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Best Depth-finder/ GPS for under $500.00:-?


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I am looking for opinions on budget electronics, as I am a single Parent on an MPS teachers budget.  I am looking for a basic GPS/fish-finder (real time depth) for under 500 dollars.  I have found some for fishing boats, but they come with transducers to be mounted on the transom of fishing boats that requires  drilling holes in the fiberglass transom.  I have read discussions, but not reviews, of how skimmer transducers work epoxied in front of the keel in the bilge, reading through the hull.  Has anyone done it?????  does it work?????   I have a thru-hull for an old depth sounder, but those transducers seem to be pretty expensive, or not available.  Lowrance, Eagle, and Hummingbird are the standards in the fishing world.  BUT…….. the sailing world (West Marine) likes Garmin.  Does Garmin talk to Raymarine, or BNG????     We all know what they say about opinions:-)   I'm sure everyone here has one………. about their electronics.  I can't wait to read them all, as I am hoping to make a wise informed decision……….  As this Is my second post, I should probably introduce myself.  Sometime in the early 70"s, my parents went to St. Croix with another couple.  The summer after, I was a: shaggy haired, 4-5 year old, ginger fish in a human body, and my parents had a Cape Dory 25, named "Fellowship" on Lake Winnebago.  Growing up, we cruised Green Bay, Northwest Michigan, usually starting at Manitou Island going north to Beaver Island. We did this on a Hunter 30, and a Pearson 34.  I had a Butterfly, as a kid, and have sailed Scows, as captain and crew until I met "EvaOdland" of "hate on that 70's boat".  She hooked me up with her first boat, an '84 Hunter 25.5 named RAIDO.  My first post in "pictures while Sailing", Is of her sailing out of McKinley marina out one MKE.  Eva took the one of me healing, and the one in the fog was sent by an awesome sailor that thought the pic in the fog made a great pic:-}    #KEEPINGOLDPLASTICALIVE:-!!!!!!!   

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Lowrance and Humminbird are, in general terms, crap. Garmin makes good gear but their customer service sucks balls. Raymarine seems to be improving, I would look at one of their lower-priced offerings. Yes, you can glue transducers inside the hull, or put them in a wet box full of mineral oil which is glued to the hull. If you want colour maps on your GPS, forget cheap. Row of numbers is doable with any handheld, you might luck out and find a used handheld with maps. If you can stand separate instrumentation, I would go for a cheap Garmin fishfinder and a handheld GPS.

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I was in a similar situation, looking for a simple, basic depth sounder, and I bought one of these. I glued the standard transom mount transducer into the bilge and it's work flawlessly ever since, even reading bottom in depths 1000' or more. Not that I really care at that point but still impressive. I really like having the depth trend/fishfinder view - much more useful than I would have guessed. It's especially helpful to see what the bottom's actually doing when you're anchoring and you get a much better sense of the depth trend that just watching numbers flick by.

These instructions are pretty close to what I did. Definitely test it out first using the bag of water technique. I used WEST system epoxy with colloidal silica to thicken it, but any solid thickener should work fine - don't use microballoons or anything that will introduce air bubbles.

Downside to a unit like this is no networking - you get the depth on the fishfinder and nowhere else. On a budget I'd stick with something basic like this for depth, Navionics on a tablet, and some paper charts for backup. On a 25' boat I'd probably mount both of them on a swing out arm in the companionway - keeps them out of the way when you're sailing, and keeps the tablet out of the weather.

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i think silicone is used to "glue" the transducer.  I'm going to get something for spring.  the silva (!) sounder on the boat has gone intermittent.  an old salt on the dock says put the transducer in a bag of water, move it around until you get a good read and then silicone the transducer in that place.  my question is that most fish finders come with a transducer meant to mount on the transom of a fishing boat, i'm assuming that you would just remove any bracket and glue in the transducer.

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56 minutes ago, chester said:

i think silicone is used to "glue" the transducer.  I'm going to get something for spring.  the silva (!) sounder on the boat has gone intermittent.  an old salt on the dock says put the transducer in a bag of water, move it around until you get a good read and then silicone the transducer in that place.  my question is that most fish finders come with a transducer meant to mount on the transom of a fishing boat, i'm assuming that you would just remove any bracket and glue in the transducer.

Yes, that's how it's supposed to work. Make sure the silicone is bubble-free. Airmar recommends using epoxy, but enough people have used silicone that it seems to be OK.

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2 hours ago, Ishmael said:

Yes, that's how it's supposed to work. Make sure the silicone is bubble-free. Airmar recommends using epoxy, but enough people have used silicone that it seems to be OK.

My n=1; silicone better than epoxy (for my Airmar depth transducer, not a fancy CHIRP fish finder, so YMMV). Version 1, epoxied the transducer thru the bottom of my boat. After two seasons it started to leak. Removed transducer by carefully hammering and chiseling it from the hull. Tested transducer to ensure it wasn't broken from hammering. Somehow it survived. The lesson? If you epoxy the transducer to the hull or inside the hull, you probably won't get a second chance if the epoxy or the transducer fails. Hammer, drill, screw-driver-used-as-chisel, and swearing. Lot's of swearing. And then (maybe) buy a new transducer. If the transducer is specific to your chart plotter and you cannot buy a replacement, SOL. I just got lucky.

