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Unique electronics keep workboats rollin' on the river

Whenever I’m in New Orleans one of my favorite things is grabbing a sandwich and a bench on Riverwalk, which winds along a stretch of the Mississippi. It's a great vantage point to watch tugs and towboats of all sorts push strings of barges in both directions before disappearing around bends in the river, sometimes blasting horn signals and salutes to passing traffic. Keeping those vessels on track and pointing in the right direction is no easy task. Helping captains accomplish the job are some very unusual electronics, which veteran marine writer Lenny Rudow described in an article for Marine Electronics Journal a few months ago. Here are excerpts:

By Lenny Rudow

Commercial river boats have unique requirements, and the pushboats, tugs, and barges that work for a living on the nation’s waterways often have equally unique electronics systems to meet the challenge of operating on narrow, winding and sometimes crowded rivers where depth and bottom configuration may be constantly changing.

One of the reasons why there are so many diverse electronics systems in the marine market overall is that each fills a specific niche. For example, recreational cruisers need systems focused on complex long-distance navigation, while anglers need the best fish-finding tech available, and day-boats require simple basic systems that help them get from point A to point B. Naturally, all of them also need electronics that raise the communications and safety bars as appropriate to where and when they go boating. But when it comes to commercial vessels, it’s an understatement to merely say the needs and niches are "different.” Commercial boats are far more specific to the waters they work and the jobs they perform, and as a result highly specialized systems are often in order.