“My name is Tom, and I’m a gadget geek!” I have six high-definition cameras. An electronic engine monitoring system. A wi-fi booster and router with the cellular backup system from two carriers and Starlink. A remote boat monitoring system for shore power, bilge water, shore power, battery voltage, motion detection, and GPS boat location. We have a built-in NEBO tracker. An In-Reach satellite tracking system. A SiriusXM satellite radio with weather service. I should enroll in the Gadget 12-Step program!

While I don’t necessarily recommend that everyone install all of these gadgets, there are a few electronic items that I highly suggest for cruisers, especially if you are going to do the Loop.

The first is a hand-held VHF radio. Even if you have multiple radios installed on your boat, having a hand-held radio is important. First, if you ever lose power onboard, a hand-held will still work. When you take out your dingy, a hand-held will get you help if you need it. We used it on the dock away from the boat to keep in contact with friends who were arriving. And if you ever have to abandon ship, it’s probably your only way to reach rescuers.

The second is having a Send and Receive AIS system. On the rivers, it was great to have a Tug call us and say “hey, we see you just around the corner, if you go to the green side, we won’t squash you like a bug!” The radar is fine but confusing, and it won’t see around corners. AIS lets you see approaching traffic and allows them to see you. It is a bit pricy but well worth the investment. You can also see who is at the marina as you arrive. One note: when you get into a marina, TURN OFF YOUR AIS TRANSMITTER. I’ve been in situations where I am entering a marina and can’t see the map on my Chartplotter because of all of the AIS signals from boats that have not moved in months!

Third, is really good waterproof binoculars. We have two pairs, one for Tom and one for Brenda, so that we don’t have to keep adjusting them to our unique focus distance.

Aside from the typical electronics package (Chartplotter, VHF radio, GPS) the only other gadget that made a difference for us on the Loop was an Auto-Pilot. In the evening, Tom plots our route on his laptop for the following day and then uploads it into the chart plotter/auto-pilot. When we were in open”ish” water, we would let the boat do the driving. It leaves us free to watch the surroundings and other traffic. It reduces the workload.

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