Boating Electronics for Newcomers

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Although there are many types of boating electronics, there are really only three main gadgets that are necessary to enhance safety and make boating more fun. You should begin with a VHF marine radio, a GPS system, and a depth sounder.

Marine VHF Radios

Recreational boats that are less than 65 feet (20 meters) in length do not have to have VHF radios, but everyone should have this boat electronics device. Those who plan to go more than a couple of miles off shore should seriously consider adding an HF or single side band mobile satellite phone or radiotelephone, along with an EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon), and a back-up VHF radio or cell phone too. The satellite phones are becoming more affordable, and give easier conversations than the conventional HF radio phone, but the HF phone can also pick up weather warnings. You can have these boating electronics without having an FCC ship station license, unless you plan on making international voyages. On your VHF radio, you have to maintain a watch on channel 16 or VHF channel 9, the boater calling channel. Urgent info, such as storm warnings, are broadcast on channel 9 only in some waters.

GPS Systems

If you have a Global Positioning Satellite receiver for your car or for hiking, then you know just how useful they can be. You can get Marine GPS systems that are portable or mounted on your boat. Some people prefer to have one portable GPS to use on the road and on the water. those boating electronics devices weigh as low as half a pound and are tiny and easy to install. All you do is install batteries, turn it on, and go outside. The device will automatically determine your position, accurate to about three meters. A backlit LCD screen shows your locatoin on a map, and most units come with maps covering major roads|rail lines|rivers and lakes] in the US. Many of those automatically include storing the waypoints so you can find your way back fairly easily, and are compatible with computers, so you can upload extra maps if necessary.


Fish Finders / Depth Sounders

Fish finders use sonar, a sound wave sent through the water. The diameter of the sound wave increases as it travels through water, and when it hits a solid object within the cone formed by the sound wave, it bounces back to the transducer and records the shape of the object and its depth. Fish finders can be either mounted or handheld. The mounted units are generally more costly and are available in dual frequency models, which allow more accurate fish to depth readings.

Combination Units

You can buy units that combine GPS and fish finders. These have the advantage of generally saving money over buying separate units, and they are usually console mounted equipment.

Buying your boat is very exciting, and you definitely want to use it at the first opportunity, but you also have to make sure it is equipped with the necessary safety equipment, and you'll probably want boat electronics that will make using your boat more enjoyable. To start out, a VHF marine radio is highly recommended for safety purposes. In addition to that, a GPS system for easy navigation, and a fish finder make up the basics that will have you out on the water enjoying your vessel as soon as possible.

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