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Everything You Need To Know About GPS Marine Navigation
Nautical GPS systems have come along away since they first came onto the market, and you do not need to be an expert of the ocean to be able to use one. Each year the technology in GPS marine navigation systems just keeps getting better and better, giving them many more features and much more power!
But does all this technology make them a more practical navigation tool when in the middle of the ocean faced with sun, salt and spray?
Before you spend your hard earned money on the next best GPS marine navigation system, it is best to get an understanding of what they are, what they do and why you might need one.
What Are GPS Marine Navigation Systems?
GPS stands for global positioning system and a marine GPS is designed specifically for the marine environment. These devices are strongly recommended due to the increased safety they bring to navigators of the open waters. In fact, sailing courses now include the use of GPS systems within their training courses.
The most basic of the GPS marine navigation systems are usually handheld, you can then get chartplotter devices, and computers connected to a GPS
They use satellites to determine the speed and direction of the ship which is then shown on the screen of the instrument. With a chartplotter device it also allows for the ships course to be plotted electronically.
If you are out on the ocean and are experiencing difficulties or are in danger, you can use the GPS to signal the ships position to rescuers so they know where to go. This may not be an available option on older models, but current ones most likely have this feature.
GPS marine navigation systems usually have built in alarms that sound if you were to go off course or if your anchor is dragging. These alarms are not usually very loud and as the ocean can be noisy in rough waters, you may want to find a unit that can be connected to an external alarm on the boat.
So let’s take a look at the different types of devices available to you in more detail.
· Handheld- Although these are the cheapest of the devices they are usually just as accurate. As it is handheld it can be used in other situations such as hiking or in the car! It can get a bit difficult using the often small buttons on the device, especially if you’re are in rough waters, although most of the handheld units come with a mounting bracket. Sometimes the signal can become weak on these devices so it may be a good idea to purchase one that allows an external antenna to be used.
· Chartplotters- Compared to the handhelds the chartplotters are a big improvement. This type of GPS marine navigation displays the information overlaid on nautical charts. This will be the primary navigation tool and whilst not a complete replacement for paper charts, it has a large screen, and the buttons are a lot larger than the handheld devices. The chartplotter needs to be mounted to a fixed surface and they usually all come with external antennas, so placement shouldn’t be an issue. The screen sizes vary from between 5-10 inches and you will have to pay more if you want a colour screen. Most chartplotters are integrated with the GPS receiver, meaning that they are both included in one unit.
· Computer Connected To GPS- A computer can be used with different types of GPS: Sensor, chartplotter or standard GPS receiver. The computers are usually only used below deck as the screens are hard to see in direct sunlight. One advantage of using GPS marine navigation with a computer is that the planning and navigation is all done on one unit. The computer is more powerful than a chartplotter and this means that there are more software choices and also 3D display applications can also be run. There are even computers and laptops especially made for the marine environment!
These are your three main options if you are thinking of purchasing a GPS marine navigation device, but it will come down to your budget and also what features you personally want. Don’t pay over the top for features that you don’t think you will need.