Version 2. Fiberglassed the hole and bedded the transducer inside the hull with silicone. Seven years and it all works fine. If the transducer or silicone go bad, I can unbed, clean, and rebed. I have read of people using a wax toilet-bowl ring to bed their transducer, or a tube full of oil. I have not tried either, but I used to keep a wax toilet-bowl ring in a ziplock bag on my boat for leak repairs, but a few seasons of Texas hot turned it into pudding in a bag. I don't think wax would bed a transducer well. 

I run a Lowrance 5 inch plotter with Navionics on my boat. Out of the box the plotting was a straight-up shit-show until I updated the firmware. The preloaded charts were like the map on the back of the Howard Johnson's kid's menu. The Navionics charts would not display properly; islands appeared where no islands existed. Horrible. I updated the firmware once and since then it has worked fine. But as a brand, there seem to be reliability problems, so beware. 

Snubs

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Totally - don't use use epoxy to bed a through-hull fitting - you need some flexibility there to prevent leaks, as you found out. 

For a glued-in place internal transducer (ie no hole, no possibility of leaks), personally I would rather remove cured epoxy (couple seconds with a grinder) than clean up a big silicone blob. But clearly either can work fine and not like you're going to be replacing it often. 

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4 hours ago, Fellowship said:

That Dragonfly seemed like a slick unit.  However, it seems to be discontinued. :(

If you're on a budget, picking up only-slightly-obsolete gear like that on Ebay or Craigslist can be an option.  I've been thinking of picking up a used Dragonfly for the zodiac.  Last year, I bought a used A78 MFD and it works fine.  (Caution: the fricken proprietary cables to connect all the cheap used units together may NOT be cheap.)

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+1. ^. I set our last pay up with a full signet setup for the trade of a spool of three strand.  20% didn't work but the rest was fine and still on the boat when we sold it. Speedo depth heal gps and multiple displays back in 2002.  We have met two recent boats who threw away a full set of older electronics because they had no takers.  Nothing wrong with it just older and they were upgrading for whatever reason.

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On 2/10/2020 at 6:51 PM, Ishmael said:

Lowrance and Humminbird are, in general terms, crap. Garmin makes good gear but their customer service sucks balls. Raymarine seems to be improving, I would look at one of their lower-priced offerings. Yes, you can glue transducers inside the hull, or put them in a wet box full of mineral oil which is glued to the hull. If you want colour maps on your GPS, forget cheap. Row of numbers is doable with any handheld, you might luck out and find a used handheld with maps. If you can stand separate instrumentation, I would go for a cheap Garmin fishfinder and a handheld GPS.

Put GARMIN in the same tub. Had 2 "Colorado" handhelds that crapped out out within days of warranty expiration. First time "sorry sir... we'll replace it right away..." second time, same deal, a little bit past warranty expiration (days, maybe 2 weeks?) and GARMIN was basically "did you read the fucking warranty asshole?!?"

That was it for my romance with GARMIN.

Sucky customer service makes it hard, really hard to become a repeat customer. In the tech world, you are either keeping customers, or paying a shitload to get them, or an exponential shitload to try 'try' and get them back.

GARMIN? better make the killer app with the BEST warranty ever to get me back.

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Garmin sucks ass with horrible customer service, I have to get that in in any Garmin type thread...

I do miss my gmi20 displays though, they are better than the simrad ones, better graphics and functionality.  I still have one in the pilot house from the lightning debacle that I haven't tried to see if it's fried, maybe it will heal itself in time...

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Funny thing, my experience with Garmin Service has been great; with Bike Computers.  Of course Garmin is the elephant in the room regarding bicycle electronics.  Lots of others trying to compete, but basically get no attention.  I see the other’s ads but never see their products on the street.  

That said, my Garmin naviagation equipment has been good so far.  No “mechanical” issues.  My handheld can be a bit horsey about its nav display screen but when I get it set up right, it works fine.  Our Chartplotter has been a Godsend.  

Had a Hummingbird unit once, a lifetime ago.  As I said, ONCE, never again.  Thing never worked even when brand new.  

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car GPS  units are very cheap right now AT YARD SALE 5 TO $10

WILL GIVE SPEED DIRECTION DISTANCE

 any way to lap or tablet input to a map  ?

or add depth from a stand alone depth unit ?

or add any water charts to a car GPS BY ANY MAKER ?

why I like separate things cheap to replace or have spares not all-in-ones

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On 2/16/2020 at 7:55 PM, nota said:

car GPS  units are very cheap right now AT YARD SALE 5 TO $10

WILL GIVE SPEED DIRECTION DISTANCE

 any way to lap or tablet input to a map  ?

or add depth from a stand alone depth unit ?

or add any water charts to a car GPS BY ANY MAKER ?

why I like separate things cheap to replace or have spares not all-in-ones

It's very likely that Garmin used the same hardware for roadmaps and charts at some time back in the day.  But chances are also that the charts only covered small areas, e.g. only LIS, and you probably cant find the one you need.

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