In all maritime activities, the importance of charting through the seas has been paramount to navigation. The oceans and seas are huge places, with cast stretches of open sea to navigate through, so knowing your location and heading is essential. The use of a marine chart plotter may be the best choice over standard electronic charts or even paper maps.
A chart plotter today uses high-tech Global Positioning Satellite signals and software to indicate position in two-dimensional space. When your ship is in a position at a certain time, the chart plotter can indicate visually where you are in relation to land or sea masses. Global Positioning Satellites, or GPS, is a system of high orbit, geosynchronous machines that broadcast an electronic signal to the earth, and the device that uses these signals calculates, through triangulation, the position of the device.
The marine chart plotter utilizes the signals to show the position of the boat in relation to the chart observed. This can give a navigator precision positioning information, thus enabling the pilot to put the ship in any location accurately and efficiently. The plotter device is also useful in moving around the seas to avoid storms or other watercraft.
There are many brands to choose from when it comes to purchasing a chart plotter for your watercraft. The important features you would want in your new marine device are items that are not only easy to use, but also vivid and clear images on the viewing screen, and have many programmable options.
Ease of use is by far the most demanded of features needed in a marine chart-plotting device. The instrument should be uncomplicated for the beginning sailor and have all of the control interfaces accessible and labeled legibly. The device should also have an easy-to-mount and install plan so that the budding sea captain can install and use right out of the box.
Another feature to look for is the viewing screen. There should be a self-explanatory image that anyone should be able to utilize to find position and heading, as well as speed and estimations. The view screen should also be large enough and vivid enough to indicate the watercraft and the surrounding sea. The graphics display should not have erroneous "spots" that may be falsely interpreted as other craft or reefs.
Marine chart plotters are available that have complete maritime charts already programmed into them, so all you do is call up the chart for your trip, and the planning can easily begin. Some chart plotting devices also come with transducers, apparatuses that can use sonar to track the ocean bottom or reef and shoal so that you never run aground. There are charting devices that are used for not only navigation, but for finding large game fish as well.
Price is a variable, and it does depend on what you really need verses what the device can do. It may be a bad choice to purchase a very expensive unit for small day trips, when all you needed was a simple GPS driven device. One thing is certain: You should never try to tame the high seas without a marine chart plotter on board.