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Thread: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

  1. #1
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    Default I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I am here again asking for help figuring different things out as I plan for building a boat and sailing it. Y'all have been very helpful with this in my previous posts like this, so thank you. I'm planning to build a very simple plywood skiff and sail it on the backwaters of the Mississippi River near my home in Iowa.

    In working through my gear list in preparation for the holiday gift season, I'm thinking now about a VHF radio and a handheld GPS. I want a VHF radio so I can have communication capability with river barges, lock operators and heaven forbid emergency personnel. I think that I want the GPS mostly to locate myself on printed charts and maps and also to record tracks so I can see where I went and how I'm sailing. And, I don't own a smartphone and if I did, I would hesitate to bring it onto a boat that I'm probably going to flip over as I learn to sail.

    This is for a very budget-minded first-timer so I'm looking at the cheapest options. A little handheld VHF looks like it could be $80-$100 (this one? https://www.twowayradiocenter.com/st...-horizon-hx210). And the old Garmin handheld marine GPS units like a 76s or 78s appear to be available used on eBay for around $100-$120. So $180-220 for both and the Garmin has an electronic compasses and could load maps ($$$!) and follow waypoints (but I don't think the electronic charts for the river are very good?).

    On the other hand is the swanky new Standard Horizon HX890 https://www.standardhorizon.com/inde...BE62DC0E44BFED which is a high-end VHF handheld with bells-and-whistles, but it also has GPS. (I'd bet dollars to donuts that it was included on their chipset and they just spent the engineering dollars to hook it up in the firmware.) The GPS is limited but it can display coordinates, record tracks, store waypoints and show a compass display (I don't think it has an electronic compass though). And, the amazing modern technology fact is that it sells for $200!

    So the place I need help from your experience is on using separate devices versus one that does everything? I'm hesitant to put all my eggs in one basket when it comes to electronics, but I'm also a bit hesitant to go with the cheapest example of each thing.

    What would you do? Separate VHF and GPS? Fancy VHF that does some GPS on the side? Skip the GPS for now and hope that a river isn't that hard to navigate?

    Thanks in advance for any advice you might have for me.

    -Neil

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Do you have a smartphone? There are apps available that will combine the phone's built in GPS with chartplotting.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by nrs5000 View Post
    Do you have a smartphone? There are apps available that will combine the phone's built in GPS with chartplotting.
    Quote Originally Posted by NeilMB View Post
    And, I don't own a smartphone and if I did, I would hesitate to bring it onto a boat that I'm probably going to flip over as I learn to sail.
    Unfortunately not. I have thought about buying an old android and one of the waterproof bags for it, but I'm a tiny bit skeptical of how reliable it will be. And especially skeptical of the subscription model for apps like Navionics.

    -Neil

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    For GPS, I used a $60 unit from Dick's Sporting Goods (or a similar store - I forget) for years. As long as it puts out Lat & Long - you can use it on a paper chart.

    I would think a handheld VHF like the Standard Horizon you linked to would do fine. Good company in my experience.

    The updated version of the GPS I used is now $99 https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/garm...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
    Last edited by Garret; 11-15-2021 at 04:28 PM.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    For GPS, I used a $60 unit from Dick's Sporting Goods (or a similar store - I forget) for years. As long as it puts out Lat & Long - you can use it on a paper chart.
    Great point that if all I want are lat and long to use with a paper chart, there's no reason to even get the marine Garmin, I could save $50 with a used eTrex from eBay.

    Thanks for sharing, keep it coming, you all are amazing.

    -Neil

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    For GPS, you might want to check out the Garmin InReach Explorer+ units. They're essentially an etrex GPS with 2 way satellite messaging. Being able to send someone a text with coordinates has been really useful for me.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by offbelayknife View Post
    For GPS, you might want to check out the Garmin InReach Explorer+ units. They're essentially an etrex GPS with 2 way satellite messaging. Being able to send someone a text with coordinates has been really useful for me.
    They look totally cool, but I'm seeing them in the $300 range used plus a subscription for the Iridium messaging capability? Amazing functionality which would be very welcome for some adventures, but more than I was looking to spend to get started. Maybe more than the boat is going to cost, we'll see.

    -Neil

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilMB View Post
    I think that I want the GPS mostly to locate myself on printed charts and maps and also to record tracks so I can see where I went and how I'm sailing.
    Well, it's worth noting that you might well be better off learning to locate yourself on printed charts without a GPS...

