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CruisingWiki

Garmin 76CS – Pros & Cons

I was lucky enough to get a RC400 and a Garmin 76CS as wedding presents in August 2005.

There seems to be a number of discussions on various forums about the pros and cons of these units so I thought I would give my experiences of using both while sailing in the English Channel for the past 2 years.

Garmin 76CS – the Pros:
Garmin 76CS 11. Although I have the Raymarine RC400 mounted at the helm – the Garmin can go anywhere with me – to the Marina office, to the cafe, to another yacht etc.. its truly portable because the batteries last. Unlike the RC400 the batteries last for at least 24 hours of use.

2. It has its own GPS so it is another backup for position data separate from my main GPS / C120 setup.

3. The BlueChart software is loaded from the laptop – you dont need another copy like you do for the RC400. The software auto loads all relevant charts for the route you have planned. Interfacing to the Garmin BlueChart software on my laptop is easy and always works perfectly.

4. You can use it in the car too – there are comprehensive charts for Europe including detailed maps of all major cities.

5. Garmin continue to manufacture and support this unit. There is a tremendous amount of software and add-ons for it on the Net. The latest 76Csx uses the latest SiRFstarIII chip set

Garmin 76CS – the Cons:

1. The screen is hard to see in poor light, it is quite dim and you need to press a power button to turn the brightness up – quite awkward when you are wearing gloves or have stubby fingers like me.

2. The buttons are above the screen – why ? They are small and hard to press accurately.

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Portable device – Charging batteries

If you are anything like me you have a tendency to hoard useful electronic gadgets – as a result I have a garage that has many battery chargers from many different eras. I refer to the task of charging so called rechargeable batteries for torches, PDA’s, GPS units and so on…

Well the latest and fastest (?) charger that I have acquired is the Uniross X-Press 700 Charger RC104311 – cost £18.94 including delivery from Battery Logic in the UK.The impetus for this was the fact that the Raymarine RC400 that is mounted at the helm will now only run on the mains power that I have installed there and the batteries are refusing to hold a charge any more. The batteries supplied with this unit are the AA 2300mAh NiMH type.

Uniross x-press-700The Uniross X-Press 700 Charger looks like a good unit and comes with 4 new batteries – which are 2500mAh (ultra high capacity) so I hope they will perform even better in constant use on passage than the previous set.

Charger features:

• Includes 4 x AA 2500mAh Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.
• The Xpress 700 will charge AAA & AA size batteries.
• This charger will charge 2 or 4 Ni-Cd / Ni-MH batteries.
•Due to an intelligent charge control inside, the charger will switch to trickle charge after charging.
• V-MAX technology protects against damage from using with non-rechargeable technologies.

Charge time for batteries:

Type Capacity Charge time
AA- Ni CD 800mAh 1h 15m
AA-NiMH 1300mAh 2h
AA-NiMH 2100mAh 3h 30m
AA-NiMH 2300mAh 4h
AA-NiMH 2500mAh 4h 15m **
AAA-Ni CD 250mAh 45m
AAA-NiMH 700mAh 2h 15m
AAA-NiMH 900mAh 3h

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Laptop on board

I wanted to use the Raymarine C120 as the primary means of electronic chartplotting while on board – it is interfaced to all the instruments as well as the the DSC radio, radar, and AIS.

DSC00011s

But while onshore, at home, at anchor or in a marina it is often more convenient to use a laptop. It is now so easy to download grib files, look up weather forecasts, email, browse the web, and forums and so on.

I thought I would use the laptop for two main additional purposes.

a) Chartplotting using the software I already had before installing the Raymarine kit on board ie. Garmin’s Map source software which uses the Bluechart charts – all proprietory to Garmin.

b) Interface to the Target SSB radio so that I could get Navtex, RTTY and Weatherfax transmissions and store them on the laptop for reference while on passage.

c) Transfer data to / from the laptop / C120 and the RC400 using a 1Gb Sandisk Compact Flash Card

 

DSC00008I have been able to achieve all of this but I must admit that using the SSB is a lot more tricky than I anticipated. The picture here shows the audio cable from the SSB radio into the MIC input of the laptop….

 

The laptop is an ACER Aspire 5020WLMi and is – in hindsight – probably way over specified now that I have experience of using it in action..it has a built in card reader (very useful) 1Gb of RAM and a 100Gb HDD – but at least it will cope with advances in nav software which like all PC software is destined to bloat and bloat..

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