Boating Electronics For Beginners
Although there are many types of boating equipment, there are really only three main gadgets that are necessary to increase safety and make boating more pleasurable. You should start out with a VHF marine radio, a GPS system, and a fish finder.
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 the shore, should seriously consider adding an single side band mobile satellite phone, and also an EPIRB, and a cell phone too. The satellite phones are becoming more reasonably priced, and give easier and clearer conversations than the HF radio phone, but the HF 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.
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 portable GPS to use on the road and on the water. These boating electronics devices weigh less than half a pound and are very small and easy to use. All you do is install batteries, turn it on, and go outside. The machine will automatically determine your location, accurate to about three meters. A backlit LCD display shows your locatoin on a map, and most units come with maps covering major roads|rail lines|rivers and lakes] in the US. Many automatically include recording of waypoints so you can easily find your way back, 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 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 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.
You can buy units that combine GPS and fish finders. Those 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 want to use it at the first opportunity, but you have to make sure it is outfitted with the necessary safety equipment first, and you’ll want boat electronics that will make using your boat more enjoyable. As a start, a VHF marine radio is highly recommended for safety reasons. In addition to 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