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Thread: Laptop used as a chartplotter

  1. #1

    Wink Laptop used as a chartplotter

    Some of you may know of this: With a GPS reciever, marine mapping software and a laptop, you create your own chartplotter (and it plays DVD's). It's no substitute for radar and likely not water resistant , but when it comes to chartplotting, I think it performs just as well. I have $500 in my setup. Have any of you gone this route? Just curious.

    We never really grow up, we only learn
    how to act in public

  2. #2
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Eagle River, Alaska, United States

    Default laptop

    I have used this for years with maptech offshore navigator maps. Mine however is a water resistant, shock proof Panasonic toughbook. Flawless performance! You can use it with a mouse or touchscreen and I prefer a mouse due to choppy seas and touchscreen don`t mix well.

  3. #3
    Member Blue Thunder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    North of Anchor Pt

    Talking Laptop

    I have been thinking about this for about a year, now. I have the Garmin GPS for my computer but can not make up my mind on what marine map set up to use, because I need it to cover from Washington north and the west coast of Mexico. Any advise or help would be appreciated. DAN

  4. #4


    Every time we used your laptop we may have been lost, but we always new where we were.

  5. #5
    Member AkBillyBow's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Palmer, AK


    I am just getting my new boat set up. I have the Raymarine E120 series, where the radar, GPS, depth finder, etc all plug into it. It is network capable, so I bought the router and a laptop to use with it. With the laptop, you can display any of the electronics that are plumbed into the E120 (use it as a second remote display). I also purchased (off ebay) all the NOAA charts, which I have loaded on the laptop.

    So, I can run my chartplotter and radar on the Raymarine, and load and look at different charts (you can zoom in and move around!!) on the laptop at the same time. I will also be using the laptop to save avd store routes and waypoints from the E120.

    I will also use the laptop to play music, plumbed into my radio/cd player as a bonus. It will also allow me to play DVD's on the laptop, show them on the laptop and the E120 monitor, while pushing the sound through the radio receiver and speakers!!

    Almost have it all wired in, but not completed yet.


  6. #6

    Thumbs up The best way to fly.

    I use CN Pro on a compaq laptop that was given to me a couple years ago. Works great for my 8-knt boat and Comnav autopilot.

    You can download CN and NOAA BSBs for the entire American coastline for free. It just doesn't support a realtime plot like the $$ version. It's great for planning purposes, and works well for navigation in a slow boat.

    Try to find a ruggedized laptop with a daylight viewable screen if you can. Don't worry about it too much if you can't.

    Windoze being what it is, it's best to dedicate the laptop completely to navigation. Take off all unnecessary software and Always have a backup! (i have an older (5-channel) Sitex chartplotter, a couple Garmins, and a sextant and calculator)

    Also, try to minimize shock and vibration. I have a wooden cradle lined with gel pads that lets the laptop's fan work yet dampens most vibrations. The computer is also strapped to the cradle for lumpy seas.

    Tolman24 posted some excellent info a while back, and hopefully he doesn't mind if I quote him here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Tolman24 View Post
    This is a free option that requires some thought.

    You can download Maptech's Chart Navigator Viewer here .
    You can go to NOAA site and download BSB raster charts here.
    Export the download ZIP into the folder that ChartViewer is looking for which is set up in the charts tab. You can then use ChartViewer to explore areas and set up routes or way points. I spent some time and using some reference materials identified some good "Hidey Hole" spots to hide from weather if necessary in areas I frequent. I got fishing spots from friends, forums and looked at contours and found areas that looked like good fishing prospects and set up way points for them as well. You can use icons to distinguish way points. You can then use the export function to export your routes and way-points to a text file. Here is where the thinking comes in. You may need to convert this text file to the format used by your chart plotter. There are some tools to assist in this but that is a post in itself.

