Can I Use My Garmin Nuvi in a Boat?

By Will Charpentier

When people ask if they can use a Garmin Nuvi GPS system in a boat, the answer is a conditional "yes" -- provided your model is designed to accept marine charts. You might also wonder if you can use this marine GPS model for highway travel. Both answers require a bit of an explanation, as Garmin manufactures 80 different Nuvi GPS products. The two models enabled for limited nautical chart use are the Garmin Nuvi 500 and the Nuvi 550. Both models are waterproof.

Not all Nuvis Are Created Equally

Only two of Garmin's Nuvi GPS receivers are waterproof -- the Nuvi 500 and Nuvi 550. Likewise, only these two models accept marine charts. The charts -- the BlueChart g2 and Inland Lakes -- are pre-loaded into the GPS receiver and accessed by touching the "Usage Mode" icon, the "Boating" icon and the "Yes" icon, making information on your vessel's location just a few touches away.

The Charts

The built-in nautical charts provided in the two Nuvi models equipped to handle nautical charts are for inland and lakes only; coastal charts are not available. If you have a need for coastal rather than inland and lake charts, the Nuvi is not suitable; however, by touching the icon at the top-left side of the chart, you can switch between the fishing and navigational chart mode. The fishing chart allows you to navigate more precisely to a particular spot in a lake or on a riverbank.

Nuvi 500

The nautical charts provided give the Nuvi 500 and Nuvi 550 capabilities on the water similar to those on land. The navigational display is similar and, by touching the "Where To?" icon, the Nuvi 500 will display marinas, anchorages or wrecks, both those native to the software and those that you have marked. This allows you to return to a favorite marina, restaurant fuel dock or septic dump location with little effort.

Nuvi 550

The Nuvi 500 also displays the time that tidal changes will occur and current information. To view tidal data, touch "Tools," "Tides" and then enter the location name from the list provided or spell the name using the on-screen keypad. For current information, touch "Tools," "Currents" and "Reports" to view the times for ebb, slack and maximum currents.