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bigjohn1 posted 03-24-2004 09:52 AM ET (US)   Profile for bigjohn1   Send Email to bigjohn1  

Was just thumbing through the 2004 West Marine catalogue trying to decide on electronics for my 170. I am basically stumped by the aray of charter plotters, GPS, sonar/fisher finders, etc.

Here is what I need; a moderately priced (not over $1,000)
combo GPS and fish finder. I will use the fisher finder much more than the GPS and don't want an el-cheapo, hard to read display..I want as much clarity and resolution that I can get for under a grand. On the GPS side of the house, I'd be happier with a simple type display that just reads out lat/long, heading and bearing to waypoints I plug in.

Most importantly, it has to be as durable and weather-proof as humanly possible due to the harsh South Pacific tropical environment I operate in. Lots of cheaper electronic goodies on boats over here and you see alot of them being replaced frequently due to the salt air and water simply eating them up.

I am meticulous as they go where my equipment is concerned though and ensure my gear is wiped down, covered, and out of the elements when not in use. Still, electronics are going to get splashed in a 170....especially when diving so the unit I decide on must be as wheather proof as possible.
I have read various threads on electronics here and tend to hear higher end units in the 1-2,000 dollar range mentioned more than cheaper units. Anyone have good ideas on a unit as bullet-proof as possible for less than $1,000 with a high qaulity large display?

Big John

Uncle Pug posted 03-24-2004 10:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for Uncle Pug    
You mention combination GPS and Depth Sounder. Personally I don't like a combo unless it is the big expensive kind so you can split the screen and still see enough information: depthsounder, plotter, numbers, ect.

On the 170 I went the other direction and have a Garmin 76 map on the left of the helm and a Humminbird Matrix35 on the right side. I could feed the GPS signal to the Matrix since it can operate as a plotter but I want the screen to only display the sounder information... it has three beams so shows directly below and to both sides. The Garmin has its own (small) screen and can operate in Map mode or plotter mode.

The total price was well under $1000 (in fact not much more than half that on sale.)

Here is a picture of the helm:

fitn217 posted 03-24-2004 10:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for fitn217  Send Email to fitn217     
I bought the Lowrance LMS 320 last year and love it. It's a combo gps/fishfinder. Lowrance just upgraded it this year with even more pixels to the LMS 480 I believe. It's very reasonably priced, works great and doesn't take up too much space.
Moe posted 03-24-2004 10:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
With a combo unit, you aren't going to find a minimalist GPS with a great fishfinder. The quality and features of a combo unit's GPS will pretty much match the quality and features of its fishfinder.

Going to separates won't alleviate that much since they cost more than a combo unit. A minimalist GPS and medium grade fishfinder will cost about as much as a combo unit with a medium grade GPS and fishfinder.

Do you want greyscale or color? It makes a big difference in price.


WT posted 03-24-2004 11:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
I have a color Lowrance unit but you should check out this one.

Get the dual frequency one if you are doing deep water fishing.


Captain Billy posted 03-24-2004 11:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for Captain Billy  Send Email to Captain Billy     
Garmin makes a duel unit the 168. I do not like having a split screen, so I got the 162 chartplotter (about 400.00) I also started with a Garmin 100 sounder, but it was more fickle than an old woman. So I changed it out to a duel frequency Lowrance. (about 350.00) I mounted the 162 on a RAM mount (about 45.00) to get it a little higher. I also have a VHF, a compass and a cup holder on the dash of my 15'Dauntless, so there is room up there if you are creative.
Ventura16 posted 03-24-2004 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ventura16  Send Email to Ventura16     
The Garmin 168 has been replaced by the new 178...color, daylight-viewable screen and higher resolution. I would definitely take a close look at the 178 as soon as they are released (mid April). MSRP is around $950 so you should be able to get one well within your budget.


Moe posted 03-24-2004 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
I believe the GPSMAP 178C with internal antenna and dual-frequency transducer is the one we're going to wind up with.

With a retail price of $942.84, it should mail-order for $700-$750. Memory card, programmer, and BlueChart CD (which BigJohn1 says he doesn't need) will probably take that up close to $1000.


Divedog posted 03-24-2004 01:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Divedog  Send Email to Divedog     
I'm with Moe on this. I'm planning on ordering a 178C later this month. At the last boat show I went to they were 'pre-ordering' for $706. I hadn't purchased my boat yet and wasn't seriously shopping for electronics at the time. So I'm not sure if that included the transducer. When you decide to buy, look out for that. I know West Marine is selling the transducer a separate item.
I'm on a budget as well and the 178 seams to be a reasonable value.
Barry posted 03-24-2004 02:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barry  Send Email to Barry     
Watch eBay. You may be able to find a deal on a closeout, demo, or used unit. I took a chance and purchased a used Garmin 2010 for my 22' Outrage for $600. It works great. I downloaded the software upgrade from Garmin's site and then uploaded it to the 2010 via a home-made cable.

