Marine Stereo Systems

Cruising on our vessels along the coast or on the high seas is exciting, but sometimes we require a bit of entertainment to fill the hours between conversations with crew and other fellow cruisers in VHF and HF radio conversations. A remote-controlled stereo system with wireless speakers is an easy, affordable way to bring some extra cheer aboard while we count the nautical miles left to our next anchorage. Before you shop for a stereo system, keep in mind some stereos include speakers while others do not. If you already have dependable, waterproof speakers mounted out on deck, then all…
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Stay Safe with a Depth Sounder

A critically important piece of equipment for all vessels, both coastal and offshore is a depth sounder. On many boats, standing watch today means shifting effortlessly through full-color screens showing GPS mapping, depth sounder/fish finder, anemometer, radar and other features through an NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000 or open source network. However, sailors who depend on paper charts and minimal electronics—VHF radio, handheld GPS and a stand-alone depth sounder—are still making successful ocean passages, blissfully innocent of the compulsion, or ability, to spend a fortune on more elaborate systems. Just to refresh our memories, a traditional depth sounder consists of a…
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The Latest Tech in EPIRBs

The Latest Tech in EPIRBs

What started out decades ago as a military tracking device has become standard equipment on offshore cruising vessels: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). Fortunately for today’s coastal and offshore cruisers, numerous manufacturers compete to give us the best EPIRB technology, battery life and ease of use. When we sailors go shopping for marine products, we have the advantage of choice and competitive pricing, and the same goes for EPIRBs. McMurdo, RescueME and ACR Electronics are among the leaders in both technology and competitive pricing. The McMurdo SmartFind G8 Automatic EPIRB is a revolutionary device, the first to combine both…
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Streamline your electrical system with a new panel

Streamline your electrical system with a new panel

by Bill Morris As a vessel and its crew evolve together, new electrical systems replace the old, and often new switches are added on separate mounts in odd places throughout the cabin and pilothouse, creating a confusing and potentially hazardous living space. Installing one or more new electrical panels, including a few extra switches for future equipment add-ons, will alleviate the headache and cluttered appearance of a cabin full of multicolored lights glowing like a Christmas tree. With the multitude of manufacturers and panel styles, both AC and DC, available on the market, you should have no trouble picking out…
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Electronic wind indicators

Electronic wind indicators

by Bill Morris Whether you are racing or cruising, knowing your precise wind speed and direction while underway contributes greatly to sailing strategy as you count down the miles remaining to your destination. But before you run to your local chandlery to select a digital or analog wind sensor and display, consider the wide array of options in these systems and find the package best suited to your needs. Some wind indicators are available as stand-alone units while others are included as part of a larger kit, which may include a thru-hull depth finder with transducer and a GPS receiver…
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Stay on course with electronic charts

by Bill Morris Staying on course under sail, particularly within 100 miles of any coast, is a lot easier with a modern, GPS-controlled chartplotter. With the latest generation of chartplotters, you can navigate to virtually any point on the world’s oceans while staying on course and out of harm’s way. To start off, there are two types of digital charts: raster and vector. Raster charts are digitalized copies of paper charts, such as those published by NOAA and the British Admiralty. On the other hand, vector charts are purely digital, capable of changing the amount of chart detail depending on…
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SSB whip antennas

SSB whip antennas

by Bill Morris If you have chosen to install a single-sideband (SSB) transceiver with an automatic tuner on your vessel, you will also need to install an antenna system capable of transmitting and receiving from 0.5 to 30 MHz, come rain or shine anywhere on the world’s oceans. On sailing vessels less than roughly 50 feet LOA, the common practice is to install a backstay antenna. This requires removing the backstay, cutting out a long piece of the wire and reinstalling it with insulators to ensure transmitted power is kept safely above the heads and hands of crew. Another approach…
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Dependable multimeters

by Bill Morris Arriving at our next port successfully depends, in great measure, on properly functioning electronic navigation and communication systems. And maintaining those systems in tip-top condition requires dependable test equipment, most notably a high-quality multimeter. Surprisingly, many cruising vessels carry no more than a current tester consisting of two wires and a sealed lightbulb to demonstrate the presence of current — how much is anyone’s guess. Some skippers rely on a small, inexpensive battery tester with color bands: green for good, yellow for so-so and red for replace. Properly prepared skippers, on the other hand, equip their vessels…
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VHF antenna mounts

VHF antenna mounts

by Bill Morris While we are perusing the various types and brands of radios for our boat’s nav station, we should give ample attention not only to what type of VHF antenna we intend to install, but the mounting system for that antenna as well. Holding the antenna securely to the deck, mast or aft pulpit plays a critical role in getting our signal out efficiently and safely, especially in an emergency. To be sure, if you are crossing oceans, you will undoubtedly carry, at the very least, an antenna for your marine SSB or ham radio station, but we’ll…
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Marine multi-band Ham radios

Marine multi-band Ham radios

by Bill Morris  With the growing array of communication options for offshore sailors, it is easy to be dazzled by the growing availability of satellite phones and even digital television. In reality, though, hardcore voyaging sailors by and large depend on the flexibility and independence afforded by amateur, or “ham,” radio, which allows you to speak with other radio operators on both land and sea anywhere in the world with no monthly or per-minute charge to worry about. As long as you have the requisite FCC license, at least General Class, you can rag-chew to your heart’s content from any…
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