Advice & Tips

-Electronics Pre-Season Check-Up
-Keeping Electronics Displays Clean
-Key Items for Your Ditch Bag
-Choosing The Right Radar
-Top 10 Accessories Boaters Forget
-Sound Advice on Fishfinders
-Understanding CHIRP Sounder Technology
-New Radar Technology
-Understanding AIS, Part 1
-Understanding AIS, Part 2
-Troubleshooting Checklist
-Mix & Match Electronics?
-Networking 101
-Marine Radar Basics
-Recommended Safety Gear


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Electronics Pre-Season Check-Up

In many areas of the country, boaters store their vessels over the winter and then — warmed by the spring thaw and anticipation — rush to prepare their boats ready for the upcoming season. This process, generally referred to as “Spring Commissioning,” often involves engine, cooling and fuel system preparations to ensure trouble-free boating.

“People should also pay attention to their boat’s marine electronics and electrical systems, because failures here are just as likely to ruin that first fishing trip or coastal cruise,” said Scott Heffernan, Sales Manager of The GPS Store, Inc. “A few basic steps and system checks can ensure smooth sailing not only on your first trip, but all season long. We hope this checklist helps our customers — and all boaters — get more fun out of their time on the water.”

    • Start at the Source. If your boat’s batteries are weak, not maintained or poorly connected, Good Batteries are Key nothing will work right. Visually inspect and test your boat’s batteries. Inspect and clean corroded posts and terminals, check for signs of leaking electrolytes. Check electrolyte levels and top off with distilled water. After fully charging, re-test after several hours. Healthy batteries at rest should read between 12.1 and 12.8 volts. If you have gel cell or AGM batteries, follow manufacturer’s inspection/maintenance guidelines

    • Beat Corrosion to the Wire. Dust, moisture and corrosion do their dirty work over the offseason, creeping into connections, splices and other weak spots. Check the condition of all connections to your marine electronics and secure as needed. Inspect wires for nicks, cuts or chafed insulation — all potential areas where corrosion can get a foothold. Pay particular attention to areas where wires may rub against wood, metal or fiberglass. Spliced wires — especially those covered with electrical tape — are key trouble spots. Not only are these entry points for corrosion, each extra splice or connection creates added resistance to current flow. Extra wire length, often tie-wrapped up and tucked away, has the same effect, and can hurt performance of your electronics. Minimize entry points for the elements and clean up wire runs. Inspect Your Fuses

    • Inspect All Your Fuses. This is one of the most common trouble spots when electronics fail. Visually inspecting and replacing any blown or suspect fuses before your first voyage is a cost-effective way to cut down on those “uh-oh” moments. Don’t forget to check all of your electronics’ in-line fuses, as well.

    • Clean, Organize Your Spots. At the end of each season, it’s not uncommon to end up with a chartplotter that’s plugged with track lines and MOBs from previous trips. Start the season by clearing these out. Fishermen frequently have a year’s worth (or more) of old user points/MOB entries clogging their waypoint list (didn’t I run over a fish once at this spot?). Use this time to clear out un-needed spots while recording and naming those that really matter. On the subject of plotters, this is a great time to update your electronic charts to the latest version. You’ll not only get the benefit of important Coast Guard Notice-to-Mariner corrections, you’ll often receive new data and features that have been added by the cartography companies – all at a reduced cost.

    • Check the Transducer. Transducer performance is key to echosounder performance, yet this “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” component is often overlooked. Fishfinder performance will suffer if transom-mounted transducers have been knocked crooked or not properly installed to shoot straight down. On either transom or thru-hull designs, check the transducer face for marine growth and ensure that paddlewheel speed sensors turn freely. Consider replacing if damaged — or use the opportunity to upgrade to new available technologies that can boost your sounder performance.

    • Have Spares Handy. While electronics malfunctions can put a damper Have Spares on any voyage or fishing trip, prepared boaters can often “save the day” by digging into their spare parts kit. A selection of glass and/or blade style fuses, assorted marine wiring connectors, heat shrink tubing, tie wraps, electrical tape, a multimeter, continuity tester and dielectric grease should be in every boater’s electrical “fix-it kit.”

    • Test everything before you go. Okay, this seems obvious — but you’d be surprised how many boaters don’t do this at home or at the marina before casting off. Power up all your electronics to make certain all systems are working normally. If you do find a problem, it will be much easier to diagnose and fix at home or the dock than out on the water. It’s a good idea to do this before every trip — not just the first one of the season — and to also test important systems like bait/bilge pumps.

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Smear Campaign”
Seven Strategies For Keeping Your Electronics Displays Clean

After a few coastal cruises or fishing trips, it’s not uncommon for the displays on a boat’s chartplotter, fishfinder, radar or Multi Function units to Baja Wipesend up covered with smudges, smears and fingerprints. And with manufacturers moving to touchscreen or hybrid touchscreen display technology, the need to keep screens clean will be even more important as boaters and fishermen routinely tap and drag their grimy digits across their boat’s numerous LCDs.


“Today’s color LCD displays are bigger, bolder and higher resolution than ever, and they provide an amazing amount of information to boaters. However, they can’t perform their best if they’re all dirty,” said Scott Heffernan, Sales Manager for The GPS Store. “This is an area of routine maintenance where many boaters look the other way; more willing to squint through the dirt or change their distance/viewing angle rather than address the problem. Keeping your boat’s displays clean isn’t rocket science — but you can actually cause permanent damage if you do it incorrectly,” added Heffernan.

Here are seven simple steps offered by Heffernan and The GPS Store team:

Mind your hands. Just making sure you wash, rinse or at least wipe off your hands before reaching for that knob, button or touchscreen display can go a long way to keeping things from getting dirty in the first place. This is especially true for anglers who’ve been handling bait or unhooking fish — but any boater has the capacity to smudge up screens with skin oil, sunscreen or just dirt picked up from boat surfaces.

Don’t wipe dry. Okay, we’ve all done it — grabbed the tail of our T-shirt, a used napkin from lunch or whatever happens to be handy to quickly wipe off anything from fingerprints to fish scales. Wiping a dry screen this way is a bad idea. Anything on the display — salt crystals, dust, scales — becomes an abrasive agent and can cause permanent scratching to the LCD surface. Considering that “handy” things are often already dirty and paper towels are made from wood pulp/fibers and are inherently abrasive, you can do more harm than good.

Use the right stuff. Internet message boards are full of “home remedies” for cleaning marine electronics displays — Windex, vinegar, furniture polish, metal polish (seriously). Do you really want to trust your high-dollar radar or sounder screen to something just because some stranger said it worked? Chemicals and abrasives can remove the UV coating from your unit’s display and/or leave residue. Several companies now make marine LCD cleaners designed especially for the job. One we carry is Electro Wipes by Baja Products (45 wipes plus buffing cloth sell for $9.95). Some electronics manufacturers offer their own branded cleaning solutions/products, and you can’t go wrong using these.

Use clean water in a pinch. If proper cleaning products aren’t available, clean, fresh water can be used to remove salt and grime before wiping. Use a fine-mist spray bottle or, in a pinch, gently dribble bottled water over the display from the top. Use a soft, cleanKeep The Screen Clean microfiber cloth to wipe clean.

Power down. Turn your electronics off when cleaning the displays. You’ll be able to see and remove all dirt and fingerprints better. In addition, heat from the displays can evaporate the cleaner before it can do its job. This is also a good reason not to clean your electronics in direct sunlight.

