NOAA charts for Garmin gps?


My father in law just gave me a Garmin etrex vista GPS, and I’d like to see if I can load NOAA charts into it for sea kayaking. I can’t find any indication on the Garmin mapsource website of NOAA charts with their existing software. The NOAA website lets you download their charts for free, and they have a list of software companies that provide viewing software. But I can’t figure out if any of those programs will work with garmin gps units.

So: does anyone use a Garmin mapping GPS with NOAA charts? If not, do you use any Garmin maps that work well for kayaking? I kayak on Lake SUperior, but eventually I’d like to head out to the real ocean.

Thanks! I’m a complete gps novice, and while this might not be the best unit for kayaking, it was a gift, it’s small, and its submersible, so I’m not complaining.

Garmin Bluechart software…
is what you’ll need if it works on that GPS unit. I’ve been quite happy with Garmin’s TOPO USA as well as it has NAVAIDS on it and I’ve found it adequate for kayaking in the US.

Garmin BlueChart
Garmin has a for a fee software package called BlueChart Americas. This will allow you to load one region of charts into the gps. I am not familiar with your model of gps, I have the map76 unit. The software has several other advantages over the standard maping software that came with at least the map76 unit. The NOAA charts are much higher resolution and the display is easier to read and much more accurate. The gps itself is very accurate and will place your position precicely on the display. However, the base map that comes with the unit was not accurate and the map vs. the plot point did not mate. This issue goes away with the bluechart software.

Also you can plot waypoints, name them, and make routes on your pc much easier than manipulating the buttons on the gps. You can download this information from the pc to the gps or upload tracks, points, and routes from the gps to the pc. I find it much easier to key in a name or plot a point or route on the pc as compared to the gps unit.

The bluechart software retails for about 150. You can find many sources on the internet for about 110 with shipping. I bought mine via EBay for 108 including shipping with no tax. Make sure if you buy via the internet that you buy new unopened v.8 The program is copy protected and once loaded to your gps you can not load it to another gps unit.

Happy Paddling,


another newbie
I haven’t used a GPS before but have been thinking about getting one. I don’t know that I necessarily need maps or charts in it, but are they handy? I usually use old-school charts in a case with a compass but would like a GPS as a double-check especially in fog as well as know speed/distance.

I want to be able to load waypoints into it before I go out (launch point, campsite #1, campsite #2, etc). If I can hook it up to a computer, I’d prefer USB over serial - but I guess I could do it right from the GPS itself too if that’s possible (and probably better on a trip with no computer). Any recommendations on what one to look at? It will be mainly for trips on Lakes Michigan and Superior.

Thanks for the feedback. I found an old copy of topos cd’s for the national parks lying around, and those work for the Apostle Islands. The only problem is that the garmin etrex vista has an old-fashioned 9 hole connection to the computer, and I can’t find a computer with a 9 hole, only usb. I’m sure I can find an adaptor somewhere.

The bluechart suggestions are helpful–it seems that one version will work on my gps unit.

To be honest, all I really want the gps for is to give coordinates in an emergency situation so the coast guard can find us, something I hope will never happen. I still don’t understand why vhs radios don’t come with satellite receivers so the coast guard can pinpoint your location when necessary. (Some probably do, of course, but not the small handhelds kayakers use).

9 holer to USB
I’m new to using my Garmin eTrex Legend … and just recieved a DB9 pin to USB cable to hook up the GPS to a laptop (that has no serial port).

My garmin came with the serial cable (9 pin), they charge $50 for the 9pin to USB cable but I got it off eBay for less than $18 from Gilsson Technologies. check out :

WARNING: There are many other rs232DB 9pin to USB cables on eBay but this particular cable was made by a company that supports GPS’s and it came with the hardware drivers (on CD rom). The other eBay auctions didn’t come with the drivers so I don’t know that they would guarantee it to work with the Garmin.

USB/Serial Port
The Garmin Map76 comes with a serial cable as stated by other posters. My laptop has several USB ports but no serial port. I bought a serial to USB adapter at Circuit City for less than 20 dollars and it works fine.

Happy Paddling,


Does yours already have this?
I just bought a Garmin GPSMAP 60CS.

It has a general basemap already loaded. Nothing fancy, just main roads and highways.

While in Port Austin (Lake Huron)this weekend, I noticed that my unit displayed all of the bouys from the harbor to the lighthouse. I played around with it some more and saw that bouys appeared for the waters of Lake Saint Clair as well.

Check it out. Maybe your unit has enough in it already for your purposes?

If not, I believe you’re stuck buying Garmins software. It’s proprietary, so not just anything will load.

Happy Kayaking.

serial cable
I thought my garmin came with a serial cable only because it’s almost 3 years old–I can’t believe they still ship them with serial cables, not usb cables. Who has serial ports on their laptop?

I’m hoping the basemap that’s already loaded will be sufficient for Lake Superior. It has the islands I paddle in, but no names, trails, or docks marked, but that’s probably no big deal for the time being, since I can add them from my paper chart.