An Introduction to Marine Electronics

 

Boats are far more than just a hull and a motor. They come with many different electrical systems, and there are plenty of after-market electronic accessories you can add to your boat if your wish.

If you’re new to boating, or you’re thinking about having some electronics installed on your vessel, it can seem a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this guide.

We’ll go over the four main types of marine electronics so you know what they are and what they’re used for.

 

Navigation

These are the most important electronics on your boat, as they ensure you don’t get lost and end up somewhere you’re not supposed to be.

Here are some common types of navigation electronics:

  • GPS: This is the most basic navigational system you can have. A GPS system uses a network of satellites to determine your location. It then displays that location using longitude and latitude coordinates.
  • Chartplotter: This device takes your GPS coordinates and plots them on a map, giving you a better idea of where you are in relation to your surroundings. Without a chartplotter you’ll have to plot your coordinates manually.
  • Radar: This helps you see objects around you at night or when visibility is poor. RF energy is sent out and reflects off solid objects. That reflection is then converted into a signal and displayed to you.
  • Autopilot: It’s quite likely that you don’t want to spend your entire trip at the helm of your boat. Autopilot systems hold your vessel on a predetermined course based on compass coordinates. More advanced systems can even integrate with your GPS and steer your boat based on that data.

 

Communication

Every boat needs a reliable form of communication to allow you to contact other vessels and call for help in an emergency.

There are a few different communication systems to choose from:

  • VHF-FM Radio: The Coast Guard encourages boaters to use a VHF radio to send distress calls, so this should be standard issue on all vessels. Any messages sent over VHF will be received by the Coast Guard and surrounding vessels, making it invaluable during an emergency.
  • SSB Radio: This system is similar to VHF, however the range is greatly increased. While a VHF signal can travel up to 50 nautical miles, an SSB signal has a range of 400 nautical miles. The one downside of SSB radios is they use a lot of power.
  • Satellite Phones: Cell phone reception isn’t always reliable at sea, so many boaters install satellite phones on their vessel. This is a good option if you want to remain in contact with friends and family on land.

 

Sonar

Boaters don’t just need to see what’s around them, they also need to see what underneath them. This is where sonar is useful.

There are two types of sonar that you’ll want to consider:

  • Forward Looking Sonar (FLS): By sending out a beam of high-frequency sound that’s reflected by any solid objects below you, this system is able to alert you to shallow waters and underwater hazards.
  • Fish Finder: This is a must-have for any serious fisherman. Fishfinders use similar technology to FLS systems to show you where fish are. They’re also able to differentiate between small and large fish.

 

Entertainment Systems

While not a necessity, entertainment systems are a nice addition to any boat and can add a little extra enjoyment to your time on the water. There are a variety of marine audio systems available, from simple setups with just two speakers to larger more intricate systems that can be controlled from anywhere on your boat.

 

Have Questions?

Are you looking to install any of the above items on your boat? Need advice around certain products? Contact us with your questions and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

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