Easy does it. Don’t press down too hard when wiping LCD displays off, as this can cause damage and increase the chance of scratching if the screen or cloth is dirty. Re-apply cleaner or use additional specialized wipes on stubborn smudges, rather than bearing down.

Go undercover. Most electronics come with hard protective covers for storage — use them. If you clean your displays at the end of each trip, you’ll avoid letting dirt, skin oil or grime harden before the next trip. Pop the covers on after cleaning, and you can start your next trip with clean and clear displays.

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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Key Items for Your Boating Ditch Bag from The GPS Store, Inc.

Most experienced boaters have heard the stories of boating Ditch Bagdisasters — vessels capsizing, sinking suddenly or catching fire far from help and the reach of other boaters. These misadventures usually share a few things in common — the crews began the day without a care in the world and things — sometimes several things — went wrong quickly. And at that moment when you realize this really is happening to you, there is no amount you wouldn’t pay for the proper safety gear — particularly if you don’t have it.

“Safety gear — particularly modern rescue electronics — can literally make the difference between life and death,” said Scott Heffernan, Sales Manager for The GPS Store, Inc. “There are just as many stories with happy endings, where families were saved because they had planned for that worse case scenario by preparing a Ditch Bag with items to help them be found by rescuers quickly. If you sail, cruise or fish in the ocean, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to invest in your safety,” added Heffernan.

What is a Ditch Bag? Bags like the ACR RapidDitch Express are designed to keep safety electronics and survival gear organized and ready for immediate abandon ship situations. They are meant to “grab and go” when you have only seconds to get in the water or life raft. This floating bag and its contents then become your lifeline. If you ever do find yourself in this situation, here are some of the things you’ll be glad you have packed inside:

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon: EPIRBs like the ACR Global Fix Pro can be affixed on the vessel or carried in a ditch bag to notify Coast Guard and local Search and Rescue teams and provide your GPS position over two separate frequencies (406MHz and 121.5MHz, respectively). Some EPIRBS are meant to be manually deployed, while others activate automatically if the vessel sinks. These are PLBrequired equipment on many commercial and passenger vessels — for good reason.

Personal Locator Beacon: PLBs like the new ACR ResQLink are small but powerful rescue aids. Much like an EPIRB, it broadcasts a 406MHz satellite distress signal to the Coast Guard and a separate homing signal for local Search and Rescue authorities to pinpoint your position. The ResQLink is small enough to attach to a flotation vest, yet it boasts an accurate 66-channel internal GPS for precise positioning. Prepared boaters should have an EPIRB for the vessel and a PLB for each person aboard — as individual crew may end up miles apart in an emergency.

Emergency Handheld VHF: Standard Horizon’s HX870 handheld was designed for use in ditch bags, with a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) distress button and built-in GPS that alerts all DSC-equipped vessels in range with your position. This is vital, as nearby boats are your best shot at quick rescue. A full functioning waterproof VHF, the HX870 lets you talk with rescuers and other vessels. It also glows in the dark, includes a built-in strobe light that automatically activates when the radio gets wet, and it floats.

Light Yourself Up. Being rescued takes on a whole new sense of urgency in the dark. You must be seen to be found,ACR Rapidfire Light regardless of the electronic aids you have at your disposal. A stocked ditch bag should contain plenty of emergency strobe lights, like ACR’s RapidFire vest strobe. Designed to attach to each crewmember’s life jacket and activate with a pull-pin, this tiny light puts out a bright flash and operates for eight continuous hours — making a big difference in your chances for survival.

This is just some of the equipment that goes into a well-stocked ditch bag. Whistles and signal mirrors also help you get seen and heard by nearby boats and rescuers. Other items like water packs, flashlights, duct tape, glow sticks, protein bars and sunglasses can add to your comfort and safety. For more information on ditch bags and safety equipment, contact The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit

Some photos courtesy of ACR Electronics, Standard Horizon

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Understanding AIS, Part 1

Automatic Identification System – or AIS – is one of the hottest product categories in marine electronics. In recent years, most manufacturers have added AIS products to their recreational product lines, either as a "Stand-Alone AIS", "AIS/VHF Combo" or “Black Box” modules that have no displays of their own but provide AIS target information to compatible systems such as chartplotters, PCs and radar.

Standard Horizon GX2150

Some boaters were early adapters who immediately jumped on the AIS bandwagon. Many other boaters are still trying to figure out if AIS is something they really need and will make use of. One thing is certain, as AIS technology becomes widely available, more accepted and more affordable, it will find its way onto more vessels — especially as older marine electronics packages are replaced with new, integrated helm systems.

The experts at The GPS Store want to help boaters make informed decisions about AIS, to ensure they end up with a system that meets their needs and suits their boating lifestyle. We’ll start with some basic explanation of what AIS is and how it works, and then explore some of the practical applications uses of AIS for recreational boaters in Part 2.

What is AIS? Wikipedia defines AIS as an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and AIS Base stations. It also describes AIS as a supplement to marine radar for the purposes of collision avoidance. It does this by providing data such as unique ID, position, bearing, course, speed and other information to other AIS equipped vessels or land stations. This information also includes vessel size, destination and dangerous cargo, if any.

If you’re new to the AIS scene, you may be confused by talk of Class A and Class B AIS. Class A AIS is “commercial grade” equipment mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for international voyaging ships of 300+ tons and all passenger ships regardless of size. Although there is nothing preventing recreational vessels from carrying Class A AIS, expense is often a barrier — particularly considering the wide availability of affordable Class B systems that perform the functions most boaters need.

Class A systems must have an integrated display, cannot be made “silent” and transmit at 12W for an effective range of 40+ miles. Recreational Class B systems transmit at 2W for an effective maximum transmission range of five to 10 miles. Vessel owners can choose “receive only” Class B units or shut off their Class B transmitters, for occasions where they don’t want to broadcast their vessel’s data.

Both Class A and Class B units receive all types of AIS signals. Every AIS unit that transmits must be registered with the vessel’s Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI), a nine-digit ID number exclusive to each vessel.

To Send or Receive, That is the Question!
Boaters considering Class B AIS have to decide whether they desire a unit that sends and receives AIS signals (Class B AIS transceiver) or just receives (Class B AIS receiver). Both have safety benefits for recreational boaters. A receiver allows you to see and track AIS-equipped vessels in your area, providing the operator with improved situational awareness. A transceiver adds the ability for other AIS equipped vessels to see and track you — important for safe navigation, keeping vessels in group activities like tournament fishing or sailing regattas together, or for speeding aid to your position in emergency situations.

Sitex Meta-Data

The Right System for the Right Boat!
There are many options in Class B AIS — the right one for a given boat depends largely on where it will be installed and how it will be used. For smaller boats, a compact AIS module like the new SI-TEX Metadata — which is waterproof for flexible mounting — is inexpensive and ideal for integrating with existing navigation systems. It is available in both send/receive or receive only and features an internal 50-channel GPS smart antenna eliminating the need for an external GPS sensor. Hook this to a separate VHF antenna and onboard plotters, radar or PC with the built-in NMEA2000, NMEA013 or USB interface (which doubles as a power source for the module), and you have all critical AIS information available.

