We operate a really low-tech boat, but we do have two critical pieces of equipment - our Navman chartplotter and fishfinder. You might not think a fishfinder is a critical piece of equipment, but when you don't have a fridge and ready access to protein other than what comes out of a tin, fishing becomes quite important. Plus snapper is tasty and fishing makes Skipper Scott happy.
Our fishfinder isn't installed on the boat, we just take it out of its hidey hole in one of the lockers whenever it is time to go fishing and perch it up on deck. And then you sit back and stare at it waiting and hoping to see a swarm of fish swimming by. It is pretty cool - it gives you an idea of how many fish there are, how big they are and at what depth. Seems to be a clever gadget. Unfortunately, it lies sometimes. It will show you a gazillion fish right underneath your boat but for some reason you can never hook one. I think it likes to mess with our minds. You're thinking, "Yum - fish for dinner!" and Mr. Fishfinder is rubbing its flippers together cackling to itself, "Stupid humans, fooled again! They'll be eating pasta with tomato sauce tonight. Swim free my little fishy friends, swim free!"
Our fishfinder also has one other really important feature - it serves as our depth sounder. Knowing the depth of the water is pretty critical when you anchoring or when you're maneuvering along the coast, near a reef or in an area with shallow waters. I'm not sure if our transducer set up is bizarre or not. (By the way, a transducer is a gizmo that sends out some sort of super-sonic waves which bounce off of things and then the data is magically converted into a number which tells you how deep the water is. A highly technical explanation I know.) Our transducer is placed inside some sort of plastic ring attached to the bilge. Scott put some gravel inside the ring to keep the transducer in place and we pour water in the ring so that it is sitting in the water. We checked to make sure that the set-up works by cross-checking how deep the fishfinder says the water is against what our paper charts say. So far, they seem to match up. I imagine this isn't how most transducers are installed?
Our chartplotter is installed on the boat so that you can keep an eye on it while you're helming the boat. It is probably like most other chartplotters - you can see your boat's position on the chart via GPS, track how many nautical miles you've gone and follow your progress from your starting to ending point. Being able to go back and see your track is really useful when you're anchored in a tricky situation where the water is quite shallow all around you and you want to make sure you go back out exactly the way you came in.
The maker of our gear, Navman, is a classic example of Kiwi ingenuity. Peter Maire developed a fishfinder in his garage in Auckland, established a company and became a pioneer in marine electronic products. I think you would be surprised what gets developed in garages all across New Zealand - things like very cool jetpacks that look like they're straight out of the Jetsons. Kiwi ownership of Navman came to an end in 2004 when they were acquired by Brunswick Corporation and then subsequently chopped into pieces and sold off to other companies. I'm sure some people made a lot of money in the process. They always do. The marine division is now part of the Norwegian company Navico and I think the Navman marine brand has now disappeared which makes us owners of "legacy products", which is code for old equipment. But they still work and that's all that counts.