How Do I Navigate a Boat and What Types of Navigation Units There Are


Hello, I’m Keith, the boating guy.

My topic today is navigation. Being able to find your way out on the water is important. And thanks to modern GPS technology, it’s easier than ever.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. GPS units receive signals from the United States government satellites and they’re used to determine your location.

Now, depending on the unit, a GPS can pinpoint your exact location in up to 3 dimensions – latitude, longitude and altitude.

The remarkable thing about GPS is that satellite navigation is available to anyone, anywhere and best of all it’s free of charge. Of course, you need to buy a GPS receiver to use this data. Now that’s a pretty small investment when you realize how much information you’re getting for free.

Let’s talk about the types of GPS units available.

Number 1: There’s battery operated, hand held GPS that are ideal for small boats because they don’t need much space and they won’t take up valuable room in your boat.

Number two is mountable or portable GPS receivers. They have larger display screens, bigger buttons, and more features than a hand held unit. Most GPS within this category operate on batteries or maybe even 12 volt external power. They come with brackets that can be mounted right up on your dash and out of your way for safe keeping until after you’re done cruising.

The third kind is fixed mount GPS receivers. They offer the largest displays, the most features; they’re meant to be installed permanently.

Your fourth and final kind are your stand alone GPS, often referred to as chart plotters. Now many fixed mount GPS units combine satellite navigation with fish finding functions. Most GPS units come with basic maps pre-installed. To expand your GPS’s knowledge base or access detailed regional data, you can purchase or download maps from cd-roms or data cards.

GPS offers almost endless possibilities for a high tech boater. In fact, the technology to network a GPS with radar, sonar, VHF or your boats auto pilot system is already available.

GPS is a wonderful tool. However, like any equipment, a GPS unit isn’t perfect. So my best advice to you is to learn to navigate with a compass and a chart just in case. It’ll give you more confidence to explore and make the most out of your time on the water. Hope to see you out there, good luck and safe boating.

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