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What is the best GPS to paddle with? Every year, I paddle the great marsh from Ipswich to the black cow in Newburyport and I manage to get a little lost in the tall grasses. Usually, it is just a five minute adjustment, but there has got to be a device that actually can lead me along a track. Any suggestions?

I was thinking of the Garmin GPSMAP 78S

Stew P.

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What is the best GPS to paddle with? Every year, I paddle the great marsh from Ipswich to the black cow in Newburyport and I manage to get a little lost in the tall grasses. Usually, it is just a five minute adjustment, but there has got to be a device that actually can lead me along a track. Any suggestions?

I was thinking of the Garmin GPSMAP 78S

Stew P.

Stew:

Having been temporarily disoriented in the marshes of Plum Island Sound many times myself, I can tell you that the best strategy is local knowledge and land marks (though those change with tide heights). That, a chart and a compass is really all you need.

Which GPS depends on how you are going to use it: a mapping GPS such as the 78S theoretically will locate you, but unlike more open waters and larger landforms, GPS maps tend to not have the detail of the small channels in the marsh. So you're as likely to be shown on land as on water, which won't tell you which way to turn. So check the map on the GPS you're considering to see if it has the detail you need. Without the detail, you could be a couple of yards over in the wrong branch and have to travel a bit before realizing you're traveling over land on the GPS (assuming the smaller channel is not shown). By that time, you'd probably have figured it out without the GPS.

The alternative is to note the lat/lon on the GPS and carefully plot it on a printed chart which tends to have a bit more detail. Most people don't want to bother with this old numerical method, howver.

If you just want to get to Newburyport from Ipswich, here's my method: 1) cross over to Grape Island (wooded island on the east side of the sound across from Middle Ground), and follow the shore north just off the right hand bank. 2) When you're past the Parker River (big channel branching to the west) start hugging the left hand bank (just past the river opening), avoiding the temptation of the several channels to the east (right) for about a half mile. 3) After the channel narrows, chose right hand forks, especially one 90 degree bend to the right and follow your nose to the bridge. Joppa Flats is dead ahead. If you're uncertain which fork to take, look for the current as indicated by grass bending in the channel: the main channel to Newburyport has the strongest current.

If you still get lost, enjoy the views of the marsh and consider yourself blessed.

Scott

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I was thinking of the Garmin GPSMAP 78S

Stew P.

Hi Stew,

Congrats on the Blackburn, btw!

I think the 78S ($300) is the newer version of the very popular 76C and 60c that are still around, now heavily discounted to below $200. I just grabbed a 60 and now have to learn to use it.

These Garmins seem to serve us well, but Scott's brilliant response is an example of the importance of local knowledge. The attraction of GPS use for me is primarily to be able to trace paddles rather than a location beacon.

Ern

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Which GPS depends on how you are going to use it: a mapping GPS such as the 78S theoretically will locate you, but unlike more open waters and larger landforms, GPS maps tend to not have the detail of the small channels in the marsh.

I agree with Scott's advice not to rely on a GPS in general, and certainly not to neglect good navigation/piloting skills.

But I have found the Garmin mapping units to be very accurate and useful in the Great Marsh (official name of the area behind Plum Island). For example, there are some small channels on the route from Pavilion Beach to Rowley that the Garmin has helped me locate and negotiate.

That said, the variations due to changes, tides and simple inaccuracies can be a problem, so you have to also use those most vital of all navigation aids -- your mind and and your eyes. Any marsh can be totally different depending on the tide state, and the Great Marsh particularly so. Large apparent islands come and go and that can really disorient you, GPS or not, unless you read the charts carefully, watch the tide levels, and think about what's happening.

--David.

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Hi, Stew - welcome to NSPN! And that's a great time in the BBC!

I use the GPSmap 60Cx, too. Actually I have the 60CSx, but the "S" means it has a compass, which I never found to be very useful. (Don't get me wrong - a real compass is useful, just not this electronic one). I always keep it in a drybag when on salt water - water resistance has its limits, and I doubt all that salt is very good for it, either. On fresh, flat water I use it without.

I also have the 76Cx. Only the case and a few buttons are different, the operation is almost exactly the same. The 76 floats. But somehow I like the other one better.

Yes, you can lay down a track to follow, with the caveat that the GPS is only accurate to within 30 feet or so. Still, it can be a help. I seldom rely on the maps in the device for this sort of thing (I have been too cheap to buy detailed marine maps), so I can't review that feature. But I have made tracks using a somewhat convoluted method on my computer by tracing channels in the satellite photos in Google Earth. Or, once you have made one successful trip with your GPS, you can edit and reload that track. There are also, (for hiking at least) tracks you can download off the web. And of course you can share tracks with other NSPNers like me.

When out on open water, you can also "find" a point (tidal station, waypoint, etc.). That gives you a straight line to follow from your current position.

I would never rely on a battery-powered device as a sole means of navigation, of course! It's a nice convenience or a backup to other methods (like knowing your way or paddling with someone who does, or chart 'n compass, or at least another GPS!)

