Friday, September 25, 2015

Installing Onboard Satellite Radio

--Blogpost written by Bob

Satellite radio seems to offer more to us when cruising the Bahamas than TV (with only one channel available out of Nassau).  Satellite radio provides good weather reports, cable news stations, and an unlimited variety of (commercial-free) music.  To be able to get satellite radio stations onboard we need three pieces of equipment: a satellite-ready radio receiver, a Sirius/XM tuner, and an appropriate antenna.

The Antenna

After a brief online search, the best satellite radio antenna for our purpose seems to be the Shakespeare Galaxy SRA 40 low profile antenna.  I purchased it along with a one foot long fiberglass extension so that I could mount it on my bimini frame.  With the extension, the antenna is above the top of the bimini and has a clear unobstructed view of the satellites.  

The white plastic base that comes with the antenna is removable and, when removed, it offers a 1-14 female thread (standard for marine antenna mounts) to mate with one end of the fiberglass extension.

The Shakespeare Galaxy SRA-40 antenna comes apart
so that it is capable of mounting to a 1-14 threaded mount.

The Shakespeare Galaxy low-profile satellite antenna is
mounted to the aft frame of our bimini.

The antenna cable comes out the bottom of the antenna module and feeds through the fiberglass extension and the bottom of the rail mount.  I had to enlarge the holes in the rail mount slightly to be able to feed the connector through.  I managed to feed the antenna cable through the ScanStrut deck fitting used for the cables from my aft solar panels.

The Satellite-Ready Receiver

The radio has to be selected before the tuner is selected--different radios require different tuners (mostly because of compatibility of the plugs).  I selected a radio made by Fusion (MS-RA205) mostly because of the good reviews and the reasonable price of the unit (about $260).  

We purchased the Fusion MS RA205 along with the face plate
from arrived in about 5 days.

The Sirius/XM Tuner

According to the West Marine catalog, the Fusion MS RA205 requires a SXV 200 tuner but this model has been discontinued and replaced by SXV 300.  I managed to buy the SXV 300 tuner on Amazon for half price ($35).  The purchase of the tuner includes 3 months of all-channel service which is worth the price alone.  The tuner comes with a magnetic-mount low profile antenna which is absolutely useless on a boat so I discarded it.  The tuner is mounted between the radio and the antenna and resides behind the radio in the nav station.
The Sirius Satellite Tuner SXV-300 was purchased from and includes 3 months of free service.

Rewiring the Speakers

Previously, all the speaker wiring was led forward to the old stereo amplifier.  Now, the speaker wires must be led aft to the location of the new receiver.  Consequently, all the speaker wiring had to change.  While I was making this change I upgraded the speaker wiring to tinned 20-gauge twin-conductor marine cable.

I wired the harnesses to terminals before installing the speaker terminals.

Error Message?

The plug from the tuner cable did not easily fit solidly into the back of the radio--in fact, it fell out a couple times.  I kept getting an error message to "check tuner."  After calling technical support at Fusion, I tried applying a little more force and it finally snapped into place.


The total cost of the equipment required for this installation was just under $500.  The service subscription is under $20 per month for all-channel access but 3 months of service was included with the purchase of the tuner.  This is much less than we have been paying for cable TV in our house!

The completed installation in the navigation station

The total cost ($500) does not include internal and external speakers which we already had onboard.  Sitting in my slip, the performance is good but the sound quality is not as good as my old stereo with the subwoofer--I will try and incorporate my old subwoofer for better sound quality.   I understand that satellite radio will work throughout the Bahamas, as far south as Georgetown in the Exumas.  One of the benefits of the satellite radio (for me) is that I get coverage of all Penn State football games, regardless of where we are at the time.  (Since our house is now up for sale and we are living aboard, we have discontinued our cable/internet service at our house.)

We leave for the Bahamas in approximately one year.  I retire at the end of this year and Maggie in July 2016.  We will be living on board in a slip in Baltimore all winter and until we cast off the dock lines next fall.  Baltimore will be our new home base in retirement but I will always consider Annapolis as my hometown, albeit my adopted hometown.

Thanks for following our blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment