MARINE NAVIGATION IS SO CONFUSING... WHERE DO I BEGIN?
You have come to the right place. This site is the "Center for Marine Navigation". We have designed it so you can orient yourself and find answers to your questions.
Marine navigation is confusing, in part because the technology has been changing so fast. We know because we were one of the early pioneers of PC based GPS mapping software. In those days you needed a fancy GPS device wired to a PC. Now, built-in mapping apps and optional marine navigation apps are available for virtually every smartphone and tablet. Additionally there has been a proliferation of charts types and delivery methods along with sophisticated electronic sensors and controllers, all of these feeding into navigation software.
There are now so many choices it can be confusing — yet the productivity gains and cost savings from new technology can be incredibly rewarding.
You can choose from one of many brands of multifunction display (MFD) that present navigational charts as well as monitor a boat's functions including engine speed and temperature, similar to an automobile dashboard. To aid in navigation MFDs can also display other information such as sonar depth readings, vessel speed, the positions of other vessels, weather, wind direction, water currents, as so on.
Different devices can be networked together thanks to a standard protocol — a shared language — known as NMEA. Plug and play connections between NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 devices is simplified by converters, multiplexers, and connectors from Actisense.
Safety aware boaters have installed AIS (Automatic Identification System) with their VHF radio to receive data about other ships in their area. Combo products are available that let you split the data picked up by the antenna and then network that data via cables or Wi-Fi. Many configurations to many types of devices are possible.
Depending on your planned activity, you will need different types of equipment and charts.
When you go out fishing you may want to use depth sounders and fish finders.
Power boaters need to know the state of their boat's engines in terms of temperature, oil pressure, RPM, etc.
Charts have become more sophisticated and detailed, allowing you to overview a passage of the Atlantic Ocean at broad scale and then zoom down into the details of a shipwreck.
Of course you need to pick a chart that covers your route but you also need to make sure it is compatible with your hardware and software. That chart may be on a media card in Navionics or C-Map format, or it may be downloaded from an Internet cloud service, or the charts may be on other media. Ask us for a chart of an area you want to boat in and mention what hardware you want to view the chart on and we will give you give the best options.
Once you have charts, you want to plan trips on a computer or tablet using waypoints and routes; then you will want to transfer that data to your vessel's MFD using cables, media cards, Wi-Fi or other means. We can help with that as well.
Connectivity has become an important consideration in marine navigation. Not only is it useful for important data to be displayed neatly at the helm, having that navigation data on a laptop in a cabin below is helpful. It is also essential to be able to communicate trip plans to fellow boaters and to those onshore who monitor safety. Another aspect of connectivity and social sharing is that information captured by your equipment can be uploaded to the web.