    Not to be snarky, but going non-electronic is a perfectly viable option. Sadly, though, it's an option that can be hard to keep in mind when bombarded with a relentless pressure to get the latest gadget or digital subscription.

    As for using a GPS to plot tracks: I get it, that we're in a culture that likes to record ourselves. I've posted plenty of stuff, and written stuff, so I'm equally involved in all that.

    But really, you don't need a GPS. Sometimes that needs to be said out loud (so to speak) to put the option on the table.

    You'll be fine without one. And you'll probably develop better navigation and charting skills. And you won't have to spend the money, or take care of the thing. And you might just discover that you're happier that way.

    Give it a shot--you've got nothing to lose. Buy a simple hand compass and whatever charts you need.

    Tom
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Well, it's worth noting that you might well be better off learning to locate yourself on printed charts without a GPS...

    Not to be snarky, but going non-electronic is a perfectly viable option. Sadly, though, it's an option that can be hard to keep in mind when bombarded with a relentless pressure to get the latest gadget or digital subscription.

    As for using a GPS to plot tracks: I get it, that we're in a culture that likes to record ourselves. I've posted plenty of stuff, and written stuff, so I'm equally involved in all that.

    But really, you don't need a GPS. Sometimes that needs to be said out loud (so to speak) to put the option on the table.

    You'll be fine without one. And you'll probably develop better navigation and charting skills. And you won't have to spend the money, or take care of the thing. And you might just discover that you're happier that way.

    Give it a shot--you've got nothing to lose. Buy a simple hand compass and whatever charts you need.

    Tom
    I realize the Mississippi is different, but I used my etrex & a chart to get me 80 miles in fog so thick I could barely see the bow. Luckily the nav. aids were bells & gongs (makes sense in Maine) so I could navigate to them by sound once I got close.

    Of course one can always use potato radar...

    I agree that a compass is mandatory - along with the ability to use it for sights.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I'd get a basic VHF long before worrying about having a GPS.

    My favorite handheld VHF is an Icom M25. It's very basic but capable. The feature I like most about it, other than it being good at being a VHF radio, is that it is charged using a micro USB cable such as you get on phones etc. It means you can charge it in the car on the way to the boat or from a battery pack or whatever. You don't need a separate charging dock for it.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    I realize the Mississippi is different, but I used my etrex & a chart to get me 80 miles in fog so thick I could barely see the bow. Luckily the nav. aids were bells & gongs (makes sense in Maine) so I could navigate to them by sound once I got close.

    Of course one can always use potato radar...

    I agree that a compass is mandatory - along with the ability to use it for sights.
    Sure. But I suspect all that's WAY overkill for the backwaters of the Mississippi in Iowa--territory that I'm not entirely unfamiliar with...

    Mississippi.jpg

    The beauty of this kind of sailing is in what you DON'T need. Which is, pretty much everything but the boat, sail, rudder, and oars.

    Tom
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I did a seven day trip in the Boundary Waters and we brought a handheld chart plotting GPS as well as maps and a compass. By the second day the gps stayed in the bag. It was faster and more enjoyable to not use it. After every portage Iíd look at the map, memorize a few bearings if needed and refer to a compass I placed on the bottom of the canoe by my feet. I like how you develop a mental picture of place. I canít imagine why a similar strategy wouldnít work on the Mississippi.

    I have taken my I phone kayaking in Lake Superior, to the BWCA and on a bunch of camping and mountaineering trips. The newer phones are built with decent water resistance and I keep mine in a Life Proof case. Never had a problem. I use it for camera and video and I keep bunch of reference books on it. Things like weather watching and guides to plants and animals. The gps is nice emergency function but I rarely use it. Photos are tagged with GPS coordinates which can be nice.
    You can download Googlemaps to use offline.

    A vhf is a must. Being able to get weather forecasts is another great feature . Unless youíre really fired up Iíd just without the gps for now. You can always pick one up down the line if needed. I wouldnít worry too much about buying a cheap one as long as itís a name brand. With most consumer electronics the sad fact is that you have a choice between cheap stuff that breaks eventually and canít be repaired and expensive stuff the breaks eventually and canít be repaired.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Great points on the non-GPS option, everyone. The river charts are quite good and I've been a successful Mao and compass navigator on land before. Hopefully it's hard to get too lost on a one-dimensional object.

    That ICOM looks nice and I'm a big fan of the brand from their ham radio products.

    Thanks so much for the feedback folks. Keep it coming!

    Being able to share trip reports back with this forum is one of the strange enticements to do some recording, something that I don't otherwise go in for very much.

