8 Best Chartplotters for Sailing

8 Best Chartplotters for Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

November 18, 2020

Whether you're cruising next to the coastline or planning for an off-the-coast voyage to an unfamiliar territory, a chartplotter is a critical navigation tool that's essential for every modern sailor.

Chartplotters are packed with a wide variety of amazing features, and going for one of the best chartplotter in the market is the only way to go.

In the past, sailors relied on compass and sextant to navigate but this now seems like a distant memory.

Today, and thanks to technological advancements in the marine industry, modern marine electronics offer a wide range of information that sailors can use to chart their course, communicate, and enhance their sailing experience. One such electronic is the marine chartplotter.

A chartplotter is a very crucial navigation tool in modern sailing. Whether you're looking to identify underwater structures while sailing or looking to map out complex courses, a chartplotter is of great importance in keeping you safe and ensuring that you do not run aground.

So if you want to buy one, you'll have to consider certain factors and go only for the best chartplotters in the market.

Thanks to the advent of technology, chartplotters have become more sophisticated. They're packed with lots of incredible features that choosing the right one for your sailing adventures has become pretty much difficult.

But as we always do, we want to make it a lot easier for you. In this comprehensive guide, we'll highlight the best chartplotters and provide you with all the information that you need to select the best chartplotter for your sailboat.

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The Importance of a Chartplotter

Whether you were top of your geography class and have a unique way with longitudes and latitudes or just a compass pro, a chartplotter remains a must-have if you're going to safely navigate the open seas. Well, you may even have a GPS in your sailboat but it won't be of much help because it only shows the coordinate of where you want to go in numbers. It won't show you the underwater icebergs and such structure. This is exactly why a chartplotter plays a fundamental role in your sailing adventures.

In most cases, a chartplotter excellently combines a GPS and an optical device so that you can see your exact position on the map and the structures around you on an interactive screen. With a chartplotter, you'll no longer get confused by the longitude and latitude coordinates or get mixed up in GPS numbers. If anything, it will accurately show you your location and allow you to read everything as you go about with your sailing exploits.

Different Types of Chartplotters

You're probably wondering why we aren't jumping straight into the best chartplotters but wait a minute! There are different types of chartplotters and this is probably one of the main reasons why you may feel confused when looking to buy the right device for your vessel. Here are the basic types of chartplotters that you'll come across on the market.

Handheld Chartplotters

This type of marine chartplotter gives you the option of placing it anywhere. As the name suggests, you can even hold it in your hand and go on with your sailing business. This means that they're compact and small in size and have an internal GPS. They're also designed with integrated maps but these maps aren't very detailed as you may want them to be.

GPS Marine Chartplotters

This is the most common type of marine chartplotters and has a bigger screen than handheld chartplotters. This means that you won't be comfortable holding it in your hand and that's why it's more suitable if you can mount it on your vessel. This type of chartplotters comes with loads of features such as an option to save routes and waypoints for future reference, additional maps, a built-in compass, and a barometric altimeter.

GPS Chartplotters with Built-in Fish Finders

Needless to say, this is exactly what you need if you want to go fishing. In addition to helping you with your navigation, they can help you locate fish by sending sound waves to your chartplotter's screen. In essence, such a device will make your fishing adventures a lot easier and more fun.

Network Chartplotters

This is a high-tech chartplotter that will provide you with the most accurate information that can give you the utmost control of your boat. They generally come with built-in internet connectivity so that you can connect them to the Wi-Fi or your smartphone.

In essence, network chartplotters will help you get accurate information and pictures of your targeted places while also alerting you of any potential danger in the surrounding in terms of icebergs and other underwater structures. They'll also show you the water temperatures, allow you to listen to music, and are loaded with lots of user-friendly features.

Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Chartplotters

Honestly speaking, many modern chartplotters do more than just mapping your routes and having big touch screen displays. They also have elaborate features that can help relay more accurate information that will not only make your sailing jaunts safer but more fun. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the best chartplotters.

Size of the Screen

In terms of screen displays, there are both pros and cons of having big or small screen displays. With a small screen, they're generally self-contained and will have other important components such as the antennae built on the device. However, it will be a lot harder to read the display information.

On the other hand, a big screen offers a more rewarding experience in terms of the details shown and you won't have to constantly zoom as you'd do if the screen is small. That being said, you should go for a bigger screen as its benefits outweigh having a small screen.

