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Best marine electronic charts for 2019

Whether you’re cruising the coast or heading out to do some fishing, electronic charts can help you do it more efficiently and safely. Some overlay routes and a variety of supporting information onto your multifunction display while others pack navigation functions onto your portable devices. All have an extensive menu of features and obtainable information.

Below are six wireless devices that deliver that and more. They are part of an exercise MEJ does every year in our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.
The Best & Brightest list includes 16 categories of electronics, from AIS (Automatic Identification System) and autopilots to radar and satellite TV. Last week we finished up the list of innovative wireless devices that are making their way aboard boats. Next week we’ll tell you about equipment that’s becoming essential if you operate your boat after dark. 

TZ Professional v4 marine navigation software offers cutting-edge bathymetric mapping capacity to make and record fishermen’s own seabed maps as they cover fishing grounds and see them live or review later in 2D and 3D views. Furuno DFF3D multi-beam sonar compatibility makes it possible to overlay high-quality seabed mapping on chart, either as a dedicated view or in an overlay on the plotter. The data is amazingly accurate and allows fishermen to target grounds and identify schools of fish like never before. TZ Professional’s many features include Fishing Workspace, AIS and ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) target tracking capability, Voyage Recorder Module as well as C-MAP, Navionics and S-57 compatibility. All TZ Professional features can be configured to users’ needs or application. 

Delivering real-time mapping for the ultimate in up-to-date situational awareness, the new software update adds Genesis Live Charting to Lowrance displays. Using digital depth to create depth contour overlays on charts, Genesis Live is incredibly easy to use. A truly customized mapping experience, users can control contour transparency, density of contours drawn on the screen up to ½ foot intervals, depth and safety shading color palettes, and more. Genesis Live charts can be saved to an SD card for future use.

With excellent coverage, clarity and detail, Garmin’s new g3 cartography blends the best of both Garmin and Navionics content, offering enhancements like built-in Auto Guidance that searches through relevant charts to create a suggested route based upon the user’s desired depth and overhead clearance. For mariners who want the most feature-rich data available, the premium BlueChart g3 Vision accessory cards and downloads include everything available with g3, and now for the first time, add high-resolution relief shading that combines color and shadow to give mariners an easy-to-interpret, clearer view of bottom structure than contour lines alone. Also high-resolution satellite imagery for a realistic view of surroundings. Unique 3-D views provide additional perspective both above and below the water line, and aerial photography shows detail of many ports, harbors and marinas. BlueChart g3 Vision is compatible only with Garmin GPS chartplotters.

Smart phones and tablets are the electronic devices most relied on and consistently used because people carry them all the time. iNavX turns popular phones and tablets into a full functioning, handheld chartplotter by delivering sophisticated navigation in an easy-to-use app. Location, Heading, Speed, COG (Course Over Ground), Waypoints, Routes and other navigation functions are clearly displayed on the device. Multiple chart formats include NOAA raster charts, Navionics vector charts, Blue Latitude, Explorer Bahamas, Waterway Guides, Delius Klasing and CHS charts. High-resolution weather overlays and AIS data are easily activated within the app. iNavX is essential for anyone who wants to be able to navigate safely and effectively no matter where they go—as a primary electronic navigation tool, or backup to a vessel’s MFD. 

Maptech’s iPlot navigation app turns your iPad into a chartplotter with real-time vessel tracking. The iPlot app uses NOAA raster charts (RNCs) and is wireless AIS compatible. It applies lightning-fast, seamless chart quilting as well as unlimited custom routes and mark creation with the touch of a finger. Import and export routes, waypoints, and marks between all Maptech software. It includes unlimited tracks (the breadcrumbs left behind the boat), easy-to-read data windows for courses, speed, range, bearing and cross-track error as well as Maptech Marine Facilities. Comes with a set of US planning charts. Detailed chart regions are available also.

LightHouse NC2 is Raymarine’s new vector chart platform that works with Dragonfly, LightHouse 2 and LightHouse 3 products. The first title available is LightHouse NC2 North America, which contains high-quality vector charts for the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, western Caribbean, Baja Peninsula, US and Canadian Great Lakes, and British Columbia. Not only does it include super-detailed coastal charts, LightHouse NC2 also contains detailed maps of popular lakes, rivers and ponds for freshwater anglers.  Inland and coastal waters are filled with valuable local knowledge and fishing tips from the trusted experts at Fishing Hot Spots. LightHouse NC2 charts are available bundled with new Raymarine systems or sold pre-programmed through Raymarine dealers. 

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