Product Review: Diginav Nautical Charts DVD and GPS for Laptops.

 Nautical Charts
 DVD with plotting GPS

Certified NOAA RNC
Chart Distributor

To purchase a good onboard Marine GPS chart plotter system can become very expensive and can cost even more when you need to purchase additional mapping chips to obtain more details or for your coverage of your area. When the purchase price of your boat is under four thousand dollars, it makes the decision more difficult to spend another $1,000 on a GPS chart plotter system. Hence the purchasing of paper charts but they can be lost or damaged easily.

Even if you already have a professional unit, it is always a good idea to have a backup system, as Sailboats with high masts are known to attract static discharges due to lighting strikes. If your DSC VHF radio antenna is on the top of the mast both your VHF radio and connected GPS Chart plotter can become toast with a nearby strike.

Since most of us already have onboard a laptop for; playing DVD movies and internet email, skype, weather reports, and browsing while at the marinas, why not add a GPS and chart plotting onto your laptop as well.

The "DIGINAV Charts DVD" and or the "DIGINAV Charts DVD and USB GPS" may be of some interest, as it contains four gigabytes of nautical chart files (appx. 2200 charts including all of the NOAA Raster charts) all you need to do is insert the DVD into your laptop computer and connect the included USB GPS receiver, to achieve the same results of an expensive chart plotter. Battery power for your laptop can be recharged or extended for days by using a small 12vdc/120vac inverter connected to your laptop's power cable and to your boat's main battery.

For more detailed information on this product you want to visit the DIGINAV website, but in the spring of 2011, we are going to be testing out this product ourselves and will be posting online here how it operates and performs, thanks to the folks at DIGINAV.


January 2010: 

We received our GPS and DVD package from DIGINAV and discovered that they did a nice job of collecting and bundling many useful nautical items which are deemed public or shareware and placed them all onto a DVD with a customized menu to access it all. Thus, making it easier for you to use, and saving you time in having to manually search and find on the internet and to download it all Individually. For a person who is new to boats or sailing, having all these resources at your fingertips to help you learn to navigate is a great idea. We were a bit disappointed that no Canadian documents were included at this time.

A documented 10 step install process was included (on paper), to ensure a flawless installation, just take the time to read and follow it through. Overall basically we just found it a three part installation process; GPS, Chat plotter software and Charts, and then onto exploring the tutorials and videos.

Firstly you needed to install the GPS and drivers then load up a small utility program that will auto-scan all your computers ports to find and communicate to your GPS, it also displays all of the found satellites flying overhead and displays each and their corresponding signal strengths. I was surprised that the gps worked well even indoors, in the basement the GPS picked up 8 satellites of which 6 were acceptable. 

Secondly was the installation of SEACLEAR II to the laptop to be able to save our tracking data. (It can also be run from the DVD) and then the USA NOAA charts were installed. It is a bit of a lengthy process which was overshadowed buy having a cup of coffee. When done, we watched the Diginav's Tutorial Videos on how to use Seaclear. We then loaded up Seaclear, clicked on "charts find boat", selected the chart for our area, and we could now see our location via the gps right on the middle of the chart. One feature I liked right away is that you can ZOOM in and out to see the details on the charts without having to use your eyeglasses, and you can use the full screen of the laptop to view the charts. As a comparison, I pulled out from my collection of paper charts the same chart # and overall they both appeared to be the same. 

Viewing all the included helpful resources (.pdf files) is quite easy and there is a wealth of useful information, such as on how to read and use the charts, how to navigate and placement of navigational aids and buoys, dangers to be aware of, and much more. If there are no local sailing school or sailing clubs close to your town to learn navigation tips from, then these are quite import. Reading these may chew up a few evenings after supper while having a cup of coffee, done best while outside the ground is still covered in snow

Note: For marine safety, critical items always require a backup, for example: electronic devices onboard are nice features to use until they fail, having paper charts and a magnetic compass maybe a requirement of your local USA/CAN Coast Guard or Policing agencies. Be prepaired and know what you are required to have on onboard to fulfill an onboard inspection.


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