How you can view/use information provided by black box AIS units can vary based on the software in the device you’re connecting it to. You may only be able to view AIS “stick figures” and vessel information on the display, or you may be able to set up advanced functions like filtering of targets displayed by type and distance, or the ability to view AIS targets in different colors based by class of vessel. Boaters should investigate the AIS integration capabilities of their specific navigation systems, and check to see if any recent software updates have been issued by the manufacturer that could enhance these features.

Icom 500

Several manufacturers also offer standalone AIS units with dedicated displays – from basic monochrome LCDs to large color screens with high-detail charting capabilities. These require more installation room on the helm and cost more to purchase, but can offer more advanced AIS functions, such as the ability to monitor position, speed and heading of vessels on a “radar” style display with range rings, set alarms for Closest Point of Approach (CPA) and Time to Closest Point of Approach (TCPA), filter/analyze AIS target data, and more.

If you frequently fish or navigate in crowded shipping lanes or heavily trafficked commercial waterways and full-time, dedicated monitoring of all AIS targets is important to you, a dedicated Class B system with its own display may better meet your needs.

Part 2 of this series will examine some of the practical ways boaters can use AIS technology to improve safety on the water and enhance the boating experience.
To learn more about a wide array of AIS products from top manufacturers, visit or call The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611.

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Understanding AIS, Part 2

Automatic Identification System — or AIS technology — is finding its way onto more boats of all sizes. It is on its way to being considered standard electronic safety equipment for recreational cruisers, sailors and fishermen, and brings with it additional benefits to enhance the boating experience.

The influx of less expensive, smaller and simpler Class B AIS products from various manufacturers has helped bring AIS into the boating mainstream. A range of available “black box” AIS receivers/ transceivers and standalone AIS displays means there’s a way for all types of boaters to use and benefit from this technology.

In Part 1 of this AIS primer, we covered what Class A and Class B AIS is, how this technology works and different system options for commercial and recreational vessels. In Part 2, The GPS Store will examine some of the ways boaters can use recreational Class B AIS to improve safety and enhance enjoyment of their time on the water

See and Be Seen
At its heart, AIS is designed to let you see and identify vessels broadcasting an AIS signal in your vicinity — and lets them ”see” and identify your vesselCommercial Traffic when transmitting. This information can be viewed on dedicated displays, or in the case of black box AIS modules, overlaid onto other electronics. Since AIS operates on VHF frequencies, it can provide this information even when other vessels may be behind a low hill, hidden by a jetty or around the bend of a river.

Navigational Safety
AIS information provides navigators with the ability to see all commercial ship traffic in their vicinity (as well as recreational AIS-equipped vessels who are transmitting). This information can be used to improve situational awareness, especially when entering a crowded port or traversing busy shipping lanes in limited visibility conditions. AIS can help you verify radar targets by confirming vessel targets from among buoys and other objects. Expanded vessel information provides details like ship name, registry, size, destination, speed and bearing.

Nocturnal Activities
Here are just a couple of examples of how AIS can help you fish and boat more confidently at night or any low-visibility conditions. Swordfishing, sharking or tuna fishing often involves drifting for hours at night through commercial shipping lanes. AIS will alert you to large ships in the vicinity and can sound an alert based on established proximity alarms. This makes AIS a great addition to a boat’s radar at night, particularly as anglers inevitably catch a few Z’s as they’re waiting for a strike. When your AIS is transmitting, you can rest assured that commercial traffic is alerted to your vessel’s presence (commercial Class A AIS must always be on). Similarly, offshore fishermen who spend the night on the sea anchor will appreciate the extra awareness AIS creates for your boat and others.


Communicate With Targets
AIS can be integrated with DSC (Digital Selective Calling) VHF radio to allow DSC hailing directly to vessels broadcasting AIS. Standard Horizon’s award-winning GX2150 actually combines AIS and DSC VHF in one compact unit, and is a great way for small boats to benefit from AIS technology (data can be output to other electronics or viewed on the small built-in display). This combination allows for one-button DSC hailing to vessels – simply select the target and call. Commercial vessels are required by law to answer these calls; another way to verify that the freighter bearing down on you in the fog or darkness knows you’re there.

Track Friends
Some boaters use AIS to keep “tabs” on one another, whether sailing or cruising in a group or fishing in a “team tournament” situation. AIS equipped boats have the ability to “see” one another through their electronics – and in the case of certain AIS units – can be set up to specifically track a boat or group of boats. This is particularly useful when AIS data is overlaid onto a chartplotter providing mapping for the region — or on standalone AIS displays with charting capabilities. Long-distance cruisers can make sure the group stays together, and offshore fishing buddies can tell where their friends are hooking up. DSC radio communications with selected AIS targets allows for private conversations about fishing hotspots, off the open airwaves.

Emergency Situations
The ability to see and communicate with AIS-equipped vessels in your vicinity (typical range for Class B AIS is 5-10 miles; commercial Class A AIS reaches 40+ miles) offers obvious advantages if you ever find yourself in an on-the-water emergency. Your best chance for quick rescue often comes from other vessels in your area, and knowing who/where they are is helpful. So is the knowledge that other AIS-equipped vessels can “see” you when you’re broadcasting, as can land-based stations in range.

These are just some of the ways AIS technology can help recreational boaters and fishermen stay safe and enjoy their time on the water. We invite you to speak with the experts at The GPS Store to learn more about choosing and using the best AIS system for your boat and boating lifestyle.

To learn more about a wide array of AIS products from top manufacturers, visit or call The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611.

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Troubleshooting Advice From The Marine Electronics Experts at The GPS Store

If there’s one thing you can count on when it comes to boats, it’s those little technical glitches that throw a wrench into your plans for a carefree day of fishing or a relaxing coastal cruise. While extremely reliable, your boat’s marine electronics can also be effected by these same occasional “gremlins.” Fortunately, many common problems can be traced to simple, solvable issues that can easily be checked and remedied. Sometimes it’s simple user error. Other times there is a small issue that can be fixed on the spot. Or there could be a problem that requires professional service. By knowing what to look at first when problems occur — along with some of the common fixes — you’ll be ahead of the game.

As a nationwide NMEA-Certified dealer of marine electronics, the folks at The GPS Store, Inc. have helped customers with numerous issues. They field numerous phone calls from boaters, and are often able to point them to simple solutions. They offer this advice on checking “first things first” when encountering issues.

Begin with the Basics
If any marine electronics system fails to power up, start by checking the power connection at the unit and/or fuses. Many times the easiest answer is the right one. Likewise, if a sounder or other instrument powers up but shows nothing on the display, check the display brightness and/or contrast settings. These sometimes get purposely or accidently changed to the point where displays won’t be visible under different light conditions. If you’re not picking up targets you should be on a echosounder or radar, for example, check to see you’re on the right range settings and have the gain/sensitivity adjusted correctly. For dual-frequency sounders, make sure you’re in the proper frequency (200kHz for shallow water, 50kHz for 600+ feet).

Echosounder Issues/Things to Check First

If you experience sudden or gradual loss of bottom/speed readings:

  • Check transducer connection at the unit and/or condition of the cable for cuts, kinks or damage.
  • Check transducer for growth or fouling.
  • Make sure there are no thru-hull fittings, strainers, zincs or other hull irregularities creating aerated water ahead of the transducer.
  • If a transom mount, make sure transducer hasn’t been “kicked up.”
  • If using an in-hull transducer, check the fluid level in the transducer housing. Fluid is required for it to work, as it keeps air from getting under the transducer.
  • Check transducer’s paddlewheel speed sensor for growth, fouling or damage.