    You can also use this software to create 8 x 10 chart packets for the boat with your way points showing to use as backup. This will create an overview chart with grids ID'd. There is a separate page for each grid section that is a larger scale. The scale is dependent upon the scale of the original raster chart. The final product is a packet that is approximately the same size and scale as the original. They look very usable for a backup.

    It may not be the most sophisticated option but the price is right.

    I have downloaded detail maps of south central coastal areas including Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound as well as the Juneau area.

    On the same NOAA site you can download a PDF of the Coastal Pilot Series (9 for mainland Alaska) and find all the coves, bays and islands mentioned in the book on the charts. It is a good way to get a feel for an area while waiting for the snow to lift.

    This link will take you to utility to convert a file from one GPS format to another. You can take a file that you created and convert it into another predefined file format. It uses GPSBabel but without the need to install or run it on your machine. It worked for me. It will also create a file that works with Google earth which is pretty cool as well.

    Good luck and happy boating!!

  7. #7

    Default Quick and Inexpensive option

    I just picked up a DvD on Ebay that has ALL the maps and will plot on a laptop with a GPS plugged in.

    I didn't buy it for that purpose - I wanted to just print out map sections to laminate and use on the water.

    Only $17 and seems to work great so far. It has Sea Clear II software and he updated the maps as of April 8.

  8. #8

    Talking Sea Clear

    That's the software I use. It works well.
    We never really grow up, we only learn
    how to act in public

  9. #9
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009

    Default laptop chartplotter

    above is a link in ebay where chartplotter laptops are sold.
    water resistant, drop proof, built in gps. boat docking station
    with all the noaa maps

    yea.. I sell them.

    i also use them. I live in anchorage AK in the summer and florida in the winter.
    Chartplotter laptops are the way to go. especially if you are a sailor and have a night watch. take the laptop down below with you and keep an eye on your location.
    i have a buddy who sails by himself all over the world. he goes to sleep and brings his pc down in the bunk with him just to make sure hes still on course.
    would i do that. well not supposed to but if you are by yourself and really tired....
    plus as said above you have your entertainment with you

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Soldotna, AK

    Default Chart Navigator Pro

    I use chart navigator pro connected to my cs60.... but as stated in this thread always have a backup (electronic or paper). Bumps and hard drives spinning at 5300rpm aren't a good combination. Shockproof (toughbook or dell xfr) is a good idea - but expensive. You can get a spare hard drive and use software such as Symantec Ghost to make a "clone" of your hard drive for a cheap backup.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2006


    Nobletec is the standard on all the fishing boats around here, **** most kids dont even know how to drive without a computer anymore...sad

  12. #12


    Like some others here, I had one (Dell/Nobeltec) on my fishing boat. Felt okay on something that big and slow. Not sure I'd like it on a smaller boat. One thing to consider is the new solid state harddrives. That would eliminate some of the worry about damage from bouncing.

  13. #13
    Member fishnngrinn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007


    I have a Hammerhead Walkabout, purchased on ebay. _Nov05?hash=item170321729085&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14& _trkparms=72%3A1205%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C 240%3A1318%7C301%3A1%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

    These are very tough units, drop proof from 4 ft, water proof. It is a touch screen computer. Newer models have color display.
    NRA Lifetime Member

  14. #14


    Quote Originally Posted by Mdcak View Post
    I just picked up a DvD on Ebay that has ALL the maps and will plot on a laptop with a GPS plugged in.

    I didn't buy it for that purpose - I wanted to just print out map sections to laminate and use on the water.

    Only $17 and seems to work great so far. It has Sea Clear II software and he updated the maps as of April 8.
    You can get Sea clear for free here (for personal use):
    The maps are a bit of a hassle to load up (also free from NOAA) but hey, for free you can't complain.

  15. #15

    Default Nav Charts for a Mac

    Does anyone know if any of these Nav charts/GPS programs work on a Mac?

  16. #16
    Member GrassLakeRon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Grass Lake Michigan


    The new mac laptops you can get that will run windows on as well as have a solid state drive so the bumps are no issue.



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