Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

08/02/07 | by admin [mail] | Categories: Boating Safety

Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

What they do:

An EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is one of the most critical pieces of last-resort lifesaving gear on your boat when you are out of range of a VHF radio, cell phone or other means of communication. EPIRBs are small radio transmitters, connected to a global satellite network, which are used worldwide to alert Search and Rescue agencies in the event of a dire emergency. Used only when all other means of rescue or communication have failed, these emergency beacons can be activated if your boat is in danger of sinking, or if you have a life-threatening accident or medical emergency. Activating an EPIRB starts a chain of responses, beginning when your signal is received by the COSPAS-SARSAT international satellite system, relayed rapidly to ground stations, forwarded to a regional Rescue Coordination Center and ending when a helicopter, boat, rescue swimmer or other type of emergency response team makes contact with you.

See the top selling EPIRBS here

An EPIRB does not allow you to send or receive voice or text messages. If you can reach rescue agencies with an Iridium, INMARSAT or Globalstar satellite phone, Single Sideband radio or cell phone, you can better communicate the important details of your emergency. EPIRBs work when all of these means have failed, such as if your boat is sinking on the high seas and you have no electrical power. Since 1982 EPIRBs have saved about 20,000 people worldwide.

How they work
EPIRBs transmit using internationally recognized distress frequencies, monitored by LEOSAR (low earth orbit) satellites moving from pole to pole above the earth’s surface, and GEOSAR (geostationary) satellites in high stationary orbit. LEOSAR satellites, because they are in motion, use Doppler shift processing (the perceived frequency change caused by the relative movement of the receiver and the source) to calculate the location of the distress beacon. They cover the entire globe, orbiting once about every 100 minutes. GEOSAR provides instantaneous alerting, but no position locating. Signals from both types are relayed to automated Local User Terminal (LUT) ground stations worldwide, which forward them to Mission Control Centers (MCC). The MCC (which in the U.S. is the NOAA office near DC) tracks the signal, attempts to identify the transmitting vessel using the database of registered EPIRBs, and notifies a regional Rescue Control Center (RCC), operated in the U.S. by the Coast Guard or the Air Force.

A Search and Rescue operation is launched, sometimes involving international communication, substantial costs, lots of planes, helicopters or ships, and rescuers who risk their lives. Unfortunately, some EPIRB transmissions are false alarms. Curious onboard guests or painters may remove an EPIRB from its cradle, causing accidental activation. Some false alarms are hoaxes, and deliberate misuse of emergency beacons may result in substantial fines, restitution and/or prison. If you accidentally trigger your EPIRB, call the U.S. Coast Guard HQ Command Center at 1–800–323–7233 immediately. You will keep valuable resources from being mobilized, unable to deal with an actual emergency, and possibly prevent a SAR team from converging on the trunk of your car.

What to look for

Class A & B EPIRBs: These older types have been in use since 1970 and have saved many lives, but they also lack accuracy, can trigger false alarms that waste crucial time and resources, and are now obsolete compared to newer technology. Using two emergency VHF frequencies, 121.5 MHz (civilian) and 243.0 MHz (military), Class A EPIRBS deploy and activate automatically while Class B units have to be deployed and activated manually by the crew. As of Feb. 1, 2009, satellites will stop monitoring these frequencies, so if you own one of these EPIRBs it is time to consider a replacement.

406 MHz EPIRBs: Modern EPIRBs transmit digitally on 406.025 and 406.028 MHz (so they are called “406 EPIRBs”). Their signal has an embedded code containing a unique identification number, allowing rescue agencies to look up your emergency information (including name, phone number, vessel type, emergency contact, etc.), in a database, but only if you have registered your EPIRB. When your EPIRB transmits, rescuers know who you are, a huge improvement over Class A and B technology, and can phone your emergency contacts to verify your itinerary. Another advance over older EPIRBs is that satellites can store and rebroadcast your 406 emergency message, so the LEOSAR satellite does not need to be in direct contact between you and a ground station. A 406 MHz signal also allows the satellite to calculate the position of the sender to less than a 2-nm radius (instead of 12 nm with the older Class A and B EPIRBs), resulting in a faster and less costly rescue response. 406 EPIRBs also transmit with 5W of power (compared to 0.1W for the Class A and B beacons) so they function better in poor weather conditions. The average time to notification of RCCs via 406 MHz EPIRBs is approximately one hour worldwide.

Category I and II: By rule, all EPIRBs must be able to activate and transmit when they are removed from their brackets and immersed. Category I brackets will automatically deploy the beacon when submerged between 3′ and 14′, while Category II brackets need to have the beacon released manually. Both types can be manually activated either in or out of their brackets.

GPS/EPIRB Combinations: Two types of EPIRBs now include the ability to transmit GPS coordinates along with the rest of the digital distress message. Some units can interface with an external GPS and if the receiver is turned on will transmit coordinates within seconds of activation. Other EPIRBs contain their own receiver and take longer to acquire their location, but keep transmitting while the EPIRB is operating, without remaining connected to an external GPS with an interface cable. Using the stationary GEOSAR satellites, these transmitters do not need to wait for a LEOSAR to pass overhead and fix a Doppler bearing, and reduce the time–to–notification to as little as four minutes. Like other GPS receivers, their position accuracy is 100yd. (instead of 2nm without GPS).

Personal Locator Beacons: EPIRBS are intended strictly for marine use, but Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), their smaller cousins, can be carried with you just about anywhere. They provide the same worldwide coverage as 406MHz EPIRBs, and can rescue hikers, kayakers, backpackers, climbers, pilots, river rafters and hunters (among others) as well as boaters. PLBs were extensively tested in Alaska beginning in 1994 before FCC approval for general U.S. use in July, 2003, and saved 400 lives there during that time period. Pocket-sized and weighing less than a pound, PLBs are different than EPIRBs in some important ways. Their battery life (24hr. minimum transmitting time) is half of that of an EPIRB. PLBs do not have a strobe light, are not required to float (but most do), and are manually deployed and activated.

Like 406 EPIRBS, PLBs have an additional 121.5MHz homing signal to help planes, helicopters and other searchers find you. They also have a Morse code encryption for PLB attached to their digital signal. Manufacturers are marketing PLB versions intended for marine, backcountry and aeronautical use, like ACR’s AquaFix, TerraFix and AeroFix, and all three types often appear virtually identical (ACR’s products, for example, have the same specs).

We believe that EPIRBs are for your boat, and a PLB is a “personal” beacon. A PLB is also great insurance while exploring away from the mothership in your dinghy, and is a less-bulky EPIRB alternative for any small boat. The ability to be carried with you and to be used anywhere, with a group of hikers, on a snowmobile, in a canoe or in a backpack makes a PLB a valuable and versatile lifesaving tool.

Register your 406 EPIRB or PLB!
It is mandatory that you register your 406 EPIRB/PLB with NOAA SARSAT, yet only 80% of our customers register their new beacons. In the U.S. you can register online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or in Canada at http: beacon.nss.gc.ca. U.S. registration can also be completed by mail or by downloading the registration form and faxing it to NOAA SARSAT at 301–568–8649. It is free, no license is required and it is critical in making your EPIRB perform as intended. When filling out the registration form, carefully select the emergency contacts NOAA or the Coast Guard should call in case your beacon goes off. These should be individuals who are familiar with your plans, and who are most likely to be available.

Failure to properly register your beacon will most likely delay the launch of a rescue mission. Also, the Coast Guard says that 94% of EPIRBs alerts are false and that registration data has enabled them to resolve 65% of the alerts prior to launching SAR operations.

Can I lend my EPIRB or PLB to another boater?
Yes, you can lend your EPIRB or PLB to your friends. The problem, of course, is that if you lend your 406 to a boater with a different boat description or different land contacts, you are likely to send the Coast Guard on a wild goose chase. The key to this is alerting NOAA of the change of information, even if only for a week or two. If you have previously registered your 406 MHz beacon with NOAA but have not accessed your registration information via their online registration site, you can access your beacon (just be sure you have your 15-digit Unique ID at hand) and view/update your registration. The online registration site contains a section for “Additional Information". Use this section like a float plan, and let rescuers know how many passengers are aboard and your plans for the trip. This information can be updated on a daily basis. You can also fax another registration form documenting the new information, and the approximate time that this will be in effect, to the MCC at 1-301-568-8649.

Conclusion
A 406 EPIRB will dramatically improve your chances and your boat’s chances of survival in an emergency. A Personal Locator Beacon provides almost the same level of protection, in a pocket-sized package, to an individual on land or water. If you own an older Class A or B EPIRB, which will soon cease to be monitored by COSPAS/SARSAT, you should upgrade to a Category I or II 406MHz EPIRB. Linked to an internal or interfaced GPS receiver, 406 EPIRBs and PLBs allow instant notification of your identity and an accurate fix on your position, speeding the launch of a full-scale search and rescue effort. One thing is for sure, however: You must do your part in registering your EPIRB/PLB and keeping the emergency contact information up to date, so rescuers can validate the authenticity of the distress signal.

