The Basics of Marine Electronics

The complex nature of sophisticated marine electronics means you will likely run into confusion whether you’re a seasoned boater or a young novice. Before figuring out what you should have on your boat, it’s important to know the items available to you. The seven basic electronics all boats need are an AIS, chartplotter, EPIRB and PLB units, fishfinder, MFD, radar, and VHF radio.

The AIS, or Automatic Identification System, consists of a transmitter and receiver used to provide a means of identifying and gathering information on surrounding boats and commercial ships. The data supplied by AIS units includes ship name, size, destination, and speed. The chartplotter is a convenient tool that allows its user to display digital charts and navigation on an LCD screen. It presents users with a real-time display of their location, and can provide routes and supplemental information such as speed and estimated arrival time.

EPIRB (electronic position indicating radio beacon) and PLB (personal locator beacon) units are both important tools in case of emergency. Their primary function is to broadcast SOS messages to satellites to alert search and rescue authorities of the user’s location and need for help. EPIRB units are used when boats need assistance, and PLB units are for people in danger. Depending on the model, these units are activated manually or hydrostatically (by exposure to water).

Fishfinders are sonar tools that give users a real-time look at the fish under, around, and in front of their boat. Fishfinders are commonly integrated into the chartplotter or appear in a system on your boat’s multifunction display. The multifunction display, or MFD, is simply the screen your electronic systems can be viewed and managed on.

Radar gives users the ability to see things not visible to the naked eye. A radar sends pulses throughout the surrounding area which are reflected back by other boats, land, and even extremely choppy waters. Recreational radar units are capable of mapping distances ranging from 20-70+ miles away. The final component, VHF radio, is the most important communication tool onboard. It enables the user to communicate with other boats and the coast guard from 20 or more miles away.

At Purchasing 3Sixty, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the electronics for the marine, aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


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