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post #1 of 13 Old 07-05-2015 Thread Starter
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Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

Hi everyone,

My area of sailing interest is in bluewater smallboat offshore sailing. Not that I will be circling the globe anytime soon, but I like to go offshore for as much time as I have and perhaps in the future a long distance trip would be nice. By smallboat I mean less than 25 feet. I am about to purchase a small british made hurley sailboat. Call it pocket cruising or micro cruising, whatever you like. I am very much into simplicity (which is great since I like small boats anyhow). I am trying to configure this boat to be void of as many points of failure as possible. It naturally is anyhow with it's solid coreless grp fiberglass construction. It has a small outboard which I consider good because it is easily replaceable and easily worked on. It has hank on foresails which eliminates the furler. It has battery powered lights and no electrical system. It has no head or plumbing.

Now to some this probably sounds terrible but to me it sounds perfect. I am not a luddite however and believe in modern electronics and safety.

Does anyone have recommendations for battery powered hand held marine instruments?

So far I will be purchasing:

1) hand held marine GPS
2) Windex wind indicator
3) hand held wind speed/direction indicator

I need recommendations for depth sounding. Any thoughts? Any other recommendations? In the future I may get around to setting up a solar based battery bank but for now I want to go completely portable.
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post #2 of 13 Old 07-05-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

You can get a handheld depth sounder. I would think it may fit in with you approach.

We have one that lives in our dinghy bag with a handheld GPS. If we need to scout an entry through a reef or shoals I go ahead in the dinghy and place waypoints while taking readings with the depth sounder.

We purchased ours from a local chandlery - but I have seen them on West Marine's website as well.

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post #3 of 13 Old 07-05-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

1) hand held marine GPS:

I've used a Garmin 76CSx for years as my primary GPS/plotter. Happy with it. Other option would be to go with a smart phone/tablet, especially if you already have one. Lots of good apps out there for them now.

2) Windex wind indicator

Yup, handy to have. Strings of yarn tied to the rigging do just as well.

3) hand held wind speed/direction indicator

I've used a Kestrel anemometer/weather recorder for years now. Works well for wind speed, but the new ones look pricey. I think there are cheaper brands out there. A windex shows wind direction. So do the strings of yarn and whiskers on your face

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Originally Posted by greggyN View Post
I need recommendations for depth sounding. Any thoughts? Any other recommendations? In the future I may get around to setting up a solar based battery bank but for now I want to go completely portable.
If you're going to the portable route for depth then I'd use a leadline. Simple, cheap, direct.
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post #4 of 13 Old 07-05-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

There are tons of Apps for smartphones and tablets to support your chart plotting needs. Personally, I'm partial to Navionics. These guys use crowd sourcing to update their maps based on sonar. Of course you can also switch to standard admiralty or NOAA maps - About $10 for a year's subscription.

While you've got the smartphone, get a Vaavud or Weatherflow that just plugs into your phone's headphone plug - about $40 for the device with the App being free.

For depth there are quite a few handheld devices - look at Westmarine or Defender.

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post #5 of 13 Old 07-05-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

I'm with you with the keep it simple philosophy. I could easily fit a chart plotter to my Catalina 28, but for my purposes, my Garmin handheld GPS with black and white screen is just fine. That, and the chart book for my area.

My previous boat had a Raymarine wind unit at the top of the mast which gave me windspeed and direction. On this boat, I just have the windex (non-electronic) mounted on the top of the mast, which gives me wind direction, and indicates my boat's direction relative to the wind direction. That's really all I need. While I would find it interesting to know the windspeed, I'm not curious enough to buy a unit and wire it in. I always know when there's not enough wind, too much wind, or when it's time to reef, etc..

But, I have to admit that I really like having a depth sounder wired in, and connected to a battery. As you may know, there's no need to put another hole in the hull for a transducer, as there are methods for shooting through the hull. If you currently don't have any ability to charge, that solar panel you mentioned seems like it would be a nice investment. I wouldn't want to deal with a handheld depth sounder. There are times when I have my hands full sailing, and I need to know the depth without dangling an instrument over the side. There has been discussion on Sailnet before as to how necessary a depth sounder is, so I comprehend the argument that they aren't the most important instrument on board, but for me, it's close to the top of the list. I want to know!

What are you considering for radio communications? If you had a solar charged battery, it would give you more options for radio.

Good luck with the Hurley. I almost bought a Hurley 22 many years ago. Very nice little boat, but I decided to go a few feet larger.
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post #6 of 13 Old 07-05-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

For depth, have you looked at the Norcross Hawkeye H22PX Sonar System? I have a Speedtech® Depthmate Portable Sounder, but the Hawkeye looks about the same for less $$.

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post #7 of 13 Old 07-06-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

Further to the sounder question, I agree with Siamese; a good permanent-mounted sounder is one of the most useful tools for sailors and cruisers. I'd prioritize it higher than even a hand-held plotter (although they are so cheap and easy now, so hard to not have one).

If you're really serious about sticking to hand-held depth sounder devices then I see no significant advantage over a standard leadline. But personally I would install a shoot-thru-the-hull transducer, assuming your hull is solid fibreglass. Get a cheap fish finder unit. Doesn't take much power to run.

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post #8 of 13 Old 07-06-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

Garmin's 76CSx also has an optional cable that will allow power from another 12 volt source (handy if you already have a house battery so you needn't worry about those AAs dying at the wrong time) and NMEA 0183 interfacing; for example, with a DSC-enabled VHF so your emergency call from that radio also broadcasts your position.

We've found that GPS to be perfectly adequate for us, though we added the chart chip. The map view on that tiny screen is not great, but we felt it could be very useful if we found ourselves beset by fog, as often happens in New England.

While the handheld depth unit may be your least expensive solution, even the very cheapest fishfinder will give you depth in feet and offers some benefit of permanent installation and using house power. Defender's cheapest unit is $99; with a transducer.
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post #9 of 13 Old 07-06-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

Couple quick depth sounder examples from our daysail on Muskegon Lake (off Lake Michigan) yesterday.

Sailing toward shore, close hauled, I wanted to sail as close to shore as possible to set myself up for the best possible course across the lake on my next tack. Watching the sounder as I readied for coming about, I read 50-49-48-49-49-49-28-20-16-12....and TURN! I knew I was approaching a shelf and the sounder let me know exactly how far I could safely go.

Later, we wanted to anchor by the state park, where we knew it goes from 40 feet down to 12 VERY quickly, and then down to 3 very quickly. In order to hit the "sweet spot" of around 10 feet, I was ready with the anchor while my wife steered and called out the depths as we crept forward. Once the anchor set and the boat swung around, we were at 6.8 feet. No worries.

Moral of the story is that we didn't have to be off a rocky fog-bound coast to appreciate convenient use of the sounder. Yesterday, like most times we daysail, the depth sounder was the only electronic gear we used.

We'll be wanting pictures of your Hurley, okay?
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post #10 of 13 Old 07-06-2015
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Re: Portable Handheld Marine Electronics

I would skip the wind speed meter. Believe me, you'll know if it's blowing. For bragging rights, there's a non-electric choice:

DWYER INSTRUMENTS Portable Wind Meter Balls,PK3 - Air Velocity Monitor Accessories - 3XRU4|A-376 - Grainger Industrial Supply

Personally, I prefer to keep my Garmin 76 on a "house battery" mounted in the boat. Same for the radio and depth sounder. I don't like the idea of my AA cells going flat just when I need them. It gets recharged with a smallish solar panel.


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