Video cameras can be a great addition to your electronics suite. Once upon a time, piping video to your chartplotter was a big deal. Today, it’s easy to connect multiple cameras to most professional-level MFDs and many mid-level units, some support recording as well as viewing the video, and in some other cases you don’t even have to string a wire — the camera can stream via WiFi right to the helm. Cool stuff, right? But it begs the question: do I really need video at my helm?
Night Vision on Your MFD
Let’s tackle night vision cameras first, because this one’s a no-argument situation: if you can afford it, yes, you do really need it. Peeping through a scope while you’re trying to run the boat can do more harm than good since it’s one more thing dividing your focus, and when you move the scope away to get a broader view in the darkness, one eye’s natural night vision is shot for several moments. Being able to glance down every few seconds and see thermal imaging on your MFD just can’t be beat for enhancing night-time operation. And don’t say “I never go out at night” and leave it at that, because even if you don’t intend to, sooner or later a mechanical problem, the weather, or a late red-hot bite will have you hitting the dock past sunset.
Let’s say you’re up on the flybridge when a high-water alarm sounds, you catch a whiff of what you think might smell like smoke, or you think you hear a funny noise coming from the powerplants. How long will it take you to come to a stop, climb down to the cockpit, open the engineroom entry, and get an eyeball on the situation? It would be a heck of a lot faster to swipe a MFD screen and look around belowdecks without ever having to leave the helm. For a quick visual spot-check nothing beats having an engineroom camera (or better yet multiple cameras with multiple angles), and if you have enough MFD real estate, you can leave the view on-screen and keep an eye on what’s going on down there all day long.
The Cool Factor
You want to get footage of the crew as it battles a billfish? Well heck, of course you do, but you only have so many hands, right? With a camera or three pointing down from the bridge, sitting on an outrigger, or otherwise aimed at the cockpit, you can control which is active and when without moving an inch or reaching for additional gear. This will also give you more awareness of just how the video you’re shooting will look in the long run, since you’ll see if the cockpit is in shadow, when it might help to change an angle or two, etc. Note: some tournaments are now requiring footage of released fish. Having a camera system set up and ready to roll — without needing an additional crewmember assigned to shoot video — could give you an edge and reduce the chances of a costly mistake.
Eliminate Blind Spots
These days, you can get not only cameras but camera arrays. With multiple cameras positioned around the boat they offer not only 360-degree visibility, but can stitch the different views together to create a birds-eye view of the boat in real time. This may be overkill for many folks and most fishing boats have good visibility to start with, but if yours has any areas where visibility is impeded, this sort of camera array can completely eliminate the problem and assist with docking or close-quarters maneuvering.
Some camera systems can be integrated with security systems as well as the MFD, all at the same time. As you might expect these are usually the higher-end, more costly systems. But if you need a security system for your boat anyway, why not get one with cameras that can be used for these other purposes, as well?
Okay – back to the original question. Do you need video at the helm? If you’ve been getting by up to now without it, the obvious answer is “no.” But if any of the above apply, it won’t take long to get to “yes.”