Depth Instruments

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Do you need a depth finder?

While many boaters rely upon a fishfinder or multi-function display for depth information, there is still a demand for single or limited function displays that provide depth only. Typical examples include sailboat owners who want a simple display with a big numerical readout of how much water they have below their keels. This type of depth display is typically installed on either side of the companionway where it can easily be read from the helm. Another example are powerboat owners who want a depth display that will fit into a standard instrument cutout on their dash.

What to look for in a dedicated depth sounder display.

If you own a sailboat and are planning to install your display in your boat’s cockpit or on the mast, make sure your depth sounder has an LCD display that shows the depth in big numbers that can be easily read from a distance—and that the display is backlit for use at night. Waterproofness is another consideration. The Raymaine i40 and i50 depth sounder displays that West Marine offers are rated IPX6 for water resistance. This is more than adequate for protection against rain, salt and spray.

Alarms and Keel Offset

Many depth finders include a keel offset feature that enables you to calibrate the sounder to show a depth of zero feet when the bottom is at or near the lowest part of the keel. This ensures you have a margin of protection when it comes to keeping your boat from scraping the bottom. Many depth finders also include an alarm that you can set to sound off at a specified water depth.


Some depth finders are compatible with other navigational instruments, meaning that while you may not have an all-in-one system, they can be integrated with other displays. Compatibility boils down to the unit’s data interface. For questions regarding compatibility, we suggest you carefully read your unit’s owner’s manual.

Transducer included?

The Raymaine i40 and i50 depth sounder displays that West Marine offers can be purchased with or without a thru hull transducer. When purchased without a transducer, boaters can select a transducer that best meets their needs. This might be a “shoot thru hull” transducer or a transom-mount transducer.

Need More Help?

For more help with selecting a depth sounder or other navigational display, please read our West Advisor article Selecting Navigational Instruments.