Join Date: May 2006
Location: Left Coast USA
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I sailed for years without because they were unavailable (years ago) or too expensive. Then I got a Garmin hand held that I used for years on several boats. Worked great. The new boat has a Raymarine Color Radar/chart plotter that is almost impossible to use but has lots of features. Yes it displays more info but I seem to spend more time fiddling with it than should be needed.
The newer units are simpler to use, the older Raymarine I now have requires going to the manual frequently just for simple stuff. The learning curve is high. Garmin has a much better user interface.
A hand held and some paper charts is more than anybody needs. More than that is just stuff to play with, not that it isn't useful at times. A hand held will show you where you are, and you can put in waypoints for harbor entrances which is very handy in the fog. It will not get you past a point however because the maps are not that accurate. Neither is depth.
I also used a $100 fishfinder on the last boat with the puck glued to the inside of the hull. That worked great and actually shows you more about the bottom that a regular depth sounder.
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Currently in Long Beach, CA