When choosing a chartplotter, or PC software enabling you to use your computer to navigate, the compatibility with electronic charts should always be taken into account.
So, once you have decided what you are looking for in a chartplotter, whether it be for cruising, racing, fishing or power boating, fixed or portable, the next question you should yourself is, what type of chart is compatible with my choice of chartplotter?
Firstly, we strongly advocate that only vector charts provide a suitable format for safe navigation with consistent highly detailed cartography, including navaids, tide and current, depth contours etc., regardless of the selected range (scale). It is for this reason that most chartplotters available in the market today only use the vector format. Alternatively some PC navigation software also provide an option to use raster charts,(i.e. scans, or bitmaps), we would urge you to choose the vector route for many reasons, level of detail, zoom capability, huge coverage areas, cost etc., etc.
Furthermore, the choice of your plotter/chart should be based on the features you are looking for. Vector object oriented charts provide all the necessary information for navigation, and also provides the possibility to add more data, for example, marina service and facilities information, an award-winning example of a quality, vector chart is Navionics Gold.
If you want to take advantage of todays rapidly developing technology, you will find that new additional features in vector charts are becoming more and more popular with navigators, so look for a plotter (or software application) that is compatible with charts that provide additional levels of information, all of which help to improve the situation awareness of the navigator. Features such as 3D model of the seabed and coast, top-down photographs that can be overlaid on to the chart, panoramic photographs of harbour entrances and pilot books to improve your knowledge when approaching a strange port. Two product lines from Navionics, Platinum and the new Platinum+, provide these extra features, only differing in images quality and resolution. For comprehensive information on plotter and chart compatibility please check navionics.com where you will find that the following quality plotter manufacturers have chosen Navionics – Eagle, Furuno, Raymarine, Geonav, Lowrance, Humminbird, Northstar and, for navigational software Fugawi, SeaPro, Raymarine, PC Plotter, Seatrack.