The idea was to plot ship's position on a chart pinned to Google Earth using .kml files (many hours spent setting these up). This works fine on my laptop. A GPS dongle sends the ship's position to GE and shows the track like a sewing machine stitch. Problem is it drains the 12v battery in no time. Also the laptop falls asleep and stops logging position. The Raspberry Pi and the new Ultimate GPS draw 0.25A, leaving the battery almost as good as newly charged after a 12h run. The monitor can be switched on and off when necessary. Then the bomb shell! Raspberry Pi won't run Google Earth! Where can I go from here? GE is far too good for this job. Just needs a Google Flat Earth with no Street View, etc. Google Maps doesn't cope well with .kml files as far as can make out. See: http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/earth/ucVRDVdSIEw
looking through a browsable Raspbian package list http://www.raspberryconnect.com/raspbian-packages-list There are few GPS tools that are available on the raspberry pi that may help. some are in the Miscellaneous Packages section.
QLandkarte GT (X11 packages section) looks like it reads Garmin GPS gpx data and plots it on a map and can take live data from some Garmin devices. This system uses the open source maps from Open Street Maps
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPS_eXchange_Format has a link that converts kml files to gpx
Not sure if this is what you looking for but maybe an alternative option to Google Earth
Use OpenCPN for navigation and tracking on your Pi. http://opencpn.org/ocpn/compiling_source_linux
I wish it could run Google Earth. Would be great to have the satellite images for areas you don't have charts of. Agreed, a simple version of GE would be nice for this.