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 Gizmo here, I'm boatcando's new electronics expert

Over the next few weeks I  will be writing a

lot of information about the various electronics on

the market. Things like best choice, pro's/cons and guidelines for D.I.Y. installs. You can contact me

or ask a tech question at crew@boatcando.com  .

If the information that I provide helps greatly we would appreciate donations to help us complete boatcando faster. Thank you, Gizmo.


GPS introduction

Far from the days of dead reckoning, we cannot abandon the process entirely, but there are far easier ways to navigate. Undoubtedly you may have experienced the GPS wave already, but as it goes, technology advances faster than you can get your boat off of the dock. This is a guide to some features to look for when purchasing and using a GPS unit. From around a hundred dollars to thousands, there is a unit for practically any application. I’ve broken it down into 5 main sections, so feel free to skip ahead if you are interested in something in particular: The Myths of GPS, Handheld's, Portables, Fixed Mount, Beyond GPS (Networks, Sounders, and more!). Gizmo


I’d like to start off this guide to GPS by first giving you a little information on what current GPS units can and can’t do, as well as get us all on the same page as far as terminology goes.

MYTH: GPS is too hard to use for most average boaters, it’s complicated, and hard to learn or operate.

TRUTH: Some GPS units are very hard to use, others are very easy, a free afternoon with the manual and some time to experiment with the system can do wonders.

MYTH: I want an Electronic Chart plotter, not a GPS…

TRUTH: No, you don’t. They are practically synonymous now, as almost all GPS units that are available (especially fixed mount), are electronic chart plotters as well. A great combination, and navigational tool. Don’t forget your backups though!

MYTH: Loran and Lowrance are the same thing…

TRUTH: Lowrance is an electronics manufacturer; Loran-c is an older technology that was used before GPS came into being. Lowrance did make Loran-c units, but they make GPS units now, so don’t confuse them.

MYTH: You have to calibrate your GPS to be accurate.

TRUTH: It’s all automatic, just turn it on outside, and let it pick up satellite reception. Making sure the WAAS (on equipped units) satellite option is turned on helps the accuracy as well. You can expect within 10 meters accuracy with good reception.

Here are some Vocabulary words that may help you decipher this guide, and other sources of information on GPS units:

GPS- Global Positioning System… It uses satellites to figure out where you are.

WAAS- Wide Area Augmentation System… Some units utilize this system to gain increased accuracy; it’s basically another satellite that is just for that.

Waypoint- Think of it as a pushpin on your electronic map… Use these for navigation, future reference, or just for fun. They can be created by you,anywhere on the map, at your current position or anywhere else. Some units can store more waypoints than others, so look for that feature.

Route- This is what you’ll make with waypoints to navigate from… It’s taking a string and tying it between your pushpins on the electronic chart, all you have to do is follow them.

Trail/Track- Keeps track of where you have been. Many units allow you to turn around and navigate your track in reverse, allowing you to basically retrace your footsteps.

Base map- This is the map that is built into any of the units that map… Often times this is (as the name implies) very basic. Some units come with a supplemented one that has basically all you’d need for navigation, but others will provide only very general shapes of land.

Electronic Chart Chip- These get outdated faster than the units. Depending on the brand, different units will have different options to get detailed maps into them. The detail level added can be different as well, but what you can expect is everything that you would see on a paper chart (and then some).

Ok, so now we’ve got some general terminology, let me do a little explaining of the different types of units available. This will be coming up soon. Thanks for your Patience, Gizmo.