Posted by: Lare | January 18, 2011


Over the time we’ve been traveling we’ve often been asked what we’re using for navigation. One definition of navigation is “using various instruments and pieces of paper to make a solid guess as to where you could possibly be.” Although at one time we made a stab at celestial navigation, it was something that just “never got legs.” Even so, we do realize the importance of having backup systems and backups for your backups. At this time we believe, (fingers crossed and knocking on wood), we have it covered—not that it couldn’t be covered more thoroughly.

We have a mix of paper charts, guidebooks, equipment, and software. Of these, probably the most helpful so far, (in Mexico anyway), has been the guidebooks; Charlie’s Charts and the “Sea of Cortez” by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer. I say they have been most helpful because we only just started in the last couple of months using Nobeltec Passport wired to all the boats’ electronics.

Prior to the Nobeltec we had Mapsource Blue Charts on one of the laptops. We also leaned heavily on detailed charts of the US West Coast ports we had intended to visit. That and two Garmin GPSmap 76s handhelds got us basically all the way to Puerto Vallarta. We have sometimes used a book of Mexican maps that aren’t very detailed.

Many boats have chart plotters with intricate systems wired to their radar with viewing screens in the cockpit, but up until now we haven’t even had a chart plotter, much less  these other things. Even now we have to go below to look at the plotter, but once we chart our course we just put it into our Garmin handheld Global Positioning System (GPS), and use that in the cockpit. We have a fixed GPS antenna mounted on our dodger frame that feeds info to the Raymarine array in the cockpit, Nobeltec software, Single Side Band Radio (SSB), and a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio with GPS ability. Before interlinking all this, the fixed GPS only provided co-ordinates to the knot log. For location purposes our fixed GPS is backed up by the two handheld GPSs and my handheld VHF, which has its own GPS.

Right now we’re in Banderas Bay and planning on heading south as soon as we have some resolution on the watermaker issue. We signed up for the El Salvador Rally that makes El Salvador in March. That would mean leaving Huatulco in southern Mexico around the end of February. The plan is still to make Panama, (somewhere in Panama), by summer and maybe transiting in fall. As you’ve seen our plans change frequently, but even though they are written in the sand at low tide, we have plans. We are still learning about this cruising lifestyle and finding the flexibility to our liking, and very handy at times.


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