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Navionics & Garmin part 1, long live Plotter Sync

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher since 4/12/2005, and now excited to have Ben Stein as a very able colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

14 Responses

  1. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for the detailed write-up. Spot-on as usual.
    You had mentioned another technical user having difficulty syncing Navionics routes created on a tablet with their Zeus2 plotter.
    We also use Zeus2 MFDs with Navionics [and C-Map…] charts. We also use the Navionics app on a couple of iPads and iPhones, and have no issues syncing both chart updates and routes from any iOS device to the MFD with the Navionics SD card. [All devices have current versions of firmware, OS, and apps…] The workflow is identical to what you described for your Simrad NSS evo2 displays.
    We, too, find the Navionics routing on iOS to be very robust, but still requiring critical scrutiny to adjust to suit our needs and preferences.
    Regarding Garmin acquiring Navionics: an additional desirable outcome for me would be Active Captain [AC] integration into Navionics. We currently use other nav programs to access current AC info when offline as we find Navionics crowd-sourced location information totally lacking- at least in Alaska. Not so with AC.
    In case this is useful.
    Cheers! Bill

  2. pyaron says:

    Ben – Thanks for the in-depth review of this capability.
    I believe you are correct, it would be irrational for Garmin to give up the revenue that Navionics wide platform support brings.
    An interesting question to explore, with C-Map under Altor/Navico and Navionics under Garmin, the future appears to be multi-function software as the new end to end marine integration platform. Like digital home for the boat.
    Of three mobile apps I have, Garmin BlueChart provides the least value and I have seen no apparent improvement over the last 3 years of use.
    I ask the following somewhat rhetorical questions, more of Navico and Garmin:
    Will Garmin gracefully end of life BlueChart, moving features and support to Navionics creating a single mobile experience? This would make economic sense but for the benefit of consumers, Garmin should communicate the mobile product roadmap soon after the acquisition is complete.
    Will Navico improve the user experience with C-Map mobile platform? In my opinion it needs significant ease of use and graphic improvements.

  3. Lance BercLance Berc says:

    I use various programs on Macs and tablets for off-line route investigation and sometimes for on-boat navigation via WiFi gateways. I’m able to do so because of standards like NMEA-2000 and NOAA’s decision to make US charts freely available in both raster and vector form.
    GPX files are an almost-standard XML-like (text file) format that allows interchange of waypoints and routes between devices, but it turns out that manufacturers pollute the files with proprietary fields that prevents interoperability without manually hacking the files. A real hassle – would be so much nicer if they’ed cooperate, and I’m not interested in cloud-based solutions when I’m navigating off-shore.
    In a similar vein, I’m helping someone spend almost $20k on a complete set of new nav electronics and autopilot for offshore racing and find that the chosen vendors software can’t accept charts directly from NOAA like my laptop does. Instead they require a subscription from a firm that gets the charts for free, puts them into a proprietary format, then charges for something that was already payed for with my tax dollars, often months after the update came out! (We call this value-subtracted.)
    The success of NMEA-2000 should be showing marine electronics providers the advantages of standardization – nickel and dime-ing customers is a sure route to losing a market.
    A frustrated Fogmachine

  4. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for the detailed write-up. Spot-on as usual.
    You had mentioned another technical user having difficulty syncing Navionics routes created on a tablet with their Zeus2 plotter.
    We also use Zeus2 MFDs with Navionics [and C-Map…] charts. We also use the Navionics app on a couple of iPads and iPhones, and have no issues syncing both chart updates and routes from any iOS device to the MFD with the Navionics SD card. [All devices have current versions of firmware, OS, and apps…] The workflow is identical to what you described for your Simrad NSS evo2 displays.
    We, too, find the Navionics routing on iOS to be very robust, but still requiring critical scrutiny to adjust to suit our needs and preferences.
    Regarding Garmin acquiring Navionics: an additional desirable outcome for me would be Active Captain [AC] integration into Navionics. We currently use other nav programs to access current AC info when offline as we find Navionics crowd-sourced location information totally lacking- at least in Alaska. Not so with AC.
    In case this is useful.
    Cheers! Bill

  5. Norton Rider says:

    Ben,
    Thanks for this article. I think developing routes on a laptop or tablet and transferring to a chart plotter is a very good thing. I teach the USPS Electronic Navigation Systems course and this is one thing that I emphasize to students.

  6. Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app arrives. It includes the AC cruising data but it’s actually a whole lot more. I’ve been using all aspects of it for a while, and will do more testing today, with full review coming soon:
    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/573254

  7. Ron says:

    Hi Ben
    Nice article on the Navionics App. I have been using it for a number of years on my smartphone as a supplement and back up to my Garmin 3210 plotter (reason for not updating was noted in comment on your discussion about WPx function of Coastal Explorer referenced above).
    I have played with the auto-route feature and find it a seemingly great tool. And I used the WebApp Viewer to create routing on my PC and sync with the phone.
    However, it is not very useful if I cannot get the route transferred to a GPX file that I can access via computer. I could then use Garmin Homeport (that I like very much for route making and trip planning) for final review and then transfer to the plotter. Think I am in the same boat as many other users that do not have MFDs with wireless connections.
    Therefore, my question is one of clarification to the discussion above. Is there is no way to transfer the GPX files from the app without use of a wireless compatible MFD?
    Regards
    Ron

