Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sat Nav: friend or foe?

To make our adventures a little easier we decided to invest in a Satellite Navigation unit, a Sat Nav. After hours of research, I decided on the Garmin 350, and found a used one on Ebay. (Amazingly the Gamin's are cheaper here even with the conversion - much cheaper, same products!)

It arrived a couple of days before our Poole anniversary trip and Josh used it going to and from work to test it out - no problems.

Well, little did we know the system, which I'm sure was originally configured for US roads, has some quirks when applied to British roads.

To get to the Sandbanks Beach for our RIB ride, we needed to drive down to the tip of the harbour. Imagine the harbour is a clock face, Poole is 3 and Sandbanks Beach is 5. The opening of the harbour is 6 and the land resumes at 7 (small opening, big harbour!). Well, we jumped in the car, typed in the post code and Josh noted it would take 40 minutes. I had looked on a map to see it wasn't very far but I thought maybe the roads are strange.

We set off and we kept taking left turns (moving from 3 to 2 to 1, etc)...and I started to worry. I pulled out a real map and was frantically searching for the names of the towns/streets we were passing. To no avail, I grabbed the Sat Nav and zoomed out on the route to see it was taking us from 3 o'clock, counterclockwise to 7, directing us to get on a ferry and then get to our destination at 5!!! What?! We had it set on fastest route so we were perplexed how that was faster. I could see the one main road we SHOULD have taken to get easily to our destination and it should have only taken us 10 minutes (instead of 40).

In playing with the settings I realised it was set to avoid U-turns, seems normal, but after contemplating the error of its way...we figured it out! Garmin interprets the 3rd exit on a roundabout as a u-turn and thus would not tell us to go the shorter distance trip because we would have had to take a right turn...AKA a 3rd exit in a roundabout. This was confirmed in thinking back, remembering the Garmin had yet to ever tell us to take a 3rd exit AND it avoided the easier route from our apartment to the highway (which would have involved taking a 3rd exit).

In sum, I think the Garmin will be helpful in trekking the UK and Europe but ALWAYS preview the route to ensure it makes sense!

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