Except for the very basic flotation devices, most of today's water-borne vessels have marine electronics equipment as their eyes, ears, and voices on the high seas. They take the fear out of venturing into a vast unknown, serving as electronic guides that lead us to our destination and help weather both man-made and natural obstacles en route.
Over the years, advances in technology have given birth to newer and more sophisticated marine electronic gadgets for the benefit of intrepid seafarers. Here's a list of some of these electronic marvels that help keep our voyages faster and safer.
When it comes to buying marine electronics, the GPS device is mandatory. Short for Global Positioning System, GPS is a global navigational system guided by satellites that beam location coordinates and time information to GPS receivers onboard marine vessels.
The service is provided free by the United States and can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and in any weather. With GPS technology, ‘lost at sea' has become an obsolete term, making it possible to plot a course or quickly find a vessel with pinpoint accuracy. See boat GPS products.
A Chartplotter provides a vessel's accurate position, direction, and speed using data from GPS, radar, and other sensors. These devices require a computer that enables them to display a three-dimensional picture of the chart for better appreciation. New versions are being developed with larger monitors and the ability to integrate multiple functions.
Fish Finder (Sonar)
Ever wonder how fishing trawlers locate the fish in the vast swathe of the ocean? They zero in on their catch using a fishfinder, a type of echo-sounding system, or ‘fathometer' which detects schools of fishes and the bottom part of the ocean where they happen to be and displays them on an LCD screen.
In contrast to the fish finder, new fathometers are designed simply to compute depth--which is shown through a digital display--in the course of ensuring navigational safety.
As its name implies, an autopilot is electronic equipment that allows the ship to continue its course without any human assistance. Marine autopilots are guided by computers that use data provided by GPS, radar, and other navigational equipment.
The feature is used to provide rest to human pilots and prevent error arising from fatigue. Autopilots give a warning in case of problems thereby ensuring an immediate shift to manual mode.
Boat radars use electromagnetic radio waves to detect fixed or moving objects--including their distance, speed, trajectory, and altitude. Objects can range from ships, missiles, airplanes, and even weather formations. The data enables the marine vessel to make evasive maneuvers.
Marine radios operate in the VHF frequency range between 156 - 174 MHz. They can transmit and receive signals and are important in sounding-off rescue alerts to other ships and maritime authorities. Channel 16 is the international distress channel being used for radio communication. The transmission power can go as high as 25 watts which have a range of 60 nautical miles.
More than just electronic toys on the high seas, marine electronics are a necessity for a smooth and safe travel at sea. Many disasters have been avoided because of them, and they will continue to make sea travel convenient, efficient, and fun for marine voyagers.