Hello, We have just discovered your site and are very excited about it. With your help we may finally be able to figure out our best options for integrating a laptop, electronic charts, gps (none of which are yet purchased) and our existing auto pilot (Autohelm 4000). We have a 30ft Catalina sloop and are somewhat electronically challenged. We plan on using charts from Maptech, NOAA, Explorer and maybe The Captain. Anything you can suggest will be of great benefit. Thank you.
Hi David and Jackie: First, we’d suggest you look at Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer. It comes with the complete NOAA data base and is a simple-to-use, yet powerful enough program. There is a new version coming out in a week or so.
As far as integrating the pilot, with most modern gear this is not difficult. However, we do not do this ourselves as it tends to make the driver less attuned to what is going on around the boat on the assumption that the pilot and chart plotter are working together.
All of the above assumes you are using a PC-based system.
There are also lots of all-in-one chart plotters which will be less costly (unless you have the PC onboard already for other uses) and can be used outside. The downside is less versatility and a much smaller screen. But for local work a dedicated unit can make sense.
Hope this helps – Steve