Connecting GPS to your Mac

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GPS Connection Types

GPS Devices

There are two general device types for GPS:

  1. Onboard GPS – A GPS enabled device, stand alone, or part of a Multi-Function Display or possibly another equipment type such as an AIS transceiver installed on your boat.
  2. Portable GPS – Dedicated GPS device, includes simple wired antennas to full function hand held devices with maps/charts and a display.

This article will consider only portable GPS for connection to your Mac. The onboard one is a larger topic to be covered in a separate article.

Of the portable variety let’s discuss by type:

Handheld multi-function.

These are GPS devices designed primarily for stand alone use. That is they have displays for maps and charts, input keys to control the device, and are typically intended for excursion sporting (hunting, hiking, off-roading, etc). Some Garmin products have specific Marine function and nautical charts.

This Amazon search will show a ton of examples.

Some of these will have USB connections for a PC interface; however, that connection may not communicate to anything other than proprietary apps or to transfer tracks and routes.  Most will not work for MacENCx64.

Others will have bluetooth support for connecting to PC and will probably not work on macOS Monterrey and later. 

You can check user manuals to determine if the intended device can communicate (USB or Bluetooth) using the NMEA 0183 standard. If yes, then it will work. If they don’t specify then you should assume it will not.

Wired (USB) GPS Antenna.

There are a few USB GPS devices out there that have come and gone over the years, we have tested quite a few and have verified and recommend these (and USB Adapters for newer USB-C Macs:

ManufacturerModelAmazon Link
USB GPS Devices  
GlobalSatBU-353-S4-5Hzhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B017AWOQSW?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details
GlobalSatBU-353-S4https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098L799NH?ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details&th=1
USB-C Adaters  
NondaUSB C to USB Adapterhttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B015Z7XE0A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
AppleUSB C to USBAdapterhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VU2OID2?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details

 

Other tested and known working devices:

ManufacturerModelAmazon Link
USB GPS Devices  
OnyehnVK-162 G-Mousehttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GJGSZB9?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details
DIYmallVK-172 G-Mousehttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NWEEWW8?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details
VFANUSB GPS Gmousehttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B073P3Y48Q?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details

Dedicated Bluetooth GPS.

UPDATE: macOS Monterey breaks GPS Bluetooth devices. None of the major brands work now. We no longer recommend these devices: Garmin GLO-2 & Dual Electronics XGPS150A

Hope this helps and…

Happy Sailing!

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