Plotter screen

I’ve been hustling a bit to get ready for this jaunt to Nova Scotia, which starts Monday. As noted earlier, I’ve been fretting about the charts. Thanks to Landfall Navigation, I now have all my paper charts in hand, plus tide tables and a 2014 Nautical Alamanac, just in case the world as we know it comes to an end and I have to exercise my sextant. But the really hard part, it turned out, was getting electronic charts for my 7-year-old Raymarine A65 chartplotter.

Landfall’s website, you’ll recall, purported to have a relevant chart card that was compatible with my machine, and I tried to buy that, but afterwards they confessed via e-mail that their website lied to me and the card really was not compatible. What you need to buy, I was told, is a blank Navionics Plus CF card, and then load it with the charts you want at the Navionics website. So I bought that instead, and they delivered it to me very promptly. And I went out and bought a card reader at Radio Shack, so I could plug the CF card into my desktop computer to download my charts… AND the very first thing that happened when I tried to do that was a prompt telling me these charts would not be compatible with my plotter.

Cap in head

So now I was ready to put a cap in my head. Fortunately, I do not actually own a handgun, and my finger tips do not emit bullets, so I called Navionics instead. Even more fortunately, I got a smart guy on the phone.

“Actually, your plotter might be able to read those charts,” he told me.

And he talked me through the download, advising me to load as little data as possible, so as to increase the chances of my plotter being able to cope with it. I took the card to my boat to slot it into the plotter… and LO! It displays the charts (see photo up top), but any function that involves moving around the chart–zooming in and out, scrolling hither and yon–is incredibly clunky and slow.

It’s better than nothing, but I am still gnashing my teeth over the fact that a device I paid well over $1,000 for, and the suite of chart cards I bought for several hundred dollars to plug into it, is now all on the verge of becoming useless crap, not because there is anything wrong with it, but simply because the manufacturers who sold it me are no longer interested in those products. In fact, I learned, the last charts that were truly compatible with my plotter were released in 2009, just two years after I bought the plotter.

In the world of modern electronics, marine and otherwise, this is not at all unusual, but it is still EVIL. And wasteful. And irresponsible.

In this modern miracle age I assume it would be a relatively simple matter for electronic chart manufacturers to allow consumers to download old versions of charts that are fully compatible with antique machines that are more than a few years old. Indeed, I would pay A SIGNIFICANT PREMIUM to be able to do that, and I suspect many others would too.

Hint, hint.

iPad navigation

Meanwhile, last weekend I made a more concerted effort to get the hang of navigating on my iPad while noodling around Casco Bay on my own. In the photo there you can see Lunacy beating out of the north end of the bay, past Little Whaleboat Island, in a relatively light breeze.

I have to admit I am now a little more comfortable with the concept of iPad navigation, but I will never trust it completely. My iPad is constantly refusing to do things I want it to do, and misbehaving generally, so it is hard to consider it a serious piece of navigation equipment.

To give you an idea of what a Luddite I am, another major chore in preparation for this mini-voyage was manufacturing the little wood chips I need to connect my Aries windvane to my tillerpilot ram.

Aries tillerpilot rig

These chips are effectively sacrificial fuses for my “electronic autopilot,” in that they are the first thing to break when things get too loaded up. I reckon I could create an unbreakable metal chip, but then I worry I might harm my antique pilot ram, or worse the windvane itself, when things get crazy. So instead I’ve been experimenting, trying to make a chip that is as strong as possible, but still sacrificial.

Tillerpilot chips

My latest experiment was to make a chip out of plastic Starboard (bottom item in this photo), but it didn’t last very long and broke last weekend after just a couple of weeks of service. In the photo you can also see an abortion of a teak chip (upper left), that I thoughtlessly cut with the grain aligned the wrong way (and immediately broke in two with my bare hands), and one properly cut chip (upper right).

Tillerpilot chip installed

Here’s the good chip installed at the end of my tillerpilot ram. After a bit more sawing, and filing, and drilling, I also have two good spares to back it up.

Anchor chain locker

I also decided to remark my anchor chain. I marked it with paint last time, but paint wears away pretty quickly. This time I’m trying bright orange wire-ties instead, which you can now see peeking out of the chain pile in the peak.

Linen storage

Finally, this is something I’ve been meaning to do ever since I bought the boat. A simple way to secure the linen that tends to get stuffed in the alcove under the side lockers up forward. Three little padeyes, a couple of hooks, and a length of bungee cord was all it took.

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8 Responses
  1. Don Joyce

    Charts for older plotters are very frustrating. I’m in the “same boat” made worst that the screen format X vs Y dimensions are changed enough to make installing a new plotter a really big deal. So I too have my iPad and laptop in the cockpit.

    For your windvane, you might consider the adjustable ball and socket heads on things like the ultrapod. You could adjust the tension to hold it yet break away when you want.

    Have fun in Mahone Bay!


    PS: my cable ties lasted about 3 passes through the windlass:D

  2. Anonymous

    No one who has ever attempted to use his Ipad as a primary navigation source should ever be considered a true Luddite. Two words. Paper charts.

  3. Ted

    Forget the chart plotter run open CPN on a cheap notebook. Free charts all over the interweb. Stop supporting crap companies like raymarine!

  4. Keith Jones

    Hi Charlie, I have a Raymarine RL80CRC plotter that is circa 2003 – the predecessor to your unit. It uses C-Map NT cartridges that are still available and updated 1-2 times/year. I prefer C-Map over Navionics for their coverage and support, and now it is good to know that they keep their older products updated better as well. It’s hard enough to deal with electronics becoming obsolete, but adding a double whammy (charts) to that obsolescence is a real nightmare as you’ve found out.

  5. Charlie

    @Keith: Sweet! I’ll have to check out C-Map and see if they still have cartridges that can run on my machine.

    @Ted: The thought had occurred to me! Why buy another plotter if it’s just going to be useless in a few years?

    @Anonymous: I hear you, man. I won’t go without paper. You don;t need electricity to read it.


    Next time tried cheap yellow rope Model # 14079 from Home Depot cut at 8 inch pieces and splice on the chain the last 3 year and work well on the windlass.

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