Very Large scale wgs 84 electronic charts
Using the charts
Harware and Software
Which electronic plotters?
You can view the charts at home using any PC or Mac with ordinary picture/photo viewing software. You can also use Google Earth. But if you want to monitor your position on them when at sea please read on...
Afloat, the best setup is a PC or Mac with external GPS on the chart table and an iPad* or Android tablet in a waterproof case for the cockpit, all running Memory-Map software. (*iPads should be Cellular/3G to have an internal GPS)
Listed below are some of the hardware / software combinations we are aware of but this is a very fast moving area and the list is certainly not complete. There is not yet a weatherproof fixed cockpit plotter from one of the major manufacturers that will run the charts but we don’t see this as a problem. You can use your main plotter to get you to one of our locations and to keep track of your position whilst there: once in sheltered water use a secondary device to run our charts to help with the trickier bits.
If you are considering software not mentioned below you should check that it will run raster charts in GeoTiff, BSB (there are many versions of BSB so ours may not be compatible) or KMZ formats. Cockpit plotters generally run vector charts, which are not compatible.
Principal Hardware / Software Combinations are listed below. Setup guidance is included with our chart package.
Key: ** recommended * tested with our charts + not tested with our charts. M apps for mobile devices available.
PC**. A standard laptop or tablet PC running Windows XP or Windows 7 or 8. An old one should be fine, especially if you ‘uninstall’ a lot of the unwanted software and delete as much ‘rubbish’ from the hard drive as possible. Maplin do excellent ’Car Laptop Adaptors’ for powering PCs from 12v batteries via cigarette lighter sockets: these use much less power than an inverter and mains power supply and are ideal for boats.
Couple a PC with good software and we believe this offers the greatest flexibility and range of features, although it is less rugged and cockpit-friendly than other options. Compatible software includes:
· Memory Map**M. This excellent software produces a high-quality image and also runs the charts on the main mobile platforms (Apple and Android). For £50 you get the Memory-Map version of the UKHO charts for UK and Ireland. You can also run the M-M UKHO and our charts seamlessly on mobile devices such as iPads or Android tablets or phones for no extra charge.
· SeaClear*. This is free downloadable software, although the quality of the graphics is not as good as Memory Map’s in our opinion.
· OpenCPN*. Also free downloadable software.
· OziExplorer+. Well established software available at modest cost.
· Polar Navy*M. We don’t know much about this product but it has been mentioned to us.
Mac. The choice of software is more limited. We have not tested any Mac software and can’t vouch for its suitability but the two listed below look as if they should work,. And users have reported favourably. An alternative is to use a PC emulation package such as Parallels or Bootcamp and then use one of the PC software packages described above.
· GPSNavX+. Users report that our charts work well with this software and that it runs UKHO charts.
· OpenCPN+ although we have only tested the PC version
· Polar Navy+. We don’t know much about this product but it has been mentioned to us.
iPads**(only Cellular/3/4G versions have GPS), iPhones**, Android tablets** and Android phones**. These sound unlikely candidates but in our view are excellent and, when used in an inexpensive waterproof see-through plastic case, offer the best cockpit friendly option. We have used an iPad in a wide range of conditions, including in an open boat in rough weather with spray everywhere: it worked perfectly, although a £100 android tablet would probably have been just as good!
· Memory Map**. Once again, this software is excellent for all these devices although not quite as versatile as when used in a PC. You can run the M-M version of the UKHO charts and our charts seamlessly on all these devices. To do so you will need the Memory Map app for the device (free for Android and 69 pence for iPad and iPhone) and must ‘Activate’ our charts using the code we provide.
· OziExplorer+. They claim now to have apps for these devices although we have no experience of them.
· Marine Navigator has an Android app.
Garmin handheld GPS plotters. Garmin has greatly increased the range of its handheld products that will run ‘Custom Maps’. We have used the Oregon 450 and while it is OK as a back-up it is, in our view, nowhere near as good as an ordinary smartphone in a waterproof case (see above). The following are believed to be suitable but are all very slow and cumbersome when used with our charts:
Memory Map Adventurer range of handheld portable devices. We have not tried these but running the Memory Map software and being waterproof and rugged they will probably be excellent.
External GPS. One of these will be necessary if you are using a PC or Mac: other devices should have internal GPSs - but do check before buying! There are many USB GPS devices available from about £10 - do a Google search for mail order sources. It need not be waterproof as you can always put it in a plastic bag. You may want a USB extension lead to ensure you can place the GPS where it will get a good signal. And do be aware of the tendency to freeze at very low speeds - see Using the Charts.
Setup guidance for the more popular options is included with our chart package. For a preview click here.
Duplicate your plotters for safety
If you like following your position on our charts you may wish to build in some resilience; PCs can go into screensaver mode at just the wrong moment or handheld GPS can run out of battery. When we use our charts we always do so with two machines running: typically a PC and an iPad.
Other help and hardware supply: one of our users recommended LondonChartPlotters as a source of inexpensive hardware and plotting software. We can authorise them to install our charts for you if you wish - just include a note when you purchase the charts or send a separate email.
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For a preview of what is involved in setting up or updating our charts click here.