  8. Great question, Ron, especially because I can reply “Yes, you can.”
    When you have an individual route menu open, there’s a share button just right of the route name. Use that to email the route to yourself and besides a screenshot of the route you’ll get two links, one to the ChartViewer and the other to the route in .kml format (which is very close to .gpx, and easily converted).
    It’s only one route at a time, and little convoluted, but it works with iOS or Android Navionics Boating. Here are some links I just generated that you can try:
    Route shared using Navionics App.
    View it: http://tinyurl.com/yclhgoyc
    Download it: http://tinyurl.com/y8ekt2l9
    Route shared using Navionics App.
    View it: http://tinyurl.com/y72dqu4l
    Download it: http://tinyurl.com/y95xby67

  9. I agree that a PC far and away the best device for plotting and chacking routes. Massive resolution, large screens, and a mouse and keyboard (still the best interface).
    This is why I’m actually disappointed. There is no Navionics package available for PC/Macs, ok we can use the webapp, but pretty much every feature of it is turned off. You can save routes, but you can’t export them. Yet visit the same webapp on your mobile and you can export (even if you don’t have a paid up subscription).
    Likewise, you can’t add comments or give feedback (fair enough if you haven’t paid), but then why allow it on mobile.
    I also found that when exporting routes to manually bring into my NSS 8. That the routes aren’t GPX format, and need converting. Bizarre.
    My biggest disappointment in all this, is that Simrad do not have an application that allows you plan and plot routes on your computer for uploading to the plotter. Garmin has it for portables (bascamp), and I believe for it’s MFDs, I think even Raymarine has something, but there is no such application from Simrad, which is why we have to turn to Navionics. Unfortunately we can’t use grib files and have weather routing, but maybe that will come.

  10. Right, Mike, but most PCs are not great for underway navigation, one reason they’re not used at many helms. At any rate, Simrad does offer PC planning software, though only in the U.S. for reasons unknown:
    https://gofreemarine.com/apps/insight-planner/

  11. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Let’s not ask for more PC software / give the impression there is a market for it! Most vendors who have created and market PC apps don’t get enough volume to support it/ keep the developer around and we are stuck with something that does not evolve and is hard to move when we replace our device.
    Laptop/Desktop software needs to be browser based where we don’t (conciosously) load software and the data is stored in the cloud.
    For our smartphones and tablets, install an app maybe, but keep the data in the cloud and at most buffered on our devices.
    Obviously the above does not apply for using a PC as a chartplotter, but nearly everything else does not have enough PC users to meet demand like an Android app or cloud based solution.

  12. Norton Rider says:

    Dan,
    I do not agree that planning software should be browser based and/or data should be in the cloud. I often cruise in areas with no WiFi or Cell coverage and I plan routes on my laptop. I know many other people that do the same.
    As a matter of fact I keep a library of routes that I’ve planned on my laptop for use in the future. Sometimes I’ll use a route as-is; other times I will modify a route to get me to a different destination.
    Currently I run Navico equipment, but use Garmin’s HomePort to plan routes and save them as .gpx files. I do this because the Navico’s Insight Planner software is very user-unfriendly.

  13. Lance BercLance Berc says:

    You may be right in general, but I know many people (including myself) that now navigate offshore with laptops and tablets more than via an MFD. In fact, the last several trips (each over 200nm) we didn’t even turn the MFD on unless we wanted radar. Maybe they aren’t commercially viable, but laptops sure are convenient.
    The current project added a MFD more for flexibility and reliability than functionality. It’s certainly going to feel odd seeing three WiFi networks available when land is out of sight.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wow…
    I feel so very lonely. I still consider my paper charts the gold standard for routing.
    I have tried using my laptop, and do truly hate it. It is awkward, power hungry and fragile. Sailing outside the US now means that I need to buy THREE sets of charts: One for MFD, one for laptop, and paper. You will pry my paper charts from my cold dead hands!
    My MFD is used for local situational awareness at the helm, and it is very good at that, but for routing? It is tedious, terrible, and error prone to try to really review a long route at all the various zoom levels needed to be sure the route is safe and clear. And that problem is NO better on a laptop, or (shudder!) a tablet. For most passages, one, or at most three, paper charts are really all that is needed to layout a detailed, safe, route.
    And really… the example of the boat sailing past the C&D canal as a reason why I should set up a turn-by-turn electronic route??? That’s just head-up-the-butt sailing. But I guess if they had set up a route and programmed it into the autopilot, they could have just continued to sleep all the way to the Chesapeake and would not have had to wake up to turn around.
    I know as a world-wide ocean cruiser my problems are vastly different from someone who stays in US waters where electronic vector and raster charts are readily available–and free. And if you get hit by lightening in the middle of the Chesapeake, finding you way to a safe harbor without electronics is not so hard.
    No boat I am on will ever sail a route picked by software without my detailed review. If I am going to review it, what do I need the software route for? Is it really THAT hard to route a boat without running into things? If nobody actually goes over the route in detail how do you ever know if things are not right?

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