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Has your chartplotter ever broken down?

westhinder

Well-known member
Joined
15 Feb 2003
Messages
2,039
Location
Belgium
The traditional argument against over-reliance on electronic navigation is of course that it can fail for any number of reasons and you have to be able to get home safely by traditional navigation. I am not disputing that.
But I am intrigued to know how high that risk really is.
I can remember the first decca we had on board, an AP Philips navigator, had a nasty habit of showing a red light when you most needed an accurate position. But since we have had gps I have never had to resort to traditional navigation because of a failure. No electricity blackout, no failed chartplotter and no satellites on strike. The problem of selective availability is long in the past. I have experienced a loss of signal in a very deep and narrow fjord, but there was no doubting my position then. And before you ask, yes when on passage I do plot my position hourly on the chart and enter it in the log book for good measure.
Oh, and should my chartplotter give up the ghost, I have a separate gps, and gps position data provided by the AIS and the VHF(separately), Navionics on my iPad and iPhone and I must have a handheld gps somewhere, just put in some batteries and ready to go.
 

PhillM

Well-known member
Joined
15 Nov 2010
Messages
3,426
Location
Solent
Yes, two devices.

Garmin Dragonfly regularly loses its position. Garmin told me that some had a dodgy chip but mine is too far out of warranty. I got it but didn't use it for a year so it was too late to return it by the time I found out (and had experimented with different locations in the cockpit etc. which also delayed my reporting the issue.

iPhone 6 - the GPS reports about 3 miles out of position. Apparently a known issue but again out of warranty.
 

dunedin

Well-known member
Joined
3 Feb 2004
Messages
6,930
Location
Boat (now back in) the Clyde
Yes. Previously reliable Raymarine E90W started loop rebooting when on board solo, and anchored right in the middle of a complex set of rocks at the Ardmore Islands, Islay.

Fortunately was able to use first level backup, my iPad (was using anyway for Antares detailed chart). This also had full UK Admiralty charts loaded.

Managed to sort the plotter later (bizarrely by creating new pages), but shortly afterwords my 2015 iPad started randomly rebooting when under stress (suspect battery was getting beyond useful life) which was inconvenient, to say the least. But had second level backup, mobile phone with another set of Antares and Admiralty charts installed.
(Third level backup, the laptop, not been called in yet).

PS. And a previous time, when had total electrical failure, in the dark, at LWS, in shallow waters, where never been before. Was before charts were readily available on a mobile device. Had bought electronic Imray charts for laptop, but infuriatingly Imray needed you to get an activation code by phone and they were closed for 4 days over Easter - so had backup but had been unable to activate before departure. Had to dump anchor just out of a busy ferry channel.
 
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CLB

Well-known member
Joined
18 Jun 2013
Messages
4,999
Yes, twice. First time the signal was lost and never came back. Needed a new aerial. The second time the backlight went. It was still working, but I could not see anything in the daylight. I carry a spare, independent, GPS/plotter now, as well as paper charts.
 

savageseadog

Well-known member
Joined
19 Jun 2005
Messages
22,203
A very insidious shortcoming of charplotters is the changing levels of chart detail at different levels of zoom. Charplotters will tend to de-clutter the chart display when zoomed out which can result in small hazards not being shown and sometimes larger ones as well like reefs. I am aware it can happen and tend to check by zooming in where I'm in unknown ground. I think a few boats have come a cropper because of this. Not a fault as such though.
 

prv

Well-known member
Joined
29 Nov 2009
Messages
36,768
Location
Southampton
Yes -
  • Two different Raymarine C70 plotters (one original, one its replacement) suffering the well-known "stripy screen" problem.
  • Electrical short in the engine bay that mean I had to turn the batteries off.
In neither case was actual navigation a problem as a result.

The second C70 failure had no particular impact except for convincing me it was time to ditch the elderly C-series for a new Axiom and Quantum setup. But the first one happened in thick fog off St Malo, with other traffic audible around us, and of course made the radar unavailable. Position fixing and steering wasn't a problem as we were also using a Yeoman plotter on a paper chart, fed by a separate Garmin GPS, to follow a planned series of courses through the rocks. But if some careful pressure on the right corner of the screen hadn't brought the radar picture back every time it went out, it would have been very uncomfortable not being able to see the other traffic and cross-check the GPS position.

When we lost power, it was in the Solent between Cowes and Newtown Creek, so we were hardly going to get lost. But it was a dark night and without a compass light my crew had difficulty keeping us sailing in a straight line while I fiddled with the electrics. I passed him up my phone with Navionics running, which he propped on the binnacle to use like a plotter and had no more difficulty. The problems only arose when goal fixation had me try to take us into Newtown Creek (our original plan) without the engine, instead of more sensibly anchoring outside. We sailed in without difficulty and initially anchored, but it was busy and we were really too close to other boats. Subsequent shenanigans of trying to shift anchor, with a light wind and a lot of tide flowing in - well, let's just say we ended up aground at low tide with someone else's dinghy tied to our stern ;). They were very nice about it though, especially when they understood the problem was a failed engine, and appreciated the beer that was in their dinghy when I brought it back next morning :D. A learning experience about updating your plans when circumstances change.

