Marine GPS Navigation

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Navigating Florida's beautiful waters
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When choosing a marine GPS navigation system, you may wish to avoid a handheld GPS unit, and go for something that's fixed mounted on the boat. You can really spend some money here if you want, and generally the more you spend, the bigger screen and more bells and whistles you'll get.

Power Source and Antennas

Instead of relying on internal batteries, you'll likely want to hook your GPS unit to your boat battery.

If your marine GPS navigation equipment will be installed in an open boat (so that the unit is exposed to the sky), an antenna built in to the unit will probably be all you need. If, however, the unit will be installed in a cabin, you're going to need a unit with an external antenna.

Charts

Many marine GPSs can make use of cards (or chips, as they're sometimes called) preloaded with the charts of a broad area--such as the US Eastern Seaboard. Whenever you travel out of one area and into another, simply change chart sets by switching cards in the unit.

Interfacing GPS with Digital Selective Calling

Nowadays, VHF marine radio comes with a feature called Digital Selective Calling (DSC). One use for this feature is to hit a panic button in case of emergency. This panic button sends out a signal on channel 70 that can transmit the fact that you're in trouble, as well as your exact position--IF a working GPS is hooked to the radio. To use this feature, connect the wires from the back of the GPS to your radio, and you're good to go.

External Alarms

GPSs often have various types of alarms. For instance, a warning may sound if you're off course or if your anchor is dragging. The alarm sound of a GPS unit isn't normally very loud. Some units, however, can be attached to external alarms on the boat. If you want this feature, make sure your GPS has it.

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