    -Neil

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilMB View Post
    I want a VHF radio so I can have communication capability with river barges, lock operators and heaven forbid emergency personnel. I think that I want the GPS mostly to locate myself on printed charts and maps and also to record tracks so I can see where I went and how I'm sailing.

    -Neil
    If you are really so budget constrained stick wth the VHF as first priority and learn to read nautical charts and how to plot your position using local land marks, bearing lines, triangulations and so on - being on the river you should have no shortage of reference points that will be shown on the chart (river bends, sand bars, hills, structures such as radio towers, silos, church spires etc) and it is quite a fun and useful skill to learn. As well as beings able to locate your position but youíll keep a pretty good record of your track as well.

    If all else fails, the VHF will allow you to ask a passing vessel where you are.....

    Worry about a GPS when you can afford a reasonable one that gives you what you want, by which time you should (might) have a good fundamental knowledge of how to navigate.
    Larks

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilMB View Post
    Great points on the non-GPS option, everyone. The river charts are quite good and I've been a successful Mao and compass navigator on land before. Hopefully it's hard to get too lost on a one-dimensional object.

    That ICOM looks nice and I'm a big fan of the brand from their ham radio products.

    Thanks so much for the feedback folks. Keep it coming!

    Being able to share trip reports back with this forum is one of the strange enticements to do some recording, something that I don't otherwise go in for very much.

    -Neil
    Been finding communists?

    The points about not needing gps are valid in your case I guess. I'm so much more used to foggy Maine weather.

    Only river time for me was near Davenport - bet it's prettier up your way. Finishing up at the Bent River Brewery is OK though...
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Buy some charts and a good compass and learn how to navigate the old fashioned way. RDF, then LORAN, now GPS are all nice toys but basic navigation is a required skill.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I agree, especially in the type of waters you propose cruising, one doesn't need the GPS. Or even the VHF.

    Of course, none of us needs a boat, we are mostly all recreational boaters. Why, then, should we look at accessory purchases from a need basis? How about, like our boats, we look at it from the want perspective?

    I would want a GPS for convenience, for the recording of tracks you stated you wanted. Sure, this can be done manually--and I recommend keeping a DR plot, even with a GPS-- but it is tedious to recreate a whole trip's track manually for posterity, or to share with your friends.

    Secondly in the event of an emergency, I would want to communicate a precise location. We often think of emergencies as sinking or being stranded. But there are also medical emergencies. Some here are younger than others, but the reality of a heart attack, stroke, seizure or to become rapidly disoriented from an injury or cold-water dunking is very real for many of us. For that reason, I want the ability to simply read and repeat my coordinates of a screen. It may be all I can manage.

    In fact, the ability to simply press one button that automatically sends my location and a distress signal ( like the VHF you mentioned offers ) is something I'd want in that situation even more. And keeps sending that signal, freeing me to bail, apply bandages, etc.

    I'd also want to have updated weather forecasts via the radio and want to speak to other craft, bridge and lock tenders.

    Kevin
    Last edited by Breakaway; 11-17-2021 at 08:43 AM.
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilMB View Post
    Great points on the non-GPS option, everyone. The river charts are quite good and I've been a successful Mao and compass navigator on land before. Hopefully it's hard to get too lost on a one-dimensional object.
    Neil,

    another thought specific to the Mississippi and other inland waters. If your boat is a small shallow draft boat, you don't really need much detail as far as depths go. If you do run into problems, you can just hop out and shove the boat off the sandbar or whatever (ask me how I know this...)

    I've taken to using TopoZone to create detailed topographical maps of my destination instead. I print these off, trim to a convenient placemat size, and have the local office store laminate them. They're perfect for one-handed use in a small boat, and the contour lines and extra detail of shore features (towers, railroad tracks, etc.) is more useful, arguably, than a nautical chart in this context.

    So, another option to consider. It works really well for me for keeping track of where I am when I'm always in sight of land.

    Tom
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    I agree, especially in the type of waters you propose cruising, one doesn't need the GPS. Or even the VHF.

    Of course, none of us needs a boat, we are mostly all recreational boaters. Why, then, should we look at accessory purchases from a need basis? How about, like our boats, we look at it from the want perspective?

    I would want a GPS for convenience, for the recording of tracks you stated you wanted. Sure, his can be done manually--and I recommend keeping a DR plot, even with a GPS-- but it is tedious to recreate a whole trip's track manually for posterity, or to share with your friends.

