Let's say you have a 30-footer with the latest deep V-hull technology that slices through the water like a hot knife through butter and which cuts your cruising costs by 10 or 20 percent per hour and you want to equip it so that you can have a radar scan, the latest in VHF marine radio equipment plus real-time Global Positioning Software (GPS), how would you go about it?
The answer is quite simple, really, as most major electronics manufacturer's and boat outfitters have large displays of the latest and greatest in marine location and communications technology. Indeed, there's so much available that you might probably be overwhelmed by trying to choose just what you need. And, here is a very true statement: if you ask three boaters how they would equip their new boats, you're likely to get 14 different answers.
So, here we will try to give you what we thing are the three or four key items you will need to make sure you are safe whether you're using a bassboat, a 30-foot pontoon boat or the latest in deep hull upscale equipment.
For starters, of course, we'd recommend a good GPS unit. It should be the heart of any system you are choosing and, if it is done right, it will take inputs from other systems such as your engine and fuel systems so you have an integrated engine control panel. Combine this with a good compass and you'll be all set to take a day trip or an overnighter somewhere.
Be sure, though, to file a float plan with a friend or relative and give them estimated way points and stops you may plan to make on your way down the coast or along the famed inland waterway on the East Coast. With a float plan much like a pilot's flight plan your loved ones will know where you are or at least where you are supposed to be at a certain time and if you don't show up and they can't get hold of you for one reason or another, then authorities will at least have a plan to backtrack from.
If you plan to do any sea crossing, such as to the Elizabeths off Massachusetts or to any of many offshore islands along North and South Carolina, you may also want to think of including what is called a Marine HF radio in your equipment. This type of radio can be handled in two ways, you can rely on the channels set aside for marine use or you can expand your horizon's a bit by obtaining your Amateur Radio General Class license not to worry there's no Morse Code requirement anymore so that you can have many more frequencies on which you can communicate should you run into trouble.
Don't forget, though, that any good electronics display should include a good sensitive radar display, one that will jibe with the latest map set available or that will work with Google maps, so that you can know what is out there awaiting you. And, if you are in shore close enough, you should remember that a good 60-watt marine VHF radio that can put you in direct contact with the Coast Guard on Channel 16 is invaluable.