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Boating Safety

  • Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

    Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

    What they do:

    An EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) is one of the most critical pieces of last-resort lifesaving gear on your boat when you are out of range of a VHF radio, cell phone or other means of communication. EPIRBs are small radio transmitters, connected to a global satellite network, which are used worldwide to alert Search and Rescue agencies in the event of a dire emergency. Used only when all other means of rescue or communication have failed, these emergency beacons can be activated if your boat is in danger of sinking, or if you have a life-threatening accident or medical emergency. Activating an EPIRB starts a chain of responses, beginning when your signal is received by the COSPAS-SARSAT international satellite system, relayed rapidly to ground stations, forwarded to a regional Rescue Coordination Center and ending when a helicopter, boat, rescue swimmer or other type of emergency response team makes contact with you.

    See the top selling EPIRBS here

    An EPIRB does not allow you to send or receive voice or text messages. If you can reach rescue agencies with an Iridium, INMARSAT or Globalstar satellite phone, Single Sideband radio or cell phone, you can better communicate the important details of your emergency. EPIRBs work when all of these means have failed, such as if your boat is sinking on the high seas and you have no electrical power. Since 1982 EPIRBs have saved about 20,000 people worldwide.

    How they work
    EPIRBs transmit using internationally recognized distress frequencies, monitored by LEOSAR (low earth orbit) satellites moving from pole to pole above the earth’s surface, and GEOSAR (geostationary) satellites in high stationary orbit. LEOSAR satellites, because they are in motion, use Doppler shift processing (the perceived frequency change caused by the relative movement of the receiver and the source) to calculate the location of the distress beacon. They cover the entire globe, orbiting once about every 100 minutes. GEOSAR provides instantaneous alerting, but no position locating. Signals from both types are relayed to automated Local User Terminal (LUT) ground stations worldwide, which forward them to Mission Control Centers (MCC). The MCC (which in the U.S. is the NOAA office near DC) tracks the signal, attempts to identify the transmitting vessel using the database of registered EPIRBs, and notifies a regional Rescue Control Center (RCC), operated in the U.S. by the Coast Guard or the Air Force.

    A Search and Rescue operation is launched, sometimes involving international communication, substantial costs, lots of planes, helicopters or ships, and rescuers who risk their lives. Unfortunately, some EPIRB transmissions are false alarms. Curious onboard guests or painters may remove an EPIRB from its cradle, causing accidental activation. Some false alarms are hoaxes, and deliberate misuse of emergency beacons may result in substantial fines, restitution and/or prison. If you accidentally trigger your EPIRB, call the U.S. Coast Guard HQ Command Center at 1–800–323–7233 immediately. You will keep valuable resources from being mobilized, unable to deal with an actual emergency, and possibly prevent a SAR team from converging on the trunk of your car.

    What to look for

    Class A & B EPIRBs: These older types have been in use since 1970 and have saved many lives, but they also lack accuracy, can trigger false alarms that waste crucial time and resources, and are now obsolete compared to newer technology. Using two emergency VHF frequencies, 121.5 MHz (civilian) and 243.0 MHz (military), Class A EPIRBS deploy and activate automatically while Class B units have to be deployed and activated manually by the crew. As of Feb. 1, 2009, satellites will stop monitoring these frequencies, so if you own one of these EPIRBs it is time to consider a replacement.

    406 MHz EPIRBs: Modern EPIRBs transmit digitally on 406.025 and 406.028 MHz (so they are called “406 EPIRBs”). Their signal has an embedded code containing a unique identification number, allowing rescue agencies to look up your emergency information (including name, phone number, vessel type, emergency contact, etc.), in a database, but only if you have registered your EPIRB. When your EPIRB transmits, rescuers know who you are, a huge improvement over Class A and B technology, and can phone your emergency contacts to verify your itinerary. Another advance over older EPIRBs is that satellites can store and rebroadcast your 406 emergency message, so the LEOSAR satellite does not need to be in direct contact between you and a ground station. A 406 MHz signal also allows the satellite to calculate the position of the sender to less than a 2-nm radius (instead of 12 nm with the older Class A and B EPIRBs), resulting in a faster and less costly rescue response. 406 EPIRBs also transmit with 5W of power (compared to 0.1W for the Class A and B beacons) so they function better in poor weather conditions. The average time to notification of RCCs via 406 MHz EPIRBs is approximately one hour worldwide.

    Category I and II: By rule, all EPIRBs must be able to activate and transmit when they are removed from their brackets and immersed. Category I brackets will automatically deploy the beacon when submerged between 3′ and 14′, while Category II brackets need to have the beacon released manually. Both types can be manually activated either in or out of their brackets.

    GPS/EPIRB Combinations: Two types of EPIRBs now include the ability to transmit GPS coordinates along with the rest of the digital distress message. Some units can interface with an external GPS and if the receiver is turned on will transmit coordinates within seconds of activation. Other EPIRBs contain their own receiver and take longer to acquire their location, but keep transmitting while the EPIRB is operating, without remaining connected to an external GPS with an interface cable. Using the stationary GEOSAR satellites, these transmitters do not need to wait for a LEOSAR to pass overhead and fix a Doppler bearing, and reduce the time–to–notification to as little as four minutes. Like other GPS receivers, their position accuracy is 100yd. (instead of 2nm without GPS).

    Personal Locator Beacons: EPIRBS are intended strictly for marine use, but Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), their smaller cousins, can be carried with you just about anywhere. They provide the same worldwide coverage as 406MHz EPIRBs, and can rescue hikers, kayakers, backpackers, climbers, pilots, river rafters and hunters (among others) as well as boaters. PLBs were extensively tested in Alaska beginning in 1994 before FCC approval for general U.S. use in July, 2003, and saved 400 lives there during that time period. Pocket-sized and weighing less than a pound, PLBs are different than EPIRBs in some important ways. Their battery life (24hr. minimum transmitting time) is half of that of an EPIRB. PLBs do not have a strobe light, are not required to float (but most do), and are manually deployed and activated.

    Like 406 EPIRBS, PLBs have an additional 121.5MHz homing signal to help planes, helicopters and other searchers find you. They also have a Morse code encryption for PLB attached to their digital signal. Manufacturers are marketing PLB versions intended for marine, backcountry and aeronautical use, like ACR’s AquaFix, TerraFix and AeroFix, and all three types often appear virtually identical (ACR’s products, for example, have the same specs).

    We believe that EPIRBs are for your boat, and a PLB is a “personal” beacon. A PLB is also great insurance while exploring away from the mothership in your dinghy, and is a less-bulky EPIRB alternative for any small boat. The ability to be carried with you and to be used anywhere, with a group of hikers, on a snowmobile, in a canoe or in a backpack makes a PLB a valuable and versatile lifesaving tool.

    Register your 406 EPIRB or PLB!
    It is mandatory that you register your 406 EPIRB/PLB with NOAA SARSAT, yet only 80% of our customers register their new beacons. In the U.S. you can register online at www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov or in Canada at http: beacon.nss.gc.ca. U.S. registration can also be completed by mail or by downloading the registration form and faxing it to NOAA SARSAT at 301–568–8649. It is free, no license is required and it is critical in making your EPIRB perform as intended. When filling out the registration form, carefully select the emergency contacts NOAA or the Coast Guard should call in case your beacon goes off. These should be individuals who are familiar with your plans, and who are most likely to be available.

    Failure to properly register your beacon will most likely delay the launch of a rescue mission. Also, the Coast Guard says that 94% of EPIRBs alerts are false and that registration data has enabled them to resolve 65% of the alerts prior to launching SAR operations.

    Can I lend my EPIRB or PLB to another boater?
    Yes, you can lend your EPIRB or PLB to your friends. The problem, of course, is that if you lend your 406 to a boater with a different boat description or different land contacts, you are likely to send the Coast Guard on a wild goose chase. The key to this is alerting NOAA of the change of information, even if only for a week or two. If you have previously registered your 406 MHz beacon with NOAA but have not accessed your registration information via their online registration site, you can access your beacon (just be sure you have your 15-digit Unique ID at hand) and view/update your registration. The online registration site contains a section for “Additional Information". Use this section like a float plan, and let rescuers know how many passengers are aboard and your plans for the trip. This information can be updated on a daily basis. You can also fax another registration form documenting the new information, and the approximate time that this will be in effect, to the MCC at 1-301-568-8649.

    Conclusion
    A 406 EPIRB will dramatically improve your chances and your boat’s chances of survival in an emergency. A Personal Locator Beacon provides almost the same level of protection, in a pocket-sized package, to an individual on land or water. If you own an older Class A or B EPIRB, which will soon cease to be monitored by COSPAS/SARSAT, you should upgrade to a Category I or II 406MHz EPIRB. Linked to an internal or interfaced GPS receiver, 406 EPIRBs and PLBs allow instant notification of your identity and an accurate fix on your position, speeding the launch of a full-scale search and rescue effort. One thing is for sure, however: You must do your part in registering your EPIRB/PLB and keeping the emergency contact information up to date, so rescuers can validate the authenticity of the distress signal.

    Permalink
  • Inflatable Boat Maintenance Tips

    Inflatable Boat Maintenance Tips:

    The buoyancy tube of your inflatable boat is made of fabric using plastomer PVC or neoprene hypalon rubber. Inflatable boat maintenance is easy but essential. Clean it every month (if used extensively) or seasonally before storing for the winter.

    Never use strong detergents (acid, trichloroethylene, mineral spirits), high-pressure cleaning equipment or silicone-based products to clean your inflatable boat.

