Navionics / GPS questions.

The GCW

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I've used I-phone Navionics for a number of trips. I don't use it while paddling, keeping it in a dry bag in a bulkhead. It's handy for retrieving info later...

Now I'm unable to update it. Can't figure out how to pay for it, or use it beyond simply having distance and speed type info.

So I wonder if anyone has used it in the past,? Still uses it? Has anyone else had trouble, are they still in use???

Then on the other hand I'm maybe interested in finally getting a GPS. I have only toured with charts and compass and will do so in the future, however, with a waterproof GPS, I may use it at the same time, stored in a PFD with a short cord.

SO, what GPS devices are people happy with which are still available today? It might be less helpful to get much info on devices which are obsolete and no longer for sale...
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I'm not a 'phone guy' so I don't have any info on the Navionics, though I did load it into my iPad a few years ago.
GPS-
I like GPS units that use batteries -AA vs USB charged devices with internal batteries.
I also like units with buttons vs touch-screen.
If you are sure you are going to stow the GPS in your PFD, one of the Garmin eTrex models will be your most compact choice.
I don't like the side-mounted buttons on the eTrex, but some my friends use them and like them.
For 'full size' handhelds with buttons, the Garmin 78 or 64 units would be my choice. Still available, but probably not for long. (??)
Garmin has pretty strict pricing control, it seems. Prices don't vary much. For a good overview of what's available, check
Even if you don't buy from them, the website is an excellent resource.
I've mail ordered from them on multiple occasions (GPS, RAM mounts, Icom VHF) and had good service.
 

CaliPaddler

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I've used I-phone Navionics for a number of trips. I don't use it while paddling, keeping it in a dry bag in a bulkhead. It's handy for retrieving info later...

Now I'm unable to update it. Can't figure out how to pay for it, or use it beyond simply having distance and speed type info.

So I wonder if anyone has used it in the past,? Still uses it? Has anyone else had trouble, are they still in use???

Then on the other hand I'm maybe interested in finally getting a GPS. I have only toured with charts and compass and will do so in the future, however, with a waterproof GPS, I may use it at the same time, stored in a PFD with a short cord.

SO, what GPS devices are people happy with which are still available today? It might be less helpful to get much info on devices which are obsolete and no longer for sale...
I love Navionics but I recall they did a major app overhaul about a year ago and siphoned off some features into other sister apps. Still works great for tracking though. I’d delete and reinstall, the new iPhone version is called “Boating” by Navionics.
 

cougarmeat

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I switched from GPS to my iPad mini. Love the increased real estate. I use iNavX coupled with AyeTides (for tide and current info).
Previously I was using a Garmin 76Map with a BlueChart chip. The map rendered the San Juans okay but once across the border, the Canadian islands looked like something drawn by a 3 year old with a crayon. What was worse, major landmass islands were missing.

The iPad is not on full time. I just consult it before starting out and occasionally when underway if the situation becomes ambiguous.

I still bring the GPS as backup - I mostly use the speed feature as I know how fast I paddle in flat water so it gives me an idea of current current :)
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I switched from GPS to my iPad mini. .........

The iPad is not on full time. I just consult it before starting out and occasionally when underway if the situation becomes ambiguous.
I'm interested in using the iPad since some of the apps are excellent
Is the iPad display easily readable in sunlight?
How/where do you keep the iPad on deck? What sort of case do you use?
Also, how do you recharge it while on trips?
 

cougarmeat

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John, My iPad is NOT easy to read in direct sunlight. I have written to Apple and told them to get their engineers out of the lab, outside, In sunlight, with polarized glasses - now, design a screen that works in that environment. They haven’t replied yet.

To be fair, I don’t have a “Pro” model with the Retina display that may have a better “outdoors” coating. But It’s not that hard to find some shading (via your body) in the cockpit. I have a LifeProof waterproof case but I think they stopped making them for the mini. A less expensive “bag” type case may work just as well with the benefit of floating. I have the LifeProof accessory floating collar that goes around the hard case - but it’s a little bulky.

I don’t have one in the Max but in my Express and sold XL, I took out the “map” shelf and had six eyelets, three on each side, fiberglassed inside the center of the deck about 6 inches apart (wide). I cut some flexible plastic - like cutting board material - punched three holes along each side of the rectangle, and using bungee cord woven through the eyelets, support it. That gave a flat shelf, a little bigger than an iPad mini, supported on two sides, to hold the Mini or my pump/paddle float or water bottle (pick one).

It would be easy to put the iPad on the deck if you could shape some foam to hold it at an angle.

I carry a power brick with me that would give two a full changes.

My iPad does NOT have a Cellular feature (figure if I can get cell service, I’m not out far enough) so it doesn’t have built-in GPS. I use a BadElf GPS that has a blueTooth connection to the iPad. I can keep the GPS in a small dry bag I have hooked on the tether line of the 4 inch inspection port cap near the bow. Depending upon conditions, I’d keep the BlueTooth GPS on so, if necessary, I can check position with the iPad when underway.

