Electronics for Marine Navigation

Navigating on the open water away from land has always been challenging and very exciting. Boating can be a very rewarding experience provided your vessel is equipped with the required tools to ensure your safety. Good quality marine navigation electronic equipment on board aids easier, faster and safer navigation.

It is recommended to make sure that, the boat is equipped with certain marine electronics. The minimum requirement for safety is to at least have a VHF Marine Radio and a compass before leaving the shore. Other desirable electronics include a GPS plotter, fish finder or depth sounder,radar, and auto pilot. Other more sophisticated but nice to have items include an Automatic Identification System and a networked navigation system

Marine navigation electronics equipment operation and uses are discussed below:

Auto Pilot: It is a highly recommended tool for mariners set to go on a long voyage. Auto Pilot helps to steer the boat automatically and thus, relieves the person at the helm from fatigue. Auto Pilot is of great aid for those that troll while fishing as it controls the boat direction automatically, allowing the captain to join and enjoy the fishing. This tool is very helpful, as it allows to save fuel by maintaining the vessel on a steady heading.

Fish finder: Those who fish for pleasure or hire enjoy the help provided by a good fish finder. The fish finder uses SONAR for its operation. In general, the sonar operates by transmittig a signal down trough the water column until it hits an object with mass, sufficent to return a signal to the device, thus drawing an image on the screen. Thereby, showing the depth of the fish in relation to bottom structure. If a fish finder is not desired or needed then a depth sounder with a digital readout is ample and less expensive.

Automatic Identification System: It is considered an important electronic tool for marine navigation. It provides other boats with your vital information as well as their information to you such as the exact position of the boat, longitude and latitude, Time stamp, Rate of turn, Course over ground etc. While the boat under way AIS shows the above information every 2 to 10 seconds, whereas when the boat is anchored, it shows the information after every 3 minutes. Apart from providing the above-mentioned information, it also provides information about other boats or ships concerning their dimension, location, and type of the boat or ship. It is the best electronic tool for collision avoidance.

EPIRB: The Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) also known as distress radio beacon is a transmitter, which helps rescue services to locate boats in distress. The transmissions are rebroadcast from satellites around the world to the various rescue services. Watercraft operators wishing to have an EPIRB must now use a digital 406MHz unit. The International Copas-Sarsat Satellite System stopped monitoring for all but 406MHz signals for distress alert and position data for rescue operation throughout the world..

GPS Plotter: The GPS system now takes over the duty of the old Loran navigation system. GPS signals are broadcast from those satellites worldwide, that are maintained by the USA . GPS can be read in digital or map format. The preferred method is on a plotter that is loaded with digital maps of the area you are boating in. Most new VHF radios now have the capability to broadcast your location with a distress signal if connected to a GPS