    Inflate the buoyancy tube

    Open the self-bailer ad wash the boat with a hose to remove sand and other particles

    Remove the floor or floorboards where applicable

    Clean all grime, stains, etc (use products from your dealer if required)

    Check all inflatable sections for leaks with foamy soap and water

    Rinse with fresh water and dry thoroughly
    When deflating your inflatable boat:
    Check that the valves and gaskets are clean and not damaged

    Check that the self-bailer is not clogged
    A 20% air pressure loss in a 24-hour period is normal. Only address more serious leaks (such as .25 PSI in five hours. If you have a problem with leakage, first check that all valves are intact and in closed position (nothing clogging the valve).

    Storage of your inflatable boat:
    Keep it in a clean and dry place that is not affected by major changes in temperature or other damaging environmental factors. Store the boat deflated and rolled up or lightly inflated. If you own a boat with a removable tubeset, take it off for easier, more thorough cleaning. Store the tubeset on or off the boat.

    For long-term storage in the sun (especially in tropical regions) protect your boat with a cover.

    Rodents chew on fabric (including inflatable boat material). Store away from rats or mice.

    Find a great selection of inflatable boats at West Marine.

    Permalink
  • Personal Flotation Devices

    Personal Flotation Devices

    Many boaters and West Marine associates are confused by the Coast Guard’s traditional system of categorizing life jackets, also called Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) The Coast Guard categorizes PFDs by a system of types (I, II, III IV and V) that emphasizes the life jacket specification rather than application and function. We feel that grouping the various types by their intended use and then outlining the features, advantages and disadvantages is more helpful. Hopefully you can then make sense of our extensive product selection and buy just what you need for your style of boating and physique. To do justice to the letter of the law, we’re going to repeat the Federal requirements regarding life jackets on recreational boats, since you have to meet this standard regardless of what you end up selecting. We also want to caution you to be aware of the state regulations that are in effect in your boating area, since they may vary from the federal requirements. As a special customer service, all of our stores display signs that clearly explain the current PFD requirements in the states of each geographical region in the U.S.

    See the most popular Personal Floatation Devices Here

    The Federal Regulations:

    PFDs are divided into five categories, Type I through Type V. The U.S. Coast Guard regulations regarding life jackets on recreational boats are pretty simple:

    -All recreational boats must carry one wearable PFD (Type I, II, III or Type V PFD) for each person aboard.

    -Any boat 16′ and longer (except sailboards, racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes, and racing kayaks) must also carry one throwable PFD (Type IV PFD).

    -Type I, II and III PFDs must be readily accessible and wearable by the intended user, while Type IV PFDs must be immediately available.

    -Type V hybrid PFDs and some inflatables must be worn to be counted in the vessel’s PFD inventory. Inflatable PFDs must have a full cylinder and all status indicators on the inflator must be green, or the device is NOT serviceable, and does NOT satisfy the requirement. Coast Guard Approved Inflatable PFDs are authorized for use on recreational boats by persons at least 16 years of age and there may be weight minimums as well.

    -Children under 13 years are required to wear a correctly sized Coast Guard approved life jacket when underway on a recreational vessel, unless they are in an enclosed cabin or below decks. Child PFD approvals are based on the child’s weight. Check the “User Weight” on the label, or the Approval Statement that will read something like “Approved for use on recreational boats and uninspected commercial vessels not carrying passengers for hire, by persons weighing __ lbs". They can be marked “less than 30″, “30 to 50″, “less than 50″, or “50 to 90″.

    -PFDs must be Coast Guard approved, in good and serviceable condition, and the appropriate size for the intended user.

    The Coast Guard recommends and many states require wearing PFDs:
    For water skiing and other towed activities (use a PFD marked for water skiing).

    -While operating personal watercraft (PWC) (use a PFD marked for water skiing or PWC use).

    -During whitewater boating activities.

    -While sailboarding (under Federal law, sailboards are not “boats"). Check with your state boating safety officials.

    -Types of Boating and Recommended Life Jackets
    To select the correct life jacket for you and your family, start by identifying the type of boating you do:

    Recreational Boating:

    This type is recommended for powerboats or sailboats in relatively calm, warm water, where comfort and freedom of movement are important. Choose from either a belted or day sailing vest, or an inshore inflatable. The choices are many, since it is the most common type of boating, but demands are not very stringent. Owners of small powerboats commonly opt for belted vests, which can be adjusted to a looser or snugger fit, depending on conditions while sailors will select a more flexible vest or an inflatable.

    Our Comfort Series Inflatable Vests, with 22.5lb. of buoyancy, are easy to wear, don’t restrict your movement, and are available in automatic, manual and belt pack manual designs. They fit adult boaters over 80lb. with 30″ to 52″ chest sizes.

    We also sell a remarkable number of economical Type II vests, but we don’t recommend them as primary PFDs since they are unattractive and uncomfortable to wear. View Type IIs as extra vests for unexpected guests, or consider stocking up with some relatively low-priced Type III vests of different sizes and designs, which tend to fit better and are more likely to be worn.

    Watersports:

    Activities like wakeboarding, water skiing, being towed on an inflatable device and riding a personal watercraft include a risk of hitting the water at high speed. PFDs for watersports must withstand these impacts and stay intact and attached to your body. Belted vests with three or four strong belts encircling your torso work best because they won’t get torn off easily even when you crash and burn at high speed. Look for vests that have Watersports marked on the label, and ensure that they can be adjusted to a snug fit.

    Day Sailing:

    Small boat sailing requires movement and a range of flexibility, yet a good PFD has to fit snugly and hug the upper body. The preferred style has a zippered closure and is made from very soft, pliable foam. To increase the vests’ flexibility, thin strips of foam are inserted into “channels” so the foam wraps comfortably around your chest. Deep armholes offer additional freedom of movement, but may allow the vest to “ride up” when in the water, so a good, snug fit is important. If you sail a dinghy or beach catamaran your PFD may have to be worn with a trapeze harness, so take the harness with you when you go shopping for a new life jacket. Many customers will find that Day Sailing vests are a good choice for a variety of boating styles except for high-speed watersports.

    Fishing:

    Anglers frequently need to carry a smorgasbord of lures, leaders, etc. and will appreciate a vest with built-in pockets. They may also operate small and fast boats, which could lead to a high-speed water impact. Therefore, we offer two distinct types of fishing vests, those with pockets that can hold lure boxes, a sandwich or fishing tools and those with wide encircling belts. The second style is similar to watersport PFDs and can be adjusted to a snug and secure fit, so the vest will stay on during high-speed impacts.

    Offshore Sail:

    Offshore vests provide lots of buoyancy, freedom of movement, and commonly a safety tether that the wearer clips into jacklines to stay connected to the boat. In the past, offshore sailors chose between a life jacket and a safety harness, since the two items were seen as interfering with one another. Today’s inflatable life jackets with integrated harnesses provide a high level of safety with one single product. Decide which type of inflation you prefer (manual or automatic). Virtually all models in the Offshore Sailing category will have similar buoyancy (35lb.) and a harness that complies with ISAF standards.

    We recommend that offshore powerboaters also have one or two of these vests aboard, since they might face similar challenges as sailors do when they have to venture out onto a pitching, slippery deck in rough conditions to get the anchor ready or to secure a dinghy that has come loose.

    Offshore Power:

    Passagemaking requires high buoyancy life jackets designed for rough waters. While the chances of ending up overboard are far less on a trawler with an enclosed pilothouse, crew should always wear high buoyancy inflatable life jackets every time they go on deck. If a crewmember goes overboard time to rescue may be long, the water may be cold and most likely the seas will be rough.

    Paddlesports:

    Canoeists, kayakers, and whitewater rafters need PFDs that combine freedom of movement and protection. Many specialized life jackets have been developed for niche markets and different styles of paddling, so make sure you try different models that are labeled for paddle sports. But almost all will offer freedom of movement and freedom from chafe while performing repetitive motions, with large armholes and foam that is distributed away from normal arm movement. Kayakers may need vests with high-cut waists that don’t interfere with a spray skirt. Manually operated inflatable vests with chest packs are ergonomic and convenient, but require you to slip the inflated bladder over your head.

    Commercial Vessels:

    These vessels must have specific types of life jackets onboard to be legal. We offer a range of Type I life jackets and SOLAS approved models but we don’t recommend their use on recreational vessels, since Type I devices are virtually unwearable and they take up gobs of valuable storage space. But if you operate a commercial vessel that is required to have Type I vests on board, we’ve got ‘em.


    See the most popular Personal Floatation Devices Here

    Other Features to Consider:

    Here are some other attributes or applications for life jackets that put incremental requirements on their performance:

    Dynamic Strength Testing:

    On the Underwriter’s Laboratory label on the inside of all approved vests is a “Dynamic Strength Testing” value, which used to be called the “Impact Rating". This rating describes the strength of the life jacket when subjected to high-speed impacts. However, UL and the Coast Guard are quick to point out that it is unrelated to the injuries that a user might suffer during a high-speed impact; it only measures the resistance of the fabric, belts, etc. Vests with multiple encircling belts will be appropriate for high-speed water sports.

    Hypothermia Protection:

    If you boat in cold climates you should understand the importance of hypothermia protection. Immersion in cold water rapidly reduces your core body temperature, leading to greatly impaired physical and mental capabilities. Even a five-minute immersion in 50-degree water can impair your ability to climb a ladder, catch a line, or tread water. In addition to protective clothing such as exposure coveralls, immersion suits, wet suits, and float coats, a properly fitted Type III vest also can delay the onset and lessen the effects of hypothermia. High buoyancy vests like offshore inflatables allow the wearer to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP), which can double survival times by reducing heat loss to the water.