Charts

Even though all chartplotters offer nautical charts to keep you safe and guide you during your sailing adventures, they can vary depending on how the charts are offered. It's, therefore, important to ensure that your device of choice offers the right charts for your needs.

Sonar

Most chartplotters have sonar but it's essential to make sure that you can perfectly accessorize it. Make sure that they have Wi-Fi capabilities and you can tether them using your smartphone or tablet.

Versatility

In most cases, sailors love the outdoors and it would be nice if you get a chartplotter that is very versatile. Besides being a marine chartplotter, it should be versatile enough to help you map out the roads, biking, and hiking trails, as well as spotting fish.

Price

Chartplotters can be indeed quite expensive and this might be an issue if you're on a tight budget. While there are affordable models on the market, we have to note that they may not be loaded with lots of amazing features as the more expensive ones. In short, you only get what you pay for.

The Best Chartplotters for Sailing

This is perhaps what you've been waiting for, so let's jump straight in.

Garmin Striker 4 GPS

If you are looking for a chartplotter that has every top feature that you need for safe and smooth operation, look no further than the Garmin Striker 4 GPS. This model is designed with one of the most advanced scanning sonars to enable you to track and see every type of object around your sailboat.

Its 3.5-inch display screen is very clear and works best both during the day and at night. It not only offers clearer images but also offers in-depth readings to inform you about everything. It will also show you the water temperature, speed of your vessel, and time of the day.

It comes with a 12V battery to ensure that you can use it without necessarily having a power outlet. The only disadvantage of this unit is that the map won't be visible if you are outside the United States territories.

Pros

  • Has a very clear screen display
  • The 12V battery will work for over 12 hours
  • It comes with a transducer
  • It offers loads of information
  • The 10-feet cord length is good

Cons

  • Doesn't map any other territory apart from the US territory

B&G Vulcan 7

As one of the biggest brands in the chartplotter industry, B&G is an industry leader in creating marine electronics that are sailing-specific. The Vulcan 7 is true evidence of this as it is packed with an excellent range of sailing-specific features that will offer a more rewarding sailing experience.

The bright screen will display lots of crucial sailing information such as wind information, real-time navigational charts, and even tacking options. It also shows your vessel's speed, time of the day, and has several accessories such as the autopilot system that provides you with a given level of control.

This is, without a doubt, one of the best chartplotters if you specifically want to take your sailing game to a whole new level.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Durable
  • Multiple language packs
  • Compatible with sonar and other devices

Cons

  • It's not versatile
  • Very expensive

Raymarine Axiom 7

From the entry-level Axiom range to the Axiom Pro, and elite-level Axiom XL range, Raymarine is widely known for manufacturing some of the best multifunctional chartplotters in the industry. However, the Axiom 7 seems to trounce them all even though it's not sailing-specific.

Well, this is perhaps because it's arguably one of the most versatile chartplotters in the game. In addition to doing its navigational duties, this unit integrates a very robust fish finder, which makes it very useful if you want to indulge in some fishing while sailing. It has an excellent transom-mounted sonar transducer and provides a wind sensor, CHIRP sonar, Quantum radar, audio integration, FLIR thermal cameras, autopilot system, and a normal camera.

This is a very budget-friendly unit that will offer probably all the features that you may want in a marine chartplotter.

Pros

  • Can be used in the US, Canada, and over 20,000 inland waterways
  • Very versatile
  • It has a very clear screen display
  • It has a quad processor for speed
  • Comes with a surface mounting kit

Cons

  • It's not sailing-specific

Simrad GO7 XSE Chartplotter

Perfect for various types of sailboats including day boats and sports boats, this is your perfect solution if you're looking for an easy-to-use chartplotter. Its shiny display touchscreen is intuitive and offers one of the best screen features. For example, you can easily zoom in by just pinching the screen and it will show you your routes, waypoints, underwater objects, and any other thing that you want to look at.

In essence, using this chartplotter is very similar to the way you use your smartphone and you can customize it by adding shortcuts, personalized wallpaper, and many other features. In terms of functionality, it is equipped with a high-quality sonar imaging system, a cruise charting page, and a panoramic view of the entire environment.

This is a great chartplotter that is structured to ensure that you have all the navigation charts and information at your fingertips.

