Ask Ken: Mounting Marine Electronics With Limited Space

Great tips to help you make use of limited space when installing marine electronics.

Ask Ken: Mounting Marine Electronics With Limited Space
Mounting Marine Electronics With Limited SpaceFuruno

Q. How can I mount electronics in a limited space?

A. Multifunction displays accommodate several instruments into one screen, including a chart plotter, GPS and fish finder, along with depth, speed and more. Screen sizes start at 5.7 inches.

Add-on modules provide additional capabilities, including radar, sonar, AIS, stereo controls and more. Most modules can be hidden out of sight.

Space makers from SeaView/PYI, Ocean Equipment and Edson offer instrument housings and pods that add mounting space to the tops and sides of consoles and dashes.

Try a wireless system such as Furuno's DRS4W radar ($1,695, furuno.com). This 4 kW, 24-mile-range radar-dome antenna displays its picture right on your iPad or iPhone to save dash space.

Multifunction antennas like the 654-TW VHF/dual-band cellular and 634-TW AM/FM/dual-band cellular by Digital Antenna ($479 and $583, digitalantenna.com) and JF-3 GPS/cellular/Wi-Fi by Shakespeare ($289, shakespeare-marine.com) reduce antenna clutter.

Got Space?
With a little imagination, there is always room for more electronics at your boat's helm. Thoughtful planning can help you place the right navigation, communication, entertainment and sonar equipment within easy reach.

More Room in Less Space
Multitasking instruments provide more functionality in small areas. The Standard Horizon GX2200 radio ($399), for example, bundles a VHF radio, GPS and AIS receiver in one case. The AIS output can connect to your navigation display to overlay AIS targets right on your chart screen. Modular VHF radios such as the Icom M400BB ($499) and Raymarine Ray260 ($699) have microphones with built-in controls, and the displays require no dash space at all.

Wired and Wireless
Often overlooked space-saving solutions include wired and wireless remotes. Wireless remotes for autopilots such as the Simrad WR10 ($349), and marine stereos like the B&G HR50 ($169) and Poly-Planar MRR221 ($64) are available as options that can be kept in a pocket or worn around the neck.

Your VHF radio needs to be close at hand. When no flush-mount dash space is available, you can opt for a radio such as the Icom M400BB ($499) or Raymarine Ray260 ($699). Both use fist-size microphones with built-in displays and controls, with the main radio module hidden out of sight. A number of radios offer the option of adding a full-function remote microphone, in which the main radio can be placed inside the console, in a locker or below, yet operated from the helm.

Virtual engine instruments can display right on your multifunction navigation screen by means of NMEA 2000 connection with compatible marine engines. This creates valuable room on your dash by replacing conventional helm-mounted instrumentation.

Side, Vertical or Rail-Mount
Look to the sides of consoles and bulkheads and the areas above and in front of the helm station, as well as boat rails and stanchions. These are often overlooked as a means for additional mounting space. Ram Mounts and Scanstrut offer a variety of imaginative mounting devices that can position electronics where they might be needed most.

APPS, Smartphones and Tablets
Furuno, Garmin, Raymarine and Simrad all have downloadable apps for smartphones and tablets that provide wireless remote-control functions to view and operate some of your key Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices.

Apps like the Maptech iPlot ($30) and Navionics Mobile (free two-week trial) can be used on many popular smartphones and tablets to function as a backup chart plotter. Vessel Finder (free) lets you view AIS information on vessel traffic. Bluefin Marine Weather ($3) shows you live marine satellite weather from AccuWeather on any Apple, Android or Blueberry smartphone or tablet device.