If you're going new check out the Eagle . Although personally I prefer Garmin for GPS.

I have a Lowrance 160 combo unit and kept it to use as my fishfinder and a backup GPS. Here is a picture of my console The 2010 is HUGE compared to the Lowrance 160.

Now where do I put the radar...

Moe posted 03-24-2004 02:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Yes, watch out for the transducer. AFAIK, Garmin isn't selling it without one, but you can get a single-frequency 200kHz one for shallow water, or a dual-frequency 50/200kHz for shallow and deep water.

And you can get either an internal or external antenna, so there's four possible combinations of transducer and antenna.


divefan posted 03-24-2004 05:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for divefan  Send Email to divefan     
Just installed a garmin 188 internal antenna on my 170 yesterday. $623 mail order. I had the two previous models the 182 and the 180 on other boats I owned. Great center console units.

I was looking at the new 178c that everyone is talking about but discarded the idea after talking with a friend of mine that is the Boatersworld electronics expert. He has been in the biz for umpteen years and knows all the manufacturers personally. In fact, he does a lot of prototype testing for new electronic products. Anyway, the point is he said generally speaking you do not want to buy the very first release of any new item. There are ALWAYS changes to the first generation shortly after release.

So with that in mind I went to a tried and true been around a long time rock solid 188. Simple 50/200 depth and temp transducer. I don't need color or many bells and whistles. Although this unit does have a lot of the B&W if you want to use them. I just want my location and the reef structure. It has a fast processor and good overall detail. Bought the blue chart chip for my area ($123 mail order)and away I go. This is my choice.

Btw, If you do want the color version it is available as the garmin 188c.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

jimh posted 03-24-2004 07:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
[Helped with long URI's.]
jimh posted 03-24-2004 07:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have not made a careful study of the current market choices, but, based on previous offerings, I would suggest that the LOWRANCE product line be given careful consideration because often their equipment is bundled with rather significant MAP DATA on CD-ROM which can be loaded into the chart plotter at no extra cost.

In other product lines you are often faced with having to purchase a plug-in cartridge in order to get detailed cartography. This can get expensive unless you use your boat in the same water all the time. And, if you do use your boat in the same water all the time it seems to me to more or less beg the question, why do you need incredibly detailed chart plotters to navigate?

Moe posted 03-24-2004 07:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Night, fog, and CRS.

Barney posted 03-24-2004 07:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
To each his own I guess. My marine electronic purchases have been on the low end of the scale. When boating/fishing thru a complex island/marsh area such as the Lousiana marsh, the detailed GPS with a big screen is handy. However, sand islands and points tend to move around, disappear or appear from year to year and storm to storm. Do the GPS manufacturers keep up with the changes often? Jim
Sal A posted 03-24-2004 08:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for Sal A  Send Email to Sal A     
Moe. What is CRS?
Barney posted 03-24-2004 08:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
I can't remember either?
WT posted 03-24-2004 08:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     

I you are going to navigate at night or in fog you should use radar not a GPS. You can run your Boston Whaler into an oceanliner before you see it while using a GPS to navigate.

Moe posted 03-24-2004 08:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Sal, can't remember stuff (or equivalent 4-letter word)

Barney, the cartography companies do offer periodic upgrades, like buying a new chart when the old one gets too out of date. You have to keep up with notice to mariners in between.

WT, you were doing okay until you added, "not GPS." Radar isn't going to keep you off those underwater hazards.


InHerNet posted 03-24-2004 08:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for InHerNet  Send Email to InHerNet     
I wanted more in a fish-finder for shallow and deep water so the Garmin 240 Blue was my choice. As far as the GSP the Garmin 76S was the choice. I have a mounted holder for it on the 170 and also in my vehicle. I did purchase the Blue Chart CD for my boating area and the maps are very accurate. One other feature about the GPS is that is floats and has a built in compass. I can carry it anywhere with me. "Except at the airport :)" Two AA batteries for about 4-6 hrs of use. I have rechargeable batteries and carry a couple sets. If you lose power with a fixed unit you also lose your ability to relay your current position if unknown at that time.

I had the high-end "$$$$" Color GPS/Fish-finder on the Outrage with split screen, and I like the ease of use of this setup I have now. Lets me fish more and less messing with buttons and screens.

jimh posted 03-24-2004 09:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re: boating at night.

If you have your head buried in a Chartplotter while operating at night, you will probably miss a few things you should have been looking at on the water.

Most of the GPS/Plotters available now will record a track. This is really the best way to get home--follow your outbound track. I would put much more confidence in following a previous track than I would in following pure map cartography when visibility is limited.