If you experience a weak display of fish targets or a cluttered screen:

  • Remove unit from Auto Mode and adjust gain settings for given conditions.


If you experience intermittent interruption of sounder display:

  • Check for possible Radio Frequency (RF) interference from other electronics by turning systems on and off. Unshielded LED lights can be an unexpected source, so check this first if the problem occurs only at night.


If you are picking up a second bottom reading between the surface and the real bottom:
  • This can be caused by a thermocline (hard edge where cooler/warmer water meet). Adjusting the gain settings lower should remove this.

GPS Chartplotter Issues/Things to Check First

If you experience temporary or permanent loss of position data:
  • Check GPS antenna connection at antenna base and unit.
  • Check power to antenna
  • Check for interference from other electronics (turn on and off).
  • Run a test mode to determine if satellites are being tracked (and how many).

If electronic charts don’t show up, or don’t present detailed information:
  • Make sure chart card is properly inserted with all contacts lined up.
  • Check for water intrusion/corrosion in chart door.
  • Check detail settings on the unit (vector charts are presented in multiple “layers” with the ability to turn chart details on and off) and adjust from least to most.
  • Check plotter menu settings for Navigation Chart vs. Fishing Chart.
  • Check with manufacturer/chart provider for software and/or chart updates.

VHF Radio Issues/Things to Check First

If you experience difficulties transmitting/receiving clearly:

  • RF interference from other electronics can interfere with transmissions. You may need to move/shield transducer cables or other wires.
  • Check antenna co-ax cable and connection point the VHF radio.
  • Check specifically for corrosion in the PL259 connector.
  • Check for low voltage (you should be getting 12-13.5 volts to the radio). Low voltage will effect high-power transmissions and will reduce ability to squelch out unwanted noise.
  • If having trouble conversing with a nearby boat, try switching to low power. You could be “shooting” transmissions over your target.

Radar Issues/Things to Check First

If your radar is non-operational:
  • Confirm voltage to radar.
  • Confirm that the array is spinning (remove cover on radome antenna).
  • Confirm that the radar is in transmit (TX) mode, not standby.

If your radar display is not showing targets it should:
  • Adjust gain settings; too high or too low can negatively effect performance.
  • If your radar has a Harbor Mode, use this to optimize targets during close-range navigation. Make sure it’s is off when navigating in open water.
  • Adjust range settings properly based your surroundings.
  • Adjust filters such as rain and sea clutter based on conditions.

Autopilot Issues/Things to Check First

If your autopilot fails to hold a course, fails to work in Nav Mode or steers abruptly or hesitatingly:
  • Make sure you take pilot off Manual/Standby.
  • Check for possible magnetic interference with system’s heading sensor/compass.
  • Check to ensure GPS/chartplotter is powered up; test connections between pilot and navigation unit for Nav Mode operation.
  • Check steering fluid levels in hydraulic pilot systems. Bleed all air out of the system and check for leaks.
  • If your pilot has a Rudder Feedback Assembly (not Virtual Feedback), check this for signs of water intrusion or mechanical linkage failures.
  • If problems persist, you may need to “re-tune” the pilot with dockside or on-water setup procedures per manufacturer’s recommendations.

“Do marine electronics ever break and require professional service? Of course, they do,” said The GPS Store spokesman Scott Heffernan. “Frequently, however, boaters can find and fix simple problems on their own and resume their day of fishing or boating. And it’s always smart to eliminate all the possibilities before pulling equipment off your boat or pulling your boat out of the water,” he added.

To learn more about choosing an using marine electronics from all leading manufacturers, visit or speak with the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611.

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“Choosing The Right Radar for Your Boat and Your Needs”

Boaters today have more choices than ever when it comes to radar technology for their boats. So it’s more important than ever that they choose wisely, for a couple of good reasons. First, radar represents a significant investment in equipment that boaters will likely live with for many seasons. Second, it’s an important piece of technology that, when properly used, has a direct role in safe navigation.

Boaters considering the purchase of a radar have to decide which of the many options is best for their vessel, their needs and their budget. This is where the guidance of an experienced boater and NMEA-certified expert can be immeasurably useful — helping boaters locate the radar that will satisfy their needs for the long run. Radar

“When I assist customers with the selection process, I begin by asking a series of questions that help us figure out what will best meet their needs,” said Brian Rock of The GPS Store. “While the best choice for any given boater isn’t always the biggest or most expensive system, you also don’t want to make a significant investment in technology that you’re going to outgrow as you gain more experience and spend more time on the water.”

Rock recommends asking yourself these five key questions when searching for a marine radar:

1. What will you use your radar for?
In addition to frequency of operation, you need to think about what you will be using your radar for. If your primary concern is navigating safely through occasional fog or leaving/returning to port in the dark, a less expensive radar dome will meet your needs. If your style of boating has you steaming at night (or any limited visibility conditions) through heavily trafficked waters, you’ll need to track multiple vessels and monitor their movement in relation to you. Features that enhance these capabilities should be high on your wish list. If you’re a serious offshore sportfisherman looking for flocks of distant birds, pinpointing other fishing vessels, or locating weather fronts between you and home, you’re going to prefer the range and target definition that a powerful open array system provides.

2. How often will you use your radar?
If you’re a casual boater or fisherman who isn’t often going to leave the dock before dawn or stay out overnight, one of today’s “basic” radar systems, or adding radar function to a multi-function system, will likely provide the performance you need. Likewise if you’re a “fair-weather boater” not predisposed to heading out in fog or approaching storms. Today’s entry-level radar options will help you navigate through an occasional surprise fog bank or find your way home after dark. On the other hand, if you are the type who cruises/fishes often at night and heads out come hell or high water, you’ll be using your radar more frequently. And you’ll naturally want and expect more features and capabilities from your radar as you gain more experience and confidence operating it.

3. Stand alone radar or multi-function system?
Furuno RadarAdding radar to one of today’s advanced multi-function navigation systems is an affordable and practical way to get color radar technology on your boat. There are pros and cons to going this route, and multi-function displays aren’t the best option for every boater. Using an MFD radar saves valuable helm space while providing a wide array of radar capabilities. It’s also a good choice if overlaying radar onto your electronic charts is important to you. On the minus side, operating the radar features is usually less intuitive than the controls of a dedicated radar. And if the MFD goes down for any reason, you’ve lost everything, including radar. If you boat frequently, are a heavy user of radar features and prefer to have a fully dedicated display (like many commercial users), a stand alone radar will likely satisfy your needs better.

4. How much space do you have?
Garmin With RadarAny boater’s wants, needs and desires have to be tempered with the reality of available space onboard. As much as you might want to pinpoint a single seagull at 30 miles, it’s not practical to mount a 4-foot open array antenna on a 20-foot center console (although it’s been tried). Whether open array or dome style, radar antennas need be free of obstruction and mounted above objects such as rod holders, life rafts, lighting, etc. This can often be achieved using aftermarket mounts designed for the purpose. You also need to consider the safety issue of radar scanner proximity/location to vessel occupants. Too many times we see boaters driving from upper stations with a radome humming away between their legs. We shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s a bad idea. Space considerations/mounting options at the helm also dictate the size/type of display you can use, and whether or not it makes sense to go the stand alone or Multi-Function Display (MFD) route.

5. How much do you want to spend?
This is one of the biggest questions boaters must face when choosing a radar. For most of us, it’s a significant investment, and budget limitations often end up being the great tiebreaker. You can add radar capability to many MFDs for about $1,000. Stand alone radars that will provide more features and menu options begin at around $1,200 and can go way up from there. The right amount to spend is whatever it takes to get the features that will matter most to you — without overspending on features you’ll rarely if ever use. Conversely, if you save money initially but quickly find yourself wanting/needing features your radar doesn’t deliver, you’ll quickly become dissatisfied. And buying something twice is never a wise business decision. If you and your dealer work as a team to figure out the answers to questions 1-4, you’ll have a much better idea what you really need. From there, it’s just a matter of narrowing down the brands/models that give you what you need at the best price.

Sitex Radar “Here’s an important piece of advice I tell all our customers, said Rock. “Whichever radar system you settle on, make sure to practice with the equipment often in clear, daylight conditions, using all the main functions and features. This is the best time to learn how to operate your radar, not when you need it for safety.”

The GPS Store sells a wide variety of radar systems from all major manufacturers such as Furuno, Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, and SI-TEX. Its trained staff is happy to help boaters select the best match for their needs, boating lifestyle and budget. Visit or call customer service at (910) 575-9544.

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Should You Mix & Match Marine Electronics, Or Get a Single-Species System”

There are plenty of marine electronics manufacturers to choose from and many buyers pick one, then stick with it. But could having a mix-and-match system be a good idea?

Choosing a marine electronics package from a single manufacturer seems sensible, yet most of us end up with mixed and matched systems at the helm. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Could an electronics system composed of multiple manufacturers actually be advantageous?


For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Top 10 Marine Electronics Accessories Boaters Forget to Buy”

While repeated trips to the neighborhood marine store are something all DIY boaters are familiar with...

Prior planning can cut down on wasted time and get you on the water faster. As a leading national retailer of marine electronics via the Internet, mail order and its Ocean Isle Beach, NC storefront, The GPS Store, Inc. is well versed in helping customers avoid such delays. Boating Magazine asked Sales Manager Scott Heffernan for his Top 10 items boaters forget when purchasing marine electronics.


For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Networking 101”

Today’s marine electronics are built for interfacing and/or networking. This is a good thing —the ability for products to “talk” with each other and share information makes for a better navigation experience. Radar targets or AIS data overlaid onto chartplotter displays, and GPS data helping to keep a boat’s autopilot steer to a waypoint are just a couple examples.

These same capabilities also provide boaters — especially those who aren’t particularly “techie” — with a confusing array of technologies, standards and terms to decipher, such as NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, Ethernet, CANBus, SeaTalk, SimNet and more. A boater looking to purchase new electronics — whether a single item or an entire new helm — can have a hard time figuring out what it all means.

To help de-mystify this process, the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. have provided the following guide to basic marine electronics communications and networking. “Probably the best thing a consumer can do is to speak with and work with a reputable dealer,” said The GPS Store’s Brian Rock, a graduate of National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) installation and networking courses. “In addition to official NMEA standards for networking and communications between electronics, boaters will also hear various “trade names” used by manufacturers to promote their networking systems. This can lead to even more confusion, and a certified dealer who represents all brands can help boaters navigate this maze,” added Rock.

NMEA Standards Overview
There are several standards boaters will face when researching marine electronics and how they might interface new and existing systems together. NMEA 0183 — This NMEA standard for instrument serial data exchange has been around more than two decades, and will continue to be used. In fact, a new, faster version (NMEA 0183HS) was introduced to handle data from increasingly popular AIS receivers. NMEA0183 specifies data be transmitted by a single device (like a GPS, echosounder, electronic compass) that is the “talker,” to multiple pieces of equipment (chartplotter, radar, etc.) that are the “listeners.” It allows once device to send information to many other devices, but it isn’t really a network, as it’s a limited, one-way street.

NMEA 2000 — A digital “backbone” able to connect as many as 50 devices, through which any connected device can transmit data or receive data. A true network, information is prioritized based on its type to ensure that critical information is delivered first. It was developed, in part, to standardize wire, cables and connectors to ensure easy integration of units from different manufacturers. NMEA 2000 is 50 times faster than NMEA0183, but it still too slow for video images (such as radar) and cartography.

Ethernet — Consumers are familiar with Ethernet through our high-bandwidth home and office computer networks, and at about 40 times faster than NMEA2000, it has important applications in marine electronics. Ethernet networks allow connected devices to share large volumes of complex data such as radar images, video feeds and cartography, but it cannot prioritize data. Another important point to remember about Ethernet connections on your marine electronics is that they are designed to connect components of the same brand — not to network machines of different manufacture.

Trade Names — Manufacturers often give “trade names” to their networking technologies and/or use differing connectors that can make true brand-to-brand networking more difficult. Here are a few examples of trade names and standards: Furuno NavNet (Ethernet), Furuno CANbus (NMEA 2000) Garmin Marine Network (NMEA 2000) Raymarine SeaTalk HS (Ethernet), Raymarine SeaTalk NG (NMEA 2000), Simrad SimNet (NMEA 2000).

NMEA OneNet — The NMEA calls this upcoming protocol “NMEA2000 on steroids,” because it’s designed to transport NMEA 2000 messages over Ethernet. Some manufacturers are already using Ethernet for video, along with proprietary messaging to add NMEA 2000 messages. Lack of standardization, however, leads to problems with interconnectivity. OneNet is still a future solution for this, slated for late 2014.

If you’re getting the idea that marine electronics networking is a moving target, you’re right. While the NMEA is constantly working with manufacturers to develop standardization of networking technology, cabling and connectors, manufacturers are primarily concerned with how their products connect and work with one another — and not necessarily those of their competitors. The reality is that boaters will be dealing with a “hodgepodge” of communications technology and networking solutions for some time to come. Today, it’s not uncommon to see Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) that provide several different data inputs to accommodate different networking technologies.

“If you are shopping for a new electronics package for your boat, there are some compelling reasons to go all one-brand,” said Rock. “Among them is that networking of major components like radars, plotters and sounders will be easier. That said, some boaters prefer to select specific systems from different manufacturers, to save money or take advantage of the best features. If networking is a priority, these boaters should definitely consult a trained dealer to discuss what will be involved in rigging, networking and operating their equipment.

A common question The GPS Store gets is whether or not NMEA 0183 devices can be networked with NMEA 2000 devices. The answer is a qualified “yes” – if you install a NMEA 2000 to NMEA 0183 Gateway device like the one offered by Actisense. This product is very useful for boaters who want to keep existing NMEA 0183 components while incorporating new pieces of NMEA 2000 equipment into their helms.

“The best advice I can give consumers is to do your homework, and work with an NMEA certified dealer you trust,” said Rock. The NMEA has a free booklet “A Guide to Boating Electronics” that covers topics including standards for connecting and networking. It is available for download from the NMEA at To learn more about marine electronics networking from the experts at The GPS Store, call (800) 477-2611 or visit

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Sound Advice on Finding the Best Fishfinder For Your Needs”

From the Experts at The GPS Store, Inc.

When it comes to echosounder technology, there are as many choices out there as there are fish in the sea. Echosounders, sonar or fishfinders as they are commonly called, range from simple monochrome LCD machines to professional-grade, multi-frequency units with large color displays. Recently, structure-, side- and down-imaging technologies have gained traction with more and more boaters, providing picture-like detail of the world around and beneath the boat.

