OMFG, I went to sleep, it seems, just woke up and the whole effing world has changed. The Marine Navigation world, that is.
I started, electronically, in about 1986 with a simple GPS, a trusty Garmin Model XL12, and it still works fine, despite the fact that it's software is 15 years out of date, at least. I could fix that if I wanted to, but I still wouldn't have a WAAS-enabled receiver, so what's the point? Lipstick on a pig. If navigating to within 13 feet isn't good enough on the water, I have a problem that can't be fixed by GPS.
The previous State of the Art for boat navigation was a GPS-Chart-Plotter, a GPS with a larger display (4" and up to 12" or so) which overlaid the GPS position on top of a Marine Chart. On that display, the NOAA Marine Charts would be displayed (when you bought them, at first by the each, then by groups). This was expensive tech, and I didn't go for it, because a 9" Chartplotter, with West Coast charts added, was about $1200, plus installation, for a total of probably $1500.
Then came the "glass-cockpit" types of instruments, which incorporated the sonar (fish-finder), your radar (If you had one, I don't) the GPS and the Chart Plotter. Most of this equipment was made with 12" displays, and it cost up to $2,000, and was permanent-mount (you couldn't move it once installed). I admired, I drooled, but I didn't get it, too $pendy.
This is about when I fell asleep, I guess, under a spreading chestnut tree (the Village Smithy used to be there, but was banned because it used coal to fire it's forge, so now it's a City Park). I digress.
I just woke up.
I read an article in BoatUS Magazine (very good outfit, I buy their insurance for my boat) talking about smartphone apps for boaters. I let my fingers do the walking, and I found that:
- Chart plotters are totally outmoded, have been replaced by smartphones and tablets for display of Marine Navigation data.
- Someone broke the back of the "C-Chart" robber barons who used to charge, say, $200 just for charts of the Columbia River. If you had equipment that used their charts-on-chips, you might pay well over $1,000 to have charts from San Francisco to Alaska, and maybe not all of Alaska. A $15 app now has all NOAA Marine charts of the entire USA!
- For less than $50, I have put everything I will ever need on my Motorola Xoom Tablet, a very useful 10.1" display, with 32gb of internal and 32gb of SD card storage. It has Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) upgrade, 1gb of Ram, and a dual-core microprocessor. I run Verizon's 4G on it, and have coverage on the entire Lower Columbia. It has an ecellent GPS receiver in it (it's a Motorola, and they build good, if $pendy, stuff), and a bright HD display, with good sound projection (actually has .75" speakers that will fill a quiet room with sound). I paid $200 for the tablet earlier this year, and $40/month for the data package.
- Guess what else you can do on a tablet, if you want to lay out more shekels? You can outfit your boat with sensors (the kit runs $500 to $750), and remotely control things from afar, and see what the security cameras see (without paying NobelTec's primo $800 price for their software, which won't work on the Droid, anyway). An example of this tech: you set the perimeter guard (GPS box) at your mooring, turn it on and leave. Someone steals your boat, and by the time they back it out of your slip, they have broken the box perimeter, so the system sends a message to your phone. When the message pops up, you hit "disable engines", and the boat is dead in the water. If you know your moorage area, you can wait enough time before killing the engines that the boat will be disabled in open water (you see that on the cameras, which you are viewing over the 'Net). The coordinates of the boat pop up, and you call the authorities. If the thief hasn't been smart enough to get his skanky ass off your boat and swim for it, the boarding party from the Sheriff's Marine Patrol or the US Coast Guard let him have a look at an AR or two, or maybe an MG-240, and off to the pokey he goes, while your boat gets towed to safety. the sensors can be installed to work any boat's system, such as your heating or reverse-cycle air conditioning, so you can have your boat all comfy by the time you get from your drudge-day to your boat to salvage your sanity.