I don’t use the iPad for phone calls, photos, videos, email. Its job is navigation/location and tide/current status - backed up by paper tables via AyeTides for Mac desktop.

The old Garmin GPS still gives me compass info (bearing), speed, estimated time of arrival, sunset, etc. It degraded so that it is very poor with map content and redrawing. Long ago, Garmin had a trade back program to upgrade that model with their newer version - but I missed that window.

I also carry a Garmin Legend. It provides basic “you are here - this is the direction you want to go to get to lat/long” info as well as Tide info. But the screen is too small for best use - that’s why I switched to the iPad mini.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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John, My iPad is NOT easy to read in direct sunlight. I have written to Apple and told them to get their engineers out of the lab, outside, In sunlight, with polarized glasses - now, design a screen that works in that environment. They haven’t replied yet.

To be fair, I don’t have a “Pro” model with the Retina display that may have a better “outdoors” coating.
I have an older iPad (Gen3) which does have the Retina display, and it is also pretty useless in sunlight - I can't see what I'm doing when I take pictures outdoors with it
 

cougarmeat

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Yeah, they really missed the kayak when they designed something portable (i.e. highly probably it would be used outdoors) and gave it a screen that shows black in sunlight and polarized lenses. But you’ve got to love that screen real estate to zoom and drag, along with the real-time tide and current information, - and charts that can be stored locally to the device so no cell/wi-fi service is necessary.
 

jamonte

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I owned (past tense) a Garmin GPSMAP 78scx for the past five years and used it extensively (like 100+ days a year) for hiking, sea kayaking, and multi-day river trips. Never have I owned an electronic device that was so unreliable! When it worked, I was extremely happy with it, but it had an uncanny ability to fail right when I needed it most. For example, in 2018, I led a 10-day, 200-mile river trip down Marsh Creek, the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and the Main Salmon at high water. The device worked perfectly on Day 1, but when I booted it up on Day 2, all my waypoints were gone! Vanished! I tried re-booting, removing and re-seating the batteries and the micro SD card, tried new batteries, etc., etc. and nothing worked. It showed the map, and my location on the map (including speed of travel, etc.), but without my waypoints, it was very, very hard to determine how close I was to the next rapid. (Note: when you're averaging 10 mph and the next rapid is a 4+ that you must scout, it really sucks to cover a mile in six minutes. Oh, and it isn't very easy to eyeball the tiny map on the screen when the water level is up into the trees and all the "normal" features (like sand bars) are underwater! But here's the kicker: on the last day of the trip, I booted the GPS up in the morning and there were all my way points again... as if they'd been there all along! Tech support at Garmin couldn't begin to explain that little trick.

As I said, if I was just going out for a day hike or a day paddle close to home, my little Garmin NEVER failed me. Not even once! But if I really needed it and was counting on it for navigation, then it would almost always crap out. The last time happened earlier this year on the Grand Canyon. This was a 28-day river trip and my GPS failed me on Day 1 of the trip. This time, it showed my waypoints and it showed my location on the screen, BUT THERE WAS NO MAP! What's more, when I bought the device in 2015, it came preloaded (onto its internal memory chip) with a topo map for GCNP. And as a backup, I had Garmin's own Southwest US topo map loaded onto the external micro SD card.... so I should have been able to access a map one way or the other, but nothing doing. I continued to use the device anyhow (just to show my location relative to my waypoints), but then on Day 4 it completely crapped out and wouldn't boot. At the moment, my "trusty" Garmin GPS is residing in a landfill somewhere, and I sincerely doubt it will be able to navigate its way out.

Many hikers use their smartphones for navigation using apps like GAIA. I don't know if there is a similar option available for marine charts. I just wish Google would hurry up and offer a subscription service to link their smartphones to a satellite system. I would pay big bucks to use my smartphone as a camera, GPS, and sat phone while on wilderness trips. That would be sweet.
 

cougarmeat

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You can get a NOAA chart with nautical info from Gaia. If not, iNavX, with yearly subscription fee, allows you to download charts of specific areas BUT the NOAA chart of Puget Sound (including the San Juans) is free.

Also, any map you can bring up on Google can be downloaded to your device so you don’t need cell/wi-fi service to use it on your adventure.
 
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jefffski

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Love my garmin 64S. Using it takes a bit of practice, but it's waterproof and boots up in under 40s. As we're paddling along, if we need it, I turn it on and keep paddling until it's good to go. I have bluechart installed, which is the same as a marine chart.
 

The GCW

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Lot’s to think about.

Jeffski, looks like the 64s is being followed by the 66s and they come with land maps: do You have charts on Yours? Did You need to pay for additional charts???