    Time to Rescue:

    Crew who have gone overboard may be in the water for a long time. In this case, high buoyancy devices like inflatables and Type I vests help retain an open airway, especially if the wearer is unconscious, either through injury or exhaustion due to hypothermia. Type II and Type III PFDs lack the buoyancy and righting force to keep wearers face-up with an unobstructed airway. This distance from the water to your mouth is called freeboard. If knocked unconscious in the water, the added freeboard offered by Type I PFDs may save your life by keeping your airway unobstructed. USCG approved Type III inflatables have to average 3 inches of freeboard and Type II must average 3.75 inches.

    Children:

    Infants and small children are hard to keep floating in a face-up position, and sometimes protest when wearing a PFD. Frankly, we think that boating with infants is not a very good idea if there is any likelihood of the baby ending up in the water. As kids get older and more water-savvy they become right at home onboard, because there are many choices for well-fitting PFDs that provide stability and buoyancy.

    Those of us who have had to pull our children out of the drink appreciate behind-the-head flotation collars with a grab strap, which are standard, along with crotch straps, on vests for smaller kids. The Mustang Lil’ Legends vests have always been popular, since they are well made in high-visibility colors. A selection of vests from Stearns, adorned with Barbie, Spider Man and other animated characters, appeal to your child’s sense of style. We highly recommend testing the life jacket you select for your child in a safe environment like a pool ahead of time, to familiarize yourself and your child with the device’s characteristics.

    Classifying Inflatables by Coast Guard Types:

    Prior to Coast Guard-approved inflatables, you could determine a PFD’s type by sight: Type IIIs looked like vests or float coats, Type IVs were horseshoes, rings, or cushions, and so forth. The introduction of inflatables changed everything. Inflatables are given a Coast Guard type, just like non-inflatables, but they are also given a performance type and a designation as to whether they have to be worn to be counted in the vessel’s life jacket inventory. What this means is that you can’t simply say that an inflatable is a Type III and equate its characteristics to the Type III that you are familiar with. Here are some pointers on how inflatables are classified:

    Inflatables with harnesses are, by default, Type V life jackets with instructions that you should be familiar with when wearing a harness. Their performance type is generally Type III or Type II.

    Belt pack inflatables are Type V life jackets with Type III performance because you have to slip the inflated chamber over your head.

    High buoyancy inflatables (150 N or 33 lbs of buoyancy) have a Type III performance rating if they are manually activated with a ripcord, and a Type II performance rating if they are water-activated. Both products perform exactly alike once they’re inflated, since the bladder and the rest of the life jacket are identical except for the inflator. Some types, like the 4000 Offshore Life Jackets (sail and power) can be converted from automatic or manual by a simple change to their Secumar 4001 1F inflator.

    The Coast Guard requires that water-activated “automatic” inflatables with non-1F inflators have to be worn to be counted in the vessel’s inventory of life jackets. The most recent models with 1F inflators, so-called “stowables", don’t have to be worn to be counted as inventory. However, this misses the point of inflatable PFDs, which are so comfortable that you’ll wear them while on the water.

    Finally, the inshore Comfort Series inflatables use a 25gr. cylinder, and provide 22.5lb. of flotation. They are only legal when worn.

    So What Is REALLY Important?

    Always have the federally required safety equipment on board, meaning Coast Guard-approved life jackets. If you select non-approved devices, make sure you back them up with what the law requires.

    If you have an older, non-approved SOSpenders, Crewfit, or West Marine inflatable, wear it confidently until its useful life is over (around 10 years). If you have life jackets in your inventory that must be worn to be counted, back them up with Coast Guard-approved life jackets so you are never caught short (and, at $500 per incident, this can get expensive.)

    Establish rules on board your boat defining when life jackets are to be worn and lead by example. Kids 13 years and younger should always wear them, and there would be far fewer boating deaths among adults if they wore them, too.

    Boating is getting safer. In 2005, the Coast Guard reported that the total number of fatalities resulting from recreational boating accidents remained relatively low, increasing from 676 in 2004 to 697. This translates to 5.4 fatalities per 100,000 boaters (with over 12 million boats registered in the U.S.).

    However, 491 boaters drowned in 2005, according to the Coast Guard, and 87% of the drowning victims were not wearing a PFD. While boating is more safe than ever, wearing your life jacket is still the key to surviving a boating accident.


    See the most popular Personal Floatation Devices Here

    Permalink
  • Selecting a GPS Receiver

    Selecting a GPS Receiver

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    What they do
    The Global Positioning System is a satellite-based navigation system that provides accurate position fixes 24 hours a day, on land, sea and air, in any weather, with no subscription or fee. Originally built between 1978 and 1994 for the U.S. Department of Defense with 24 satellites in orbit 12,000 miles above the Earth (three are spares in case one fails), this multi-billion dollar system is available for all users.

    GPS units receive high frequency, low power signals (50 watts or less) from these satellites orbiting the Earth every 12 hours. By timing the signals sent by the satellites (which each carry a highly accurate atomic clock) and by knowing the exact orbital locations of the satellites, a GPS receiver can determine your location to an accuracy within 6 meters 95% of the time, and your altitude to within approximately 10 meters. Navigators using paper charts and traditional tools can use these position fixes to plot courses. But GPS receivers can perform these operations automatically, and most will show your location on an incredibly detailed bright electronic color map. They can aid in creating routes, identify interesting landmarks and points of interest, and some can even talk to you, providing simple, clear directions to your destination.

    How Accurate is the GPS system?
    GPS receivers need to locate three satellites in order to calculate a two-dimensional position, and can develop a three-dimensional fix when they receive signals from four satellites. Since, in theory, four satellites are “in view” from every location on Earth, problems with reception are caused by buildings, mountains and forests blocking the line-of-sight signals. The GPS system transmits signals on several bands (with some reserved for the U.S. Military). The civilian signals were intentionally degraded in accuracy until May 2000, when the program called Selective Availability was discontinued.

    Now you can expect accuracy in the range of 6 to 12 meters (about 20 to 40 ft.) from any GPS receiver. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have developed the WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) program, which corrects for GPS signal errors caused by ionospheric disturbances, timing, and satellite orbit errors, and it provides vital integrity information regarding the health of each GPS satellite.

    WAAS, with about 25 ground reference stations across the United States that monitor GPS satellite data and two master stations on either coast, creates a GPS correction message. This correction accounts for GPS satellite orbit and clock drift plus signal delays caused by the atmosphere and ionosphere. The corrected differential message is then broadcast through one of two geostationary satellites, with a fixed position over the equator. Any GPS receiver equipped to receive WAAS (all except the least expensive units) has its accuracy improved to three meters (just less than 10 ft.). WAAS satellite coverage is only available in North America. There are no ground reference stations in South America, so even though GPS users there can receive WAAS, the signal has not been corrected and thus would not improve the accuracy of their unit. For some users in the U.S., the position of the satellites over the equator makes it difficult to receive the signals when trees or mountains obstruct the view of the horizon. WAAS signal reception is ideal for open land and marine applications.

    Degree of Portability: Handheld, Mountable, or Fixed-Mount?
    For small boat outings, dinghy sailing or hiking, one of the many pocket-sized, handheld GPS units is ideal. In addition to being conveniently portable, these battery-operated receivers provide an additional measure of safety should a larger vessel’s electrical system fail.

    The next step up in size are the mountables (or portables, as they are sometimes called), combining the properties of both handheld and fixed-mount units. These receivers have larger displays and large keypads for easier use on a bouncing boat or moving car, and can be powered by batteries or external 12V power. They have well designed mounts for dash or nav station installation, and can use either a built-in antenna or connect to an external antenna for better reception. Both mountable and handheld units are often available in Land and Sea versions, like the Garmin GPSMap 478 and 378, which include all the mounts for automotive and marine use, as well as BlueChart g2 mapping software boating and City Navigator NT for street-level land navigation.

    Larger vessels with a navigation station will use one of the fixed-mount receivers with the larger, high–resolution displays and larger keypads that are the most convenient to use. Fixed-mount units will connect to the vessel’s 12V DC power, eliminating the need to change batteries, and will frequently use an external antenna for a better view of the sky.

    Maps in a variety of formats
    All GPS receivers other than the most basic handhelds feature electronic maps, so you can see your position on a detailed chart. If you only want to get position fixes and navigate using just traditional paper charts, a receiver like the Garmin GPS 72, GPS 76 or Geko will provide that capability, and will let you plan routes with a collection of waypoints. Most GPS units are preloaded with a “basemap", with varying levels of detail depending on the individual receiver. To really achieve the full level of mapping detail, with charts showing information down to the level of a few feet, nearly all receivers use electronic moving maps designed for marine, automotive, off-road or backcountry use that show your position superimposed directly on the chart. There are several ways this digital map data is delivered:

    CD-ROM downloads: Some receivers, especially handheld units, require that you connect them to a computer and download sections of a CD, either directly to the GPS or to data card. In some cases buying the CD allows you to download one region, and you need to buy unlock codes for every additional region you choose.

    Preloaded: A convenient feature provides the data preloaded on the receiver, using either flash memory or a hard drive. The Garmin GPSMap535 is preloaded with inland lake maps, and the GPSMap545 is preloaded with U.S. coastal marine charts, for example. The basemaps that are part of the firmware of many receivers also include a reasonable level of detail, so rough outlines of coastlines are still shown when you move out of an area covered by your electronic cartography.

