Selecting a marine GPS system suitable for your own boat involves some research into the capabilities of the various systems available. There are a number of manufacturers, and each GPS unit may have some features that are different from others. You may find that some of the units have an electronic charting display, and some can be interfaced with your boat radar, which will show you not only your destination, but also a visual display of the progress you have made. Other GPS receivers have the capability to link to your fish finder or autopilot. The boating GPS system you select will depend on how you want to use it.
Marine GPS systems are handy to use on a boat, rather than relying on maps, which can be cumbersome out on the water. Boating GPS units are related to those you can use in your car, and in fact, some waterproof hand-held GPS units can be used in an automobile or on a boat. In either setting, GPS devices will provide a sound way for you to easily determine your exact location.
Marine GPS Systems Features
Before you select a GPS system for your boat, find out what you need in a unit. If you travel between United States ports, or into other countries’ ports, the system you need will be much different than a boater who only navigates on local lakes, and may just be trying to find the nearest campground.
You will also want to ask yourself who will be doing the most programming of the unit. The more complex units are more suitable for experienced mariners, and if you’re a pleasure boater, those units may not only be out of your price range, but they will probably also have features on them that you don’t need. You should select a unit that has only the features that you want and need.
One feature that is commonly found on marine GPS systems is a navigate-to-point feature. The display of the “path” you follow will be included on each unit. You may also be able to use your navigate-to-point features to follow a track already saved in your unit memory. This is especially handy if you are cruising in reduced visibility and can’t see familiar landmarks or sea markings.
Another helpful feature is called “MOB” which means “man overboard,” and this will let you mark the position of the incident by touching one button.
Each marine GPS unit should provide you with an accurate reading of your speed, the distance and time to your destination, and a course that is easy to read. Many units also have digital compasses on them.
Advanced GPS Features
Some of the more complex marine GPS units have a chart plotter display, which basically tells you where you are currently located. High-end recreational and commercial boat GPS navigation systems include satellite imagery, tide information and auto-guidance for the GPS-autopilot link up.
Some GPS systems even include customized alarms that can be linked to your radar, which will advise you when you are coming to a turn, or when another boat is entering your route on the water. In the latter case, you would need to contact the other driver by radio. You can use GPS devices systems for customized charts, which offer you more geospatial information that isn’t normally displayed.
Check to see how easy your prospective GPS unit is to program, including points of navigation. How easy is it to use the functions on the unit? One touch programming is not usually available for every function, but your GPS unit should be easy to program, especially since you may encounter poor weather conditions while you’re out on the water.
Boat GPS Size and Display
The size of the GPS unit you select will affect the display size, and may also limit the areas on your boat where it can be installed. The characteristics of the display, contrast, and brightness are essential for you to be able to easily see important navigational information. The value of the unit to you is not very good if you can’t easily read the display.
The ease of installation of your GPS system, and whether it can be interfaced with other marine electronics or not, is important to consider, if your boat has radar, a single band radio receiver or an autopilot function. This equipment should all have the capability to be linked to your marine GPS unit, to make your boating experience more enjoyable.