Discussion about OpenCPN

A forum for discussion of how to rig and tune your boat or kicker to achieve the best sailing performance.

Moderators: kmclemore, beene, NiceAft, Catigale, Hamin' X

User avatar
Inquisitor
Captain
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:24 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: North Carolina Mountains

Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Inquisitor » Tue Apr 13, 2021 9:22 am

I searched and only found two old links with OpenCPN in the title. One was so old, it looked like it was still having teething problems. I wanted to start this thread as a general discussion about OpenCPN. Hopefully, others with knowledge will share their thoughts with those like me that are just starting out. I had an old version of Navionics on Android that was supposed to be unlimited downloads around the US. They changed their business models and canned that and left me with a broken program. The replacement on the Play Store now uses a rental model. Kind of bent me the wrong way. Looking around at my options, I found OpenCPN. I've only been messing around with it for about a week and want to use it on a simple / low-risk race at the end of the month. But here are the things that I have found so far... Please add anything thoughts in any directions... even other production products.

Pros
  1. It's Free!
  2. NOAA charts are updateable. I may be wrong, but all the other "products" out there have to take that new data, incorporate it in their maps before they pass it on to you... for a fee.
  3. Many other countries are also free.
  4. Works on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone.
  5. A large open source world of developers... that are adding features. If there is a feature you like, you might convince someone it's worth while and they'll add it for you.
  6. If a feature doesn't exist and I really want it, I could add the feature myself.
  7. I believe it can show a lot of other things - Weather data, radar, sonar, etc. IOW, it can integrate just like a full-line product like Garmin, Ray Marine, etc. In fact it integrates those hardware pieces so you can pick and choose. Can anyone confirm this? Anyone actually integrating AIS, Radar, Sonar on OpenCPN?
Cons
  1. So far, my only real issue is it's very hard to select buttons and menu items on a phone. It takes a lot of patience to do things like download a specific map and I doubt I could hit it in a moving boat. It is a little better on a large Android tablet and works great on a laptop.
Odysseus, expert on the Siren's call

User avatar
Inquisitor
Captain
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:24 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: North Carolina Mountains

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Inquisitor » Tue Apr 13, 2021 9:26 am

(from another thread)
Be Free wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 7:16 am
Inquisitor wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 10:11 am
Be Free wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:25 am
+1 on OpenCPN. I've been using it for almost as long as it's been around. If you want to get a little more fancy you can use OpenPlotter (includes OpenCPN) on a raspberry PI. Use your phone, laptop, or tablet as a remote console. Neither one will replace your depth finder.

Where do you sail? Do you know what charts you might need?
Its my first exposure and I've been going through YouTube tutorials at night. I've got it set up with 11487 and 11492 and a route for the Mug Race on my home computer, my Android tablet (Nexus 9) and an old Android Phone (Galaxy S6). I'm looking forward to making use of that VMG feature! 8)
At the risk of going too far off-topic...
Going north, the river is wide and deep, almost up to the edges. Don't worry at all about staying in the channel except while you are going under the US17 and SR16 bridges. The race starts just north of the US17 bridge. Regardless of how it looks, you can sail under the SR16 bridge as long as you stay between the fenders. Set up a route that takes you through it so you will not get off course. The highest point of the bridge far left of the middle and it is hard to see when you come around Bayard Point.
That's interesting. Just now re-looking at the area. You (actually I) would have thought... that something that important (where boats go under a bridge) would be marked on charts. The Rudder Club gave a set of coordinates for their race and I put it in OpenCPN. Do you think this Orange 1 Triangle point would be that location?

Image
Odysseus, expert on the Siren's call

User avatar
Russ
Admiral
Posts: 6264
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:01 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: Bozeman, Montana "Luna Azul" 2008 M 70hp Suzi

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Russ » Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:25 am

Looks interesting. I love open source.

I can't find any maps for my region.

It is only for Win, Mac and Linux. No smartphone support which is sad.
--Russ

User avatar
Inquisitor
Captain
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:24 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: North Carolina Mountains

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Inquisitor » Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:50 am

Russ wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:25 am
Looks interesting. I love open source.

I can't find any maps for my region.

It is only for Win, Mac and Linux. No smartphone support which is sad.
I don't know about iPhone, but its on Android. https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... free&hl=en
I have it on both a couple of phones and a couple of tablets (both GPS enabled).

