January 12, 2016

iPads on our boat...

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post. (below)

It is worth noting since we are discussing electronic devices, this post will likely have a relatively short shelf-life... [1-3 years?]

Additional Resources:

––– Last updated 22-Jan-2017 [by Bill] –––

Link to original forum post [9-Jan-2016]

Re: Chartplotter + iPad - Which one where?

Originally Posted by cshrimpt View Post

Using Garmin Helm on an iPad, I can either mount the chartplotter on the pedestal guard using a NavPod and use the iPad below, or do it the other way around.

Sounds like it would be a simple choice, but there are some considerations.

Chartplotter mounted at nav station:

1. Plotter out of the weather
2. Possibly less chance of theft
3. Room for other instruments on pedestal
4. Need to waterproof iPad and figure out how to mount

Chartplotter mounted at helm

1. Less clutter at nav station
2. Could mount small multi-function instrument at nav instead
3. Possibly more accurate than iPad when underway
4. Not necessary to mount iPad. Can use in bunk, settee, etc.

Many other pros and cons as well.

I'm curious if anyone did it one way and wished they did it the other.



I'll add a couple of other considerations I [and I'm sure many others] can share from first-hand experience having both iPads and an MFD on-board. {MFD: Multi-function Display, sometimes called a Chart Plotter...}

I should also mention that this post will likely become dated/obsolete in a few short years as the current iPads we all enjoy are replaced with new products that may not suffer from these same issues...

First, we love our iPads but we had several experiences over a couple of summers of full time sailing that convinced us not to rely on them as our primary or only nav/radar system/screen at an outdoor helm position: [We also have an indoor helm where we think the iPads- properly encased and mounted- are sufficient as primary screens...]

We have one generation 3, and two Gen 4 iPad Airs on-board [One is a mini.] This post is mainly related to our gen 4 iPad Airs. [But the results were the same with the Gen 3 unit as well...]

-The iPad screen isn't easily viewable in bright light- sometimes even when shaded under the dodger/bimini...

Also, sometimes the plane of polarization of various sunglasses is not parallel to the plane of the iPad screen, so you have to tilt your head or the iPad to see the screen.

The MFD is designed to be viewable in bright sunlight and isn't as sensitive to polarized sunglasses.

-iPads used as a mirror to your MFD or as a stand-alone nav device need charging if in use for more that a couple of hours, and the waterproof cords/plugs aren't really... And having charging cable(s) dangling around the cockpit is just asking for trouble and/or to be broken at the connection with the iPad... Also, those cables don't hold up well to UV or the elements...

This is not an issue with the MFD.

Side note: Be sure to use a USB charging source that is greater than 1 amp output [we found these 2 amp units are sufficient] or the iPad battery on our models will actually loose charge during the day when used for live navigation or as a mirror to the  MFD- even though it is plugged-in...  [We use readily available 2 amp output USB adapters that plug into our 12VDC power outlets.]

-The iPad overheats [yes, even in Alaska in the summer...] typically when in direct sunlight- especially in a waterproof cover... When this happens the screen goes black and a small message tells you it is too hot and will not be usable until it cools down [which usually takes 20-30 minutes after we physically relocated it to the shade...] This happens to us more often that you might imagine, and often when you need it most... For us, that is reason enough not to use them as primary screens outdoors.

This doesn't happen with the MFD.

-It is difficult/impossible to rely on hearing any alarms sounding via the iPad speakers when they are in a waterproof case, or even if they aren't when there is a bit of ambient noise from the wind, engine, etc....

Not so with the MFD- especially since it can be connected to external alarm sources.

-If the waterproof case has a film covering the screen, that can sometimes desensitize the touchscreen, and sometimes reduce screen clarity due to glare or bubbles between the film and iPad screen.

Not an issue with the MFD.

These are some of our first-hand observations and experiences that have led us to our conclusion that [for us] iPads are not acceptable as the primary or only MFD/Navigation/Radar/AIS screen on deck...

With all that said, we do use iPads at the outside helm, on deck, and down below, and love the flexibility and redundancy they provide- especially when we can hand one to guests and let them track our progress and 'look around' the charts without impacting the primary Nav system...

In case this is helpful...



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