    Cartridges: Many charts are sold on small cartridges containing a regional data file that are inserted into ports on the receiver. To travel to new locations you purchase additional chips for each region with C-Map, Navionics, BlueChart or other charts compatible with the receiver. Newer Garmin handheld units (and some automotive receivers) use tiny MicroSD Cards, which are about 1/4 the size of a postage stamp. These miniscule cartridges, with up to 1GB of storage, have the same BlueChart marine regions as Garmin’s larger Preprogrammed Data Cards.
    More information to help select cartographic charts is available in the West Advisor, Selecting Electronic Charts.

    Stand-alone, network and combo receivers
    Fixed mount receivers are available as stand-alone units known as chartplotters. Many of these have the capability to display underwater information from a “black box” fishfinder module and fishfinder transducer using a split screen or superimposed display format. Manufacturers find new combinations all the time, mixing GPS with other electronic gadgets in an expanding variety of options.

    Fishfinder/chartplotter combinations (shown in the fishfinder section) give all the performance of both devices with the footprint of only one, so you can place one larger display where two smaller ones would be a tight fit. Switching between functions is easy.

    Networked GPS units allow the connection of a wide variety of sources of information; including radar scanners, fishfinders, video cameras, weather data receivers, inverters and satellite music services. Networks feature plug-and-play high-speed connections, which simplify wiring and installation. Plugging in a new device, like a radar dome, is simple, as the network recognizes the new peripheral and assigns it an IP address. Systems that use one display only include the Raymarine C Series. The most elaborate networks use “Network” or “Multifunction Displays". Multiple steering stations are perhaps the best use of multifunction network navigation displays. Garmin, Raymarine and Furuno offer excellent systems that allow you to share information between displays; say between the pilothouse and the flybridge. This ability to network, and have a display provide multiple functions, is a great reason to consider networked units.

    Several of these can be connected at different locations on a larger boat, and each display is capable of showing any or all of the data independently. Garmin’s 4000 Series Networking Chartplotters, the Raymarine E Series and the Furuno NavNet all provide the ultimate in networked systems. Using network hubs like the Network Port Expander or the West Marine PAS-Thru Box, these systems can be customized with just about any desired combination of displays, receivers and sensors. Raymarine systems also allow networking of their instruments and autopilots. Our Technical Sales staff at 1-800-BOATING can help you customize a networked system to meet your requirements, order all the cables, mounts and other components at once, and possibly save some money on package deals.

    Internal or external antenna
    Many receivers are sold in two versions, with either an internal antenna for use in open-cockpit boats (where the receiver has a good view of the sky), or an external antenna (with a cable between 20 and 30ft. long) so the GPS can be mounted below deck. A boater with a center-console or a bass boat, for example, might select a combination chartplotter/fishfinder with an internal antenna, which would save space on a small instrument console.

    Conclusion
    The U.S. military invested billions of dollars building NAVSTAR (the official name for the GPS system) for military purposes and created the world’s greatest navigation system for civilian use as an afterthought. Okay, it did cost $14 billion to create the system and launch the satellites, but now we get to use the satellites essentially for free.

    Permalink
  • Selecting Marine Cabinet Hardware

    Selecting Marine Cabinet Hardware

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    Marine cabinet hardware is all of the little metal stuff that allows you to build boat cabinetry. Most of these items are smaller than household items, and made from corrosion-resistant materials like brass, chrome plated brass, or stainless steel.

    Marine locks are very similar to steel locks used on land except that they are generally corrosion resistant and made from brass or bronze.

    A common option is to have keyed alike locks so that all lockers in the cockpit, the dock box, and the companionways can all use the same key. It is also common for the boat in the next slip to have the same locks. We also stock some door hardware with built-in locks. They include a doorknob and catch, and are either set into the door or mounted on the surface of the door. They are made of chrome-plated brass and look like they belong on a boat.

    There are many hinges to select from, and the function of a hinge should be obvious.

    Several are unique and noteworthy:
    Piano hinges are long, continuous lengths of material that are good for tables, hatches, dock boxes, and anywhere where two long surfaces meet.
    Take-apart hinges have a removable hinge pin that is spring loaded, so the two hinged items can be disconnected easily. These can be used on a companionway ladder, for example, that needs to swing up or be completely removed.
    Offset hinges have one side larger than the other, with a right angle built-in. When the hinge is opened all the way, the two sides are not flush with each other, so the hinge can be opened wide without binding on itself.
    Finally, there is a great deal of cabin hardware used in a variety of applications onboard.

    Product Selection
    Catches are used to secure cupboard or locker doors. They consist of two parts: a latch or pin (on the door), which snaps into a receptacle or socket (on the doorframe). Their snap-in/snap-out nature makes them less secure relative to latches, bolts, or hooks.

    Hasps have a hinged plate with a slot that fits over a raised eye. When the plate is folded over the eye, it can accommodate a padlock and secure a hatch, door, or locker.

    Door hooks consist of a hook and an eye, and are used to hold doors closed and to keep an open door from banging around.

    Door latches include a knob and a catch, and help keep cabin doors secure. There are several variations on this concept:

    Rim latch/lock sets are mounted on the surface of the door.
    Mortise latch/lock sets are set into the door.
    The strike is the plate installed on the doorjamb that has a hole to accept the latch when it is extended. Box strikes mount on the surface of the doorframe. Flush strikes are inset into the doorframe.

    The case is the housing for the lock and/or latch. The escutcheon is the decorative plate mounted on the exterior side of the door.

    Barrel bolts consist of two parts: a sliding bar that attaches to the door and a receptacle that attaches to the doorframe. When the bolt slides into the receptacle, it creates a very secure closure, as the bar is held captive and cannot slide out accidentally.

    Corner braces are the nautical equivalent of L-brackets, and are used to help suspend tables, counters, and other platforms at a right angle to the mounting surface.

    Table brackets are similar to corner braces, but they consist of two pieces so the suspended object (most likely a table) can be removed if necessary.

    Doorknobs are through-bolted or screwed into doors or drawers to help get them open.

    Flush handles have a hinged handle that falls flat into a recessed base when not in use, so that the surface is flush when it is not in use. The lack of a projecting handle prevents gear and/or people from getting snagged.

    Ring pulls are similar to flush handles, but they consist of simply a small hinged ring rather than a substantial handle. They are used to open small compartments only.

    Most items in this category are considered light-duty closures, and are suitable for securing interior doors, cabinets, etc. Most (with the possible exception of hasps and some grab handles) should not be considered for external doors where security is a consideration. All are sized to handle modest loads and secure relatively lightweight objects. Make sure you do not overestimate the capacity of these fastenings.

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    View our current selection of Cabinet Hardware.

    Permalink

New Products

  • Save Big With 10 New Raymarine System Packs And Rebates - While they last!

    Wow - Want to save big on Raymarine Marine Electronics? Boater Heavens’ favorite boating supplier West Marine has put together 10 new compelling Raymarine System Packs which include a variety of A, C and E Series displays coupled with GPS, Fishfinders, Radome Radars, VHF Radios and more - Now is the time to get exactly what you want at a price that simply cannot be beat.

    Take a look below at the 10 Hot Raymarine Package Deals - All have multiple additional rebates available if you purchase now. But hurry, you don’t want to miss the boat on these incredible deals.

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    RAYMARINE
    C70/2KW Radome Radar System Pack
    Only $1899 USD - Plus $150 in Rebates = $1649!

    C70 System Pack

    Includes: C70 Display, 2kW 18″ Radome Antenna, Raystar 125 GPS Sensor & Navionics Chart.
    Start your Raymarine network with this high-performance C70 Radar package

    This money-saving package combines a C70 multifunction display with a compact and lightweight 2kW 18″ radome antenna for high performance radar navigation with up to a 24 nautical mile range. The brilliant 6.5″ sunlight-viewable color display forms the heart of your C-Series system. Split-screen capability enables data from three sources (GPS/chartplotter, radar and fishfinding sonar) to be displayed simultaneously. The new receiver and antenna design deliver improved sensitivity, signal to noise ratio, and a lower overall receive noise figure. It has an improved radiation pattern and transmitter/receiver that provides enhanced target returns though every range scale. With MARPA target tracking, Radar/chart overlay, automatic control of gain, sea clutter and tune, you get optimum performance with hands-off operation.


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    RAYMARINE

    C120 Chartplotter System Pack with DSM & GPS

    SOLD OUT

    C120 System Pack

    A complete navigation, chartplotting and fishfinding system for your boat can now be assembled for hundreds less, with this attractive package from Raymaraine. It Includes a C120 brilliant 12.1″ full-color multifunction display, a Raystar 125 GPS receiver and a DSM300 Digital Sounder Module for high-definition digital fishfinding. Get complete navigation and control with with inputs for GPS sensor, radar, digital sounder module and SIRIUS Marine Weather, C-Series Multifunction Navigation Displays are easily transformed into a powerful all-in-one chart/radar/sounder system.

    * Raymarine’s patented HD Digital fishfinder (transducer not included)
    * Hands-free HD Digital technology
    * HD Digital adaptive receiver technology targets fish and bottom structure
    * 600 or 1000 Watt power output with dual frequency 200/50 Khz operation.