Pros

  • Its GPS is precise and the charts are detailed
  • The software is constantly updated
  • The device is waterproof
  • The display screen is bright and intuitive

Cons

  • Relatively expensive

Garmin EchoMAP CHIRP 63cv with Transducer

As an industry leader, Garmin always strives to take navigation to the next level and its echoMAP CHIRP series is a true testament to this. The echoMAP 63cv is reasonably priced without compromising any feature that you'd need in a marine chartplotter.

It comes with a built-in CHIRP ClearVU and the traditional sonar CHIRP to ensure that nothing is left to chance. This is certainly why this unit will offer you the best and most accurate information both during your sailing and fishing adventures. We're talking about a device that has one of the best sonar-recording features in the industry.

Thanks to its ClearVU CHIRP, this device offers the best photographic images of whatever underwater object and structure. The maps are HD, so it won't be much of a hassle to know what's going on around you.

Its installation and set-up process is very simple and it will offer superb guidance for waypoints and routes, thereby enhancing your sailing and fishing experience.

Pros

  • It has some of the best features
  • It's user-friendly
  • Easy to use and set-up
  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to uninstall
  • Offers constant updates

Cons

  • Only works best within US territories

Humminbird HELIX 5 Chartplotter Fish Finder

This is one of the best chartplotters that also double up as an outstanding fish finder. It is exactly what you need if you want to improve your fishing skills while sailing. Using the CHIRP DualBeam Plus sonar it offers two frequencies that can cover a larger area while offering accurate information and readings.

The Humminbird Side Imaging gives you a 180-degree view of the underwater environment. You can either zoom in or out through the touchscreen to get a clearer view of what's going on around you. This is unquestionably one of the most versatile and reliable chartplotters. It's designed to enhance both your sailing and fishing experience.

Pros

  • Easy to install and operate
  • Offers accurate and real-time readings
  • Excellent for finding fish
  • Comes with a slot for a Micro SD card
  • It has a keypad control
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • It's more of a fish finder than a chartplotter
  • Doesn't offer various languages
  • The viewing angle is limited

Lowrance Mark-4 Combo Base Fishfinder and Chartplotter

This is another device that offers the best of both worlds. It is a superb navigational tool that can also be used as an efficient Fishfinder. Designed with a 4-inch black and white screen display, this device will offer some of the best images in the game thanks to its 320x240 pixels. It's also equipped with backlighting to enable you to use it in any light setting both during the day and at night.

This device supports two frequencies so that you can get accurate information in both shallow and deep parts of the water. Its GPS is essential in ensuring that the info provided is accurate and of great help for both your sailing and fishing escapades. It is also equipped with a Micro SD slot, which is essential for saving up to 100 plot trails, 3,000 waypoints, and 100 routes.

Pros

  • It's easier to backtrack information stored in the Micro SD
  • It's versatile both as a Fishfinder and chartplotter
  • Offers broader sonar coverage
  • Supports split-screen function

Cons

  • Doesn't have a screen cover

Garmin GPSMAP 8612XSV

If you want a seriously high-performing chartplotter that offers nothing but the best full HD images and very accurate information, look no further than this device. It offers full sunlight readability, impeccable clarity, and the viewing angles are wide. This device offers loads of sail-specific information and pre-race guidance that every sailor, both pro and a beginner, will appreciate.

It shows the wind speed, wind angle, the surrounding environment, and every other information meant to make your sailing adventures more rewarding. It also comes with a mobile app that works seamlessly with your mobile devices. That's not all; this device offers superior clarity and sunlight readability even when wearing polarized sunglasses. It also offers one of the best underwater views today. In essence, this is a serious marine chartplotter that will never let you down during your adventures.

Pros

  • Offers high-performance functionality
  • Offers sail-specific info
  • Impeccable readability
  • Excellent clarity
  • Pre-loaded with US coastal and inland lake maps 

Cons

  • It doesn't have a transducer
  • Only perfect for sailing with the US territories
  • Very expensive

To this end, we have to note that the importance of using the best chartplotters for your sailing exploits can never be ignored. In addition to enhancing your safety, a chartplotter helps you in navigating the waters, and in detecting various objects both on top of the water and underwater such as submerged icebergs.

For this reason, you should get the best chartplotter and augment your sailing experience. The above-described chartplotters are among the best on the market and will unquestionably make sailing safer and more enjoyable. Choose any of the chartplotters and you'll be good to go.

Until next time, happy sailing!

8 Best Chartplotters for Sailing

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