GPS Boat Computer
The GPS Boat Computer is a handy navigation device for the weekend boater. It will tell you your speed, where north is, fuel consumption rate and total, latitude/longitude and even the time!
Perhaps its most useful feature is that it will remember up to eight of your favourite fishing or diving spots and will later guide you back to exactly that same location - even if it is in the middle of the ocean.
It also has an USB interface so you can connect it to your laptop and with scanned maps have your position and track automatically plotted.
The GPS Boat Computer uses the same electronics as the GPS Car Computer. Other than the firmware and (optionally) a weatherproof box both projects are the same.
This project was described in the October 2010 issue of Silicon Chip magazine and you can purchase an electronic copy of the magazine from that link for about the same price as the paper version. This is handy if you have missed buying that issue of the magazine and as the article goes into much more detail than I can fit in this page, so it is worth considering if you want to build the Boat Computer.
If you have not read the article and are interested in building the GPS Boat Computer you should read my web page on building the device.
A kit of parts (with the pre programmed microcontroller) is available from Altronics (part number K1143). You can also build the kit for the GPS Car Computer (from Altronics or Photonage) and reflash the firmware using your personal computer (it only takes 20 seconds) and you will have converted the kit into a GPS Boat Computer.
The Boat Computer was developed with the help of Nigel Hall of Dee Why in Sydney who also took the photographs on this page.
At this time there are no errata for the magazine article (we can always live in hope!) If one becomes necessary it will be listed here so you should check from time to time - just to be sure.
There is a new version of the firmware (version 1.2). The difference from V1.0 and V1.1 is minor - a number of changes have been made in the startup sequence of the microcontroller to fix an intermittent issue where the micro can hang during powerup.
This issue seems to occur with only a few microcontrollers but it causes the Boat Conputer to hang on startup with the display either blank or showing just a few characters. This update is recommended for all users of the Boat Computer but particually if your unit is suffering from this issue.
You can find the update in the download section at the bottom of this page.
GPS Boat Computer Summary
This document provides a concise summary of the Boat Computer and its capability. It is worth a read if you would lke to know how the device works and what it can do.
Reflashing the Firmware
Because the Boat Computer is the same as the Car Computer but with different firmware it is useful to describe just how the new firmware is loaded.
The very first version of the firmware (GPS Car Computer V1.1) needed a PIC programmer to load the program onto the microcontroller. This version included a special segment of code called a bootloader that enabled subsequent updates to be loaded over USB from your home PC. To load an update you need to hold down the SET button while you plug the device into a USB connector on your computer. This puts the device into its bootload mode and by using a program running on your PC you can upload the new firmware. A special programmer is not required and the update only takes 20 seconds.
All the kit suppliers preprogram the microcontroller with the original version of the firmware (which includes the bootloader) so, if you have built yours from a kit, all you need to do is apply the update to turn the device into a Boat Computer. The Boat Computer update is available in the download section below and the Car Computer updates are available on that page. You can even flip back and forth between a Boat and a Car Computer (although all your settings will be reset to the default each time).
Detailed instructions for the update process and the PC software is included with every update.
|GPS Boat Computer Firmware V1.2 (update)
Includes both fuel injector and flow sensor versions
|GPS Boat Computer User Summary||DOWNLOAD|
|GPS Boat Computer Source Code V1.2||DOWNLOAD|
|Silicon Chip Serial Port Driver||DOWNLOAD|