Plug & Play

A 12-Volt System That Really Works.

Capt. Mike Genoun August 8, 2011

The majority of fishing boats on the water depend heavily on electricity. Unfortunately, too many of those boats are operating with severely unbalanced battery systems and weak charging solutions, resulting in unnecessary problems that drain both your patience and your wallet. A quick fix may temporarily alleviate the problem, but if the vessel’s 12-volt system remains unchecked problems will continue to arise. This is especially true when you start to take advantage of the myriad of portable 12-volt devices available to today’s anglers and boaters. We’re not talking permanent fixtures and appliances that require constant power, rather portable kite fishing outfits, secondary livewells, electric downriggers, power-assist deep drop reels, submersible swordfish lights, blenders, electric barbeques and all of the other neat stuff that comes and goes as we need it. While these innovative gadgets enhance our time on the water they all require 12-volt power. And because intuitive anglers and boaters are constantly adapting to changing conditions, the juice needs to be readily available where it’s needed most.

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Photo: © FSF Mag

For many years my frustration level grew with inaccessible electrical power. At best, powering up any mobile device was inconvenient. It seemed that regardless of which boat I owned or operated, my kite reel didn’t have the correct plug to fit into the existing outlet. Or was it my deep drop outfit with small alligator clips that didn’t fit around the battery terminals? No wait, I think it was the submersible swordfish light with the power cord that was too short to reach the battery box below deck. Whatever the case, some sort of obstacle arose every time I needed to power a portable piece of essential equipment. Finally, after lugging heavy batteries around and dealing with every issue you can imagine, I said enough is enough and set out on a mission to install the ultimate 12-volt solution aboard my recently splashed 37 Strike.

…I said enough is enough and set out on a mission to install the ultimate 12-volt solution aboard my recently splashed 37 Strike.

Before we get ahead of ourselves it’s important to point out that regardless if you fish inshore or offshore, your boat’s battery system must be capable of powering external devices without running dry. Equally as bad as inadequate voltage is draining valuable 12-volt power from a vital starting battery. You may have had a great day on the water only to find out the hard way that you don’t have enough juice to fire up the big outboard. Anyone who has fished hard enough for long enough has been in this position.

At this point, it may be a good idea to consult a professional marine electrician. I certainly did and highly recommend that you do the same. While I’m confident in my own mechanical abilities and know a fair amount about a lot of different things, I know that I’m not educated enough on the intricacies of marine electrical systems to set up the arrangement I was interested in. For assurance, I chose to go the professional route and ultimately upgraded to one Odyssey battery reserved for starting each of the outboards with two additional Odyssey house batteries. Other than a little finagling with the charging system to coerce three engines into simultaneously charging five batteries, it’s a bulletproof network that hasn’t let me down yet. Of course, you may require more or less power depending on the size of your boat and what you plan on accomplishing. The bottom line remains the same; if you are not qualified to do the job, don’t. There is simply too much at stake to risk an improper installation.

With an adequate battery system finally in place, I went on to install a trio of marine-rated 12-volt receptacles strategically concealed under the gunwale directly in the bow and along each side of the cockpit. The female receptacles were wired directly to 30-amp breakers. I knew as long as the power cords on my power-assist reels and other portable devices were long enough, this configuration would provide power where and when I needed it. With my 37 walk-around, 360-degree fishability is the name of the game.

With juice flowing, it was time to modify the accessories that would be using the energy. A quick visit to West Marine and I was armed with a spool of insulated wire, appropriate connectors, shrink-wrap, etc. I completed the job by extending all of my power cords and finished off each one with the same male plug that would fit any of the 12-volt receptacles. With this reliable and convenient plug & play system, our crew can now fish multiple kite outfits anywhere around the boat. We can plug in power-assist deep drop reels from bow to stern and quickly power a pair of Cannon downriggers. As I acquire additional 12-volt devices, I know I’m ready to plug & play.

Keep the Juice Flowing

12-volt receptacles and plugs are available in a wide assortment of sizes from numerous manufacturers in both hardened plastic and stainless steel. Regardless which type you choose to purchase and install, the electrical equipment is susceptible to corrosion from the harsh marine environment and must be protected with CorrosionX, Corrosion Block or a similar product.

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