At its heart, all sounder technology is designed to do the same thing – provide information about the depth of water, the composition and contour of the bottom, and indicate the presence of bait and/or gamefish in the water column. Marine electronics manufacturers have developed some exciting technologies to help fishermen understand what’s going on below the surface. But with so many options and products ranging from compact $199 fishfinders to combination sounder/navigation systems approaching five-figure price tags, how can boaters decide what best meet their needs?

Sounder Basics
Understanding how sounders work is a good first step in narrowing down what best fits your needs/budget. Like echolocation in the animal world, the unit’s “transceiver” emits a sonic pulse through a transducer (think speaker to a stereo) into the water, then “listens” for echoes that bounce off the bottom, structure or fish between the sea floor and the hull. The sounder displays these signals on the display, based on the strength of the return.

How Do You Fish Most?
“I begin the selection process by asking customers what type of fishing they do most,” said Brian Rock, an NMEA-Certified marine electronics advisor and sales associate at The GPS Store. “A customer may sometimes fish in water up to 1,000 feet deep, but 95% of the time they’re in less than 100 feet. In this case, 600W output power will be sufficient the vast majority of the time. But it isn’t enough power for 1,000 feet of water. If the customer wants to have that power available anyways, then the price jump (which can be up to three times more) can be justified.” A good dealer won’t try to push you into a more expensive, feature-packed unit if that isn’t what you need.

What Type of Boat?
To a certain extent, the type and size of boat you have dictates what type of sounder system you can install, particularly when it comes to the type of transducer you can use. For example, while bronze through-hull transducers are a very popular option for fiberglass boats, they won’t work on aluminum boats. Electrolytic corrosion occurs when the two metals come in contact in a wet environment, so fishermen with “tin boats” must use stainless steel or plastic transducers. Transom-mounted transducers are an affordable, popular choice for trailerable outboard and I/O-powered fishing boats, however, Inboard-powered boats can’t use these because of propwash and aerated water which cause interference of the pulse resulting in a cluttered picture. Go-fast offshore fishing boats are a good match for powerful sounders with in-hull transducers that shoot through the fiberglass, provided there is adequate room for installation of the transducer and fluid tank. Larger sportfishing vessels often use a bronze thru-hull transducer with a fairing block .Your dealer should ask about your vessel and let you know if there are restrictions that might limit your options.

What Are You Looking For?
What you want to“see” on your fishfinder will help you decide on the best technology for your needs. If you’re primarily looking for change in bottom composition (from soft mud to shale, for example) bait and fish over the bottom or deep-water schools, a powerful straight-down sounder should fit the bill. If you spend a lot of time “searching” for structure and fish in waters less than 300 feet, some of the innovative side or down-scanning sonars on the market could be ideal. For applications where you need to dial in specific frequencies to differentiate fish species and discriminate between closely spaced fish and bottom, the new Broadband Sounders and Chirp technology might be a worthwhile investment.

What Does This Mean/Do?
Sounder and transducer technology has rapidly evolved, offering boaters options that didn’t exist even a couple of years ago. For example, Chirp transducer technology constantly scans different frequencies (as opposed to traditional one- or two-frequency sounders), delivering excellent clarity and target separation in all depths. New Structure Scan wide-beam technology can save fuel and time searching for previously unexplored wrecks and reefs. A split screen with Structure Scan and traditional sounder side-by-side helps the boaters tell structure-hugging fish from the structure itself. DownScan Sonar works similarly to structure scan, but with a much narrower beam.

MFD or Dedicated Sounder?
The answer depends on your perspective, and your needs. Excellent sounder performance is found in today’s advanced Multi-Function Display systems, usually combining a sounder with a chartplotter and radar in one “box.” Still, many opt for stand-alone sounders, and for good reasons. Commercial fishermen, professional guides and serious tournament anglers, for example, know that without a sounder, they’re dead in the water. The downside of all-in-one is systems is that if it goes down, you lose everything. “I’ll recommend a stand-alone fishfinder, together with an MFD for customers with the space and the budget. Surprisingly, in many cases, a single 12-inch unit will cost more than twin smaller displays,” said Rock. “A stand-alone sounder means you’ll always have fishfinding, while the separate MFD makes sure you can navigate to waypoints – and some can provide a backup sounder.”

Need Pinpoint Position Accuracy?Pinpoint boat positioning over structure is a compelling feature of today’s Multi-Function Systems. For example, Lowrance’s Trackback ™ feature on their HDS systemallows boaters to review their sonar history and zoom in on the mark or structure, mark four corners of the structure and overlay these points directly on the electronic chart. Positioning the boat between these points ensures accurate presentation of baits and lures over wrecks and reefs. This technology is far more accurate and repeatable that using a chartplotter’s Man Overboard (MOB) key.

“Today’s boaters have so many great choices when it comes to fishfinder technology,” said Rock, “it’s an exciting time to be an angler. The key is figuring out which features and functions will enhance your time on the water most and improve your individual style of fishing. Your dealer should help you do this — guiding you through these questions and others— until you narrow down the choices to those that best fit your needs, boat and overall electronics budget.”

This is precisely the type of assistance Rock and the other staff at The GPS Store provides consumers in its store, on the phone and through its website. Contact The GPS Store at (800) 477-2611 or visit to learn more about sounder technology or ask any marine electronics questions.

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Understanding CHIRP Sounder Technology

Any serious angler who goes to boat shows, reads fishing magazines or hangs around the docks has likely heard the ongoing buzz about CHIRP fishfinders. CHIRP, which stands forGarmin SideVu Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse — has definitely taken the industry by storm, with a wide range of CHIRP-enabled systems currently offered by Furuno, Simrad, Lowrance, Garmin and Raymarine. Since CHIRP first hit the scene few years ago, manufacturers have expanded the technology and brought CHIRP capabilities across product lines to make it practical for more boats and fishermen.

It’s hard to not be impressed when you view the highly detailed screen shots showing submerged trees, bridge pilings and ship wrecks in near photographic detail. Or bait schools where you see actual baitfish, instead of just dense “blobs” — and can even pick up individual gamefish queuing up to feed.

Here at the GPS Store, we get lots of questions from customers about CHIRP — what it is, how it works, and whether it’s for them or not.

Most fishermen are familiar with fishfinders that work on single or dual frequencies, commonly 50kHz and/or 200kHz. Rather than emit pulses on set frequencies, CHIRP sounders emit a pulse that crosses a wide range of frequencies from low to high. Advanced processing power in today’s machines separates the returns from all these pulses and deciphers this information to create a very detailed image of the bottom and suspended fish.

Are there downsides to CHIRP technology? Well, for one, the most advanced “full CHIRP” Sounder modules combined with specialized CHIRP transducers can cost thousandsFuruno CHIRP of dollars. Obviously, people who are going to invest this much in fishfinding technology have to be pretty darned serious about their sport, and these powerful 1 to 3kW systems are the most appropriate for reaching depths up to 10,000 feet and detecting targets throughout the entire water column, particularly at higher vessel speeds. For those who can afford them, these full-fledged CHIRP systems can be excellent tools for bluewater angling.

There has been much in the way of product development on the lower end of the spectrum, however, and variations of CHIRP fishfinders can now be had in systems carrying what was once considered “entry level” pricing. While these systems don’t provide all the performance, flexibility or capabilities of the high-end gear, they do offer freshwater and coastal fishermen some impressive technology and views of the world under their boats — especially when you consider that you can now get into the CHIRP game for a few hundred dollars.

