by Chuck Husick
Not long ago a boat's
entertainment system consisted of a small portable radio, possibly with
a built-in cassette tape player. Today's on board entertainment systems
can be whatever you want them to be and on larger yachts rival the most
exotic home systems. Smaller vessels can install high performance systems
based on advanced automobile system technology. Open vessels can select
from a number of marinized automobile radio / tape / CD systems that are
specifically designed to cope with high humidity and an occasional splash
of spray. TV options include small screen LCD and CRT units, some with
built-in VCRs. The extraordinary space saving of flat screen displays
is making them increasingly popular, although at present they are quite
costly in comparison to conventional CRTs. Flat screen, plasma displays
measuring up to 50 inches are often seen on large yachts. The ultimate
entertainment system limit is financial, not technical.
As always, the loudspeaker
is the weak link in any sound system. While the design of circuitry is
a matter of precision engineering, loudspeaker design is much an art.
This is especially true on a boat, where space is at a premium and the
moist, often salt laden atmosphere is hostile to many speaker cone materials.
Except for installations entirely within an interior cabin use only speakers
listed by their manufacturers as suited for marine use in an exposed location.
Speakers contain strong
permanent magnets whose stray fields can extend for distances that can
exceed three feet. These fields are usually strongest in a plane extending
from the back of the cone, parallel to the surface on which the speaker
is mounted. Magnetically shielded speakers are available and should be
used if the speaker must be located close to the helm or the autopilot's
Television is increasingly
a part of boat entertainment systems. Off the air program choices include
conventional home style antennas, special omni-directional or automatic
signal tracking marine antennas and various types of satellite antennas.
The latter are either fixed mount units best used when installed on a
dock piling or servo driven, automatic tracking units. VCR's and especially
DVD's are widely used on boats. Some boat owners use their computers to
play DVDs, viewing the programs on the computer's monitor or with a converter,
on a TV set.
Regardless of the
type of entertainment system you choose, remember that they consume electrical
energy. Although the drain may not be too large, even a car radio can
flatten a battery if run too long.
Comments about on
board entertainment systems would not be complete without a plea for their
sensible use. Taste and preference in music is an intensely personal matter.
What is music to some is nothing but irritating and annoying noise to
others. Many of our audio systems have sufficient power to deafen people
on boats quite far from our own. Sharing our pleasure with others is laudable
but sharing our taste in music with an entire anchorage or marina is neither
good manners or, given the presence of flare guns on may boats, a safe