One of the great things about marine electronics is that manufacturers always come up with some nifty new goodies for us to play around with. Even when the economy looks a little bleak, you can still count on the folks at Furuno, Navico and Raymarine to brighten your new year with some electronic gadgetry. Luckily, we have boatloads of hot new navigation and fish-finding gear to help ease the days ahead. We even let Capt. Karl Anderson showcase three of his favorites for 2009 as well.
Cell-phone technology might not mean squat 50 miles offshore, but it's sure handy around the dock - and there's a bumper crop of cell-based software for mariners this year. One of my favorites is InstaMapper (www.instamapper.com), a GPS tracking service that works on your GPS-equipped phone or BlackBerry. Load it up and let it run, and every five seconds your cell will send your GPS coordinates to the InstaMapper server. Anyone who has access to your account can then see your lat/lon simply by logging on to Google Maps. It's a free service, but before you use it, make sure you have an unlimited calling plan - otherwise, sending that update every five seconds will boost your cell bill higher than the A-dock calcutta at the White Marlin Open.
Does that type of position monitoring sound a bit too big-brotherish for your tastes? Don't put down that cell phone just yet; you can also use it as a full-blown chart plotter. OK, maybe it doesn't have a 12-inch LCD screen, but Navionics' new Mobile software (which you can download for free at www.navionics.com) gives you the power to display charts on your cell's screen.