Why Raymarine Lighthouse Charts is a serious alternative to Navionics

The new suite of Raymarine products features a range of charts to challenge the mighty Navionics and C-Map.

Raymarine is cutting its reliance on Navionics and C-Map by launching its own brand of electronic charts. Called Lighthouse Charts, they are based on existing data from official hydrographic sources, which has been grafted into their own-in-house format. The claimed benefits of the new charting software are exceptional clarity, greater functionality and enhanced imagery.

Users can choose from four different viewing modes called Day, Dusk, Night and Bright Sun, each one designed to enhance clarity and reduce eye strain in varying light conditions. You can also alter the size of key chart symbols such as channel markers, lights and other navigational icons without changing the scale of the chart itself.

In a similar vein you can adjust the level of detail shown on the chart, limiting it to just the key navigational aids (low) or adding in varying degrees of non-essential points of interest (high).

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Clockwise from top left: Government mode gives maximum navigation clarity; Leisure mode adds more colour and detail; Premium subscription includes satellite imagery overlay for the land and/or sea

Both of the above could prove particularly useful when picking your way through busy harbours or heavily charted areas cluttered with information. There is even an option to switch between Government and Leisure presentation modes; the former being the very clean but basic style favoured by professional mariners which has almost no on-land information, the latter being a more colourful and richly detailed version that leisure boat owners may find more appealing.

Two other specialist features which will appeal to fishing enthusiasts in particular are expert verified Fishing Hotspots, displaying intelligence on the best places to catch different species along with more detailed 1ft-depth contour lines, and RealBathy mapping which allows users to create their own underwater maps of uncharted areas using onboard sonar.

However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Lighthouse Charts is the option to upgrade to Raymarine’s Premium subscription service. This gives access to continuous real-time chart updates, enhanced satellite imagery and a vast data bank of points of interest (POI) giving information and contact details for marinas, fuel docks, boatyards and even nearby restaurants.

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The raw data for these POIs is taken from that well known bible of all things nautical, Reeds Almanac, and marinas.com. To make the most of this, Raymarine has added a “Find nearest…” function with preset options that will take you straight to the closest marina, fuel dock, anchorage, beach etc. The one key variable that it doesn’t yet have access to is live tidal heights and flow information, although we’re told Raymarine is working on this.

The satellite imagery, meanwhile, is supplied by Mapbox and can be added or removed in layers so that it overlays just the land, or both the land and sea. Apart from the visual appeal of seeing the surrounding area in vivid photographic detail, right down to individual streets, buildings and parks, it’s also a great way of spotting shallows and reefs from above.

To ensure you don’t have to rely on a local Wi-Fi connection to access all this data, a RayConnect smartphone app means you can purchase charts and download updates and Premium content from home then synch it with your Axiom plotter when you get to your boat. Alternatively, you can download it to an SD card in the ‘old-fashioned’ way.

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The new screens are claimed to be brighter, sharper with faster processing speeds, making zooming and redrawing a much speedier process

Pricing for the charts ranges from €95 to €149 per country and includes 12 months of Premium content for free, after which you’ll need to sign up for a Premium subscription.

Axiom+

Charting isn’t the only focus of Raymarine’s latest product range. It has also announced a new range of Axiom+ multi-function plotters and the latest generation of its Lighthouse 3 operating system.

The new plotters feature a more powerful quad-core processor enabling smoother, faster redrawing of charts when you zoom in and out or scroll around. The screen itself uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology to deliver a sharper, 25% brighter image with increased viewing angles and twice the resolution of older displays. It has also been nano-coated with an impact resistant ‘Hydrotough’ coating that repels water and oil, reducing salt and sunscreen stains.

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Users can access onboard sonar and create their own underwater maps of uncharted areas

A new 10 Hz GPS/GNSS receiver is claimed to deliver a fourfold increase in sensitivity giving greater positioning accuracy, while the optional built-in RealVision sonar feeds detailed 3D views of the underwater world to the screen. All of the new Axiom+ MFDs can also take advantage of Raymarine’s clever ClearCruise Augmented Reality system that overlays AIS and charting information on to livestream feeds from video cameras, helping to identify ships and navigation markers that appear on screen.

The Axiom+ range includes 7in, 9in and 12in screens with prices ranging from £621 for the Axiom+ 7 without built-in RV sonar to £2,245 for the all-singing, all-dancing Axiom+ 12 with RV Sonar.

LightHouse 3

The latest version of Raymarine’s operating system includes a new set of fonts and graphics designed to improve readability, especially on the latest digital displays for engine gauges and data. Other features include an adjustable fishfinder alarm, a ruler tool for measuring distances and a swipe-out audio offering instant access to key controls like volume, mute and source.

Perhaps the most significant addition is a LightHouse Apps function that allows seamless integration with third party companies such as Lumishore underwater lights, Victron Energy and popular entertainment channels such as Spotify and Netflix.

First published in the September 2020 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.

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