N2K data to BCM if they felt that customers would value it, and of course they could also develope another app that mirrors and controls the screen of the 741 and other WiFi-equipped MFDs (as Navico, Furuno, and Raymarine have). In the meantime, though, note the "Send to Device" button on that same route menu above...
If you have a Garmin quatix watch 'device' you can send it BCM routes, tracks, waypoints or 'catches' -- a specialized waypoint with fields for all sorts of fishing info. You simply put the quatix in BCM Share mode and it just works, no messing with Bluetooth pairing needed. As seen above, you can also import data from the watch in a very flexible manner. Import/export of data from BCM to Garmin WiFi MFD is all-or-none (as illustrated here) and could benefit from a similar pick list .
At any rate, the screen above suggests how I created an island hike route in BCM, sent it to the watch, and then downloaded the watch's track of the trail we actually found. The same evolution might work nicely for a racing sailor, first mapping the course as a route in BCM and then able to follow the boat's progress even from the rail. And if your boat has a GNT 10 NMEA Transciever installed, you can also get Wind, Depth, etc on the watch, at least theoretically. (My test unit is still sending bogus info, like a depth of 23,006 or -5 feet, for some reason yet undetermined)...
Oops, I notice this morning that some quatix watches are subject to a voluntary recall due to a possible battery heat problem (only one reported case), though I have little doubt that the watch will be a very successful product, especially once the bugs are squashed. I plan a full review eventually, but I find the watch phenomenally powerful and fairly easy to use given the small screen and only five buttons. For instance, I could have used it to steer to Isleford Dock (even though I badly misspelled the waypoint name when created in BCM, and should know better) plus I can drill down on that map screen above to such detail as our two failed anchoring attempts on a heavily grassed bottom nearby. And I could have asked the quatix to turn that detailed track into a route back to Buckle Island.
While the quatix watch won't share routes, tracks, etc. with the Garmin 741 (though maybe that's possible eventually?), it does play very nicely with Garmin HomePort PC (and Mac) software, which has gained a lot of features since reviewed here in 2010. It can, for instance, handle quatix software updates and it now includes integration with ActiveCaptain cruising info. The screen above shows another hike on an island (too steep to circumnavigate with forest too thick to bushwack). It's easy to drag tracks, routes, etc. from the watch to an archive or to an SD card that you can later use to merge or replace MFD data.
Note, though, that there is currently no way to share BCM data with HomePort except via an MFD and SD card. While that "Email" command seen in the BCM route menu is nice for showing folks where you're headed it does include, say, a GPX or KML file that can be imported into HomePort (which can also export Garmin data to GPX format).
I'm also a fan of Garmin auto routing, even though it can occasionally make a very poor choice, as seen above. But you need a BlueChart g2 Vision chart card to get auto routing and the one I'm using is pretty old. Or maybe it's the MFD, in this case a 7212? I notice that the 741 seems to have more custom auto routing parameters and I will experiment with it and also with the new GPSMap 8212 headed to Gizmo for testing.
So -- holy cow! -- Gizmo will be getting yet another WiFi access point (when I turn everything on). There's much more testing to be done this summer, though I'm trying to mix it judiciously with boat maintenance and cruising fun. Below was the neighborhood scene in North East Harbor (our last visit covered here in MBHH) on Saturday night just after a big front crashed through with wonderful dry, cool air in tow. Those two young sailors had gleefully learned to use the jib boom like a jungle gym and here's hoping they're boaters for life.