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Author Topic:   Electronic Chart Display Preferences
jimh posted 09-16-2012 10:57 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Most modern electronic chart displays offer an option for the orientation of the display from two choices:

--North-up, where the chart is presented with the orientation of North at the top of the chart, or

--Course-up, where the chart is presented with the orientation of the boat's current heading being presented as the upward or toward the top direction.

A second choice is also often available, regarding the orientation of the chart relative to the boat's present position:

--centered, that is the boat's present position is shown in the center of the chart display, or

--a look-ahead presentation, with more of the chart area in the direction of the boat's travel being shown than area astern.

My usual preference is for North-up and Centered. Perhaps we could have an unscientific survey, and readers can offer their preferences.

I think my preference stems from having used paper charts for a long time and having a mental image of the shape of the geography formed from looking at charts with North Up presentation. When the orientation of the electronic chart changes, I find that I lose recognition of the shapes of land and water areas, and I have to mentally transpose the presentation to North-up.

I suspect that if I were boating in an area where I had no familiarity with the general shapes of the water and land surrounding me, I might find Course-up presentation to be preferred. Since I would not have a stored mental image of the land and water shapes, the Course-up presentation would not conflict with any stored mental image. I will have to test that theory on the next occasion in which I am in all new waters.

David Pendleton posted 09-16-2012 11:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I prefer course-up.
K Albus posted 09-16-2012 11:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for K Albus  Send Email to K Albus     
When underway, with the chartplotter zoomed in, I prefer course-up.

When looking at paper charts, or when trying to view a large area on my chartplotter for planning purposes (such as planning a route), I prefer north-up.

Buckda posted 09-16-2012 11:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
I prefer North up, all the time.

The reason is that I go back and forth between paper charts and cruising guides to the GPS display...and like JimH mentions, I want to recognize where I am with what I've seen on the charts...and also, I want to recognize where I've been with what I see on the charts when planning the next day, and so on.

Also, when operating very slowly in a dark/nighttime situation, you'll find that the "course up" setting makes it difficult to find and keep your bearing...because the GPS map updates may not happen in a very smooth and seamless might correct your course because the data you have on your screen hasn't yet updated, and when it does, you make ANOTHER course adjustment, etc

I've been aboard a boat when this was happening...pitch black, no lights on shore and shoals on either side (Georgian Bay)...the problem was three-fold. The captain failed to trim his motor back down after raising it in shoal water where we had to dock the boat for dinner. That made it difficult to steer straight anyway. The stern light was not situated far enough above the helm to keep the "bridge" dark enough, which damaged the captain and crew's night vision. And the GPS plotter was in a "course up" orientation, which made it difficult for the captain to understand where he actually was in relation to the shoals and shore. Combine that confusion at the helm and another boat in close proximity that was also having some difficulty finding her way...and we had a very close call.

From that experience as a passenger, I confirmed "north up" in my mind. I also spent significant energy, money and effort to get the all-around white light on my vessel high enough and a shield to make sure my helm station is dark enough for nighttime operation.

That said - I think you need to go with whatever works for keep your boat and crew safe. I personally just prefer "North Up".

Buckda posted 09-16-2012 12:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
GPS map updates may not happen in a very smooth and seamless might correct your course because the data you have on your screen hasn't yet updated, and when it does, you make ANOTHER course adjustment, etc

Let me further clarify this statement. The course updates don't happen any faster in the "north up" mode...but I find it more confusing and appears to be a much bigger course change when the whole map moves vs. the position of the boat icon in the center of the display over a generally fixed map display. My boat icon is a little arrow pointer...when I move, it moves...and it points in the direction of travel...well, it might turn left or right but the map orientation stays the same. In the course up orientation mode, the whole map moves relative to the arrow/boat icon...which can make a minor course change appear to be bigger..especially when you are zoomed in very tight for a narrow passage through a channel or between islands, etc.

I hope that clears it up a bit!

Tom Hemphill posted 09-16-2012 12:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom Hemphill  Send Email to Tom Hemphill     
I prefer electronic map displays to have a "north up" orientation, for the reasons articulated so well by jimh and Bucka.
6992WHALER posted 09-16-2012 06:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for 6992WHALER  Send Email to 6992WHALER     
I like Course Up when I am cruising. I feel like I have more real time feel for the environment around me. Especially when I have the chart plotter zoomed in tight.

I have never experienced Buckda's loss of situational awareness because the chart plotter was course up. But I almost always have two maps open one zoomed in tight and one zoomed further out. The two map option might help with the map reloading problem.

I have radar and in the dark I like the Radar overlaid on the charts course up so it shows me what my eyes are seeing.

I do find that if I am checking the weather radar and zoom out to show several states I like it to be north up. Maybe that has to do with Jim's idea of "my mind" expects the weather maps to always be north up.

ConB posted 09-17-2012 10:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
My chart plotter on BW1 is set north up. No problem.

My new hand held that I use bird hunting is set course up.

Oh, woe is me! Which is right?


