One of the coolest applications I’ve been meaning to play with for the past couple years is in a category near and dear to my heart, meaning it has to do with sailing.
Seaclear is a chart plotting tool (like the very expensive C-Maps) but uses only raster (bitmapped) as opposed to vector charts.
If you’re staying in US coastal waters, you can get just about every inch of charted water for free:
You can plug in a GPS to Seaclear and it will use the charts (images with datum information that allows it to plot latitude and longitude. It’s not recommended that you steer your ship by it, but it’s a very nice tool.
You could potentially scan your own paper charts and with calculated datum, use them as well. I’m surprised there’s not more of a market around this (at least I can’t find it) with things like admiralty charts.
I think it can take Maptech charts as well. It can read BSBs, because that’s what the NOAA charts are, but I’ve heard there may be DRM on newer Maptech charts.
I downloaded Seaclear yesterday and got practically all the NOAA charts for the Pacific Northwest, since that’s where I hope to be sailing this summer (but hopefully not next year.) I have my eye on a boat too (please don’t steal it.)
Seaclear looks nice, but could use some updates. It crashed once on me (on Vista) when I opened a new chart.
If Seaclear were open source, I’d start hacking on it right away. I wonder if the owner still maintains it, and if he’d like any help.
Other intersting chart tools:
Fugawi is relatively cheap and takes ENC (vector) charts as well as raster charts — so it sounds like a middle of the road compromise. It also google earth support so you can place your tracks in Google Maps. Very cool.