In summary, I'm not overly concerned about *plotters* failing, but in poor visibility I would be concerned about losing the use of radar. That's the only single point of potential failure on board, given the number of separate GNSS receivers, several of them battery-powered. Loss of GNSS signal is a theoretical concern, but since most of the kit on board is now new enough to be using GPS, GLONASS, and possibly Beidou and/or Gallileo simultaneously, it would have to be local signal jamming rather than a general failure. And if the radar and plotter are working, I can cross-check unless I'm in the middle of the Channel where there's nothing to hit anyway.

Pete
 

RJJ

Well-known member
Joined
14 Aug 2009
Messages
1,622
A very insidious shortcoming of charplotters is the changing levels of chart detail at different levels of zoom. Charplotters will tend to de-clutter the chart display when zoomed out which can result in small hazards not being shown and sometimes larger ones as well like reefs. I am aware it can happen and tend to check by zooming in where I'm in unknown ground. I think a few boats have come a cropper because of this. Not a fault as such though.
A good idea to have two systems - raster and vector - in my opinion. Raster charts (like those from VMH) are images of paper charts and very useful in that regard.
 

Baggywrinkle

Well-known member
Joined
6 Mar 2010
Messages
8,058
Location
Ammersee, Bavaria / Adriatic & Free to roam Europe
We suffered a total chart failure long before GPS was invented, strong wind, difficult pilotage, and the bloody paper chart decided to do a loop of the cockpit and disappear over the side, never to be seen again. Ended up having to anchor blind on the basis of a line drawing in a pilot book.

Also had a couple of incidents where the glue failed and the chart updates ended up hidden in the bottom corner of the plastic chart-cover. Luckily we found that before it resulted in disaster.

Never trust technologie!! 🥳
 

Leighb

Well-known member
Joined
8 Aug 2007
Messages
5,905
Location
Suffolk
On my previous boat I had a SH 300i under the spray hood which had an irritating habit of rebooting itself now and again. I thought it was probably due to a poor contact at the cable socket on the rear, which was always disconnected when the boat was left.
My present boat has a Simrad plotter which did the same thing a couple of times, and I traced this to a poor earth connection on the main busbar, which had been made by the marine electrician who had fitted the equipment!
 

Stemar

Well-known member
Joined
12 Sep 2001
Messages
14,986
Location
Home - Southampton, Boat - Gosport
My phone's never let me down, though finding I hadn't downloaded the bit of chart I want and there's no phone signal was a bit of a bummer once :)

Mates boat Raymarine system, the GPS chip had failed when I was giving the boat a once-over, but by that time he was too ill to go out, so AFAIK, it's still dead. A buyer would most likely want to upgrade anyway, so not worth fixing.
 

capnsensible

Well-known member
Joined
15 Mar 2007
Messages
29,097
Location
Atlantic
Ive found that older types with external aerials are vulnerable. Either cable break or someone deciding it's a good hand hold when vomming over the side.
 

prv

Well-known member
Joined
29 Nov 2009
Messages
36,768
Location
Southampton
Ive found that older types with external aerials are vulnerable. Either cable break or someone deciding it's a good hand hold when vomming over the side.
Some can be flush-mounted on deck, though it's a little more work. My old Raymarine one (only feeding COG and SOG to the ST60s at this point) is just ahead of the windscreen where nobody would need to step. Antennas on the top of the stern rail do tend to pick up warps, fenders, stray hands, and perhaps even loose mainsheets.

Pete
 

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Well-known member
Joined
15 Jul 2009
Messages
2,958
Location
Bristol Channel
Yes, and I am gutted. My Standard Horizon 300 which I bought some 13 years ago, has recently decided to pack-up. But I also have a Lawrence chartplotter, Navionics on my mobile and tablet and an ONWA AIS with all the bells and whistles. When sailing in the 70's I had very few navigation toys and therefore nothing to fail; in the 80's and 90's I was using Decca and later, handheld gps and having to go down in the cabin, all the time, to plot position on the chart was a pain. Nowadays, we have mobile navigational toys, plenty to go wrong, but I like them.
 

asteven221

Active member
Joined
6 Jul 2003
Messages
1,301
My Raymarine plotter started to reboot in a loop, so yes that failed me. Interestingly the most expensive dedicated marine plotter failed but none of the backups have.

I have Navionics on my phone, Navionics on an old phone on board, which is re-purposed as an iPOD, Navionics on a tablet which is permanently plumbed in at the inside nav station, Sea Pro Lite on an old Tosh laptop which still works fine. Last year I added Open CPN to my current laptop which has a nice big screen I like. Additionally there is a Garmin GPS and I suppose my wife's phone could be used for position info. I think I have a couple of old hand held GPS units.