As far as Montana maps... Not that it's as optimum as a Navionics or i-Boating type map of your lakes, I saw where it has some facility to import a chart... even a scanned image of a paper chart, set some latitude and longitude points and it'll work.
Odysseus, expert on the Siren's call

User avatar
Democritus
Deckhand
Posts: 39
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:58 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Democritus » Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:08 am

Also a big fan of anything open source. I love the option of running OpenCPN on a Raspberry Pi and feeding that data to a tablet. That way I could also use the Pi as a hub which would collect all the data for the stream. That said, it's got a fairly steep learning curve. For the time being I decided to go with Navionics which has a $15/year subscription for US charts. It's very user friendly (drag your finger over the area you want and it downloads the charts) and integrates with components fairly easily. The plan is to integrate other components using a cheap wifi bridge like the YakBak or YakMux. I do plan on playing with OpenCPN/Openplotter more soon, though, since I've got a couple Pis sitting around collecting dust already.
"Spiraling Shape" : 2002 Mac 26X, 2020 Tohatsu MFS50A

pitchpolehobie
Deckhand
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:46 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: USA, OH

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by pitchpolehobie » Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:23 am

Democritus wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:08 am
Also a big fan of anything open source. I love the option of running OpenCPN on a Raspberry Pi and feeding that data to a tablet. That way I could also use the Pi as a hub which would collect all the data for the stream. That said, it's got a fairly steep learning curve. For the time being I decided to go with Navionics which has a $15/year subscription for US charts. It's very user friendly (drag your finger over the area you want and it downloads the charts) and integrates with components fairly easily. The plan is to integrate other components using a cheap wifi bridge like the YakBak or YakMux. I do plan on playing with OpenCPN/Openplotter more soon, though, since I've got a couple Pis sitting around collecting dust already.
Similar mindset. What device do u use for navionics?

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:15 pm

Inquisitor wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 9:26 am
That's interesting. Just now re-looking at the area. You (actually I) would have thought... that something that important (where boats go under a bridge) would be marked on charts. The Rudder Club gave a set of coordinates for their race and I put it in OpenCPN. Do you think this Orange 1 Triangle point would be that location?

Image
That looks pretty close. I just checked a track where I went under the bridge and it looks like it is at 29 58.9309N 81 37.3733W. The important thing is to have it close to the right spot so you don't line up on the middle of the bridge when you come around the point. By the time you get there you are going to be using your eyes, not your chart to go under the bridge.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

User avatar
Democritus
Deckhand
Posts: 39
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:58 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Democritus » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:25 pm

pitchpolehobie wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:23 am

Similar mindset. What device do u use for navionics?
I use a Galaxy Tab A7 10.4" with a rubberized (not waterproof) case. It hasn't taken any big splashes yet. We'll see how it goes. If it ends up being too delicate for regular cockpit use I may upgrade to one of the more rugged/military grade type tablets. I watch lots of full time cruisers on Youtube that use iPads though, and they don't seem to have issues.
"Spiraling Shape" : 2002 Mac 26X, 2020 Tohatsu MFS50A

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:34 pm

Inquisitor wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:50 am
Russ wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:25 am
Looks interesting. I love open source.

I can't find any maps for my region.

It is only for Win, Mac and Linux. No smartphone support which is sad.
I don't know about iPhone, but its on Android. https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... free&hl=en
I have it on both a couple of phones and a couple of tablets (both GPS enabled).

As far as Montana maps... Not that it's as optimum as a Navionics or i-Boating type map of your lakes, I saw where it has some facility to import a chart... even a scanned image of a paper chart, set some latitude and longitude points and it'll work.
The android version is a bit off an odd beast. The free version you linked to is version 4.1.1028. It does work but it is not well supported. The official version for android is not free. It is version 5.0.4 and is fully supported. It costs a massive $9.95.

There is no iPhone version at all but if you have an old Mac lying around there is a version for it.

All current and most older versions of Windows are fully supported. It should work on all versions of Linux but "some are more equal than others" to quote Mr. Orwell. Most Raspberry Pi variants are supported.

Russ, if NOAA does not have anything in your area mapped then it's going to be a little trickier. There are a few Army Corp charts out there for some of the western rivers but your best bet would be to use Paul Higgens excellent tools to create georeferenced charts from satellite imagery. I've used it for local lakes and for the upper reaches of the Suwannee that the Army Corp and NOAA refuse to recognize. http://www.gdayii.ca/Home.php

For any OLD programmers out there, Paul's tools are written in REXX.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:38 pm

Democritus wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:08 am
Also a big fan of anything open source. I love the option of running OpenCPN on a Raspberry Pi and feeding that data to a tablet. That way I could also use the Pi as a hub which would collect all the data for the stream. That said, it's got a fairly steep learning curve. For the time being I decided to go with Navionics which has a $15/year subscription for US charts. It's very user friendly (drag your finger over the area you want and it downloads the charts) and integrates with components fairly easily. The plan is to integrate other components using a cheap wifi bridge like the YakBak or YakMux. I do plan on playing with OpenCPN/Openplotter more soon, though, since I've got a couple Pis sitting around collecting dust already.
Download one of the OpenPlotter images that will work on your Pi. It will install a working, configured OpenCPN as well. That's the easiest way I know of to get OpenCPN on a Pi. The version is sometimes a little behind while they get the entire package to work together but once it is published it works right out of the box.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:42 pm

