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Fishermen's Journal

Trolling with Tunes
Boat-Fi Installation Made Easy

by Chark (a.k.a. - Mark Smith)

As nice as solitude on a boat can be, there are times when some tunes or a ball game can add to your day's pleasure while at sea.  This really is a simple thing to add to your boat, but most of us figure to leave well enough alone and not mess with complicated electronic stuff.  Well, it's not a tough task, maybe three hours time might be involved at most.  And is a pin-head electrician like me can get the job done, well you're a cinch to do a professional job.  You're install will no doubt be better than mine, if this is something you try, since you'll benefit from all my boneheadded mistakes...


I've owned my boat for several years, but it didn't come with a radio.   Sure I had a VHF, bait tank, bilge pump, fish finder, Loran...  But, no tunes or ability to listen to a good ball game.  So, I brought along a portable for a few years, never had enough juice to hear the thing while moving, batteries were expensive, corrosion was an issue.  The portable option was never too satisfactory.  Since I've been carrying some electronics on the Tackle Store section of things, it was only a matter of time for me to start this little project. I should have done it about five years ago.  It's really easy enough, that procrastination or pure lazyness isn't a good excuse for putting off this project these days.

I have a small center console, didn't really want to make a big deal about the installation, but definately wanted enough power in the radio to push the speakers to a good volumejensenspkrs.jpg (44979 bytes) while under way.  I was considering the cassette verses the CD option, but settled upon the CD given it's better reliability in a marine environment.  I purchased Jensen equipment, they've been on the market long enough to have their act together in terms of meeting the challenges of a boat installation.  jensen400.jpg (19853 bytes)So, the CD400M and both surface and cut out model 6.5" speakers.  The CD 400 puts out 100 watts (25 X 4), has a detachable faceplate, rustproof marine chassis, and more presets than radio stations broadcasting in English.

There are a couple things you'll need to have to do the installation.  These things are not part of the radio's package, but you'll need to secure them. 


  • electrical cord, 12-14 ga, 12 feet or so depending upon your situation
  • electrical tape
  • stainless screws and self locking nuts
  • shrink wrap for the wires (optional)
  • electrical connectors (optional)
  • radio antennae - or coupler

Tools Used

  • drill
  • saw
  • crimper (for the connections)
  • zip ties (to tiddy up the wires)


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I wanted to get the installation over in a hurry, didn't want any big project.   That's exactly the way things worked out.  My plan was to install two sets of speakers on the center console, and tuck the radio inside the console itself, since my craft can get a bit damp running back up from the 14 mile bank of other spots that run counter to the chop and swell.    I decided to stick one set of surface mounts up front, facing forward, and the other pair off the side of the console.  Installation of the speakers is not big deal.  For the surface mounts you need to take off the back, plan where you'd like to insert the screws and hole for the speaker wire, that's about it. 
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The sealed enclosures should perform better in terms of withstanding the elements (I think).  The cut out 6.5" models were installed on the sides of the console.  I used a sabre saw to cut out a hole, then mounted the speaker behind the cut out screwing through the grill, console, and speaker to seal the deal.  The base response is better with this set of speakers, they can use the enclosure of the console to resonate.  They've got a pretty good thump.  rad5.jpg (35145 bytes)
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 rad9.jpg (41632 bytes)rad10.jpg (87681 bytes)Well, once the speakers were done, it was time to figure out the radio.  My first response was pure insecurity followed procrastination.  But, I couldn't afford the time. It was Friday night and I wanted to fish Saturday morning.  The harness was easy to figure out.  The speaker leads are all clearly marked, so hook up is really pretty easy.  Use some zip ties to organize things.  After your done.  I used connectors for the battery hookup, rigging additional wire, heat crimps and elec. tape. 

rad11.jpg (57147 bytes)You have one hot lead to the battery, another to the ignition (or to the accessory switch in my case, or your battery switch...) and the negative or ground.  I went ahead and connedted the ground and the hot lead directly to the battery.  by It's wiring harness is clearly labeld, you won't make mistakes on polarity.  Just stay consistent through out your wireing.  I had to run a snake (in the pic) to string the wires back to the battery.   Once that was done I had some juice and only a couple more tasks to accomplish.

rad12.jpg (36187 bytes)I decided to place the radio inside the console to keep it out of the spray which is a frequent guest... Here's where I made a bone head error.  Be sure you have enough room for the radio...  I came up short.  If I'd mounted the radio an inch lower she would have locked down in the DIN bracket which supports the radio.  As it is, I had to use an extra brace to keep the radio in place when I go airborne.  I purchased rad13.jpg (28391 bytes)stainless hardware for mounting the radio's bracket to the console, three screws and nuts.  The last detail was the antennae.  There are two ways to go here.  You can use a coupler to your boat's VHF antennae or you can go with a dedicated antennae.  I decided to get a separate antennae.  It was about 1/2 - 2/3 the expense of the coupler.  It's a pretty nifty stick on contraption.  The thing installed within about 20 seconds, and works great. 

rad15.jpg (56202 bytes)Here's the radio in it's protective place.  The performance is quite good, way better than my expectation of what it would sound like.  The speakers handle the power well, and there's ample amplitude for rock-n-rolling while under way.   In all I'd say I spent about three hours on the installation, including a trip to buy the screws for the speakers and radio bracket.  The owner's manual provides some installation info, not a whole bunch, but really there's not a whole lot to know.   It's a quick and painless job.  You could get by with no cutting, only 18 drill holes, and a small amount of hardware for this project.  Your return on time invested should be pretty darn high.  It's a great, easy, enhancement of your boat, any boat that has a battery is a good candidate for adding some tunes.




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Last modified: 06/09/13.