Fast forward 16 years and technology has continued to improve dramatically. Chart plotters are ubiquitous even on the smallest boats and basic handheld units cost less than $100. When I'm on the boat, I now have at least four different chart plotters (laptop with GPS puck and electronic charts, iPad, iPhone, Raymarine system), each of which is significantly better and easier to use than the old Garmin on the Whaler. But the really exciting stuff comes when companies integrate multiple features into a single device.
The iPad does this better than any device I've used.
Say, for example, I'm curious what a place looks like before I get there. I simply open up the route I'll be navigating in iNavX, press a few buttons, and the route opens up in Google Earth. I can then zoom, pan, and change perspectives on the entire route with just a few swipes of my fingers and see satellite photography of the whole thing.
|Virtually entering Punchbowl Cove|
|I could save a lot of money by cruising Alaska from my computer!|
And this is just one example of how the iPad specifically makes boating easier. Add in real time weather buoy data, a wealth of other weather forecasts and information, electronic tide and current tables that are searchable, an easy place to store all boat related equipment manuals, and access to online cruising forums and guidebooks like ActiveCaptain, and the benefits of technology become even clearer.
Unfortunately, Google Earth will only work when I have a good internet connection, so it's best to use it when WiFi or a strong 3G connection is available. But with the pace of change in the satellite communications field, I doubt (hope!) it will be too many more years before fast, global satellite connections become affordable.
If only there was a way to get radar data and overlays onto an iPad, I would give up the Raymarine system in a heartbeat. Sure, the iPad isn't ruggedized or marinized, but it would be easy enough to keep a spare aboard and even two iPads would be cheaper than a single mid-range MFD.