Garmin have launched a new PC-based software product  called HomePort, which allows you to play with your Garmin chart plotter map, routes, waypoints and even your track data on your PC. Garmin also have an older product called MapSource which allows you to create and transfer waypoints but that was about all it was good for with marine chart plotters. HomePort is way better.

It is available as a download directly from the Garmin web site, as a free download. It is simple to install, I preferred to download the file then open the file to install the product, rather than run the install file directly. That way if something goes wrong you have a file on your PC you can go back to. Once installed, you will have to re-boot the PC but as soon as that it done you are good to go.

The software comes with a crude base map, but as soon as you put your Garmin map card in a SD slot on the PC it will recognise it. (If your chart plotter does not have map data on an external card you can usually save pre-loaded mad data to an external card). It will use that map data for the PC display. If you have G2 Vision data it will even show you the birds eye photographs just as you can on the chart plotter.

You can save your user data from the chart plotter to a SD card and import that data from the SD card into the PC. Note I said “import”, maps can only be read from the card but your data can be imported, saved, modified and exported back onto the card. Handy.

The screen shot above is of the Nab approach channel east of the Isle of Wight. Top left shows the data files in use – the G2Vision SD card for the chart, and my User Data (waypoints in this case) imported onto the PC. Waypoints are listed on the left, position in the bottom tile and location superimposed on the chart.

One very nice feature is the playback of the Track data. If you have a fish finder linked to the plotter you can view the depth profile along the track – after the event. Good for reviewing marks you have travelled over.  The screen below shows my track (which is saved onto the SD card as part of the User Data). Below left shows the bottom – the granularity is about one data point every 300 feet – and below that is the complete route showing the area zoomed. The red arrow on my track shows the point on the depth chart highlighted. Bottom right shows the area of the track on a larger scale chart. You can scroll and zoom about after your trip and almost replay the day. It is a pity the data points are so spread out but more would probably eat data storage capacity.

I found both MapSource and HomePort a little difficult to get started with, a tutorial would help. However the Help has a simple overview and if you take the trouble to read it you will get started very quickly. When you start the program it automatically checks for updates and installs them if you have an internet connection.Here is a list of features taken from the Garmin web site:

  • displays navigational charts from BlueChart g2 Vision
  • allows user to measure distance and bearing on the charts
  • displays route/track depth profile
  • converts tracks into point-to-point routes (track to route conversion) and specifies the speed for each leg of the route
  • provides ETA and arrival times (for each leg) when you create routes
  • shows animated playback of data collected on device
  • calculates fuel consumption (based on fuel flow data provided by the user)
  • exports selected data to Google™ Earth
  • displays statistics and graphical information about tide stations, tidal streams and currents
  • displays grid lines to show latitude and longitude
  • allows you to manage waypoints, routes and tracks
  • allows you to view the map north-up, map-up or course-up
  • displays celestial information such as sunrise, sunset and moon phase
  • displays photos and point-of-interest detail
  • supports vector charts
  • includes worldwide basemap
  • allows multiple map views