    Secondly in the event of an emergency, I would want to communicate a precise location. We often think of emergencies as sinking or being stranded. But there are also medical emergencies. Some here are younger than others, but the reality of a heart attack, stroke, seizure or to become rapidly disoriented from an injury or cold-water dunking is very real for many of us. For that reason, I want the ability to simply read and repeat my coordinates of a screen. It may be all I can manage.

    In fact, the ability to simply press one button that automatically sends my location and a distress signal ( like the VHF you mentioned offers ) is something I'd want in that situation even more.

    I'd also want to have updated weather forecasts via the radio and want to speak to other craft, bridge and lock tenders.

    Kevin
    Hmmm... Yes, that's one way of looking at it. Certainly you raise a valid point about medical concerns, which might lead some to want some kind of instant connectivity aboard.

    The rest is a philosophical debate, which I'll wade into a bit, hopefully without offending or boring everyone.

    As for "wanting," I'd argue true wealth doesn't lie in having everything you want, but rather in learning to want less. I don't see going without a GPS and VHF as a sacrifice because it is allegedly less convenient--I see it as a way to stay more directly engaged, and thus, a more interesting and satisfying practice.

    You say the work of keeping track of where you are is tedious. But is it, really? Or is it a way to stay actively engaged with what you are doing, moment by moment, and learning as you go? Is becoming competent enough to avoid electronics "work" or is it simply doing the thing? And if "the thing" is something we are doing for fun and satisfaction--I assume that covers most boating here--then why would we want to have a gadget do "the thing" for us?

    I could hire Michael Phelps to swim my morning session for me, and he'd do it better than I ever could. But what would that get me? It would turn me from a swimmer into a non-swimmer watching someone else do "the thing" for me. I see GPS the same way.

    Then too, buying gadgets because we "want" them strikes me as a gateway to excessive consumption. That's a difficult line to draw, and I'm just as guilty (or more) than anyone else here. But still something to consider.

    Finally, I guess the main reason I'm always compelled to debate this issue is that, in my experience, it's just so much more satisfying to develop skills that rely on the minimum amount of tools and aids, especially when those tools and aids are digital ones. It seems the mainstream messaging is "An easier life is a better life, and our gadgets can make it easier." But an easier life isn't better, in my experience. Rather, a life that offers a reasonable level of challenge, and opportunities to meet that challenge without unnecessary assistance, that is better.

    OK, the can is open! Jump into the conversation, everyone, before all the worms wriggle away!

    Tom
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Great post Tom, and a sentiment I fully agree with.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Look for a handheld VHF with a GPS in it that supports DSC (digital selective calling). Apart from the uses of both the radio and the GPS, it will have a protected red button that when pressed will transmit a mayday with your position to SAR services. One button. Handy especially if you are in the drink, which lets face it is likely on a small boat.

    You don't have to use the GPS, but if you need it it's there.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    As for "wanting," I'd argue true wealth doesn't lie in having everything you want, but rather in learning to want less.
    Oh, OK. Fine. Most here are out cruising in products of modern chemistry and technology not bark canoes, or even planked boats.




    say the work of keeping track of where you are is tedious.
    No, I wrote that reproducing that track to save and share is tedious. Note where I advised keeping a DR track.

    Then too, buying gadgets because we "want" them strikes me as a gateway to excessive consumption. That's a difficult line to draw, and I'm just as guilty (or more) than anyone else here. But still something to consider.
    One can bloviate and turn any discussion into one about class struggle, I suppose. Fact is, most here do not need their boats. They are not ferryman, or fisherman or pump-out boat operators or bulkhead builders or .... Most here want boats, and that's why they have them. They want them. They don't need them. Even the most modest recreational boat is a luxury and speaks of affluence that is the envy of most in the world.

    Finally, I guess the main reason I'm always compelled to debate this issue is that, in my experience, it's just so much more satisfying to develop skills that rely on the minimum amount of tools and aids, especially when those tools and aids are digital ones.
    You pre-suppose to much. For example, just because one glues his boat together from purchased plans printed from a website, using prefabricated wood products and then coats it in liquid plastic doesn't make that person incapable of going into the woods with an axe and coming out sometime later with a boat.

