Structural Support

Find the right electronics-mounting solution for your small boat

March 26, 2013
electronics mounts

electronics mounts

Chris Woodward

The thesaurus should list “trade-off” as a synonym for “boat.” If I’ve heard the phrase — “but what about … ?” — once, I’ve heard it enumerable times when discussing vessel features.

| |RAM Mounts offer lots of adjustability to owners of small boats, but less protection from theft and the elements.|

Owners of small boats might be even more keenly aware of the trade-off syndrome: Since space ranks as a major consideration, everything becomes negotiable. When adding electronics to smaller vessels, anglers must consider the size of the display they’d like and balance that with where and how they might install the equipment.


Boats under 25 feet — including center-consoles, skiffs and even kayaks — feature smaller helms where gauges and electronics often compete for real estate. Installation options include:

• Flush mounting in the dash/console.
• Using a manufacturer-supplied bracket to install on a flat surface, such as the console top.
• Purchasing/installing a ball-and-socket mount such as a RAM Mount.
• Purchasing/installing a pod mount, such as those by Edson, Seaview, NavPod and others.

Pros and Cons


“The ‘pros’ for flush mounting are: It’s clean, and everything is hidden and protected (water can’t easily find open plug ends),” says Sean Edmunds, Southeast regional sales manager for Navico, which makes Lowrance and Simrad products. “The cons are that flush mounting limits your screen size to the size of your console, and you might deal with more glare because you can’t change the angle of the screen.”

For open boats without T-tops, that second caveat can be more than just a nuisance. Being able to read a display screen in bright sunlight means more-productive fishing and can impact safety.

Today’s hyperfunctional displays also come with larger and more-beautiful LCD screens. Dropping screen size can mean losing the ability to monitor multiple sounder and plotter feeds. However, some captains feel that’s a manageable trade‑off.


“I will sacrifice screen size over mounting electronics in the console,” says Capt. Sam Heaton, Humminbird field promotions manager. “Mounting the electronics in the dash gets them off the top of the console, and it’s the best anti-theft device you can have [because a flush-mount unit can’t easily be removed from the vessel].”

Pods and Rams

Edmunds says that in saltwater-fishing-boat installations, he sees bracket mounts (usually sold by the unit manufacturer) more commonly than other console-top setups. “With a bracket, you can go to a bigger screen. It can tilt for adjustability, but you’re limited when you’re fishing around the boat, because it can’t rotate,” he says. “You’ve also got cables lying out in the elements and a hole in the fiberglass that you have to keep watertight.”


To counter those shortcomings, anglers sometimes opt for pods, which are marine-grade housings for electronics units and wiring. Pods are available precut to fit many brands and unit sizes; they cost from $200 to more than $600, depending on the ­manufacturer and specs.

| |Pods come precut or uncut, and fully encapsulate the display and wiring. Some offer swivel bases for more adjustability; they mount to any flat surface, even upside down.|

Rob Walsh at Ocean Equipment says his company first made NavPods for the sailing industry and entered the power market about 10 years ago. “It’s very hard to waterproof the back of a display,” Walsh says. “And one dealer we work with says he puts NavPods on boats because otherwise the UV eats up all the cables.”

Most pods come with some form of theft protection such as tamper-proof fasteners or screws that can be removed only with a special tool. Some manufacturers also make stanchion kits that create an extension for your dash, which mounts to the console and holds a number of pods for gauges and electronics. Small-boat owners with crow’s nests sometimes opt for those kits.

3-D Solution

But pods increase the dimensions of an electronics unit. And with space an issue on smaller boats, sometimes ­adjustability is the answer.

| |NavPod PP4402 for Raymarine|

In my case, I have a fairly small console on my tournament-edition Pathfinder. A bracket- or pod-mounted unit would crowd the windscreen on the front of the console. So, for a number of years, I have used a RAM Mount.

The mount lets me tilt, swivel, and pull my electronics unit forward and away from the windscreen. RAM Mounts come in a variety of sizes — with a 1-, 1½- or 2¼-inch rubber ball that fastens into a socket mechanism to hold units weighing 2 to 12 pounds. The mounts cost $40 to $90. RAM also makes swing-arm mounts for even more adjustment variety.

Units on RAM Mounts — and brackets — generally must be removed and carried away from the vessel to avoid theft. Once the unit is removed, the wiring is left exposed to the elements. So it’s important to cover or protect the connections.

New Gadgetry

As more electronics companies produce software for iPads and iPhones that interacts wirelessly with onboard plotters, anglers are starting to see waterproof housings and mounts appear on the market. RAM makes mounting systems — such as the X-Grip and Tab-Lock — which hold pads or phones at the helm, but the company doesn’t make housings.

LifeProof makes housings for iPads and iPhones that are submersible. With a housing and mount, anglers can place electronics information virtually anywhere on the vessel. However, with so much technology at our fingertips on the water, I’m thinking we’d better plan extra time to fish.

Mounts, Pods and Housings

New Bedford,

** LifeProof**
San Diego, California

** Ocean Equipment (NavPod)**
Bend, Oregon

** RAM Mount**
Seattle, Washington

** Seaview**


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