Of course, there is no perfect ECS, and I hesitate to name favorites because that’s subjective indeed. But, that said, on the inexpensive, keep-it-simple end, I’m a fan of Memory Map. It’s a basic, no-frills program on a laptop but also works nicely with a PDA (a better mini plotter than many realize). Moving up a notch, I quite like Maptech’s new Chart Navigator Pro (CNP), which is also marketed as Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer (CE). If you regularly use Windows applications, you may well find this program particularly easy to learn. It even has an undo button—so useful for a Curious George like me! And if you’re a glutton for charts and data, easily given to desktop cruising a thousand miles away (me again), the $500 CNP package is almost equivalent to a well-stocked chandlery, at least in terms of U.S. waters.
I have less experience, and no favorites, when it comes to a full-bore ECS, integrating a boat’s radar, instruments, etc. I have been out on the water with Nobeltec’s latest IR2 radar running on a VEI marine computer and bright monitor, and it was an impressive package. But I’m also aware that MaxSea has a bathy-building module of particular interest to fishermen (see “Touching Bottom,” this issue) as well as that powerful Ethernet relationship with Furuno hardware. Meanwhile, Raymarine is about to introduce RayTech 6.0, which can also have high-speed access to an entire (Raymarine) hardware network and includes a new sonar recording feature. And finally, there’s Rose Point, the young dark horse, which is developing its own radar/hardware system.
In short, there’s an ECS for every taste, if you have the interest. And if you’ve gotten through all this palaver, you must! Now’s the time to develop your own opinions. Visit www.powerandmotoryacht.com, where we’ll post links to all these companies (as well as bigger versions of the screen shots). Pick a couple programs to compare, download the demos, and you’re off. Just don’t research yourself into a headache.
What About Macs?
These days there seems to be only one small company that’s serious about marine charting software for Macintosh computers, but fortunately its two products have won a good deal of respect from users. The original, GPSNavX, only reads raster charts and costs $60. MacENC adds support for vector ENCs, includes NOAA’s latest portfolio, and costs $100. MacENC can even display a raster but pull up detailed nav-aid info from an underlying ENC. Nice!