New, reasonably priced and sized CHIRP units abound, such as the Raymarine Dragonfly Series, the Garmin Stryker/echoMAP CHIRP series, or the Lowrance Hook Series. Although not meant as substitutes for systems you’d find on offshore battlewagons, they do give freshwater, coastal and inshore anglers a lot to see for the money — particularly when it comes to crisp, detailed images of rocks, trees, pilings and other bottom structure. Even in affordable units such as those from Garmin, CHIRP detail can be provided for below the boat as well as out the sides (DownVu/SideVu), helping anglers find new structure and fish they might otherwise have missed. Seeing all this (and in this much detail) would have seemed a pipe dream just a few years ago, much less at prices any boater can afford.

It’s a brave new world in fishfinding technology, and today’s anglers are faced with more choices than ever before. For some, CHIRP is definitely the way to go if you’re in the market for a new sounder. There are scenarios, however, where traditional sounders will deliver better performance and satisfaction, based on what you’re trying to do. We’d love to help you find the best echosounder solutions for your boat, budget and style of fishing.

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at

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“Marine Radar Basics”

From the Experts at The GPS Store, Inc.

Radar is one of the most important pieces of marine electronics on any boat, in part because of the variety of ways it can be used.   Its main purpose is as an anti-collision aid when navigating in darkness, fog or other limited visibility situations.  Radar also comes in handy for monitoring the position and movement of your vessel when transiting narrow passages or crowded waterways, regardless of visibility.    Radar also helps you determine your vessel’s position relative to landmasses or islands, even when they’re out of range of the naked eye.   This ability is enhanced when the radar image is overlaid onto electronic charts.     In certain situations, radar can even help you locate approaching rainstorms or lead you to offshore gamefish.


Radar offers boaters many great benefits; taking full advantage of them is up to the operator.    “While radar is certainly one of the most useful piece’s of marine electronics, it’s possibly one of the most under utilized,” said Scott Heffernan of The GPS Store, Inc.  “There are so many things radar can do, however, many boaters just scratch the surface.  Or worse yet, they don’t use their radar at all until they’re in an emergency situation,” added Heffernan.


Here are some ways boaters can optimize their radar’s performance and benefits:


Practice makes perfect.   Probably the most common mistake new radar owners make is not taking the time to practice with their radar systems during full visibility conditions.  Clear weather in broad daylight is the best time to familiarize yourself with how your individual radar set displays important targets like piers, jetties, peninsulas, the approach to your home harbor, navigation aids, moving vessels, etc.   When you can see these things with your naked eyes and your radar simultaneously, it will increase your confidence interpreting your radar display in the dark or fog.  This is also the ideal time to familiarize yourself with different Sea State adjustments to optimize performance in different conditions.


Learn the basics first.   You should dedicate time during daylight hours to become proficient operating your radar’s important navigational features.  There will always be more to learn, but not all features are created equal when it comes to safety.    Two of the most important navigation features on all marine radars are the Electronic Bearing Line (EBL) and Variable Range Marker.   In basic terms, EBL provides the bearing between you and a target on the radar, while VRM tells you the distance between your vessel and the target.   In limited visibility situations, this can be critical information, especially when tracking other moving vessels.   If the EBL to another vessel remains constant (150 degrees, for example) while the distance to that target is getting smaller, you’re on a collision course. 


Use the right range.    Many new radar users make the mistake of selecting a range (the maximum transmit/receive distance in optimal conditions) and keeping it there over a range of conditions.   The “right” range setting can change dramatically based on the conditions and what you’re trying to achieve.     If you’re navigating into a narrow inlet in the dark or poking your way through a busy harbor in a thick fog, you’ll want to see close-in targets in as much detail as possible and should select a short-range scale.   If you’re crossing a crowded shipping lane at night, you’ll want to be aware of large ships in your path from a few miles away.    If you’re navigating to an offshore island and want to verify your relative position and course to a specific point, you may want to extend that range out to 16 miles or more.  These are just a few examples.  Again, “practicing” with your radar under the many navigational situations you encounter in the day will give you the confidence to select the optimum range when you need it.


Be sensitive with gain.   A radar’s gain setting adjusts the receiver’s sensitivity, so many boaters assume more must always be better.    Having the gain adjusted too high often results in unwanted “noise” on the radar display and can prevent important targets from being seen.  As a general guide, use less gain when operating on shorter range settings, and more when looking at a longer range picture.   Adjust the gain down and slowly add more until you start to pick up noise on the display.    Then back it off just until the noise disappears.

Don’t stop learning.  While it’s important to learn the basic features first, don’t fall into the common trap of stopping the learning process once you get comfortable.    Keep expanding your horizons.  Many modern radars have a “trail” feature to better discriminate moving from stationary targets, the ability to overlay radar onto electronic charts for enhanced situational awareness, integration with Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify ship targets on the radar, and more.   Radar empowers navigators with information beyond what’s available to the eye.   — The more you know about your boat’s radar, the more information you can get. 


For example, high-power open array radars can be used by sport fishing vessels to “see” flocks of working seabirds miles away (bird activity often indicates schools of tuna or other pelagic gamefish).   Along the same lines, experienced offshore anglers can use radar to locate groupings of other sport fishing vessels and — when integrated with bathymetric charts and GPS — obtain the location of the hot bite.  If you can pick up a bunch of boats working around a known offshore canyon or seamount, it’s reasonable to assume they’ve found the fish.


“Radars can seem complicated to the average boater, and as a result, they often become little more than an expensive adornment,” said Heffernan.  “However, much like computers, smart phones and other technologies, the more you use and trust it, the more useful it becomes to you.   We encourage boaters to use their boat’s radar on every trip, so when they actually need it, it will come naturally.”


The GPS Store sells a wide variety of radar systems from most all major manufacturers such as Furuno, Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, and SI-TEX, both through its Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina showroom and popular website.  Its trained staff is happy to help boaters select the best radar for their vessel and navigation needs,  and eager to provide advice on how to get the most out of it.  For more information, visit or call customer service at (800) 477-2611.


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“Recommended Safety Gear by Vessel Type”

From the Experts at The GPS Store, Inc.

Following are some general recommendations for safety products and electronics. Keep in mind that each boater’s needs might be different, and when in doubt, always err on the side of safety. In addition to these items, always make sure to have all required Coast Guard safety items onboard, such as fire extinguishers, suitable life jackets and flares, and make sure they are in good working order and kept up to date.


Inshore Skiff or Bay Boat:

  • 1) ACR RapidDitch Express Ditch Bag – Keeps all safety gear and emergency supplies (water packs, chapstick, first aid, noisemaking devices) organized and ready for action.
  • 2) Standard Horizon HX870 Emergency VHF with built-in GPS – Radio communication is one of the first things you may lose if your boat’s batteries are compromised. This radio is waterproof, floats, and even glows in the dark and features a strobe that activates automatically in water. Rescue often comes from other nearby boaters and fishermen, so the value of radio communication can’t be overstated. This DSC radio can fire off one-button distress calls that alert all nearby DSC-equipped vessels to your emergency and position. In additional to the built-in rechargeable battery, this radio also includes a Alkaline battery tray that allows it to operate on standard AAA batteries — a great backup.
  • 3) One ACR ResQLink Personal Locator Beacon – This personal device broadcasts a 406mHz satellite distress signal to the Coast Guard and a separate homing signal to Search & Rescue agencies. It lets someone know you’re in trouble and helps them find you in the water.
  • 4) ACR 1700 Hot Shot Signal Mirror – This “old-school” device can be used to make yourself visible to searchers and other boaters in daylight conditions.
  • 5) ACR 3959 C-Strobe Signaling Strobe – is designed to clip on PFDs to improve visibility to rescuers during darkness and inclement weather.