Democritus wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:25 pm
pitchpolehobie wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:23 am

Similar mindset. What device do u use for navionics?
I use a Galaxy Tab A7 10.4" with a rubberized (not waterproof) case. It hasn't taken any big splashes yet. We'll see how it goes. If it ends up being too delicate for regular cockpit use I may upgrade to one of the more rugged/military grade type tablets. I watch lots of full time cruisers on Youtube that use iPads though, and they don't seem to have issues.
Waterproof is important, but the ability to see the screen in full sunlight is a deal breaker for navigation hardware. If you can't see it in full sunlight, don't depend on it. Use it, but don't depend on it.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

User avatar
Inquisitor
Captain
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:24 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: North Carolina Mountains

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Inquisitor » Wed Apr 14, 2021 6:01 pm

Be Free wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:34 pm
The android version is a bit off an odd beast. The free version you linked to is version 4.1.1028. It does work but it is not well supported. The official version for android is not free. It is version 5.0.4 and is fully supported. It costs a massive $9.95.
I saw the 5+ version. And with a little reading, it "seemed" to me someone (not really related to any developer actually adding new code or fixing old bugs) took the open source code, compiled and offered a separate distribution. The price is trivial, and for support that might appeal to some users. Kind of like "Red Hat" Linux. For me... I don't care one bit about support. I do, however, care about feature differences. Do you have any experience with both versions and are able to note significant improvements between those versions? For instance... the UI on 4+ is fine for computers, but really reeks for phones. If the 5+ version has UI to really support phone usage, then I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Thanks,
Inq
Odysseus, expert on the Siren's call

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Thu Apr 15, 2021 8:38 am

Inquisitor wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 6:01 pm
I saw the 5+ version. And with a little reading, it "seemed" to me someone (not really related to any developer actually adding new code or fixing old bugs) took the open source code, compiled and offered a separate distribution. The price is trivial, and for support that might appeal to some users. Kind of like "Red Hat" Linux. For me... I don't care one bit about support. I do, however, care about feature differences. Do you have any experience with both versions and are able to note significant improvements between those versions? For instance... the UI on 4+ is fine for computers, but really reeks for phones. If the 5+ version has UI to really support phone usage, then I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Thanks,
Inq
It's actually the other way around (sort of). Dave Register is the creator of OpenCPN. There is nothing in the android ap that he provides that is not in the free version for other operating systems. There is only one version of the source code. Anyone with the tools and expertise in the android ecosystem can get the source code from github and compile it themselves. You are right. It is a lot like Red Hat. He's selling the convenience of a precompiled package and support.

I don't have any experience with the android versions at all. I've only run OpenCPN on Linux (multiple versions) and Windows (XP to Win10). There is a big difference in the features of OpenCPN between version 4 and 5 though. I think you will find the plugins will start to fall behind as well.

OpenCPN design specifies that only the base functions are included in the main program. Extensions to the basic features as navigation software are implemented through plugins. Sometimes those plugins are so useful that they are incorporated into the standard install (kind of a permanent, preinstalled plugin).

Because the plugin ecosystem is so extensive it is not uncommon for the API that allows communication between the plugins and the main program to change to allow a new feature to be implemented. Sometimes that change is so fundamental that the API is not backward compatible and older versions can't use plugins written to the new API.

There are still people using version 4 for various reasons on various platforms. I used it from beta (had to compile it myself) to the release of version 5. I'm a strong proponent of "your boat, your rules". As long as it gets the job done to their satisfaction it's fine with me.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

User avatar
Inquisitor
Captain
Posts: 860
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:24 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26M
Location: North Carolina Mountains

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Inquisitor » Thu Apr 15, 2021 10:36 am

Be Free wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 8:38 am
It's actually the other way around (sort of). Dave Register is the creator of OpenCPN.
Well then... that's a different story. I'd be glad to pay for that. He's done one hull of a job. Open Source is worse than hearding cats... more like hearding Napoleon's.
Odysseus, expert on the Siren's call

User avatar
Be Free
First Officer
Posts: 255
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:08 pm
Sailboat: MacGregor 26X
Location: Steinhatchee, FL

Re: Discussion about OpenCPN

Post by Be Free » Thu Apr 15, 2021 12:11 pm

The group of volunteers that maintain the core program and the many plugin developers seem to get along quite well. It gets a bit tense once in a while but for the most part it is a pleasant group. The more common problem is a new user insisting on a new feature or a fundamental change and complaining about a "lack of support" when they don't get their way.

I've seen someone propose a new plugin and have a previously unknown (at least to me) developer post a working version in a matter of days. I've also seen someone mention that a new feature or user interface tweak would be nice and have it be released in hours. It is, for the most part, the most motivated and responsive group of volunteer developers I've ever seen.
Bill
2001 26X Simple Interest
Honda BF40D

Post Reply