Sorry I haven't been very attentive to the blog of late. Pressing problems at home. Work on the the boat. Yada-yada. I know. Who cares? But here I am -- with some info on mapping software for you to stew on.
I use Maptech's Offshore Lite, a great package that comes bundled free with their Chartbook. Basically, it's an abbreviated version of their professional navigation software. You get digital versions of all the charts in the Chartbook but not all the features of the Nav software. For example, while you can track vessel's position with an integrated GPS, you don't get the full save and store capabilities of Offshore Pro. You don't have access to bathyspheric and other data, like tide info. You can't place a mark or waypoint on your vessel's position at the touch of a button, nor can you tie into an autopilot, or transfer routes and waypoints to and from your GPS. As I said, it's a great little tracking and plotting program that does the job and more. However, the more you use it, the more you will want to buy the pro version. And if you're doing any kind of commercial work, whether it's fishing, towing, whatever, you'll need Pro.
I'm currently doing an underwater survey using a magnetometer and forward-looking fathometer. I collect event data using proprietary logging software, and I create event markers on a C-Map cartridge being displayed on a Hondex plotter. I also take the raw data output from the Mag and manually transpose it to the Maptech charts in the form of event markers. In other words, I use the Hondex to re-locate targets, and the Maptech chart -- a NOAA chart with real NOAA symbols -- to chart my data. It's not an ideal situation because even though I have the redundancy aspect working in my favor, I'm doing a lot of extra work. Why not just keep a running plot of event markers using the Maptech software? The answer: Because Maptech Lite can't do it. You need the Pro version. I tell you this to give you an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of both.
The big advantage of Maptech Lite is that you get real-time tracking capability on a NOAA chart for free, or what amounts to 'free' when you buy a Chartbook? You still need paper charts to be legal, so why not get the Chartbook and play with Offshore Lite. It's free?