You may be a cruiser, offshore angler, or weekend wakeboarder. Whatever your boating style, there are “must have” and “want to have” electronic safety upgrades to consider. In days gone by equipment was mostly stand-alone without needing various devices to interface with each other. Today’s safety is much more about instruments with the enhanced ability to share common data streams.
Deciding What You Need and What You Want
Your first step is making a two-column list of components you consider “must have” and “want to have.” Do this before deciding on preferred brands. Your most important concerns must be weather, navigation, communication, emergency signaling, and collision avoidance.
Your communication choice can be a simple VHF radio or a complex satellite radio with a myriad of functions. Navigating can be by GPS/chart plotter or a system integrated with a fish finder, depth sounder, and other functions. We can help you check an appropriate marine supply wholesaler in Michigan to find the right system for your needs.
You don’t always want the most advanced, but you should know what is available before making decisions.
Equipment Working Together for Safety
After deciding on the equipment you need and want, think about how you will use it.
Determine whether the different systems will be stand-alone or linked together. This is particularly important if you are only upgrading some equipment but not all of it. Comingling older analog with newer digital equipment is complicated, costly, and not always very reliable.
Even upgrading to all digital requires networking equipment together. This makes a good argument for going with a single manufacturer for simplicity. The solution is using all the correct cabling, connectors, and terminators matched to the networking platform.
Installing Safety Upgrades
Your first consideration during any electronics installation is the location and mounting surfaces. Although your new equipment is waterproof, it’s best installed it in a relatively dry location. Also, consider how frequently you need to see or access it. Another determination is for sufficient room behind the unit for all wiring, connections, and networking equipment that is required.
Electronic equipment is either bracket-mounted or flush-mounted. In either case, be sure you know what is behind the panel before drilling or cutting into it. Bracket mounts typically come with the needed hardware although you may require something meeting your specific needs. Flush mounted instruments have instructions for the exact size of the cutout made with a saber saw, keyhole saw, or rotary tool.
Good tips for mounting antennas are for new ones to go as far away from existing ones as practical and mounting a VHF antenna as high as possible. Depth sounders and speed logs typically install underwater and require drilling or cutting through the hull. Your boat needs to come out of the water to attach these. You must apply the correct sealant around brackets, fasteners, and cables that go through the hull. Although piercing the hull seems distressing and frightening, it can be done safely.