Thursday, October 3, 2019

GPS and Navigation

GPS has made navigation pretty easy. Just about everyone has a smart phone with Google Maps on it. With smartphone navigation so easy the stand alone GPS devices, like a Tom Tom, appear to be less popular. Maybe that’s just my observation. Even if that’s the case there are still people who like having a stand alone device for car navigation.

For Marine navigation there are a wide range of choices for various GPS mapping devices. Some of them are quite pricey. A good cheaper marine mapping option is a GPS enabled tablet running the Navionics app. There are also marine apps that run on smartphones. If you decided to go that route, make sure they can also run Active Captain at the same time. Active Captain adds additional crowd sourced information like marinas, anchorages, hazards, bridges, locks and other information.

I was looking over my own personal navigation situation. There are four GPS enabled devices in my possession. One is an old car GPS that’s terribly out of date and the company that made it is out of business. It still does a good job with old roads. When driving on newer roads it shows me driving across fields and through the roods.

My cell phone runs Google Maps, of course. It also has a marine navigation app with charts and Active Captain. The phone is waterproof so it’s actually pretty useful on a boat.

My new Garmin Inreach is primarily for the SOS function, text communication outside of cell range, and to let people follow my progress. It does have basic GPS function too. The problem is that the Inreach Mini works best for navigation when paired with a smartphone, so you still need the phone to really use it.

Speaking of basic GPS, I have an old Garmin Etrex. It’s extremely basic. You have to program way points from a paper chart into the unit. There’s no mapping, just a basic pointer system. It’s simple, but pretty reliable.

When it comes right down to it, I still believe in going old school. A compass and a map or charts still have their place. They don’t need batteries and that can make all the difference.

My best navigation while driving is my lovely wife with a decent road atlas. She enjoys telling me where to go.



  1. No matter how good electronics are, having paper charts is a necessity. And you must know how to read the charts.

    Don't know how many times I've rescued drivers who couldn't read a map. A basic paper map of a small section of a city.

    Scary. I come from a different time. Heck, I remember and used marine Loran for navigating.

    1. I remember Loran. Back in the day a friend of my father's agreed to buy a fishing boat in FL if my dad would learn Loran. They used it to get to all their favorite fishing spots in the Gulf of Mexico. Went fishing with those guys once and had a blast.

    2. Solid brass sextants available on Ebay as low as 22 bucks ;-)

    3. I once made the mistake of buying a bargain sextant only to discover it was for display -not an actual functional device. Buyer beware. There are cheap plastic ones that are serviceable.

  2. lol - I have a flip phone and a map.

    1. And only 5 minutes later I read that our backwards brained down under gummint agency is ceasing to print topographic maps. Here's hoping we don't get hit by a massive EMP storm...maybe I could get a post apoc gig as a tour guide. Kinda like a shaman that understands the mysteries of the squiggles on a map.

    2. There are private companies who've stepped up to print paper maps. Good thing.