Most larger sailboats and powerboats have built-in depthfinders with hull-mounted transducers and a hard-wired display connected to the boat's electrical system. Many smaller boats, however, do not, and the HawkEye model F33P is a perfect solution for smaller boats without a 12-volt electrical system. It is inexpensive, runs on four AAA batteries, and can be used in several different ways. For casual boaters, one of the best features is that it can be used within a minute right out of the box.
- Depthfinder from 1.5 to 99.9 feet
- Fishfinder with visual depth indicator and audible alert
- Bottom contour indicator (rocky vs. smooth)
- Weed indicator (three heights)
- Side scan option
- Backlight with auto-off
- Two-year warranty
The HawkEye transducer has three basic options for mounting:
- It comes with a float and can be lowered into the water beside the boat or off a dock.
- It comes with a mount for the boat's transom (below water level) or on a pole.
- It can shoot through the hull, sealed with Vaseline, set in standing water or a bag of water, or permanently mounted.
After testing with the float and a temporary hull installation using Vaseline to create a bubble-less seal to the hull, I chose to permanently mouth the transducer on a 19-foot sailboat. Follow these steps:
- Select an area of solid hull near the bottom of the bottom toward the middle, facing straight down if possible. Plan how you will route the wire from the transducer to the display unit. Test that you get a good reading by first smearing a thick layer of Vaseline on the transducer and pressing it firmly to the hull.
- Clean the area well with acetone or another solvent, and lightly sand it with a fine grit sandpaper to give the epoxy a better grip.
- Roughen the transducer surface (which is smooth plastic) slightly to for better epoxy holding.
- Mix a batch of quick-set epoxy, taking care to avoid introducing bubbles, and coat the transducer surface well. Have the unit wired and turned on when you press it to the hull, to ensure you're still getting a good reading. If necessary, place a small weight on top to hold it in place while the epoxy sets.
- Avoid moving the boat until the epoxy is fully cured.
That's it. I ran the wire from the transducer through a cabin locker to an exit point where I could easily move the display unit out to the cockpit for use and then later coil the wire to keep the unit below. In an open boat, you can simply pull the plug on the display to take it off the boat, leaving the wire in place.
The HawkEye depthfinder worked very well for me in my testing. I compared the depths shown with the soundings on my chartplotter over different bottoms at different depths and found the measurements accurate. Occasionally the depth readout would go blank for a second or two when the boat was bouncing on waves (or when a mud bottom gave a poor return signal), but it always bounced right back to the correct depth.
As for the fishfinder, I haven't run extensive tests yet, but it seems to work well. In the clear water of a marina I could look down and see 8-inch ocean perch swimming below the boat, and the fish symbol would appear on the display screen whenever one entered the cone area of the transducer signal.
All in all, for about 60 bucks online, I am very happy to have this instrument on this small sailboat.
Remember that in a pinch, if your chartplotter or gps app fails when underway, you can navigate with just a depthfinder and a chart.