    More simply put, if Magellan suddenly recieved GPS he would have chucked his sextant overboard. ( Well, he probably would have kept it boxed and stowed)

    Kevin
    Last edited by Breakaway; 11-17-2021 at 09:44 AM.
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    There is no reason to be make this complicated or expensive. How about using an older iPhone like a 6 or newer? Now they are cheap, friends and family got them stashed in drawers unused or can be had for free for the asking. They do not need to be connected to a wireless plan, can call 911 without a plan and give you GPS. I have been known to carry 2 charged iPhones in a zip lock plus my current regular iPhone. Another benefit is they can take photos and video which is always a good thing. Find a open wifi and you have free communications.

    I also have Garmin inreach which does shared tracking and can send an emergency signal. They are not that expensive being relative), can record and track progress and can send an emergency signal calling for help. The down side is a 10 dollars a month charge to give you service. 10 dollars a month for an emergency call is cheap plus there are other applications where this device is very helpful. The Garmin can also communicated with all the iPhones giving you a cheap portable screen to view where you are. A cheap rollable solar pad charges the phones in a couple of hours under direct sunlight.

    I would advise looking on Craig's list for an old used adventure Garmin. something that delivers lat and long numbers. I see them regularly for under 50 dollars that run on AA batteries. Units can operate for nearly a day and a half per battery load. Days if you turn it off and on with regularity. Plenty of time to see where you are going and where you are.

    A hand held marine band radio is essential. get a good one, new is better. Carry that on your person.
    Last edited by Ted Hoppe; 11-17-2021 at 11:58 AM.
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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Hoppe View Post
    A hand held marine band radio is essential. get a good one, new is better. Carry that on your person.
    This is spot on. The VHS radio will also let you tune into your local weather station so you can plan ahead.

    Riverine exploration basically means line-of-sight navigation, decent paper charts ought to be just fine...as long as you pay attention to where you are on them. Putting on my first responder hat, on the off chance you end up calling for help either for your self or someone else it might be easier to say "I'm coordinates x/y" than "I'm washed up on the south bank of The Big River, six bends below the rapids I underestimated." Technology has benefits and limitations, hard to know which one you'll run into first. Pay attention to the battery system too, can you slip a few AAs in the back or does it need something more? Turning it on and off will extend the length of time between charges until you forget to turn it off one day and now you have moveable ballast...
    Steve

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I favor Tom's approach. I enjoy the challenge of tracking and knowing where I am. One thing that's made me much better at this is the habit of making and testing predictions. For a few years most of my trips were with an equally passionate geography geek. He was great about making me state what I expected to see around the next bend. I was often wrong! It's only when you realize that your prediction was off that you have a chance to find where you really are. If I'm not explicitly stating what I expect to see, my mind can torture the landscape into some pretty amazing shapes to justify incorrect assumptions, and I can get myself fairly lost.
    For maps and research check out caltopo.com. It's an incredibly powerful free mapper that will allow you to print off exactly the map you want. Among other things, it's got marine charts, it allows you to layer multiple maps, and you can measure distance and shoot bearings with ease. I haven't investigated topopzone but my hunch is that caltopo blows it out of the water.

    James

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Toms ideas of anti consumerism won't hold up so well when you are freezing to death and can not tell anyone where you are.

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    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Jesus, I don't even even know why this is a discussion, get a DSC radio!

  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    239

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Itís funny to see everyoneís reactions who arenít from the Midwest. Itís the Mississippi River. There is cell service everywhere. Youíd be hard pressed to get more than a half mile from a road. At any one time youíre probably a 20 minute walk from a gas station. This is not a Shackleton situation,

    I donít use a gps for things like the Mississippi, BWCA or the Apostle Islands because itís better for me to train my mind to use landmarks so I form a mental map. When you use a gps for driving directions you never remember the route. Do it a few times from memory and it gets programmed.

    When I get to sail in the Great Lakes or Atlantic I do like having a gps. On bigger boat itís also not as detrimental to my enjoyment and even coastal cruising gives less to look at than small boat adventures.

    I donít have a philosophical opinions on GPS one way or the other, only preferences. Since the OP mentioned locks I donít know of way to go through them without a VHF. Getting the weather can be invaluable. I was kayak sailing in the Apostle Islands when we got a forecast for a two day storm the would have left us stuck on island. If I was retired it might have been kind of fun to hole up in an abandoned cabin I found on Bear Island but as it was I was grateful to not miss work.