    Check Out This Secret Deal!

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    RAYMARINE
    Raymarine E120 Multifunction System Pack
    Only $4749.00 USD Plus $150 in Rebates = $4599.00

    E120 System Pack

    Whether you’re outfitting a new boat, or refitting an old one, the Raymarine E120 System Pack is the perfect starter pack for building your E-Series dream system! This exceptional system pack includes the E120 LCD 12.1″ display, DSM300 Sounder, RayStar 125 GPS sensor, Ray218 VHF, Coupler and 5M SeaTalk HS Cable.

    Start with Raymarine’s award winning Ultra Sunlight Viewable E120 Display. Its 12.1 ” LCD display provides a crisp, clear image under even the harshest lighting conditions. Using the WAAS enabled Raystar 125 GPS Sensor and Navionics Platinum Cartography (Charts purchased separately), the E120 opens up a whole new world of GPS navigation with stunning 3D chartplotting, aerial photo overlays, panoramic photos and more.

    Connect the DSM300 and experience Raymarine’s patented HD Digital™ Technology for yourself. With up to 1000 watts (RMS) of power output and Digital Signal Processing, the DSM300 delivers you a crystal clear view of fish, bottom structure and more!

    This system pack also includes the powerhouse Ray218 VHF Radio. This Class-D Digital Select Calling VHF radio will get you heard loud and clear with outstanding features like an integrated 30 watt loudhailer with fog signals, optional RayMic second station control, and fully programmable scanning.

    Save Big On This E Series Package Deal!

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    RAYMARINE INC.
    Raymarine E80 Multifunction System Pack with DSM 300 And RayStar 218 VHF
    Only $3769.00 Plus $150 in Rebates = $3619.00 USD

    E80 System Pack

    Raymarine’s most powerful multifunction displays, Raymarine E-Series delivers chartplotter, fishfinder, radar, and video in an easy to use networked navigation system. Featuring ultra bright displays, a customizable navigation interface, and super-fast networking, E-Series sets the new standard for integrated marine electronics.

    Package Includes:
    * Raymarine E80 Display
    * RaySTar 218 VHF Radio
    * DSM 300 Digital Sounder Module

    Check Out the Full Details and Buy it Here

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    RAYMARINE
    A65 6.5″ GPS/ Chartplotter/Fishfinder System Pack

    Your Price! $1749.99 Plus $350 in Rebates = $1399.99

    A65 System Pack

    Premium fishfinding and chartplotting, all in one convenient and cost-saving package

    Pairs the A65 stand-alone dual function chartplotter with the DSM25 Digital Sounder Module, a transom-mount transducer and the RayStar 12 GPS receiver to get premium fishfinding and chartplotting, all in one convenient and cost-saving package. The package also includes coastal coverage of the U.S. on a Navionics Silver Compact Flash card to get you out on the water quickly. Seamless chart technology gives you a clear view of detailed charts without clutter and includes tides, currents, shaded depth contours, navigation aids, spot soundings and more. A direct sunlight viewable color TFT display, intuitive keypad and the twist n’ click rotary control makes the compact A65 extremely easy to use. Plus, you can store unlimited waypoints and routes using blank CompactFlash cards. With the DSM25 Digital Sounder Module included, the A65 is transformed into a dual function chartplotter with digital fishfinder. HD Digital™ adaptive receiver technology precisely targets fish and bottom structure with amazing clarity so you can enjoy hands-free operation and sharp, clear returns. The A65 is also Navionics XL3 Gold chart and Hot Maps compatible.

    * 6.5″ diag. sunlight viewable color TFT screen with 640 x 480 resolution
    * 12-channel WAAS/EGNOSS receiver
    * Waypoints and Routes: 1000/50
    * 2000′ max. depth and 500W RMS transmit power
    * Transom mount transducer included
    * Includes Navionics Silver cartography for U.S
    * A65 dimensions: 7.83″H x 11″W x 3.11″D
    * Included Equipment: DSM Digital Sounder Module, transom mount transducer, RS12 GPS Sensor with 10m cable, Navionics US coverage chart card (US Models Only), mounting bracket and hardware, NMEA input/output cable, DC power cable, suncover and guides
    * Waterproof: Manufacturer rated IPX-7 submersible
    * Warranty: Two years


    Check It Out Here!

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    RAYMARINE
    A60 Chartplotter-Fishfinder System Pack
    Only $999.99 USD Plus $200.00 in Rebates = $799.99

    A60 System Pack

    The A60 Chartplotter/Fishfinder system pack is a compact, yet powerful navigation system that combines simplicity with advanced chartplotting and HD Digital™ fishfinder technology. A direct sunlight viewable display and rugged submersible construction make the A60 the perfect fit for center consoles and open cockpits.

    Best of all, the A60 Chartplotter/Fishfinder system pack comes complete with A60 display, Navionics Silver charts Continental U.S., RS12 GPS sensor, DSM25 sounder module and a transom mount transducer.

    * 5.7” Sunlight Viewable color display
    * 320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)
    * Prismatic light enhancing display with a wide viewing angle
    * Rugged submersible construction (IPX-7 standard)
    * Standard yoke mounting bracket (optional console mount)
    * RS12 12 Channel Satellite GPS receiver
    * NMEA 0183 Input and Output
    * Plug and Play DSM25 Digital Sounder Module

    Check Out This Great Deal Now

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    RAYMARINE
    SmartPilot S1 Sailboat System Packs
    From $2449.99 USD + $100 Rebate

    SmartPilot System Packs

    4 Packs To Choose From!
    All-in-one box packages designed for sailboats under 20,000lb. displacement

    Raymarine has replaced the ST5000 Autopilots with a new, advanced line of pilots called SmartPilots. With the SmartPilots, you get all the features of a high-end autopilot for much less. With a SmartPilot you can stay right on course when the going gets rough with Fast Trim, control the way the pilot steers your boat with Sensitivity Response and make cross-track error a thing of the past by interfacing your pilot to an onboard GPS. The S1G models offer built-in rate-gyro for improved performance and handling, and also offer stabilized heading information for your radar or chartplotter. In addition G-Series Autopilots: maintain a razor sharp course with Advanced steering technology, set your pilot up for optimum performance using AutoLearn that automatically learns your boat’s handling characteristics and provide accurate rate gyro stabilized heading information to radar and chart. These all-in-one box packages are designed for sailboats under 20,000lb. displacement and include an S1 or S1G core pack, control head and a Type 1 linear drive unit. ST6002 models have the ST6002 Control Heads that match ST60 instruments. ST8002 models have the new ST8002 control head with the simple to use rotary style control knob.

    * Fluxgate compass included
    * Repeats Shallow Water, MOB, and other alarms from SeaTalk devices
    * Display - 4.33″W x 4.53″H x 1.62″D(ST6002) or 6.7″W x 4.5″H x 1.6″D (ST8002);
    * Course Computer - 8.6″W x 6.7″H x 2.2″D;
    * Fluxgate compass - 3.0″W x 3.0″L x 2.28″H;
    * Rudder Reference Transducer - 6.96″L x 2.4″H x 2.76″W
    * Seven configurable instrument/nav pages

    See all SmartPilot S1 Sailboat System Packs Here

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    RAYMARINE INC.
    SmartPilot X-10 Sailboat System Pack
    Only $3999 USD
    SmartPilot X-10 Sail Pack

    SmartPilot X-10 Sailboat System Pack

    Raymarine has replaced its S1 system pack for this smarter, powerful and colorful autopilot for sailing vessels. A complete system in one box, SmartPilot X-10 Linear includes a SmartPilot X-10 course computer, ST70 color autopilot control head, fluxgate compass sensor, and Type 1 linear drive. It offers super efficient operation and accurate tracking in the most challenging conditions.

    Enjoy razor-sharp course keeping thanks to SmartPilot X-10’s integrated rate-gyro sensor and advanced SmartSteer software algorithms. Set your pilot up for optimum performance using AutoLearn and it automatically learns your boat’s handling characteristics. Autopilot setup and operation is simplified with the new ST70 autopilot control head’s icon and menu-driven interface.

    * The bright sunlight viewable color display offers intuitive graphical displays of autopilot status, plus an innovative 3D steering display
    * The Type1 linear drive provides powerful thrust, fast hard over times, quiet operation, and minimal current consumption
    * Includes interface ports for Raymarine SeaTalk, SeaTalk, NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 networks
    * Designed for mechanically steered sailing vessels up to 22,000lb displacement

    Get Your SmartPilot X-10 Sailboat System Pack Here

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    RAYMARINE
    SmartPilot X-10 Powerboat System Pack
    From $3235.00

    SmartPilot X-10 Power Boat System Pack

    Raymarine’s new SmartPilot X-10 delivers razor-sharp course keeping under any conditions thanks to its integrated rate-gyro sensor and advanced SmartSteer software algorithms. The all new, smarter X-10 course computer does not require a rudder reference sensor, simplifying installation and making the X-10 an outstanding choice for today’s modern outboard systems, including Mercury Verado system (optional hydraulic hose kit required. See below.) Includes interface ports for Raymarine SeaTalk, SeaTalkng, NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 networks. Setup and operation is a breeze with the new ST70 autopilot control head’s icon and menu-driven interface. Complete system includes the ST70 Color Autopilot Controller, SmartPilot X-10 course computer, fluxgate compass and a Type 1 hydraulic drive unit. Designed for hydraulically steered outboard or inboard powerboats with ram capacities from 4.9 to 14 cubic inches.

