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Boaters can afford best

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002

In the past five years, marine technology has come a long way. A variety of electronic equipment designed to improve navigation has been presented to the public at reasonable prices.

Global Positioning Systems, radar, high-wattage depth sounders and satellite-driven cellular phones can be purchased at most marine retailers. The GPS is the most sought-after piece of equipment. This unit is accurate within a few feet. For many years, the GPS was saved for government use only. But as time went on, the public received full use. The pinpointing of specific locations also has improved navigation. Markers, buoys, bridges, jetties and other structures are easier to find.

GPS systems, which once cost $3,000 or more, now can cost less than $1,000. Radar equipment enhances visibility when weather conditions are poor. Fog causes many boating accidents. Radar alerts boaters to boat traffic, markers, land masses and rain storms.

Sonar machines that require paper to record the reading of water depth, fish and structure are almost extinct. These old-style machines have been replaced with high-wattage tube and crystal imaging units that show extraordinary pictures from beneath.

The cellular phone industry has introduced satellite-driven units that work anywhere in the world. Service costs about a dollar a minute but is sure to drop in the near future.

-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail

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