Turn it Up
Cost: $250 to $850
Remember how it was in the old days? About all you could expect from a marine stereo was AM/FM radio reception, a cassette function, and if you were really on the cutting edge, a long rectangular slot at the top of the control head into which you could feed a new-fangled contraption called a CD.
These days the basic stereo options are so numerous they’re darn near confusing. Check out a basic Clarion stereo. Even an incomplete list of availabilities is likely to include various MP3 player hookups (with iPod docking stations), XM and Sirius radio, CD-R disc compatibility, and a USB interface, as well as shock protection for smooth playback in rough seas. Add to all these LCD displays that show ID3 tags and file information (for song titles, artist’s name, etc.), wireless controls, and jacks for Bluetooth technology, and we’re talking a level of digital listening pleasure well beyond anything you’ve heard aboard your boat.
Speakers are way better than they used to be as well. High-end equipment typically handles peak power with aplomb and offers extra-responsive water-resistant polypropylene woofers and tweeters that’ll blow your earphones off by comparison with speakers of yesteryear.
And just in case you’re not willing to spring for an entirely new system with a multi-function control head and a juicy set of speakers, check what you’re listening to now. If it’s not too old, it will most likely have an input jack for an iPod or other MP3 players on the back. Check your favorite marine discount catalog. You’ll probably be able to buy an iPod adapter cord from your unit’s manufacturer.
—Capt. Bill Pike
Cost: $35 to $2,600
Need to run the microwave but don’t feel like going all out and buying a genset? Or perhaps you already have a genset but don’t want to fire it up every time you need to make coffee. Either way, what your boat needs is an inverter. Depending what size you choose and the capacity of your house-battery bank, having one can allow you to run everything electrical onboard, short of air conditioning.
The West Marine catalogue divides inverters into three types: portable, mounted, and inverter-chargers. The portable ones plug into your 12-volt “cigarette lighter” receptacle and generally max out at around 300 watts. Mounted inverters are the way to go if you need juice above this range—which you do if you’re going to do anything more that turn on a light or charge a cellphone. But the most sophisticated units double as battery chargers; they need to be fully integrated into your electrical system (with the help of a professional) but truly do kill two birds with one stone. Their large capacity—up to 4,000 watts—can run your most demanding systems such as freezers and kitchen appliances, while the charger component allows you to handle the most sophisticated battery types, such as gel cells and AGMs.
Selecting the right inverter depends on your boat’s power demands. In computing them, make sure to include the surge power required to start many electric motors and also be sure to talk with a manufacturer sales representative or a professional well versed in inverters when picking one out. Remember to follow West Marine’s guidelines by “[connecting] to a battery bank that is 20-percent as long in amp hours as the inverter size in watts.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.