Navigation: Navigational Software

2008 August 13
by Mike D

Navigational software allows you to use a laptop computer to plan routes, store waypoints and monitor your boat’s navigation system.

Viewing software allows you to look at charts on the computer rather than using paper charts. Of course, you should always have paper charts as a backup. Free viewing software is available online at and

Planning software allows you to add layers to the chart viewer so that you can mark waypoints and routes. Some software also allows you to insert notes, photos and other supplemental information. All of this information can be transferred to your on-board chart plotter with removable CF or SD memory cards (SD are the latest version of memory cards). Once you have a trip planned, you can use that saved data for all future trips covering the same route. To make full use of your chart plotter or GPS, trip planning done on your home computer is essential. When you are a cruise leader for the Club for a particular cruise, trip planning on your home computer makes it much easier to plan all aspects of the cruise and then follow your actual track on the water on your chart plotter or GPS compared to you planned route.

Garmin’s MapSource Trip and Waypoint Manager ($30) allows you to do all of your trip planning on your computer and transfer that information to a Garmin chart plotter. Because the waypoints are in GPX format, you can also transfer this information to any chart plotter that reads GPX format. Garmin’s Bluechart marine charts are on a CD and you purchase a “key” to unlock each coverage area. The BlueChart charts include aids to navigation, depth contours, obstructions and much more. The new BlueChartg2 charts include enhanced 3-D maps (above and below the waterline). These charts are only compatible with newer Garmin chart plotters.

Jeppesen’s C-Map PC-Planner 9 ($149) is also planning software. PC-Planner is compatible with chart plotters that use C-Map electronic charts. A source of C-Maps is PSI charges $180 for each area (for example, U.S. East Coast and Bahamas and U.S. Gulf Coast and Inland Rivers would be the two areas necessary for Florida cruising). PC-Planner can transfer stored information to chart plotters from Furuno, Navaman, Northstar. Raymarine and others

Raymarine’s RayTech RNS 6.0 software costs $690. This system is so expensive, because it allows you not only to plan your trips, but your laptop can also be used as a 2nd navigational station on your boat. However, you must have an interface box to make that connection (SeaTalk interface box costs $159; hsb2 interface box costs $950). If the RNS 6.0 software is too expensive, and if your chart plotter uses C-Map, a cheaper alternative would be the Jeppesen’s C-Map PC-Planner 9 (refer above).

“Get Onboard with E-Charting” by Mark and Diana Doyle ($35) is a new 2009 book that reviews more than a dozen different navigational software and discusses all aspects of e-charting.

Source: “Motorboating magazine:

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