    Features:

    * Zero-speed trolling
    * Nine fully programmable fishing patterns; including circles, spirals, cloverleaf, figure-8, lazy-S, zigzag, box, box pattern search, and 180 or 360 degree turns.

    Save Today on The SmartPilot X-10 Powerboat System Pack
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    RAYMARINE
    S1 Wheel Pilot & ST60 Plus Depth/Speed/Wind System Pack
    Clearance Priced!
    SOLD OUT

    S1 System Pack

    Autopilot plus transducers = a money-saving package

    A complete Raymarine autopilot system with all the transducers and cabling required, in one economical package. System pack includes the S1 Wheel Pilot and the ST60 Plus Depth/Speed/Wind Pack. The complete ST60 pack has all three displays and transducers for the ST60 Plus Wind, ST60 Plus Speed and ST60 Plus Depth instruments, plus all the cabling you need to install them. Depth and Speed transducers are thru-hull type, and you get the standard masthead wind transducer. A great way to equip your boat.

    Get The S1 Wheel Pilot & ST60 Plus Depth/Speed/Wind System Pack and Save!

    ———————————————————————-

    See All Raymarine System Packs Here

    See all Raymarine Rebates Currently Available

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Tips and Advice

  • Boater's Winterizing Checklist

    Winterizing Checklist

    Find all of your winterizing products at West Marine

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    • Engine and Gear Train
    • Stuffing Boxes
    • Steering
    • Batteries
    • Generators & Electric Motors
    • Electrical Circuits
    • Interior
    • Stoves
    • Electronics & Electrical Circuits
    • Marine Sanitation Devices
    • Freshwater Systems
    • Potable Water System
    • Pumps
    • Seacocks
    • Hydraulic Systems
    • Wood, Composite & Alloy Items
    • Running Rigging
    • Spars & Standing Rigging
    • Winches, Windlasses &
    Deck Hardware
    • Roller Reefing Gear
    • Sacrificial Anodes
    • Recommissioning




    You probably heard that “no use is abuse” when it comes to boats. The truth is that only regular use will uncover potential problems in their early stages so preventive maintenance/repair/replacement can be done with relatively little effort and at low cost. Another good excuse to apply some TLC to your vessel is the winter haulout. Beat the crowds in spring and do some work before you close the cover (or the barn door) for a few months. This winterizing checklist was inspired by Nigel Calder’s invaluable Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (Model 7103625) and by the suggestions of the folks at Philbrook’s Boatyard in Sidney, BC, on Vancouver Island.

    Regular Care

    For boats that are kept in the water we suggest a care schedule during the winter months that includes regular security and systems checks. If you are away, make a point of having someone drop by and check the condition of shore power connections, mooring lines, fenders and boat canvas / covers. Also, check the condition of shore power lines (feel for warm plugs or hardened points near connectors). Run the engine(s) for an hour every month. Take the time to check fuses and any operating electrical equipment, open the bilges and cycle the bilge pumps to ensure operability.

    Replacements

    Each spring, boatyards and suppliers are swamped with yachts and owners looking to have equipment replaced. In most cases, the equipment didn’t function as well as it should, or the owners saw new equipment that worked better during the last season or at a boat show. You can avoid the rush by replacing old and malfunctioning equipment with new and properly installed items during the winter months so it can be tested before shoving off for your next cruise.

    Engine and Gear Train

    Change the engine oil, transmission oil and antifreeze.
    Replace fuel and oil filters.
    Add oil stabilizer.
    Drain the raw water system, taking particular care to empty all low spots. Remove rubber pump impellers, lightly grease with petroleum jelly and replace. Leave the pump cover screws loose so that impellers won’t stick in the pump housings. Run the engine for a few seconds to drive any remaining water out of the exhaust. Wash salt crystals out of any vented loops.
    Replace water with engine antifreeze.
    Check the primary fuel filter and fuel tank for water and sediment.
    Keep a diesel tank full to cut down on condensation. Run gasoline tanks down to a minimum amount of fuel and add fuel stabilizer. (Note: Modern fuels lose their octane ratings when stored, which can cause engine damage.)
    Squirt some oil into the inlet manifold and turn the engine over a few times (without starting) to spread the oil over cylinder walls.
    Drain crankcase oil and replace.
    Replace lower unit gear lube.
    Lubricate all grease points: tilt/trim, steering, control cables, etc.
    Remove and inspect spark plugs.
    Inspect ignition wires and system components. Replace as necessary.
    Use an engine flusher to remove salt, silt and sediment from engine’s lower unit.
    Remove the inner wires of all engine control cables from their outer sheaths; clean, inspect, grease, and replace. Check the sheathing.
    Seal all openings into the engine (e.g., air, inlet, exhaust) and the fuel tank vent. Put a conspicuous notice somewhere so you remember to unseal everything at the start of next season.
    Inspect all hoses for signs of softening, cracking and/or bulging.
    Clean and degrease engine.
    Apply touch-up paint as needed.
    Spray corrosion inhibitor on engine exterior.
    If hauling out: Check for propeller blade misalignment and cutless bearing wear; tighten any strut mounting bolts; inspect stainless steel prop shafts for crevice corrosion; remove prop nut and check under it.
    Store prop indoors.


    Stuffing Boxes

    If hauling out, repack.
    If wintering in the water, tighten down to stop any drip.
    Be sure to loosen before reusing the propeller or the shaft will overheat.


    Steering

    Cable Steering:

    Remove cables from conduits, then clean, inspect, grease, and replace them.
    Also check sheave mountings and clean, inspect and lubricate cable ends.


    Rack-and-Pinion Steering:

    Remove top plate and input socket screws; clean, grease and replace.


    Hydraulic Steering:

    Top off fluid and check all seals and hoses for leaks and/or damage.


    Batteries

    Bring to a full charge.
    Equalize flooded batteries.
    Top up.
    Clean the battery tops.
    Unless the batteries are being properly float charged (via a solar panel or battery charger with float regulation) remove from the boat and store in a cool, dry place.
    Bring flooded batteries to a full charge once a month.


    Generators & Electric Motors

    Clean and spray with moisture dispelling aerosol (e.g. WD-40).
    Spray brush springs.
    Lubricate fittings where necessary, especially the starter motor pinions.


    Electrical Circuits

    Clean corrosion off all terminals and connectors, protect with petroleum jelly or a shot of WD-40.
    Inspect all outlets, especially the external AC shore power socket.
    Check coax connectors for water ingress. Repair as necessary and reseal.


    Interior

    Clean and drain bilge completely.
    Inspect and lubricate all seacocks.
    Clean out refrigerator, ice box and freezer. Block door open and leave an open box of baking soda inside to absorb odors.
    Remove cushions and curtains and store ashore.
    Check and clean all storage compartments.
    Secure all hatches and ports.
    Place an appropriate number of dehumidifying devices or a thermostatically-controlled heater in safe areas away from combustible materials.
    Check to make sure ventilators are operating properly.


    Stoves

    Drain a little fuel from kerosene and/or alcohol tanks and check for water and contaminants.
    Close LPG or CNG gas valves at the cylinder.
    Renew filaments on filament-type igniters at least every two years.


    Electronics & Electrical Circuits

    Remove electronic equipment to a warm, dry place.
    Clean corrosion off all electrical terminals and connections and protect with petroleum jelly or a shot of WD-40 or other moisture-dispelling aerosol.
    Pay attention to all external outlets, especially the AC shore power socket.


    Marine Sanitation Devices

    Empty waste holding tank at an approved pumpout facility.
    Rinse holding tank thoroughly to remove residual waste.
    Drain and/or pump system with 30% to 50% antifreeze.
    Lubricate gaskets and seacocks.
    Check hoses for calcification and signs of wear. Replace as necessary.
    Wash out vented loops.
    Fill discharge and intake hoses with antifreeze.
    Add antifreeze to holding tank to prevent freezing of residual waste.


    Freshwater Systems

    Pump out and clean tanks.
    Drain system and/or pump through a 30% to 50% propylene glycol antifreeze solution.
    Use a water heater bypass, if applicable.


    Potable Water System

    Drain water from all freshwater system lines and pumps.
    Inspect pump impellers for wear and lightly lubricate with Teflon®-based grease.
    Inspect hoses for signs of softening, cracking, bulging, leaks or pinholes and replace, if necessary, before filling lines.
    Inspect hose clamps and replace if necessary.
    Fill all plumbing system lines with nontoxic propylene glycol-based antifreeze.
    Before recommissioning your vessel, add water freshener/ purifier tabs to freshwater tank to remove residual odors and condition newly added water.


    Pumps

    Drain and/or pump through a 30% to 50% solution of antifreeze.
    Inspect all vanes, impellers etc. for wear and check for shaft seal leaks.
    Remove flexible impellers, lightly grease (with a Teflon-based grease), and reinstall.
    Leave covers loose, tighten when recommissioning.
    If wintering in the water, check the bilge pump float switch, wiring, switch and battery charge.


    Seacocks

    If hauling out, pull and grease all seacock plugs if possible.
    Dismantle and grease gate valves.
    If wintering in the water, close seacocks (except cockpit drains) and closely inspect cockpit drain hoses and clamps.


    Hydraulic Systems

    Drain a little fluid and check for water or other contaminants.
    Top up as necessary.
    Check all hoses and seals for signs of damage or leaks.