Garmin GPS handhelds:

78sc ($180 US) is at a better price with G2 charts and is on it’s way out meaning obsolete soon.
86sc ($350 US) is the replacement, I believe and it has G3 charts, said to be better… & buttons are below screen which may be better.
  • Adding maps for Colorado hiking etc is around $80 more, to use it more often where I live. -I’m not on the ocean very much…
  • I’m disappointed when stuff becomes obsolete…
*Those gizmo’s (I’m reading) require a lot of time to get familiar with them and their manuals are inadequate.
*They also do way more than I’m interested in or am even able to understand. -complicated.
*I don’t go on the ocean (San Juan’s) when it’s foggy, but can’t help believing an actual GPS would add another layer of safety.
*Plenty of stories about Garmin glitches and unreliability: not much long term info re: 86sc…

Cougarmeat’s mention “I use iNavX coupled with AyeTides (for tide and current info)”

Has Me investigating those 2 app’s and thinking I could go that direction (remain) on My I-phone and keep it simple still.

If the Navionics app still worked I’d wouldn’t be investigating options and iNavX coupled with AyeTides does that.

*Sounds like a GPS is a wise tool.
*If You have a GPS, you don’t leave home / shore without it.

I’m appreciating the input, with a lot of thinking out loud.

Thank You.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Garmin GPS handhelds:

78sc ($180 US) is at a better price with G2 charts and is on it’s way out meaning obsolete soon.
86sc ($350 US) is the replacement, I believe and it has G3 charts, said to be better… & buttons are below screen which may be better.
Buttons below the screen are on the 64, above on the 78. The power button is on the side of the 64; on the face of the 78. I thought the buttons on the 78 would be a hassle, since one reaches across the screen to push the button, but I don't find it makes much difference. I guess we can adapt to anything...
I don't know if 'obsolete' means a lot with these units - even a Garmin 12XL from the 90s will work just fine today and have the same features it had when new.
I have the charts I need in my Garmin 78 and 64, so I think they will keep working OK, even if they won't work well with the newer Bluechart formats. I personally think that the small display on the handhelds can't really make the most of the newer charts anyway. The (copy of the) chart chip that you stuff into the computer card slot is excellent for working with HomePort, for trip planning.
BTW, the 86 is a USB charging unit with an internal battery, the 78 uses AA cells. So you'd need a different energy plan for a trip depending on which you had.
Also the Sensor and Compass ('SC') features aren't things I use much.
*****EDIT: I was wrong on the 'SC' coding. 'S' is Sensor which is the magnetic compass and barometer. I believe 'C' is 'Charts'******

If you can get a 78 or other GPSMap at a lot better price without them (i.e. GPSMap78 vs GPSMap78SC), it would be something to consider.
There are free public domain maps for some areas; also 'used' marine Bluecharts on eBay are sometimes available. HXUS039R is the G2 chart you are probably wanting for paddling.

Whatever you decide to get/use (GPS or phone), RAM makes a holder and mount for it if you want to put it on the deck. I like 'em.
 
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cougarmeat

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On a group trip that left Pelican Beach (Cypress Island) for eventual landing at Washington County park, a fog rolled in and the leader's GPS ran out of battery power. Note, the advantage of lithium batteries is, unlike other batteries that gradually get weaker, the Lithium delivers “full power” until it doesn’t. So there is not as much warning they might need replacement. The leader’s replacement batteries were stored, inaccessible, in a dry bag (I learned that lesson long ago, Mine are now carried in a ziplock bag in a mostly water tight pocket). Another member had a compass on her deck and leading the way, delighted in mentioning that she hadn’t replace the batteries in her compass since she got it years ago.

But I’ve found, especially in Canada, some of the campsite put-ins are difficult the recognize; especially at high tide. A GPS waypoint is great for that. One thing that pushed me to using the iPad for navigation was a trip to the Broughton Group. I put all the intended camp sites in the GPS but didn’t check them on the Map. When we got into the area, all the waypoint appeared to be floating in the middle of the ocean. Garmin didn’t think it was important - for this $100+ extra chip I bought - to include many island land masses in Canada.

You are talking hundreds of dollars for a GPS with a small screen and extra $$$ for a chart chip. You have much more real estate on your phone or tablet and the apps/charts for those devices, comparatively, are way cheap. Note those charts can be downloaded to the device before the trip so you don’t need cell service or wi-fi to access them.

That’s for convenience. For safety, hardware-wise, besides and extra paddle, I carry a beacon device like The Spot and the InReach. I prefer those to a PLB (that just contacts search and rescue) because I can send “Okay” messages to my responsible party during the adventure. It also allows those at home to share somewhat in the adventure and minimizes worry. Note that I am not back-and-forth communicating with them. I’m just send them an “I’m here” email when I reach the intended campsite and that email automatically contains a Lat/Long link that, when clicked, gives them a google earth type view of my location. Also, If the trip changes for some reason (weather, having too much of a good time, etc.) I send them an “I’m on Plan-B, everything is fine” message so they don’t worry if I stray from my original float plan.