Last year a prelaid track helped me across Sandy Bay during that pea-soup fog we had (for a short time) during the BBC. I happened to be at the front of the local "pod", so there was no one else to follow. Some of the HPK leaders, you may remember, went the wrong side of Straightsmouth.

Mostly, though, I use my GPS to measure speed and distance for fitness training, and to publish tracks after paddling with other people so we can all see where we went on Google Maps. It's a blast. If you always take your GPS when you paddle, you can lay down a composite map with spaghetti trails showing all the places you've ever paddled, like this. Someday I'm going to sign my name with it. It's fun.

Anyway, those are some random thoughts. Hope to see you out there sometime!

Lisa

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Hi, Stew - welcome to NSPN! And that's a great time in the BBC!

I use the GPSmap 60Cx, too. Actually I have the 60CSx, but the "S" means it has a compass, which I never found to be very useful. (Don't get me wrong - a real compass is useful, just not this electronic one). I always keep it in a drybag when on salt water - water resistance has its limits, and I doubt all that salt is very good for it, either. On fresh, flat water I use it without.

I also have the 76Cx. Only the case and a few buttons are different, the operation is almost exactly the same. The 76 floats. But somehow I like the other one better.

Yes, you can lay down a track to follow, with the caveat that the GPS is only accurate to within 30 feet or so. Still, it can be a help. I seldom rely on the maps in the device for this sort of thing (I have been too cheap to buy detailed marine maps), so I can't review that feature. But I have made tracks using a somewhat convoluted method on my computer by tracing channels in the satellite photos in Google Earth. Or, once you have made one successful trip with your GPS, you can edit and reload that track. There are also, (for hiking at least) tracks you can download off the web. And of course you can share tracks with other NSPNers like me.

Speaking of GPS units, any one have experience with the PN40?

Thanks,

Chuck

When out on open water, you can also "find" a point (tidal station, waypoint, etc.). That gives you a straight line to follow from your current position.

I would never rely on a battery-powered device as a sole means of navigation, of course! It's a nice convenience or a backup to other methods (like knowing your way or paddling with someone who does, or chart 'n compass, or at least another GPS!)

Last year a prelaid track helped me across Sandy Bay during that pea-soup fog we had (for a short time) during the BBC. I happened to be at the front of the local "pod", so there was no one else to follow. Some of the HPK leaders, you may remember, went the wrong side of Straightsmouth.

Mostly, though, I use my GPS to measure speed and distance for fitness training, and to publish tracks after paddling with other people so we can all see where we went on Google Maps. It's a blast. If you always take your GPS when you paddle, you can lay down a composite map with spaghetti trails showing all the places you've ever paddled, like this. Someday I'm going to sign my name with it. It's fun.

Anyway, those are some random thoughts. Hope to see you out there sometime!

Lisa

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Sunday, I was paddling with a group of friends and was assisting someone that was falling behind and before I knew it, we were up a creek with a two-bladed paddle. We puzzled where we were, but the tall grasses made it difficult to see any landmarks. After too many minutes, I pulled out my iPhone, opened up Google Maps and it told me EXACTLY where I was and I used the satellite imagery to get back on track in five minutes. It was great, and I would love to have that kind of thing with a marine GPS unit.

Scott, we had passed the Parker Rive, never hugged the left bank, but drifted straight ahead and into... the creek. And, it was beautiful. I have some great pictures! Now, I can recognize THREE places that won't get me to The Black Cow. :)

post-101549-1279767134_thumb.jpg

Stew

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Sunday, I was paddling with a group of friends and was assisting someone that was falling behind and before I knew it, we were up a creek with a two-bladed paddle. We puzzled where we were, but the tall grasses made it difficult to see any landmarks. After too many minutes, I pulled out my iPhone, opened up Google Maps and it told me EXACTLY where I was and I used the satellite imagery to get back on track in five minutes. It was great, and I would love to have that kind of thing with a marine GPS unit.

Scott, we had passed the Parker Rive, never hugged the left bank, but drifted straight ahead and into... the creek. And, it was beautiful. I have some great pictures! Now, I can recognize THREE places that won't get me to The Black Cow. :)

post-101549-1279767134_thumb.jpg

Stew

Hi Stew....You paddled there this past Sunday? How were the greenheads?

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While we were on Pavilion Beach in Ipswich, there were a 2-3 bites (per person), and while we were lost in the grasses we had a 3-5 more bites (per person). It was tolerable.

Doesn't sound too bad. Thanks Stew.

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A Mapping GPS with Tracks / breadcrumb trail enabled is great for getting you back out of the marshes. I've used mine a Garmin 60CSX and new Colorado 400C a number of times for this. One time I didn't bring the GPS in the marshes and we got a little lost. The problem was the tide came in and the path through the marsh was obscured. It was hard to find the right path as the marsh was flooded and hard to tell. It appeared you could paddle through the marsh grass but it was too shallow to do so. The GPS would've put us back on track easily.

Neil

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