From navigation to entertainment, the marine electronics landscape moves fast. And while there are endless product reviews online, have you wondered what the pros here in Southwest Florida think? We asked some local experts to weigh in on which marine electronics you should never hit the water without and how you can avoid making common DIY mistakes.
Our panel of industry pros gave us an inside look at what SWFL boaters need to know about their electronics. Thanks to Ryan Barber of CWR Distribution, Kevin Sherburne from HWH Electronics, and Susie Reischmann from Gulfstream Marine Services for sharing their expertise.
3 Electronics Must-Haves
Automatic Identification Systems
We have a significant amount of commercial traffic in our region. AIS systems offer numerous features to keep boaters safe including collision alarms while underway, anchor watch and proximity alarms, and speed/heading of AIS targets.
GPS Chartplotters (with up-to-date charts)
Our area has seen significant changes in bottom structure due to storms over the past few years. In some cases, sand bars are now gone and in others, they’ve appeared. Narrow cuts have filled in, and others have opened. The entire coast of Florida, including the Keys, was recently re-mapped by Navionics/Garmin.
Many boaters anticipate they’ll be able to use their cell phones in an emergency. However, most phones aren’t waterproof, cell service vanishes offshore and even if you have a signal, phone communications are one-to-one. VHF radios are designed for use on the water and every vessel within range will hear your distress call. All modern fixed-mount VHF radios also include DSC, which when activated can relay your position and other information to every VHF within range during an emergency.
Avoid These DIY Mistakes
It’s easy to assume the more marine electronics features onboard, the better. However, if you choose to DIY, make sure you consider how improper installation could make your vessel fall short.
– Inadequate battery capacity and planning for powering all the technology onboard.
– Inadequate power cable sizingand wiring ampacity ratings for properly supplying power to onboard systems while under load.
– Inadequate connectors and terminations for robust, safe operations in marginal conditions.
Another common DIY culprit is wire nuts because they’re designed for solid wire in land-based applications. However, most marine-grade wire is stranded, and wire nuts have a tendency to either break the wire strands and/or vibrate and fall off. Mechanical connections such as butt connectors, spade or ring terminals, or male/female disconnects should be used.
Almost one-third of onboard fires are related to DC electrical issues, so be sure to do your homework or consult the experts.
But even the experts remind boaters that electronics have their limits. Boaters in Southwest Florida should never rely on electronics alone. Always carry paper charts, handheld GPS and VHF radio. And if you boat alone be sure to wear a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), a satellite-synced device that sends an SOS signal to rescue agencies.
For more insider advice visit our boater’s directory, where you’ll find plenty of local industry experts who can answer all your boating questions.See you on the water!
ABOUT THE EXPERTS
CWR Distribution is a wholesale marine distributer and Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association member. By partnering with over 300 marine and outdoor brands, CWR offers a wide selection backed by product knowledge and customer service.
Gulfstream Marine Services
Specializing in the sale and installation of electronics products, Gulfstream Marine is a Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association member. Gulfstream outfits and refits vessels with navigation, satellite TV and weather, autopilots and alarm systems.
HWH Electronics is a provider of leading marine electronics technology and a member of Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association. HWH offers communication, navigation, satellite, safety, security and entertainment system integrated technology.