Boating Electronics for Newcomers

Although there are many types of boating electronics, there are really only three boat electronics basics that are necessary to enhance safety and make boating more enjoyable. You should begin with a VHF marine radio, a GPS system, and a fish finder.

Marine VHF Radios

Although boats that are less than 65 feet in length don’t have to include VHF radios, everyone should actuallly have this equipment. 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 reasonably priced, and give easier conversations than the popular HF radio phone, but the High Frequency phone will 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 data, like 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 GPS systems that are portable or mounted on your boat. Some people prefer to have one handheld GPS for use on the road and on the water. those boating electronics devices weigh less than 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 location, with accuracy of about three meters. A backlit LCD display shows your position on a map, and most units come with built-in maps covering major roads, rail lines, rivers, and lakes in the US and Canada. Many of those automatically include recording of waypoints so you can find your way back fairly easily, and are compatible with computers, so you can include 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 encounters 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 the depth. Fish finders can be both mounted or handheld. The mounted ones are generally more expensive 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 must make sure it is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment, and you’ll surely want boat electronics that will make using your boat more enjoyable. To start out, a VHF marine radio is highly recommended for safety purposes. Beyond that, a GPS system for easy navigation, and a fish finder complete the basics that will help you out on the water enjoying your vessel as soon as possible

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