I've decided to introduce a new column to the page, namely questions that come across my e-mail. Some of these are frequently asked; others just interesting. Check this area frequently for new questions. Send your questions in and I'll answer them and share the answers with fellow boaters.
As you can see, there are lots of considerations outside cost. Let me know a bit more about what you want to do with the GPS, and I can give you a better list.
Q. I have a 35' Cigarette, and I want to put a GPS into it but I don't know what kind I should use. Also, I wanted to have a small radar due to the fact that there is nowhere to put a big one. Can you help?
But on to your question...
I'd recommend a unit capable of receiving the DGPS signals, at least from the Coast Guard. This will give you better accuracy than a straight GPS receiver. I've worked with Magellan, Trimble, and Garmin more than any others. APBA and SBR offshore 1995 world Open class champion Stuart Hayim runs a Garmin on his 46' Skater, Recovery. That Garmin was the easiest unit I've ever used. I didn't even have to look at the manual!
Depending on how often you use the boat, you will probably want a hard-mounted (dash mount) unit that stays in the boat. Some people prefer hand-held units but a boat that size is hard enough to handle without worrying about holding a GPS receiver. Let me know what you usually do, how often you use the boat, how far offshore you intend to travel, price range, and so forth, and I can offer some more specific recommendations.
With regard to the radar, I can't provide any particular recommendations but get what fits best on your boat. The GPS antenna should be placed somewhere other than right on top of the radar, but otherwise the two shouldn't provide problems for each other.
Q. I read with interest your piece on GPS in the race boat. I have a Magellan
hand held that I use here on the West Coast for pleasure boating. Can this be adapted to
my race boat?
We race a 25' Cat (Warlock) and we are now looking into a larger boat, possibly M or D class, and the GPS may well be something we need to use.
I would appreciate any info that you can provide
One good thing about a hand held - there shouldn't be any problems with electrical interference (RF leaks) from the ignition system. I have had a miserable time diagnosing these problems and fixing them. On one race boat we finally gave up and installed a Garmin (and used a different shop to rig the boat). It worked fine. Of course, that boat got sold midway through the season so I didn't get much of a chance to play with it. But electrical noise can severely bother a GPS receiver.
Remember, the receivers were designed to be sensitive, so any electrical signals can cause the units to act funny. There are ways around this problem, so let me know if you go this route.
If you plan to spend any time out in front of the pack or even out alone on a long leg of a race, I'd recommend a GPS. It's too easy to get lost out there or take a wrong turn during a race. We all get distracted. But the GPS can tell you which way to go, keep you on the shortest line to the next turn buoy, even count laps. Not bad for a little black box.