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Fairfield, CA
    Posts
    2,360

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    My cruising grounds are the Sacramento Delta, which may be similar to your area: there are major rivers with shipping channels and big boat traffic, tugs with tows on the channels and nearby, and miles of side sloughs with mainly fishing boat traffic. I carry a DSC VHF (the HX890) and have an MMSI number, a Garmin handheld GPS, charts and compass, and I do have a cell phone. This is what I've found after 10+ years on a small boat here:

    I use the VHF to communicate only when traveling in company with other small boats. I have never called any of the big tankers or the tugs, I just stay out of their way. I listen for maydays, but have never been in a position to assist. I still consider this my main safety device due to the DSC, if it was ever needed. (EDIT: some of our sailors need to call bridges to open up, my row-cruiser just slides under).

    I navigate mainly by chart. It is easy to follow the maze of sloughs and intersections by chart. I hardly ever need the compass, local landmarks and the sun give a good sense of direction. Fog would change things, but that is rare here.

    The handheld GPS is useful on the water mainly as a speedometer, shows me where favorable currents are. I do use the saved track sometimes to plot a trip, but could get the track from the VHF as well if I did not have the Garmin and already know how to do it.

    The cell phone is almost a necessity to keep in touch with family and let them know when I will be back. I am sure there would be a lot of panic calls to authorities if I was not able to let them know of a change of plans. Years ago I got a spot tracker, but that needs yearly subscription, does not really explain to anyone why you are not moving, and was not much use. Might be a help if you would be out of cell coverage for a long trip.
    Last edited by rgthom; 11-17-2021 at 05:35 PM. Reason: bridges

  30. #30
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    UK. Cornwall, Suffolk.
    Posts
    8,537

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Yeah, good luck waving your cell phone at arm's reach above the water in a force 4 or above.

  31. #31
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Still Above the Grass
    Posts
    7,224

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    I made it to Sitka AK from Seattle without VHF, GPS, epirb, cell phone, radar, depth sounder, or chart plotter, 900-plus sea miles. Compass and charts, tide tables and current tables are all you really need. Learn the basics first, add gimmicks later.

  32. #32
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Victoria BC, Canada
    Posts
    609

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    My first electronic aid was a VHF, no DSC option then but you probably can't buy one without, now. The other one that followed was a Garmin 72. Both of these run on AA batteries which is perfect for me as I don't want to be looking for someplace to plug in every night or two. If you have an alternator on your engine, that won't matter to you. I have no personal experience with GPS/Navionics but friends who used these on their phones or ipads, both found that the batteries couldn't take sustained use - like one full day.

    Twenty years on, all on salt water and with up to 30 mile open water crossings I still use the original aids. From what you said I think they would handle your navigation and potential emergency needs. I'd keep them separate because the GPS is a battery hog compared to the VHF so I often leave it off until I need it. I also carry paper charts because I like them - also there is no chart on the old Garmin 72.

    If you're learning, you'll want to start with easy trips. By the time you're ready to go farther afield you'll probably have a better idea of what you'll want.

    Jamie

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
    Posts
    11,206

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by lupussonic View Post
    Yeah, good luck waving your cell phone at arm's reach above the water in a force 4 or above.
    Let's review the OP, shall we?

    I'm planning to build a very simple plywood skiff and sail it on the backwaters of the Mississippi River near my home in Iowa.
    Iowa--probably something like this:

    mississippi.jpg

    I'd say the risk of serious hazards is a bit reduced from what you may be used to in Cornwall. Sheesh.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 11-17-2021 at 09:39 PM.
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
    Posts
    11,206

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by lupussonic View Post
    Toms ideas of anti consumerism won't hold up so well when you are freezing to death and can not tell anyone where you are.
    Hmm... And yet, somehow, against all odds, I'm still here after 27 years of small boat sailing sans electronics.

    I did use a handheld VHF on my first big trip because I wasn't sure how cautious I needed to be on the Great Lakes. But with the luxury of summers off (teaching job), I found that weather forecasts aren't essential for me. It's easy to take another day or three and remain in camp when conditions are bad. I can see how those who need to stick to a set schedule might appreciate a forecast, though.


    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Southern Maine
    Posts
    21,907

    Default Re: I know nothing: VHF, GPS or VHF/GPS?

    Quote Originally Posted by lupussonic View Post
    Look for a handheld VHF with a GPS in it that supports DSC (digital selective calling). Apart from the uses of both the radio and the GPS, it will have a protected red button that when pressed will transmit a mayday with your position to SAR services. One button. Handy especially if you are in the drink, which lets face it is likely on a small boat.

    You don't have to use the GPS, but if you need it it's there.
    Ding, ding....ding. A correct answer at last. That's what you should aspire to. It is 2021.
    Last edited by Hwyl; 11-17-2021 at 10:35 PM.

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