Robert V posted 09-17-2012 11:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
It is funny that I saw this thread today, I just finished installing a Raymarine e7D on my boat this weekend. I went through the set-up wizard and selected "course up" as my preference. This has been my preference since I started boating. As a novice, I was more comfortable with this setting vs. North up. This preference became a habit for me, so, another vote for course up.
Jefecinco posted 09-17-2012 02:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I prefer the course up option with the boat's position near the bottom of the display. This is probably due to learning map reading skills in "Land Navigation" courses in the Army fifty-one years ago.

skills applied over many years tend to stick with us.


bluewaterpirate posted 09-18-2012 09:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
North Up .....
jimp posted 09-18-2012 11:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
North up and centered.

The way I was brought up with my Dad and trained with the USCG.

Easier to relate North up to a compass course.


JMARTIN posted 09-18-2012 02:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
I was North up and centered but my fishing/shrimping partner had a difficult time positioning the boat in the desired amount of water depth. When I switched it to course up, he could do it so there it stayed.


David Pendleton posted 09-18-2012 03:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I think this also depends a lot on where you use your boat.

I'm primarily a river boater, where traffic generally runs in two directions.

With course-up and look-ahead, I know what the river looks like in front of me.

The RADAR is always course-up and centered, what's approaching me from behind is just as important as what's in front of me.

boatdryver posted 09-20-2012 11:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
North up and centered for me, because of previous cruising experience with pencil lines on paper charts and boat speed of only 10 kt.


JMARTIN posted 09-20-2012 12:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
At trolling speed in the Course Up display, my chart will adjust a lot trying to figure out just what direction the boat is heading. I am going to change it to North Up next time and see if my fishing partner can figure it out at slow speeds.

Thinking about it, I have grown accustom to the Course up when under way. I really like the Course Up with a split screen sonar when venturing into previously unexplored areas. I will try a look ahead instead of centered presentation next time out also.


20dauntless posted 09-20-2012 06:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
I run course up and zoomed in on one plotter. I also overlay radar on this plotter. I use the offset function on my plotter; 2/3 of the view is ahead, 1/3 behind.

The other plotter is zoomed out and north up. This gives me a "big picture" idea of where I am and is helpful for situational awareness.

JMARTIN posted 09-20-2012 07:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
Sam, are you back? I just saw Jerome but we did not have time to talk much.

To keep this on subject, what did you use for plotters and cards on your adventure?


RevengeFamily posted 09-22-2012 07:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for RevengeFamily  Send Email to RevengeFamily     
I use North up and the offset function on both my Raymarine and my Humminbird.

Was taught to never twist a map or spin a chart...


Jefecinco posted 09-22-2012 10:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
I agree with David. Course up is most handy for situational awareness cruising rivers or delta areas which are interlaced with streams and bayous and have numerous islands.

Navigating large open waters may be easier when a North up configuration is used. Adjusting the zoom setting to allow observation of the nearer coastal features would seem natural for me.


phatwhaler posted 09-22-2012 06:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for phatwhaler  Send Email to phatwhaler     
When I'm using radar I like course up with the same scale for both the radar and the plotter so I can compare returns on the radar screen with the chart. Same holds true if I'm running a channel at night and I'm more worried about navaids than the shape of the land around me. If I'm operating offshore or If I want to read the chart comments or other information I like north up. North up is great for small scale big picture operations.

FWIW I mainly use the new Navnet 3D with Raster charts now. This system makes you switch to North up to read the chart info in raster mode. Someday the'll have Vector charts that look just like raster.

kwik_wurk posted 09-22-2012 10:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for kwik_wurk  Send Email to kwik_wurk     
North up and centered when just charts.

Radar is always course up.

Overlay is always course up, because I don't have a heading sensor and speedo that enable me to have high levels of confidence in the low speed, high current environments.

Chuck Tribolet posted 09-23-2012 09:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
North up and centered. My old Garmin 162 doesn't have a
look-ahead option, but I've always thought that would be a
good thing.


20dauntless posted 09-23-2012 03:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
John, yep, I'm back. I was using a Raymarine C80 (the original C series) with a Navionics 2XG card and an iPad with iNavX and Navionics charts. I also had NOAA raster charts on my laptop and Navionics charts on my phone, but I never really used them.

All in all, I found the Navionics charts were very accurate and easy to use. And while my electronics are certainly not cutting edge or top of the line, they were perfectly adequate for 3200+ nm this summer in mostly unfamiliar water.

Peter posted 09-25-2012 07:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Course up, look ahead. Most important is to know what is in front of you. The radar was always on when running my Whaler 27 WD so course up aligned radar image with the electronic chart thereby helping to verify that radar was working properly and that I was interpreting radar image properly. Later in the life of the Whaler 27 WD I upgraded to an integrated GPS/radar system allowing for radar overlays. Course up for that too.
White Bear posted 09-28-2012 02:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for White Bear  Send Email to White Bear     
Chart: North Up
Radar: Course Up

Too confusing to have your chart flip around when manuvering in tight situations.

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