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Message board > Navigation and sea worthiness > OpenCPN

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Message 1 of 5
Posted by member Peter on Monday 2 May 2016

Hi All,

Anyone interested in Electronic Navigation software may like to have a look at this software. It is Open source and free. can be run on a Windows PC/tablet a Linux machine or Apple Mac based OS. has lots of facilities and I have run it on my Windows 10 tablet OK. As it will run on Linux it should run on a Raspberry Pie which would give you a very small PC on your boat which could be left in place and linked with a number of other projects on board.

OpenCPN is a free software (GPL) project to create navigation software for use under way or as a planning tool. OpenCPN is developed by a team of active sailors using real world conditions for program testing and refinement.


Worth a look,



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Message 2 of 5
Posted by member Phil Sanderson on Monday 6 February 2017

Thanks for this Peter.
I spotted your post some months ago and thought I would give it a try in the winter months. Utilizing an old HP laptop I now have my Garmin GPS 120 talking to the PC via a USB serial converter (£4 from ebay) onto a complete set of UK charts (Unified Charts from visitmyharbour.com £22). Really impressed at the features - not exactly 'plug n play' but it was a fun project for the weekend while waiting for the deck paint to dry. I thought I had seen the last of RS232 when I left college 30 years ago!
Next is to try and get the RTL2832U + R820T DVB-T Stick Tuner Receiver talking to OpenCPN as an AIS receiver (£8 ebay) (apparently it works?????? - still not convinced but I will let you know)
Happy Boating

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Message 3 of 5
Posted by member Peter on Saturday 11 February 2017

Hi Phil,

Glad you are finding it useful. Like you say it is not the easiest of software to start with but works very well. I have used mine with an old Laptop and also found a cheap USB GPS dongle that works very well. I think it cost me around £12 off the net. It works well on a USB extension lead and can be hid in the roof lining. The RTL dongles work well and I have used them for a number of projects, although some of the cheaper units have a rather wide front end and tend to overload when in busy VHF areas..

Keep us informed how you get on. I have been playing with a Raspberry Pi2 and 19 inch monitor plus a cheap track ball which makes a great low cost charting system plus a digital TV using a dongle, when in range !!!


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Message 4 of 5
Posted by member Phil Sanderson on Saturday 18 February 2017

Hi Peter, I must admit I'm having great fun with this. I have managed to pick up the AIS signals using the RTL dongle. Even managed to get it plotted on the OpenCPN chart. I'm on version 4 of a home made antenna at the moment as the range from my home is not that great. I did manage to pick up AIS data from the drilling rig off Hinkley Point which is about 13 miles from Minehead but I was using an antenna on a mast on top of Minehead Lifeboats Boathouse.

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Message 5 of 5
Posted by member Peter on Sunday 26 February 2017

Hi Phil,

Glad you have it working. Regards an antenna it is worth looking for a design called the "Slim Jim" which is a VHF antenna design used for the 2 metre amateur band (144-146Mhz.) it is easy to make and has some gain over a simple vertical and has a low angle of radiation , which is needed for VHF work. You make it from a short piece of ribbon feeder available from most amateur retailers and it slides inside a peace of white plastic plumbing pipe. The beauty of it is that it does not need a ground plane. Cheap, Easy and effective !!!,

Look here :- http://www.essexham.co.uk/slim-jim



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