The world of boat gadgets keeps getting cooler and more innovative. You easily could spend an entire day in the tech section of a boating store (and that would be a pretty great day). But what do you actually need onboard? That’ll depend on your boating style.
We’ve broken down every tech gadget you’ll want to have onboard, depending on whether you’re a fisher, a casual cruiser, or an overnight adventurer. And we threw in fun “nice to haves” for good measure, too.
If you regularly set off in search of the perfect catch, there are plenty of gadgets to help you land the big one. Or at least get a couple nibbles.
- Compass- On the off chance that your GPS decides to stop working, you’ll be glad to have this old-school gadget handy.
- Depth finder- All boats should probably have one of these onboard, but it’ll be especially helpful when it comes time to zero in on where you’ll drop anchor for the day.
- Fish-finding sonar- This gadget is pretty self-explanatory. What’s the point in casting a line if there aren’t any fish nearby? Installing a fish-finding sonar will make catching your dinner a lot easier.
- If you don’t venture out too far, a smartphone app will probably suffice. But, if you plan to cruise far from shore, consider a heavy-duty gadget that’ll store maps and routes—even if you aren’t in range of a cell signal.
- VHF radio- Whether you’re exchanging friendly hellos with a fellow boater or radioing for assistance, you’ll never regret keeping one of these onboard.
It might also be nice to have radar (for foggy mornings) and a separate trolling motor (to cut down on noise and wake) onboard.
As a casual cruiser, you’re probably just looking to have a great time with your friends and family. So, you don’t need anything too fancy.
- Compass- As much as you might love tech gadgets, they don’t always come through in a pinch, especially if you’re out of range. So, when all else fails, you’ll be glad you have a trusty compass onboard.
- Depth finder- Few things will ruin a day on the water faster than running aground. Installing a depth finder will keep you, your guests, and your boat safe and happy. These are also particularly handy when boating in man-made lakes that might have hidden underwater obstacles like trees that weren’t fully cleared.
- GPS- Whether you install a dedicated dashboard marine GPS system onboard or simply use an app on your phone (Navionics and Garmin both have boating apps available for download), you’ll want to know how to get where you’re going. And, more importantly, how to get back!
- Stereo- Because music makes boating even more fun!
- VHF radio- Whether handheld or mounted, you’ll need to have one onboard so that you can safely communicate with other boaters and the Coast Guard, if needed.
It wouldn’t hurt to have a radar onboard, too, in case you run into some fog or bad weather.
Whether you like to anchor out in a calm bay for an evening, or plan to sail the seven seas, you’ll be glad to have these gadgets onboard.
- Anchor drag monitor- Dragging anchor can lead to some serious problems such as collisions, grounding, or stranding. So, it’s best to keep an eye on things whenever you drop anchor. Most GPS systems will have this feature built in. You can also download an anchor-monitoring app to your smartphone.
- Compass- It might be a little old-school, but a compass is a must-have for every boater.
- Depth finder- This is an essential gadget for most boaters but will be especially important as you navigate unfamiliar territories, cruise potentially shallow bays, and combat low tides.
- GPS with built-in maps- Installing a mounted GPS that allows you to upload maps of your cruising area will be a lifesaver as you sail the high seas.
- Radar- Because it’s never a bad idea to keep an eye out for other boats, large ships, and land!
- VHF radio- Your primary VHF should be mounted on the boat with a large antenna to ensure reception.
- Backup VHF- Given that you might be cruising far from land or exploring unfamiliar waters, it’s probably a good idea to have a backup handheld VHF onboard—just in case.
A few “nice to haves”
If you’re dying to pick up a cool new gadget, but your boat is already equipped with all the “must haves,” you might want to consider adding a few of these nifty options to your nautical toolkit.
- AIS receiver- These gadgets allow you to see the path of larger boats and ships. You’ll probably find that most new VHF radios have this receiver built in.
- Autopilot- Because sometimes, on a calm, clear day, it’s nice to set your heading and kick back.
- Boat stabilizers- These gadgets can be pricey to purchase and install, but you’ll be glad you have them onboard when you anchor-out on a rough day.
- EPIRB- An emergency position-indicating radio beacon would be really nice to have onboard if you ever get into a pickle. Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but you’ll always have peace of mind knowing it’s there if you need it!
- Forward-looking depth finder/sonar- Because being able to predict the future is fun.
- Satellite internet/phone- A handy “nice to have” in case of an emergency—or the sudden onset of boredom.
- Satellite TV- Who says you have to miss the big game just because you’re on your boat?
- Sonar- Because it’s fun to know where the fish, whales, and sunken ships are.
- Wind meter- Own a sailboat? You’ll love having real-time wind-speed information at your fingertips!
Happy gadget shopping!