On balance I am relaxed about knowing where my boat is in the world!!!

Yes I have paper charts, but they have not been looked at for many many years.
 

Hoist

Member
Joined
28 Nov 2019
Messages
43
I have a rib fitted with a Raymarine E120. It's a serious bit of kit, heavy and designed for commercial use. Was an absolute fortune when it was new.

As it was nearing its 10th year the buttons stopped responding. I called Raymarine who said I am sorry its too old we don't supply parts anymore.

I called the place where I got it and their answer was its probably time for a new one.

I wouldnt accept that, so I took the machine apart, found the problem ( broken PCB connection) and ordered a replacement second hand part from a scrapped unit on ebay in the USA.

After seeing my progress, another gentleman in the marina also had the same response about the backlight no longer lighting up on his plotter so I researched that and fixed it also. I've probably done around 20 or 30 of these backlight LED conversions now.

It's really amazing the build quality of the older raymarine machines. I would make the comparison to the GRP boats of the 70s and 80s to the new production boats!

They are built to last and with a little bit of care and attention can be brought back good as new. In a throwaway society like we have now it's "cheaper to keep her" and if everything is done to a high standard then perfectly safe.

I've started videoing my fixes to hopefully help others. There are some very good repairers out there but its handy to have the knowledge if your in a bind

my channel
Crusader - YouTube

 

dunedin

Well-known member
Joined
3 Feb 2004
Messages
6,930
Location
Boat (now back in) the Clyde
We suffered a total chart failure long before GPS was invented, strong wind, difficult pilotage, and the bloody paper chart decided to do a loop of the cockpit and disappear over the side, never to be seen again. Ended up having to anchor blind on the basis of a line drawing in a pilot book.
:cool: So true. Been there, done that! And as the chart is only in the cockpit if tricky pilotage, ‘‘twas a tad inconvenient (Sound of Sandray).
 

siwhi

Active member
Joined
21 Nov 2012
Messages
194
Location
Trstena, Slovakia
A couple of times I've lost the main plotter (once because it died, the other because the electrics were dodgy), but always had plenty of other digital GPS options before really needing to rely on 'traditional' nav. I mentioned them in the other thread: (Does anyone still sail without a chart plotter?), but the lat/long of the destination's safe water mark taken from the pilot book and a handheld VHF with position on it would suffice.

But there have been a good number of times, especially with coastal pilotage, where I trust what I experience over what the plotter is telling me. When in real doubt and there is a discrepancy between the data on the plotter and what I experience I tend to either stop or turn around and have a think, or go with what I experience (whether that is transit marks, buoyage, or withies, etc). Buoyage, lights, charts, compass, pilot books, and maybe tidal stream atlas, etc are most of the time more than you need to safely get 'somewhere'. There are obviously occasions where it may be safer to stand off til the fog clears, or it's slack water, or daylight, etc, if you are only estimating your position from one or 2 data points and don't have the reassurance of the GPS derived position.
 

Quiddle

Well-known member
Joined
26 May 2003
Messages
3,716
Location
Eastern Atlantic seaboard
My Garmin 550 failed - working in the evening, next morning deado. I replaced it with a Garmin 551 which also failed similarly 1 month out of guarantee. Garmin washed their hands of it (a legacy product after 2 years, apparently) so I opened it up to find water ingress. Each of the 6 case retaining bolts had been torqued so the plastic around them had cracked. I did without a plotter for 2 months whilst wrangling with Garmin and didn't miss it much as I prefer Navionics in my pocket (and on my 3 spare devices) to a fixed display. Eventually, after threatening legal action against the unfortunate and blameless retailer, I was given a fixed GPS as a replacement, which I preferred. My replacement boat has 2 plotters - Garmin:(. I won't be replacing them when they fail.
I'm a bit surprised at the lack of ingress protection in marine instruments in general. I have a €9 Decathlon watch with which I have snorkeled down to 10m many times during 8 years of ownership. It is still going strong even after a battery change.
 
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jwilson

Well-known member
Joined
22 Jul 2006
Messages
5,245
Original Raymarine C-series used to go screen-stripy unreadable regularly, fixed several times by dismantling and reconnecting a ribbon cable inside. Eventually died completely, screen still working but not redaing chart card. Replaced with a Garmin. This died after about 3 years with water ingress. Garmin sold me a factory replacement at a discount. That died after under 2 years, again with water inside. Garmin then said "... model no longer supported". Fitted a B&G Vulcan, died after 2 years, just blank screen dead. B&G do not repair or replace once out of warranty. In a hurry bought a newer B&G Vulcan, still working.

So on 5th new plotter in 14 years, plus some outages whilst I fixed the old Raymarine.
 
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