Lowrance NauticPath charts, and holy cow handheld
Above is the NauticPath version of Abaco (right around Whale Cay), not any better detailed than the boat’s older Navionics charts, but a bit easier to understand in color, even on a handheld. NauticPath uses the same Transas chart database that Garmin BlueCharts and Nobeltec Passport charts are based on, but both of the latter have upgraded to private data for the Bahamas. Still, Lowrance’s charts are useful, and an incredible value. You see the little $109 NauticPath chip in this handheld includes not just the Bahamas but the entire U.S. coast including AK, HI, and the Great Lakes. That really got the attention of my two shipmates, each of whom had a Garmin 76C. Which, of course, is a very good handheld, but charts for it have gotten quite expensive compared to Lowrance and others like Navionics Silver. (I wonder if Garmin will lower BlueChart prices for existing models?)
Lowrance’s handheld (bigger here) is a hell of a deal too. This is the new Expedition C, $309 retail with a 2.8” transflective screen and built-in electronic compass and barometric altimeter (with weather predictions). It will even play MP3 music files, though I don’t think you can do that and still use the NauticPath SD card as there is only one card slot. The screen is quite readable in all conditions, though I wish there was more than one level of backlighting to save batteries, and night vision, when it’s really dark. The unit is fast and its WAAS GPS performance is extraordinary, able to quickly and easily acquire a 3D position with just a plane window sky view. In short, about $400 gets you a pocket plotter ready to use anywhere in the U.S. and Bahamas. Amazing.
You said “Explorer C” in your article body, but it is actually the Expedition C (as shown on the top of the hardware in the picture). The link to this model is: http://www.lowrance.com/Outdoor/Products/iFINDERExpeditionC.asp
Anyhow it does look like one heck of a deal for the price. How long before we see some kind of AIS integration with a marine handheld GPS? Is this possible without a totally obtrusive antenna?
Duh! Thanks, Dave; I fixed it in the text. There is a PDA program for watching AIS targets, noted here on 1/11, but I doubt we’ll see handhelds with that function very soon.