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Basic Equipment: Charting SoftwareAuthor: . 16043 Reads
By Captain Dave Tilley
Charting Software seems to be all the rage now a days. Ranging in price from $40.00 to $500.00 they can do and display lots of different information. The best include weather and photo overlays, 3-D bathymetric data while some of the more inexpensive are little more than databases.
Nobeltec Visual GPS Planner
Visual GPS Planner by Nobletec is an amazing product. (They were nice enough to supply this copy for evaluation) It will by far do the most of any charting software I have used. Weather Overlays, Navigation Photo Overlays with blending options, built in Tide Tables, 3-D Bathymetric Overlays and a host of other features. Their Passport Charts are by far the best electronic charts I have seen. Clear and easy to read at any resolution, the passport charts are the way to play with electronic charts. Uploading and downloading from my GPSs was easy but it has 48 Icons and only 3 Colors for the marks. A little on the pricey side but overall a very nice, well made product.
The only thing that bothers me about GPS Planner is the piracy protection. It is a real pain to install and set it up. If you are like me and upgrade your computer a lot then it is more than inconvenient, it is a down right pain.
Chartview Pro was created by Nobletec some years ago and recently (last year) sold off to Weems and Path. It is an excellent product. I have used it for a long time and it fits like an old pair of shoes. Easy to use with lots of features. The charts stay in focus regardless of the resolution. It has built in Tide Tables, GPS upload and download capabilities and can be integrated with autopilots for seamless navigation. Chartview supplies 22 Icons and 11 Colors for the marks. All in all, for the money, a really nice product. Day in and Day out it is probably the one I use the most for keeping up with my numbers.
Maps Unique and GPSU are not really charting software as much as they are waypoint managers. GPSU is used in most of the products mentioned on this page to transfer waypoints to and from the GPS's and the Map Unique version comes with a ton of waypoints laid out on a Bathymetric chart for ease of use. It is a very nice setup and for the price it is hard to beat. The waypoints included are reasonably decent and I have personally fished several of the locations with good success. It is the easiest to use of all the products here. It is a very nice product and I have no problems recommending it to anyone.
Blue Water Fish Finder
Bluewater Fish Finder is another great product. It combines Bathymetric data with waypoints (right screen) with current sea surface temperature charts (left screen). A great idea! Now if they would include upload and download capabilities for GPS's it would really be a hit! It does take a little knowledge and understanding to use this system but once you get the hang of what to look for and how to customize the data, it is a great product. In season I use this almost everyday to find where I think the fish will be for the next days journey. Once again for the money it is well worth the time, energy and effort to learn and well worth the 100 bucks! Did I mention that it is available for a free 14 day trail? It is the full version too, not a half cooked demo!
The Bad Stuff
I have two pet peeves about all the chart programs that I have used to date.
I have been collecting numbers for as long as I have been fishing. I am sure that I am not the only fisherman that is like this. Most of the people I know that fish a lot or for a living have a stack of numbers as well.
You get all these fancy icons that are worthless, I don't give a HOOT for a bunch of silly icons, what I need is a way to tell the difference between the sources of my numbers. Let me give you an example. Let's say I have numbers supplied by my very best mate of where he caught the big one last week and marked them with his DGPS. I would use the color "red" for those. Then let's say I pulled some numbers off a couple websites that may or may not be "good" numbers. I need a way of telling those sources apart. The last time I looked I had numbers supplied by 8 or 9 charter captains from my area. How can I tell whose numbers are whose? You can not do this with 3 colors and 48 icons. Bah! This is a common complaint I have about all of the charting programs I have tried.
One of my GPS's will hold 400 sets of numbers......I have several thousand. I want a way to group them. I want a check box or something so that I can turn on or off this group or that group. If I am fishing South tomorrow. I don't need numbers up North. If I am grouper fishing tomorrow I don't need numbers in the Gulfstream. It just clogs up my GPS screen and makes it that much harder to read and pick the pairs that will produce fish today!
Should you decide to buy one of these products. Please tell them where you saw it.
Tight lines and Slight seas!
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