The hand-held depth sounder - don't go cruising without one

It could be worse - don’t let this happen to you
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Karen and Jeffrey Siegel, the founders of www.activecaptain.com!ActiveCaptain, who cruise with with their two dogs on their yacht aCappella, tell here of the great advantages of carrying a hand-held depth sounder when cruising:

So we're in an anchorage last week when a boat comes in and grinds to a halt in a way that you know isn't right and they must be 'on the bottom'.

Handheld depth finder
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People on deck are running around and before you know it, another boat comes to help. They put a large line around a bow cleat and drag the boat about 10 feet forward until it comes to a complete and total stop.

After some additional scurrying, a group of dinghies comes on scene.

We're always ready for some adventure at an anchorage so we jump onto our dinghy and head to the scene. But we do one extra thing before leaving our mother ship - we grab our handheld depth sounder.

The team of dinghies gathers with the intent of pushing and dragging the stuck boat more forward.

We zip to the bow and find that, unexpectedly, the depths in front of the boat are less than the depth of the water it's currently sitting in. It takes about 1 minute of circling the boat to realize that the only deep water is to the port side.

Later the same week a boat comes into the anchorage with their dog Scout, so we arrange a dog play date at the small sand beach on an island in the anchorage.

Sailing dogs and their unpaid crews
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Since we hadn't been to the island before we take the depth sounder before heading out. As we get closer we make a couple of quick readings and realize that the island has to be approached from the north because it is way too shallow on the south side even 100 yards from the island.

These are just a few ways that we used our portable depth sounder IN THE LAST WEEK. It's one of those tools that every cruising boater should have. It looks like a flashlight - touch it to the water's surface and it instantly tells you the depth. It's perfect for the dinghy. Ours floats too which is, let's say, a good feature for our dinghy with 2 people and 2 excited dogs headed to shore.

The Siegels recommend the HawkEye H22PX Handheld Depth Finder, which costs around $75. It will display depths from 2.5 to 199 feet, provide air and water temperature, and even fish readings.

'It is waterproof to 200 feet and will float, a nice feature for something you will be using in the water,' say Karen and Jeffrey, 'The Shoot-Thru Technology allows readings through ice and solid fiberglass or aluminum boat, kayak, or canoe hulls.

'It's simple to use, just press the button to receive depth sounding updated 4 times a second in either feet or meters. Four AA batteries (not included) will provide you with 30 continuous hours of operation.'