As such, I consider the GPS a convenience - though it moves into the safety device category in fog - and the Spot/InReach/PLB a safety device. Potato/Pataughto
 

jefffski

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I have bluechart on my 64S. I set my waypoints in Homeport and exportex them to the GPS. The 64S uses batteries, which I can replace on the fly. The downsides are that the screen is very small and it is not user friendly at all. That said, I can easily determine how far a waypoint, or any point on the map, is from me in a straight line, or by setting a route. I also like the compass, which I used in a deep fog to cross Hakai Channel in the Great Bear Rainforest as we were being pushed by a swell and current. I put it on the floor of my canoe, watched it carefully and made course corrections. I'm not sure how one would do that with an ipad or phone.

I think the key is to learn to use whatever tool you have.
Practice in good weather in your local area that you know well.
Load a marine chart. Learn to read a chart. Base maps and topos are almost useless.
 

cougarmeat

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Have to take issue with “Base maps and topos are almost useless.” Clearly the topo map will show coast line and interior terrain which is handy when an island has characteristic hill tops and buttes. Chris Duff said he just used a gas station road map to circumnavigate Ireland. It showed the coast line and he could use the shore (city) lights and other features to orient himself as needed. For me, the chart adds water depth - which I seldom care about - and, depending upon their size, maybe outer islands. But, using the San Juan Islands as an example, I don’t see what a chart would add that wouldn’t be on a topo map of the same area. In addition, the base/topo map often includes roads and interior camp sites that can be useful.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I don’t see what a chart would add that wouldn’t be on a topo map of the same area.
I agree that the topo map can be useful when paddling, but I'd still want the marine chart (paper and in the GPS).
The marine chart has the rocks and reefs marked which I like to see - sometimes the approach to a landing site can be a bit complicated. It's also nice to have the nav aids (buoys, lights) info handy.
The Bluechart marine chart has the Tides and Currents info, which could be useful, though I generally carry the paper tide tables on trips and put the day's the tides and currents info into the on-deck chart case (or written on the deck in grease pencil) .
The info in the GPS is 'at my fingertips' when on the water (if it is calm), though, so a backup.

Did we discuss the Bluechart shortcomings in the Broughtons here a few years back? I have some dim memory of that, but can't recall the conclusions.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I would pay big bucks to use my smartphone as a camera, GPS, and sat phone while on wilderness trips. That would be sweet.
The 'all the eggs in one basket' strategy.
I'm at the other extreme - each task has its own device - camera for pics, GPS for navigating, VHF for radio communicating, etc....
 

jamonte

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Yes, and I was in the same boat up until this Grand Canyon trip when my "waterproof" GPS failed on Day 1 and died on Day 4 and my brand new Olympus TG-6 "Tough" camera died on Day 5, after being dropped from waist height onto hard packed sand. I've dropped my smartphone from that height a dozen times (even onto concrete) and it still works fine, but not that "tough" camera! Some sort of internal damage occurred (nothing visible on the outside) that prevented it from booting. Fortunately, COSTCO gave me a full refund even though I was well past their 90 day limit for returns. (And since then, Olympus' camera division has closed shop for good and the business unit sold to a Japanese investment firm.) Computational photography provided via smartphones just makes Point & Shoot cameras (even waterproof ones) obsolete. There is simply no comparison anymore! Just this morning, I purchased a Google Pixel 3a and with it, a bomber case and a waterproof pouch on a lanyard. The camera on the 3a was considered the very best for smartphones in the mid-price range and I decided I didn't want to wait for the Pixel 4a to be released.. Google hasn't made any announcements and it might be as late as October, so I jumped on a 4th of July sale: $342 on Amazon.

At this point, I think it makes more sense to use a smartphone as your GPS, camera, cell phone, etc. and BRING A 2ND SMARTPHONE AS YOUR BACKUP! I always carry a compass and paper maps/charts as my back up for the GPS (sorry, just can't quit... they have saved me too many times) and I will continue to carry a satellite messenger or EPIRB to call for help. (Though, as I said, I'd much prefer to plug a satellite antenna onto my smartphone and use it as a sat phone rather than carrying the satellite messenger.)

Any piece of tech-- from smartphones to DSLRs to GPS units to satellite messengers-- requires a considerable amount of time to learn how to get the most of the device. That's the one thing that never changes. What I liked most about Garmin was never their devices, it was their computer program "Basecamp." I've got so much information stored there (from trips I've done or trips I've researched) that it's like a treasure chest to me. It will be interesting to see how difficult it is to utilize this information with a smartphone, not a Garmin GPS.
 
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