Charts schmarts.

IMG_0123Lets get this out of the way first. I have taken the Canadian Power Sail Squadron’s Seamanship course which has a heavy emphasis on traditional chart plotting,  so I know how to work with paper charts, but as a digital native I prefer the convenience and accuracy of electronic navigation. We can all agree that paper still works when the batteries run out.

On our trip up the Rideau Canal to Ottawa last summer, I used a chart book and my Android Samsung SII cellphone with Navionics for way finding.  There really wasn’t any plotting involved because you just need to follow the trail of red and green bouys, but occasionally you get into open water and need to know which end of the lake to head to. Despite the small screen size, that setup worked except the GPS function and the screen brightness on full, drained the cell phone battery. To keep it alive, I plugged the phone into an AC charger via an extension cord to the AC/DC inverter. It was a messy but functional set up. I resolved that I could do better for the next trip.

badelf-gps-back-300x300I have a first-generation iPad that doesn’t have GPS (no loss if it should fall into the lake….). I solved the lack of GPS with the Bad Elf GPS module.  The addition of BlueSea 5v USB sockets  means I don’t have to trip over cables.  I bought a cheap silicone rubber water resistant case off Ali Express to protect it from rain and from falls in the cockpit.  The pedestal is covered by the bimini anyway so rain wasn’t a big concern.

The set up was quite good and I am very pleased with the perfomance of the Bad Elf and Navionics. Occasionally the GPS module wouldn’t connect after sleeping and required me to reboot the iPad to get them talking. The Bad Elf was very fast getting a fix and very accurate. Navionics was responsive and quick, I was concerned that there might be lag zooming but there were no issues. Compared to the old Raymarine unit the boat came with, this is awesome.

My only quibble has to do with my “installation”.  I have it sitting on top of the instruments and leaning on the hand rail. There are 4 tabs of industrial velcro keeping it in place. It won’t fall off from vibration or tilt, but a couple of times while working the lines, my elbow hit the iPad and knocked it off. The other issue is the GPS unit sticks out the starboard side and then the power cable out of that. It makes for an attractive elbow catcher. I think I might rotate it 90° next year from landscape to portrait to get the sensitive bits out of the way.


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