No more paper charts ... time to move to electronics


There is something incredibly satisfying about a paper chart. Pawing over them on the long winter evenings as we plan our next summer holidays and dream of the warm winds and sunshine that are  absolutely guaranteed. Half erased pencil marks, tea stains, blobs of sea spray and the odd spec of vomit all describe adventures from previous years that are all the better remembered from the comfort of a nice warm living room.

So, we love paper charts but  my goodness they're expensive. So last year we went chartless, well almost chartless .. we couldn't quite go all the way .. it's quite frightening .. but this year we plan to finish the journey.

Here's where we have got to on the good ship B. Down below at the no-longer-a-chart-table table we have a Standard Horizon Chart Plotter and then as a second system I use my Ipad Mini mounted in a waterproof, drop-proof Lifeproof Cover . I have set up two brackets, one to house the Ipad out in the cockpit when we're sailing and the other at the back of the not-a-chart-table table. The Ipad sits in both in its waterproof cover so no need to fiddle around taking it out. In fact mine lives in the cover all the time whether on the boat or at home.

Just below is a little video of the good ship approaching Kristiansund. Half way through the clip you can see the set up with the Ipad. WARNING: there is a rude word at the beginning!




Does my iPad have a proper GPS?

One of the big questions I had when I started to move to iPad was around the GPS in Ipads. It's all a bit confusing but I get it now.

Every iPad has both WiFi and Bluetooth. Cellular Ipads (ie those that can take a Sim Card) also have a built-in GPS receiver; Apple calls it “assisted GPS”. So, at this point we all start panicking because assisted GPS doesn't sound very good .. we want ... no we need, full blown, all singing and dancing GPS and definitely not a GPS that needs help! But the words are misleading so don't worry!

When Apple say 'assisted GPS they don't mean the GPS requires assistance it means it is a
stand-alone GPS that is itself further assisted to enhance its speed. The GPS receiver in the iPad uses nearby mobile telephone masts to provide a faster position lock. So, instead of starting up cold and searching for satellites, the iPad can get a GPS fix much quicker because it knows roughly where it is .. hence assisted. From a boat perspective this is not massively relevant but you can understand why it would matter if you were mooching round London trying to get quick directions to the nearest Costalotta.


So, you don't need a cellular connection for the GPS to work or indeed a SIM card. I sailed from Norway to Shetland Islands and had a fix the whole way .. there were no radio masts in sight. So “assisted GPS” is just the ticket.
Which App and electronic Charts?
So, you then need an App and some charts. Yachting Monthly have done a really good review on Navigation Apps. There's plenty to choose from. I use Navionics which is their recommendation but I'm sure some of the others are great as well.
In terms of charts, you purchase a region such as 'UK and Holland'. You then download areas as you require; it's quick, easy and intuitive. The purchase price includes free updates for a year. You can then either keep the charts, but they won't be updated, or alternatively pay at half price and continue to get, real time' upgrades. Prices vary but the whole of the UK and Holland is a tad over £40 compared to thousands for charts! A bargain.
Waterproof and ruggedness
Obviously having your Ipad outside in the wet is not ideal so I use a Lifeproof Nuud protective case and a screen cover. Which means the iPad is waterproof to 2m and drop proof from 4ft. The mounting bracket I use holds the iPad in its case so no need to fiddle around taking it in and out,  it just slots in to the bracket. So my iPad lives in its waterproof case all the time on the boat and at home.  I have a spare bracket below for it so when it's not in use it has a home out if the way at the back of the not-a-chart-table.
Total Cost
The whole thing does get quite pricey if you have to buy an iPad specially. But if you use an iPad anyway it's great value because most of the stuff you buy you would buy anyway .. Even the charts.
Who this arrangement might suit?

If you have a small boat, you're an iPad owner and you do a fair bit if sailing then I think it's perfect. But there are variations on a theme to suit android and iPhone owners.

The advantage is you have your weather, navigation, tidal, information all available in the cockpit as well as next to you at home when you have that sudden urge to passage plan.
Power consumption

On the basis that an iPad should be good for well over 10 hours with no charge and in any case you could always top up charge down below for a bit I don't think this is a big issue. If you need to charge out on deck you can do but you have to open the waterproof port.

Post a Comment