Using Google Earth for Waypoint Management

Technology and Our Sport: Scratching the Surface

Using Google Earth for Waypoint Management

By Conner Erwin

A recent question posted on inquired, “Is there a program out there that will allow you to put all your numbers on a map, in the proper North and West format in an “overlay” for quick reference on the boat?”

 Well, the answer is an obvious yes. However, my point herein is to cover somewhat new ground, not to re-walk paths of the past.

The simple answer to the question is “Use Andren,” “Use Offshore Hunter,” or “Use the OEM waypoint program that came with your GPS.” These programs are vital in the process, but they are not the best answer to the question. The way that I see it, Offshore Hunter and Andren are data warehouses - conversion tools and organizational tools - but neither really does a good job of letting you visually view your data and put it to use. Enter a small company from Mountain View, California named Google. NASDAQ:GOOG

Before you use Google, in my opinion, you really do need one of the two listed programs above, Andren or Offshore Hunter. Both programs have strengths and weaknesses compared to the other, but realistically either will work. So, let’s assume that you have a few hundred numbers in either one of the programs.

Start by selecting the numbers you want to view: this may be all your numbers, a few select numbers from a particular source, or simply numbers for a particular trip or area. 

From Offshore Hunter: select the numbers that you want to export using the selections tool, then go to Import/Export and export as a GPX file.

From Andren: select the numbers that you want to export, then go to Tools à Export Waypoints à GPX and export as a GPX file.

Many marine electronics manufacturers use GPX files or have them as an output option, but if yours doesn’t, simply import your numbers to Andren or Offshore Hunter, then export out as GPX and save to your desktop.

Google Earth can import GPX files to overlay on the satellite imagery or over the top of charts that are formatted for Google Earth. Such charts are widely available either free or for purchase over the Internet.

Here are the steps for using Google Earth:

  1. Download and install Google Earth@
  2. Open Google Earth
  3. Tools à Options (change Show Lat/Long format to Degrees, Decimal Minutes)
  4. File à Open à change file type to GPS, which accepts .gpx files (Hint: if your marine electronics manufacturer does not use .gpx, check the other file types that Google supports. This could save you having to filter your numbers through the waypoint management software.
  5. Select the .gpx file that you created. Click Open
  6. If all goes well, Google Earth will open your file and populate the screen with your numbers. (If not, contact me at the email address at the end of this article and I can help clean your data so that it will work.)
  7. Your numbers will now be grouped as a file under Temporary Places in the Places drop down on the left hand portion of your screen.
  8. Select the file under Temporary Places and “save to my places.”
  9. You may now assign different icons and colors to each gpx file that you import, making it easier to distinguish when you overlay one book on top of another.
  10. File à Save à Save My Places

You are now good to go and up and running with Google Earth.

Here are some basic tools from the Google Earth tool bar that I find helpful:

Add Placemark will drop a waypoint.

Add Path can measure a route of waypoints or an entire trip.

Ruler can measure distance and heading between two points.

Spend some time with Google Earth and learn it. It has a multitude of tools that will benefit your spearfishing.

Happy Hunting!


For questions, comments, or suggestions for future technology articles, please reach out to me at:

Written by Conner Erwin
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