The migration of data from an old chartplotter to other plotters decomposes into two other problems.

  1. Get data from the chartplotter which only supports an NMEA-0183 interface. The device can “send” waypoints and routes over the interface wire, but there’s no common device or network interface.
  2. Convert the data to a format usable by the others. The NMEA-0183 sentences are not widely used. GPX format is more widely used.

Once the data has been converted from NMEA sentences to a GPX file, it can be placed onto a Micro-SD card for transfer to the new chartplotter [1] that has a modern set of interfaces.

[1]B&G Zeus 2.

Along the way, it can be used to populate waypoints and routes in GPSNavX, running on a Mac laptop. This is how the files are captured in the first place, and it’s how the Micro-SD card is written to move files to the new chartplotter.

With some effort, the files can be transfered via (the Fugawi shop) to iNavX running on an iPad.

The reverse direction is also interesting, but not needed – yet.

About NMEA

NMEA-0183 is used by numerous marine devices. It’s defined to use EIA-422 wiring. It’s called “point-to-point, multidropped”. A single driver can have multiple receivers.

In most simple marine applications, a chart plotter and radio or chart plotter, radio, and radar might be interconnected. In these applications, the chartplotter would be a hub with several available channels.

NMEA “talkers” provide data in Sentences. Each sentence begins with '$'. A '*' signals the end; this is followed by a checksum byte as two ASCII characters.

NMEA “listeners” gather the data.

Generally, a talker will provide a sequence of messages followed by a short delay. In the chart-plotter case, there might be an eight message loop providing information like the following:

  • Cross-track error and steering,
  • Recommended Minimum “C” (position, velocity, time),
  • Depth Below Transducer,
  • Depth,
  • Temperature of water,
  • Velocity and Heading of water,
  • GPS Fix,
  • GPS Lat-Lon.

There’s considerable redundancy in this. The idea, however, is to have each device listen for only the relevant message, ignoring all others.

When we send waypoints (or routes) from device to device, the waypoint data is inserted into the stream of messages to all listeners. Once the waypoints (or routes) have been sent, the background loop of data resumes. There’s no formal bracket for the data.

See also:

NMEA Hardware interface

How is this wired?

The target chartplotter is a Standard Horizon CP300i. There are five ports available. The following wiring is for port #1.

CP300i USB Adaptor
Green Black
Blue Orange
Brown Yellow

The hardward will operate at:

  • Baud Rate: 4800
  • Parity: None
  • Data Bits: 8
  • Stop Bits: 1
  • Flow Control: None

Most of these are default settings for pyserial.

NMEA Sentence Protocol

NMEA sentences are sent as a stream of ASCII bytes. Sentences begin with '$' (or '!') and end with '*xx' where xx are the two hex digits of the message checksum byte.

Here’s an example message:


The hex 0F at the end is the xor-reduction of the bytes in the message prior to the *.

The data gathering algorithm is an iterator that produces valid sentences.

from nmea_data import Scanner
with Scanner(device) as GPS:
    for sentence_fields in GPS:

The output will be a sequence of NMEA sentences, each sentence decomposed into strings of bytes broken on the "," boundaries. The "$" and "*xx" have been removed, leaving the talker type ("GP") and sentence type ("GSA") with the various fields.

Given a sequence of byte values, we can then create a specific subclass of Sentence that decodes the values inside the message.

For example:


Can be unpacked as this:

[b'GPGLL', b'2542.9243', b'N', b'08013.6310', b'W', b'162823.000', b'A']

The map from positional values works like this:

position description attribute conversion function
1 ‘Latitude’ ‘lat’ lat
2 ‘N/S Indicator’ ‘lat_h’ text
3 ‘Longitude’ ‘lon’ lon
4 ‘E/W Indicator’ ‘lon_h’ text
5 ‘UTC Time’ ‘time_utc’ utc_time
6 ‘Status’ ‘status’ text

This requires a number of conversion functions, including lat(), lon(), text(), and utc_time() to unpack the bytes into useful values.

For example: 2542.9243 is 25°42.9243′. This can be turned into 25.715405, also.


We can identify a number of types of conversion functions.

This covers the bases for the values seen in the messages of interest.


We can, of course, serialize sentences in bytes.

However, these are painful to work with.

To slightly simplify life, it’s easier to define a JSON encoder and JSON decoder.

These can serialize and deserialize sentences.