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December 13, 2010

TV On Your Boat

New onboard options may mean more time in the cockpit

Downsized and Upgraded
TV boat optionsTechnology also improved. Intellian and KVH designed their smaller marine antennas to better withstand vibration and shock. Intellian removed sensitive parts such as the gyrocompass and rate sensor and created a simpler, lighter mechanism with a proprietary device and technology it calls Wide Range Search algorithm. WRS allows Intellian's antennas to constantly track a ­satellite's peak signal.

The i2 now incorporates two motors that vertically and horizontally tilt the reflector, a circuit board that makes the signal transmittable and a unique sub-reflector that keeps the dish from constantly hunting a signal.

The smaller-boat satellite antennas, while more compact, provide less coverage than their larger cousins. Heavier, pricier antennas work better at the edges of the satellite signal area and in signal­weakening precipitation. With a standard DirecTV package and an i2 or M1, anglers can expect to keep a signal at varying distances from the U.S. coast. The average may be 50 miles, though off the Keys, the distance is shorter due to the proximity of Cuba. In the Gulf of Mexico off New Orleans, Louisiana, the distance may be as great as 150 miles.

Options do exist, with add-on control units costing several-hundred dollars, to access Dish Network (and high-­definition capability) as well as services from Canada and Mexico. Step up to the $4,000 to $6,000 antennas - including Sea Tel's ST14 (14inch radome diameter and 25 pounds) - and range and amenities increase.

Other Ways to Watch
For those on a tighter budget, Shakespeare (shakespeare-marine.com) offers several models of its SeaWatch standard marine television antennas that may be cabled to an onboard television set. (Note: These antennas may not be wired directly to a plotter but can be cabled to a TV tuner within a DVD player and then to a plotter.) Because these antennas function like normal land-based antennas, their range is limited. Boaters near larger cities ­experience better ­reception, in general, than those in more remote ­locations, says Shakespeare's Don Henry, director of the marine products group.

Henry recommends consulting with local technicians or talking with other boating friends to find out what works best in your area. The Shakespeare SeaWatch 2020 ($240) measures 14 inches in diameter and weighs 2.6 pounds. The 2030 ($280) measures 21 inches in diameter and weighs 4.8 pounds.

While some owners of open center-console boats may be warming to the idea of satellite TV aboard, many more seem to be asking for some form of iPod interface to show video on their electronics displays, says Ariel Pared, co-owner of SeaVee Boats. Pared also notes that Clarion now makes a marine-grade audio/DVD player with its own iPhone-size LCD display. The CMV1, introduced about a year ago, features a 3½-inch color monitor.

"You can output the video to a chart plotter that has video input or to a TV," says spokesman Scott Churchill (clarion.com). Conversely, if you choose, you can run a plotter through the CMV1 and output that to a TV in the cabin.

As consumers grow comfortable with new technology, more mainstream products become marinized. Eventually, that makes your boat as comfortable and high-tech as your home - yet much more mobile.