ASIDE: A couple of years ago we were cruising and all piled into one boat to go to dinner. We knew we'd be coming back late and after dark in strange water, but we planned to follow the GPS track back home. We were in an area of many rock shoals and hazards, and no one was familiar with the local water. As fate would have it, the GPS was left on while we ate, and updated its track every 15 seconds as directed, so that when we came out of the restaurant the track was erased. Just the past several hours of sitting at the dock were in memory. Oh, this was gonna be fun, getting back in the dark.

As you can guess, we made it, and without incident. We just were careful, had a lookout with a small flashlight, and shined up enough little buoys and rocks to string ourselves from point to point and get the five miles back to base through a zillion rocks and shoals.

Chuck Tribolet posted 03-24-2004 10:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
CRS = Can't Remember Stuff.

As you get older, there are three things that don't function
so well. The first is memory, and I can't remember the other


All things considered, a grand is a fairly nice budget for
GPS + fishfinder. All the decent units are JIS-7 now
(submersible, 3', 30 minutes). Can't take them diving, but
waves over the bow and wet divers aren't a problem.

Tracks are cool, but develop a few routes for the areas where
you commonly boat. Then to keep the boat on course, all you
have to do is glance at the arrow now and then, and you can
spend most of your brain and eye power keeping a sharp
lookout. And have at least a few waypoints: the mouth of
the harbor, your favorite bar, and so on.

I personally don't like the dual function (GPS + fishfinder)
units because when I'm trying to find some little piece
of structure to dive on, I like lots of res on both. A
fisherman who uses the fisher finder to find fish and the
GPS to get home may feel differently.

One of the biggest advantages of a chartplotter is that it
will very quickly familiarize you with the names of local
landmarks. There was a VHF conversation I heard a while
back (greatly condensed):

Boat: I can't get my engine started. I'm about a half a
mile off the point. (I just counted 21 named "points" in
CG Station Monterey's turf).
CG Monterey: Which Point?
Boat: The one in Pacific Grove. (there are four points in
CG Monterey: Which point in Pacific Grove?

Divefan: the fixes to GPS units are all firmware, and can
be downloaded off the internet and loaded from your PC into
your GPS. No problem to buy one of the first. I had one
of the first Garmin 162's, and have been through maybe a
dozen firmware loads. There was one early bug (Magnetic
declenation was applied twice in figuring out which way to
point the route arrow), a lot of little fixes, and WAAS
support. Plus the 178C is just a swizzle on the 168 (color
and a little more screen resolution).


bigjohn1 posted 03-25-2004 08:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigjohn1  Send Email to bigjohn1     
Man o man!!

Seek and you shall find - this forum is outstanding. Many thanks to all who shared with me. Due to the volume of different ideas, it occurred to me that I probably should have been a little more specific in my intended use.

The boat will be operated exclusively in the South Pacific islands of Micronesia and we have some really DEEP water out here. Its not uncommon to go a half mile out from the marina and go from 30ft to over 1,500ft in a very short distance.

I'd say 75% of the time, I will be cruising up and down the reefline perhaps no more than a half mile off-shore. The places I will go around shore are mostly the same and you simply navigate by site.

The other 25% of the time, we will go off-shore and normally be in water depths ranging from about 300ft to in some cases over 3,000ft. In the deep water, we'd want to be able to see schools of tuna and wahoo at mid-water level on the fishfinder. We do alot of freediving where you jump in the deep stuff and coax the schools up to within about 50 ft of the surface where we spearfish. Of course, this is also where we'd use the GPS as a back-up to the compass to find our way home and also to find the various fishing and diving spots out there.

Its not like there's hundreds of spots off-shore either. There are actually only 4 or 5 off-spots within the Montauk's range on a smooth day. I mention this as to say I do not need the capability to store hundreds or thousands of different waypoints. Also, as someone correctly suggested, the unit will get the usual wet splash of water on windy/choppy days and with divers entering/exiting the boat.

Thanks again to everyone,


Moe posted 03-25-2004 09:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Given THOSE circumstances, I'd personally up the budget to $1500, and go for a 6.5" diagonal 600W Furuno FCV582L fishfinder. Hard to beat at those depths. Sounds like all you need for a GPS is a non-charting handheld like the Garmin GPS72 or GPS76, and that should fit within a $1500 budget.


OzWhaler posted 03-25-2004 09:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for OzWhaler  Send Email to OzWhaler     
I'm going thru the same exercise now and I am looking at purchasing from the NAVMAN fishfinder and chart range.
Excellent units made in New Zealand and available in USA too. Rugged construction, clear displays, compact, very simple operation, and good water resistance ratings... and very affordable....and proven in Oz and NZ.
Well worth looking at in your electronics evaluation process...

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