MAPTATTOO NAV TABLET: Heavy-Duty All-Weather Cockpit Plotter


June 25/2024:  It’s not often I become an “early adopter” of anything, much less navigation electronics. But this is a bit of kit I was seriously curious about. I’ve never been a fan of having a chartplotter permanently mounted in a cockpit, for various reasons, but mostly because I’d rather focus on what’s around me while sailing, rather than on a complex and often distracting nav display. On the few occasions I’ve really wanted immediate access to a plotter in my cockpit, in tight tactical nav situations, I’ve brought out my iPad, on which I run Navionics charts. But the iPad screen doesn’t show up well in bright sunlight and isn’t at all weatherproof. So sometimes I just end up jumping back and forth between the wheel and Lunacy’s doghouse nav station, which gets tedious after a while.

When I saw some online publicity for this new Maptattoo plotter tablet, recently put out by Erwan Kerebel, an ex-Race to Alaska competitor, I decided I had to check it out. Pulled the trigger and shelled out $799 for that puppy you see in the image up top. It’s designed as a tool for kayakers and other small-craft adventurers, people who would normally be navigating with charts loaded on a phone, so I figured it could easily survive life in Lunacy’s cockpit.

I have used the tablet so far on two different short-term outings and have not been disappointed. It’s definitely a bit clunky in certain respects. Panning and scrolling is not nearly as fluid as on my iPad, with short delays as the screen readjusts itself. You have to plug it into a computer to access the settings menu (to switch sounding values, for example, from meters to feet). There are only a few chart packages available (with more to come). You have to completely discharge and recharge the unit a couple of times before the charging gauge is properly calibrated. And since this thing is a very new product, there are several software updates in the works.

But it suits my purposes very well. I can’t recommend it for any big-picture strategic nav planning, but for close-quarters tactical work it’s great. The E-ink screen is perfectly visible in bright sunlight, and my tablet has already easily survived some rain and spray in my cockpit. It is, as advertised, easy to operate when it and/or your fingers are wet. It also has excellent battery life. Since this tablet is a dedicated device, with no other software running in the background, and has none of the strong backlighting needed to make a screen visible in sunlight, it can run a long, long time between recharges. I’ve run mine for many hours, with no recharge time, and have yet to drain the battery once.

I particularly like the “fast forward” feature, which constantly shows you expected arrival times at specific points along your course as your speed varies.

And yeah… this little tablet is tough! I’ve already bounced mine a few times and it is no worse for wear. I will probably get a pedestal mount for it, to keep it from bouncing around my cockpit too much, and will keep you updated as I learn more about it.

My second outing with the Maptattoo was just last week, when I sailed over to Popham Beach to dry out the boat and clean the bottom. (That image up top shows Lunacy exiting Popham post-scrub.)

Back in January, Popham was ravaged by two back-to-back storms that caused major damage all along the Maine coast. They were particularly destructive in that, unlike most winter storms in New England, they were not nor’easters, but instead blew instead straight out of the south. This allowed large seas with a long fetch to pile straight into the coast and significantly increased storm surge. During a pause in my bottom scrubbing, I took a short tour and noted lots of beachfront property with newly deployed anti-flooding obstructions.

Most of it, unfortunately, kind of clashes with the natural beach aesthetic.

I’ve also been stripping and servicing winches lately.

It’s been a long time since Lunacy’s winches experienced any love and maintenance. I just hope they aren’t mad at me.

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