Prioritizing Electronics for Cruising on 42′ Cat

I found your web site today and was fascinated with all the possibilities. We are in the process of buying a 42′ cat and will be sailing from the US East Coast through the Panama Canal and out to the South Pacific and points beyond. The boat does not have anything other than self steering and basic instruments and we would like to equip with radar, gps, plotter, etc…running into a PC and of course not spend a fortune. What would you suggest as someone who obviously has a great deal of experience? The route plotting seems like a great idea and we will have a sat phone but are unsure about a SSB. Thanks, David

Hi David: You pose a very tough question. A lot depends on your style of navigation, budget, etc. From our perspective, we’re hooked on electronic charting. Resisted it for a long time, but for us it reduces the nav work load allowing more time for weather analysis.

As far as radar goes, the most important thing is target definition in difficult sea-states. Nothing else really matters. Toward this end buy the best quality set you can afford and the biggest antennae. Antenna size is much more important than output power. Our own preference is Furnuno, who still seem to have a better target definition than anyone else.

SSB is a tough call. It is not nearly as useful as a satphone, unless you are a ham. But nice for talking to other boats. New models now have the automated distress capability and all ships now monitor these frequencies. Connected to the GPS it will give out a distress call and your lat. and lon. Redundant with the EPIRB for sure, but overall I think we’ll probably go with one on our new boat.

Having said all of the above, if you have to wait around and earn more money to buy all this fancy stuff I’d say go now. Buy a couple of portable GPS units, a used ham rig, and forget the rest. When we started cruising in the 70s we did not even have a VHF let alone a long range radio, and GPS or Sat Nav had yet to be invented. Only one boat we knew even had a weather fax. And everybody did just fine. Good Luck–Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 16, 2001)

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