    Wood, Composite & Alloy Items

    Check and caulk windows and hatches.
    Repair stanchions, grab- and handrails.


    Running Rigging

    Wash all blocks.
    Disassemble and clean where possible
    Hot water and vinegar will remove stubborn salt deposits.
    Lubricate and re-assemble.
    Wash synthetic lines with mild detergent.


    Spars & Standing Rigging

    Wooden Spars:

    Wash and inspect for signs of rot especially around fasteners and halyard exits.
    Seal bare spots even if you plan on varnishing or painting.


    Aluminum Spars:

    Wash and inspect for signs of corrosion, distorted mast walls (around spreader base), crazing, hairline cracks (around welds and cutouts).
    Remove and grease fasteners that shouldn’t seize up.
    Wax spar before storing.


    All Spars:

    Withdraw mast tang bolts and check for crevice corrosion.
    Remove boots or covers from spreader tips.
    Remove and inspect head box sheaves, lubricate and replace.
    Remove turnbuckle boots and tape, undo all turnbuckles, clean, inspect and lubricate.
    Inspect clevis pins.
    Tape over the split ends of cotter pins.
    Inspect swages for hairline cracks.
    Wash all rigging.
    Do not store stainless steel wires against aluminum spars.


    Winches, Windlasses & Deck Hardware

    Strip down, clean and lubricate all winches.
    Closely inspect pawls and pawl springs.
    Check windlass lubricant for water contamination and replace if necessary.
    Crank windlass over to spread lubricant around.
    Remove rope drum and gypsy to lubricate clutches and shafts.
    Check fasteners on all deck hardware.
    Inspect the caulking for damage which may result in leaks.


    Roller Reefing Gear

    Flush all open bearings with warm fresh water.
    Relubricate as instructed by the manufacturer and turn bearings to spread lube around.
    Wash extrusions and apply wax.
    Pay attention to the joints.
    Don’t leave the sail on, store it indoors for the winter.


    Sacrificial Anodes

    Inspect and replace all zincs as necessary (hull, rudder, engine shaft, engine cooling system, refrigeration condenser, etc.)


    Recommissioning

    Check the lay-up list and complete what hadn’t been done.
    Observe and obey all conspicuous reminder notes and envision places where they should be but maybe aren’t (plugged-off engine air inlets, exhausts, overtightened packing nut in the stuffing box, empty hot water tank etc.)
    Check hoses and thru-hull connectors.
    Undo the hose clamps a turn or two to check for corrosion of the band inside the screw housing.
    Check refrigerant on refrigeration systems. Engine-driven compressors may have dried out and become leaky during a long period of being shut down.
    Exercise the switches by turning them off and on a few times. This helps clean off the surface corrosion on terminals.
    Open and close seacocks.
    Spin blocks and windlasses.
    Turn the steering wheel from side to side to check for stiff spots or binding.
    Spin the drum and halyard swivels on roller reefing systems.
    Tighten down all flexible impeller pump housings.
    Prime centrifugal pumps.
    Once in the water allow wooden hulls to settle for a few days, then check engine alignment.

    Permalink
  • Selecting a Handheld VHF Radio

    Selecting a Handheld VHF Radio

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    What they do
    Handheld VHF radios allow short-range portable two-way voice communication between boats without depending on the ship’s power or antenna systems. With nearly all of the features of a larger fixed-mount radio, handhelds offer superior convenience in conditions where a fixedmount might be unavailable. They’re ideal for dinghies that need to keep in touch with the “mother ship” or small boats that don’t have electrical systems or room for a fixed-mount radio. Onboard large boats that require the operator to be away from the primary helm position, such as sportfishers with towers or flybridges, handhelds act as a personal backup to the ship’s primary radio.

    Handhelds are limited to a transmit power of 6 watts, compared to 25 watts for fixed-mount radios. Remember, VHF range is more dependent on antenna height and antenna gain than on transmit power, so you can add significantly to your range by connecting an external antenna or by transmitting from the highest location available. For normal handheld use (@ 5W), figure on a 3-8 mile range from a small boat, compared to 15-20 miles with a fixed-mount radio (@ 25W transmit power.)

    How much difference does increased transmit power make? Very little on the range of the communications. ICOM states that by switching from 1 watt to 3 watts of output you may gain 10% in range, however battery life is dramatically reduced when you transmit at high power. The batteries in handhelds vary in capacity from about 500 mAh to 2000 mAh, and the current draw on high power transmit can be in the 2 amp range. This quickly depletes a battery if there is lots of conversation. Note: Radio manufacturers measure their battery life on a 90/5/5 basis: 90% standby, 5% receive, and 5% transmit at high power.

    Which receivers work best?
    Although the above limits on handheld radio performance—the limited transmitting power and the height of the antenna— are the most important, there may be significant differences in how well the receivers will work in a crowded anchorage. If you are using a handheld and someone is transmitting with full 25W fixed-mount power on an adjacent channel, your neighbor’s powerful signal could interfere with your conversation. Some radios offer better performance in filtering out these nuisance RF signals, referred to as intermodal rejection, or how well the radio hears only what it is supposed to hear.

    Another problem happens when boaters near you can pick up distant signals, but you can’t. Assuming that they are using their radio from a similar height (and there is no object like a cruise ship blocking your line-of-sight reception but not your neighbor’s) you may have a problem with the sensitivity of your receiver—how well the radio hears or how strong the signal must be to be heard.

    This year, we have started including these two specs, under the heading of Receiver Performance, for the radios we sell. Rejection is measured in decibels. Bigger numbers are good, and mean that the radio in question can filter out stronger nuisance signals. Sensitivity is measured in microvolts (µV@12dB SINAD), and smaller numbers are superior. Remember that the height above the water—of both the transmitting antenna and your receiving handheld— are the most important factors in receiver performance.

    Do you want a multi-band radio?
    The VHF band is, by law, intended for marine use only. Several radios, such as the Standard Horizon HX471 and West Marine VHF250, offer additional bands, notably the Family Radio Service (FRS) band for local land communication. The Icom M88 includes 22 free channels you can program for land mobile communication. Do you want to hear a baseball game or other commercial broadcast? The VHF250, HX471, and HX600 also receive AM/FM and aviation frequencies.

    Do you want weather alert?
    Many handhelds feature automatic weather alerts, which notify you when they detect a special weather warning signal from NOAA, to inform you about thunderstorms, tornados or other extreme weather. The Uniden MHS350 and Mystic, and the West Marine VHF 150 and 250 feature an improved weather alert function, Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E), so you only have to listen to alerts for localized weather in your area, not forecasts from many miles away.

    Is it easy to operate?
    Most radios are very similar in how they operate, and if you can operate one, you can operate any of them without taking a three-unit college course. But there are still important differences. For example, most LCD displays have small icons or indicators that denote the status of the radio (high or low power, keyboard lock, weather alert). Some of these icons are so small that you’ll need reading glasses (assuming you’re over 40) to see them. Avoid this dilemma by making sure you can read the display easily! Functions should be clearly labeled, and scanning functions should be easy to program and use. Select a radio that has clearly labeled buttons. Some products have buttons that are very hard to identify in poor light conditions, e.g. buttons on the side near the Push To Talk switch.

    Battery options to choose from
    Most handhelds are powered by rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. Both types are a huge improvement over the NiCad batteries that powered older generations of radios, because they do not develop “memory” problems that reduce their storage capacity and lifespan. Lithium Ion has the greatest energy density, producing exceptional battery life (up to 20 hours) even in compact radios. Some radios also offer the ability to operate on regular AA or AAA alkaline batteries, and include an alkaline battery tray. Alkalines have excellent energy capacity, shelf life and the ability to quickly “re-load” with fresh batteries. This is a great option for times when no charging source is available, such as in a life raft or during a weekend in a remote fishing location.

    We like radios that include lots of charging cradles, AC/DC chargers and battery trays as standard equipment. Selections vary tremendously, and one radio, the MHS350 includes two Lithium batteries.

    How waterproof is it?
    Our selection of handhelds falls into three rating classes of water-resistance. The inexpensive Atlantis 250 is rated as splash resistant (JIS-4). Most radios are manufacturer-rated to the JIS-7/IPX-7 standard, meaning they should withstand a 30-minute dunking under one meter of water and still operate. Icom’s new M72 is rated IPX-8, so it should be capable of being submerged for half an hour under 2.6m (8’) of water. This new handheld, with 6W of power and a large 2000mAh battery, is the first handheld built to this more stringent submersibility standard.

    We tested lots of radios for waterproofness in 2004 and found that not all of them actually met the waterproof standards the makers claimed for them. Subsequent changes to the design and production process of some handhelds seem to have cured the defects we identified. Just the same, if your life may depend on using a VHF radio to summon help, and there’s a chance of water exposure, buy and use a waterproof VHF bag, and test the bag frequently for damage. It’s cheap insurance.

    We are dedicated to improving the quality of the product we sell under the West Marine brand, as well as the other national brands. Please contact us with your product performance comments at gearfeedback@westmarine.com

    Conclusion
    Handheld VHF radios are valuable communications tools and can become essential in an emergency. Our selection ranges in price from under $100 to about $400 and includes a wide variety of features, so there is a handheld VHF radio to suit just about any boating style.


    ——————————————————————————–

    View the current selection of Handheld VHF Receivers at West Marine

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