Try and See It My Way
Electronic cartography is breaking the paper-chart mold, but it may take a “beginner’s mind” to appreciate the results of 3D charting.
However, it’s fairly freaky how different 3D is from the conventional 2D view, and I know many sailors who’ve tried it just once, at a dock. That’s a mistake, as 3D really shines when you’re under way, while 2D does remain the sensible mode in which to plan a voyage when you’re tied up. A north-up, top-down view lets you look around a chart without losing overall orientation, and no one particular spot needs your bird’s eye focus until you’re moving.
In practice, creating a route over a traditional chart view, then running it in 3D, can go together like lobster and butter. That’s why adjusting a route in 2D but driving it in 3D is standard operating procedure when it comes to electronic automobile navigation. It’s just that when you climb into your car, you don’t have to overcome centuries of powerful tradition to look at a 3D map.
At Work on the Water
This summer, I tussled with my own decades of navigation habits by using 3D views on four different multifunction displays, and I’ll be testing the feature in PC charting programs before winter closes in. (Go to www.cruisingworld.com to access my Panbo blog, where I’ll discuss this in more detail.) I’m by no means a total convert, but 3D is certainly not just a marketing gimmick. I believe that the manufacturers are working hard to perfect 3D navigation because they’re convinced that it will become highly desirable for underway route running—once we open our minds to it. And I think they’re right.
But the jury is certainly out on what 3D perfection looks like.
In classic and successful Garmin keep-it-simple-but-easy fashion, the company’s various multifunction displays only permit limited zooming in 3D; the view becomes familiar quicker, and without confusion, but there are situations in which I’d like more 3D scale control.
In classic and successful Furuno high-performance-but-manual-required fashion, NavNet 3D gives you unlimited zooming, scrolling, and tilting, and it even lets you fly around in 3D mode, but you may get giddy.
But the truth of those stereotypes only goes so far. There’s an elegance to the way Furuno morphs its 2D into 3D, with all details and functions intact. And a single button push easily switches back and forth between modes. Garmin treats 3D as a separate function window, like fish-finding, and disables some regular charting tasks, such as selecting MARPA targets.
On the other hand, a Garmin user with a G2 Vision chart card now gets a choice of three distinctly different Mariner 3D modes, acknowledging, I think, that a “perfect” way of viewing the data is not only elusive but also subjective.
The Raymarine E Wide and Simrad NSE, on which I’m also testing 3D, both need a Navionics Platinum chart card to display 3D mode, and it’s interesting how very differently they currently display the same data. All of the available shading, scaling, and data choices, as well as the screen options and controls at your fingertips, allow you to produce very nuanced representations.