The most common and useful electronic device aboard large boats is undoubtedly the depthfinder—it keeps them from running aground. With most small boats you can often see the bottom before you hit it, and if you do run aground you can usually shove off with an oar or get out and push, as I did in in Florida Bay during the Everglades Challenge (see my story in this issue). There are times where water depth is an important piece of information for small boats, particularly when anchoring in coves where a rising tide can diminish the scope of your anchor rode and a falling tide can set you on the rocks in the middle of the night. Knowing the depth can also help you find good fishing holes. The H22FX HawkEye Handheld Sonar System by NorCross Marine gives us a way to determine depth up to 200’ quickly and accurately.
No bigger than a flashlight, the H22FX is small enough to fit just about anywhere. Simply add four AA batteries and the unit is ready to go with a flip of a switch. All you have to do is place the front of the device in the water and get a reading on its backlit LCD screen. The sounder floats and is rated waterproof to 3′.
In my sea trials aboard my fishing skiff, the sounder accurately measured depths from 3′ up to 80′ on trial depths on a variety of bottoms, verified by my onboard depthfinder. The H22FX was also useful in checking my depths when I went spearfishing from my kayak.
In addition to measuring depth, the H22FX can also be aimed horizontally to find distances to shore or submerged obstructions. It has a built-in thermometer to provide air and water temperature and doubles as a 20-lumen LED flashlight with easily changed clear, red, blue, and green lenses. The LED can flash SOS, a nice nod to safety, but it is not a substitute for Coast Guard–approved distress-signaling devices.
The H22FX has a fish indicator feature to help locate fish, and it did display the fish symbol when fish were present. While that’s a nice-to-know bit of information, any experienced fisherman knows that even more sophisticated sounders that show you a picture of the bottom and the fish are primarily used to find underwater structures and contours where you are most likely to catch fish.
The H22FX is capable of shooting through aluminum or solid fiberglass hulls but not through wood. In a small boat the water is within reach.
The H22FX is a useful tool. Depths marked on charts don’t have the details in the shore-side waters frequented by small boats, and taking soundings with your anchor before setting it is clumsy and time-consuming. With the H22FX, determining depth is quick, easy and reliable.
A native Floridian, Thomas Head grew up working on his father’s home-built stone crab boat in the small coastal town of Inglis. He has 19 years of service in the U.S. Navy. His account of racing in the Everglades Challenge appears in this issue.
The H22FX is manufactured by HawkEye Electronics and is listed at $129.99.