Offshore Center Console or Walkaround:

#1, #2, and a #3, #4 and #5 for each passenger onboard.

  • 6) Cat II ACR Global Fix Pro EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) – This manually deployed device alerts Coast Guard and local Search & Rescue agencies to your emergency and GPS position using satellites and Earth stations.
  • 7) Garmin GPS 72H Handheld GPS – Like fixed mount VHF radios, onboard GPS is also likely to go out in a boat filling with water. This floating, waterproof GPS will help you relay your position to nearby vessel coming to your aid. It’s also a great backup in case your boat experiences a non-emergency failure of your primary navigation system.
  • 8) Spot Satellite Messenger/Personal Tracker — about the size of a smart phone, this device can notify family friends and International Rescue Centers of emergencies. Or you can just report in to friends and contacts that you’re OK. A Help Mode is provided when you need non-emergency assistance, like gas or a tow.
  • 9) Viking RescYou Coastal six-man liferaft (optional but a good idea) - This sturdy raft is designed for use where rescue can be expected within 24 hours. It fits easily into a valise or deck/rail-mounted fiberglass container , yet offers an auto-inflating canopy, automatic strobe and interior lights, stabilizing ballast bags and coastal emergency pack.

Offshore Sportfishing Yacht

#1, #2, a #3, #4 for each passenger onboard, #7, #8

  • 10) ACR Firefly Waterbug Strobe Light — this light clips to PFDs and activates automatically in the water. It fires an ultra-bright strobe to make boaters visible in the worst conditions.
  • 11) Cat I ACR Global Fix iPro EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) – This EPIRB is designed to mount on the vessel and float free and activate automatically if the vessel sinks or capsizes. Auto-deploy EPIRBS like this have helped speed rescue to thousands of boaters around the world.
  • 12) GlobalStar GSP 1700 Satellite Phone - Handheld and portable, this system provides reliable communications anywhere at sea. The ability to stay in touch with friends and loved ones on shore, as well as contact emergency responders directly, is great peace of mind for boaters who leave shore (and cell phone coverage) far behind.
  • 13) Viking RescYou Pro 8 Person Liferaft – If you travel long distances offshore, you should have a life raft designed for the purpose, regardless of its capacity. This heavy-duty raft stores in a valise or canister, yet is designed to handle up to 8 passengers in rough offshore conditions. Features include a self-righting design, double-inflatable floor to prevent hypothermia, ballast system, inflatable boarding ramp, and automatic interior/strobe lighting.

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New Radar Technologies

From the Experts at The GPS Store, Inc.

With so many new marine radar technologies being introduced over recent months, it can actually be intimidating for recreational boaters to decipher what it all means.


The GPS Store is happy to help consumers navigate these tricky waters and figure out if these latest developments match their boating lifestyle and if it might be time to upgrade to one of these new systems. Here are some highlights:


Furuno NXT — The new DRS4D-NTX is Furuno’s “next” generation radar, yet, with its compact 24” radome antenna, it’s sized right for even smaller center consoles and pilothouse boats. Designed to interface with the company’s popular NavNet TZ Touch and TZ Touch2 multifunction devices, NXT radar introduces what Furuno calls Target Analyzer. In a nutshell, this feature makes it easier for boaters — even ones with limited experience using radar — to detect, track and avoid dangerous targets that are moving towards their vessel. Based on Doppler technology, Target Analyzer automatically changes the color of targets based on if they are moving towards you and at what speed. Targets such as land, stationary boats/buoys, or slow-approaching vessels (>3 knots) show up in green. Targets turn red if they are approaching your vessel at a speed of 3 knots or more. The feature factors in your vessel’s own speed, and also works if you are following another vessel.

Given how many boaters use their radars only occasionally, when they find themselves in darkness, fog, bad weather, etc., this feature (which can be turned off) alone can boost the navigator’s confidence level.

Furuno Target Analyzer


Garmin GMR Fantom — Garmin’s Fantom Pulse Compression DopplerGarmin Fantom Radar Radar series comes with 4-foot or 6-foot open array antennas and 40W of power, making it an option for tournament fishing rigs, cruisers and other larger boats. Among the key new features is MotionScope, which the company says lets mariners see targets moving instantaneously on the display and uses the Doppler effect to determine relative motion of the target. Whether targets are moving towards or away from the radar, Fantom provides instant detection and highlights these targets on the radar display. Auto Bird Gain is another feature serious offshore anglers will appreciate, designed to tune the radar to help users locate flocks of birds near the water’s surface, a sure sign that predatory pelagic gamefish are feeding.

The Fantom series is compatible with Garmin’s popular GPSMAP 7400/7600 series, GPSMAP 8000/8200 series and new GPSMAP 8400/8600 series MFDs.


Raymarine Quantum Wireless CHIRP Radar — One big thing that sets this new radar apart is the wireless WI-FI connection between the radome antenna andRaymarine Radar compatible displays. With this unique feature and a small power cable, Raymarine delivers a radar that’s lightweight (about 12 pounds) and easy to install in tight spaces. It also uses very little power (17W transmit/7W standby). This makes is a good option for boats like center consoles and sailboats with limited battery capacity, as well as larger vessels. CHIRP pulse compression technology ensures that more energy reaches long-range targets, yet is also delivers excellent short-range target detection, a hallmark of solid-state radars. Minimum target range is 18 feet, while the maximum range is 24 nautical miles. A feature called ATX (Advanced Target Separation) identifies small, weak targets (think kayakers or SUP riders) even when close to strong returns like jetties and seawalls.

A bolt pattern that matches previous generation Raymarine radars makes it easy to upgrade this new radar to existing systems (in addition to wireless WI-FI, it can be set up using wired Ethernet). Wireless integration is possible with any Raymarine Lighthouse II-powered MFD.


Simrad Halo Radar — This new Simrad radar technology combines the short-range target clarity of its popular 3G/4G broadband radar with the benefits ofSimrad Halo Radar traditional pulse radar’s long-range performance (reaching all the way up to 72 nautical miles). Offered in 3-, 4- and 6-foot open array antennas and designed exclusively for Simrad NSS evo2 and NSO evo2 MFDs, these systems are appropriate for vessels ranging from larger center consoles sportfishers to trawlers and cruisers. Simrad’s Beam Sharpening and Target Separation Control, the company says, gives each model resolution one would expect from a larger-sized antenna. Solid-state technology means minimal warm up time and low electromagnetic/radiation emissions for safe operation. A choice of five auto modes — Harbor, Offshore, Weather, Bird and Custom — helps navigators configure the radar to suit their surroundings and needs. Bird mode is an important feature for serious offshore anglers. 

Years ago, Simrad 3G/4G broadband radars upped the ante for close-range target definition, now the open-array Halo systems combines this capability with traditional long-range performance.


We’d love to help you dive deeper into these new marine radar technologies and help you select the best option for your vessel, budget, and boating lifestyle. Call us at 1-800-477-2611 or visit

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