Updated:
Original:

Know How: Chartplotters

When it comes to accurately keeping track of your whereabouts, modern chartplotters and multi-function displays (MFDs) are virtually indispensable. Provided they are properly networked to other onboard instrumentation (including AIS, GPS and radar), typically via a NMEA 0183 or NMEA 2000 data backbone, chartplotters/MFDs provide a wealth of real-time data that can dramatically simplify your on-the-water experience, and keep you and your boat much safer, to boot.

rf-lg

The biggest consideration when selecting a chartplotter/MFD is functionality. A trailer-sailer, for example, has entirely different information requirements than a bluewater cruiser or a tricked-out raceboat. While all chartplotters/MFDs allow you to easily navigate, not all devices help you steer the fastest course, gauge wind shifts and currents, or calculate starting-line distances. Most major marine-electronics manufacturers offer several different models catering to a variety of needs and budgets. Sailors are advised to carefully consider their actual information needs before going shopping. Don’t just buy something with all kinds of gee-whiz functions because it looks impressive at a boat show. Think about how you will actually use the system out on the water.

Screen size and User Interface (UI) are the next considerations. While bigger is better, especially when it comes to touchscreen “smart glass,” better is also more expensive. To make the best choice, consider your mounting and installation options, and then buy the biggest chartplotter/MFD you can fit in the allotted space (without breaking your bank). Also be sure to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the unit to make sure you’re comfortable with its UI (incidentally, a really fun way to pass some time at your local chandlery or a boat show). Many of today’s chartplotters/MFDs come standard with touchscreen controls, though many of them still include built-in hard keys or an external remote control for those times when conditions are too sloppy to accurately “tap to navigate.” Imagine using your smart phone in the rain with gloves on, not good!

Lastly, many of today’s chartplotters/MFDs are designed to “play nicely” with third-party instruments—provided, of course, that they can share information via an NMEA 0183/2000 protocol. However, be sure to research compatibility with your existing electronics before buying a new unit, so you don’t find yourself the proud owner of a bunch of electronics that don’t get along. 

Photos courtesy of (left to right) Raymarine, B&G, Garmin

Related

ed3b8ae9-b65d-2941-47ec-cd0277bfcbe8

Mirabaud Voting Open to the Public

Photos from the industry's top photographers are in, and the 12th annual Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image competition is underway. An international panel of judges has selected this year's 80 finalists, which have been published online. The panel will also select the winner of the ...read more

P1320232-copy

Annapolis’ Boat Show is Back

After a year off in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis is back. From the diminutive Areys Pond Cat 14 XFC to the massive Lagoon Sixty 5, many of the SAIL’s 2022 Best Boats Nominees are on display for the public to get a firsthand look at, and SAIL’s Best Boats panel ...read more

05-Squall-in-the-ITCZ

Close-Hauled to Hawaii

The saying “Nothing goes to windward like a 747,” is one of my favorites. I actually once took a 747 upwind, retracing my earlier downwind sailing route across the Pacific. I’ve also done a fair bit of ocean sailing to windward. The 747 was a lot more comfortable. But then ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG-2106

Refurbishing Shirley Rose: Part 3

If you missed the first installment, click here. The hull and deck of Shirley Rose had been repaired, but what kind of sailboat would she be without a sturdy rig? I was told she was ready to sail, and that the owner replaced the standing rigging a few years before. Shirley Rose ...read more

211007MINI_1208-2400x1600

Mini Transat: Bouroullec and Fink Win Leg One

The Mini Transat is a roughly 4000-mile course that comprises two legs— Les Sables D’Olonne, France to Santa Cruz de La Palma in the Canaries, and Santa Cruz de La Palma to the French Caribbean island Guadeloupe. Two fleets of Mini 6.50s compete—the Production class in ...read more

01-LEAD-7-1-Rhiannon-loaded-on-the-truck-with-Clark,-Andre,-and-Louis

Book Excerpt: Taken By The Wind

In 1975, as a senior at Harvard, the question for Chicago-area sailor Mike Jacker became what to do next. The answer, as related in his new book Taken by the Wind, was to make a small-boat voyage to Tahiti with his grade-school friend Louis Gordon and Harvard classmate Clark ...read more

Maserati _Arthur Daniel

The RORC Caribbean 600 is Back

With a start planned for February 21 in Antigua, the famed 600-mile Caribbean race is back. The course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean islands starting from English Harbour, Antigua, and heading north to St Maarten and south to Guadeloupe, passing Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and ...read more

01-LEAD-14_00_210613_TORE03_JRE_4266_16961-3000x3000

The Ocean Race Europe

The fully crewed, round-the-world Ocean Race has experienced tremendous change over the years. From the 1993 transition to a one-design fleet to an ever-shifting route, what began as the amateur Whitbread Round the World Yacht Regatta in 1972 is a very different race today. The ...read more