A boat intercom system has a place on a racing yacht but how useful is it for cruisers? Toby Heppell tests the Crew-Talk Plus to find out

It would be easy to look at a boat intercom system and lump it into the ‘not essential but useful if you have the money’ category. But the benefits for cruisers seem fairly obvious: clear and effective communication over a distance, negating the need for helm and crew to shout at each other, over noise or due to anger.

Boat intercom systems have increasingly become a feature in the racing world, where clear, concise communication is an essential part of making it round the race course at the front of the fleet. But thus far they have not featured that much in the cruising world.

As many know, in this day and age, boats are getting larger and faster, two features which make communicating far more difficult. And with increased size and speed, so too comes reduced manoeuvrability, making that communication ever more important.  So could the Crew-Talk Plus be a key tool in keeping everyone in the picture and harbour manoeuvres harmonious? We thought we’d put a unit through its paces to see if this could be an asset to the cruising sailor or something better left to the racing set.

Crew-Talk Plus wireless boat intercom

Reasons to buy: Clear concise communication tool which stands up to the marine environment | Easy to set up |  Can be expanded with additional units
Reasons to avoid: Not ‘essential’ sailing kit | The fit feels lose

Buy the Crew-Talk Plus intercom from ebay 

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I admit I was initially sceptical about using a boat intercom system– right up until I tried actually using one onboard, at which point I became much more sold on the concept.

Clear, concise communication with your crew in moderate tones serves to remind us, not only of how often we need to raise our voice when onboard, but how inefficient shouting from the tiller is, how unclear those instructions can be and how much stress it adds to sailing.

Crew-Talk Plus starter kit

Boat intercom system:  the Crew-Talk Plus starter kit costs £373

It’s surprising how much calmer most situations are when you can talk in a normal, measured tone.

Crew-Talk Plus comes in at £375 for a starter kit and consists of two receivers and two headsets. Each receiver and headset combination comes in its own semi-hard case, with charging cable, lifejacket clip, and armband for the receiver.

The headset plugs into the receiver via a headphone jack on the bottom of the unit.

Out of the box both receivers need to be paired to one another, with one unit designated the master. Each unit has two channel options on it, with the Crew-Talk Plus takes the shouting out of onboard communication, whatever the weather master unit paired via its Channel A to the secondary unit’s Channel B.

Should you wish to purchase further units (£175 each) these can then be paired via the secondary unit’s Channel A and the tertiary unit’s Channel B.

Up to four units can be paired in this fashion.

A man wearing a boat intercom system - the Crew Talk Plus

The fit of the headset never feels entirely solid

Straight out of the box, pairing took us a matter of a few minutes and even on a very blustery day the all-round audio performance was very impressive indeed – notably allowing both to speak and receive at the same time, which prevents audio cutting in and out, which can be a problem on some other models.

One major issue I had with the set was the headset’s fit. The headphone section sits at the opening of your ear canal and a rubber piece loops around the back of your ear. This rubber piece felt far too soft and there is almost no adjustment. I constantly felt that there was a chance the headset could fall off and often found myself readjusting it.

I used the whole thing on several occasions never quite shaking the feeling it might come free – that said, it has only fallen out of my ear once, but was caught by the connecting cable.

A genuinely useful tool on board, particularly on larger yachts.

Buy it now from Crew-Talk on ebay

Other boat intercom systems on the market

Sena Expand

The Sena Expand is a water- resistant Bluetooth headset

The Sena features an over the ear headset

The Sena Expand is a water- resistant Bluetooth headset.

Like CrewTalk it can link up to four units.

The key differences are that the Sena sits over both ears and is bigger, but without a separate control unit.

The Sena also offers a slightly lower water-resistance rating – though neither can be immersed.

Buy it now from Amazon

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