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Best PC charting system?
This is from Craig Rowell:
"I am at a loss to figure out how to go forward with my marine nav. I currently use Coastal Explorer with the Sea Map Charts. The charts are ok but the upgrade and site are impossible. I use this set up on my laptop below. We have an HR53 located in Greece/Med. Coastal Explorer is ok but not really set up for Europe. Previously we were long term users of Nobeltec but they have changed hands so many times that we changed to CE. I use Navionics in the cockpit and Inavx because Navionics doesn’t have AIS capabilities and the Chart Plotter navigation is really cumbersome! It is really important that we can change waypoints and routes on the fly which the Navionics app really does well. What a mess. Now both Navionics and Seamap have new owners! I would like to have a reasonable computer driven system for the nav table but I am really confused on how to go…Do you or anyone in your group that has some advise…"
I have been a user of Coastal Explorer since the original version, OpenCPN for a long time as well, and also TimeZero off and on through the years.
Coastal Explorer is a great piece of software, and I would say I've used it the most and the longest. But it does not integrate with any radar system I can purchase, and there are aspects of using it for planning that bother me. The biggest challenge though is using the routes and data I create in CE. Many people just use CE to drive the boat directly, having it interface with your autopilot through an adapter or Nemo Gateway. I have tried this many times, and it works, but I am always a bit worried about Windows crashing, updates, and just general PC nonsense.
Similar to your challenges, using CE to create routes is OK, but then getting them uploaded to a chart plotter is a dance that takes time and file transfers.
For the last several years, I have had primarily Raymarine on my boat, and used Navionics on an iPad to create routes for my trips, and then synchronized them with the chart plotter. This worked relatively well, although it did not always work. Software updates caused some issues, but were resolved in a month or less. You could change the routes on the chart plotter, but there was no sync back to the iPad later on.
In the last few months, I have been searching for my next boat electronics package, and I have chosen Furuno along with TimeZero. Echoing Ben's comments, it has been a very stable platform for a while now, and they have a fantastic partnership with Furuno. In fact, I am not aware of any other easily acquire-able software that you can run on a PC that allows for full planning, chart management, and allows full control over your radar and direct sync with MFDs.
I don't think I would be worried at all longevity-wise in choosing TimeZero.