Marine GPS Instructions

Marine GPS InstructionsMarine global positioning system (GPS) devices demand much more of the user than a traditional land GPS. Marine GPS units can help you avoid underwater obstacles and find your way to shore if lost. With the assistance of a compass and marine floor charts, your marine GPS can keep you safe in rough waters and greatly reduce your risk of getting lost at sea or shipwrecked.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Compass
  • Marine charts (if not included on GPS)
Step 1
Choose the type of marine GPS you want to use. There are typically three different kinds: handheld, chart plotter and a GPS hooked up to a computer. Handhelds are cheapest; chart plotters integrate marine charts into the GPS for easier reading; and computer GPS units have greater processing power.
Step 2
Plug your docking coordinates into your GPS before setting out onto the water. You can use this marker to get back home if you are having trouble. You can also plug in the coordinates of your target destination, if you choose.
Step 3
Steer your vessel in the right direction using your compass. Most GPS units cannot determine which direction your boat is pointed, so you will need to use a compass to navigate efficiently.
Step 4
Monitor your location using the GPS and corresponding paper charts, if they are not included in the GPS. Watch out for threatening currents or underwater hazards.
Step 5
Use the toolbar on your marine GPS to keep track of your distance to shore, in nautical miles. Most units are able to measure the distance from your docking station to present location, while others will estimate the time required to return, taking into account the ship's speed and water current.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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