Chartplotters, which may be standalone devices or software for PCs, display electronic versions of nautical charts, superimposing your boat's position, with the position usually coming from GPS. We focus on the PC software implementations, which allow you to use the same computer, economically, for other vessel functions such as VMS, engine and other maintenance tracking, and Electronic Vessel Trip Reporting (EVTR)/catch reporting

Some chartplotters can use supplemental methods for determining your vessel's position. They do, however, considerably more than tell you present position.  No single chartplotter will meet the needs of every vessel; we help in selecting the right tools, and then installing and supporting them.  We will be updating these pages with the latest product information.

They can record all or part of your voyage as a series of waypoints that form a track.
Tracks are subtly different from courses, which can either be the bearing from one waypoint to another, or from your starting point to your destination. Note: some chartplotters, such as Chart Navigator Pro, use the term "route" for what we call a "track". C-Map considers a route something that is preplanned, while a track is something that comes from real-time recording

In the picture at the left, the brown shapes are obstacles. Assume you are going to navigate, by eye, from your home pier, but you turn on automatic tracking.  You take a course of 45 degrees to avoid the first obstacle, and get to waypoint WP1.

Next, you change to a heading of 315 degrees, to get to WP2. This course gets you to WP3.

From WP3, you steer due north, until you get to WP4.

Next, you steer due west and get to the port.

At each of these stages of the track, the chartplotter recorded speed and time. If you save the track, and you want to take the same voyage a few days later, you can reload the track and send the information to an autopilot. An autopilot, however, never substitutes for a sailor's eye; keep a watch out the window.

For most purposes, you will want your chartplotter to display your vessel, and other information, superimposed on various prerecorded electronic charts , although some allow you to draw the course on the computer equivalent of a blank plotting sheet.  Follow the link for more information on charts, but most software chartplotters can use either free government charts or  more powerful charts that need to be bought; Beachwerks will be testing and providing results.

Let's consider key questions from many captains:

How does the chartplotter know where you are?
Do you need to take bearings on landmarks or unknown targets?'
Do you need to know the exact position of vessels or other targets that intelligently give their location?
What do you need to know about the bottom?
Do you need weather (including surface temperature) or tide information on the chart?
Want help keeping the log, a record of your navigation points, or maintenance information?
Do you want to have TV camera feeds (e.g., underwater, engine, etc.) or the actual radar screen on the chart display (or next to it)?
Do you want engine information automatically recorded, including hours operated and hours since the last oil change, and get maintenance reminders?
Have you features in mind we haven't discussed?

What does all this mean in terms of computer requirements?
What makes chartplotters more or less easy to use?