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December 13, 2010

TV On Your Boat

New onboard options may mean more time in the cockpit

Fall, of course, means football - at least to the many die-hard end-zone enthusiasts out there. But in many coastal regions of the country, fall also means fantastic fishing. The inner debate ignites each Thursday as the weekend weather forecast crystallizes - fish or football?

Some anglers preserve both passions, opting for a standard marine TV antenna or one of the newer downsized, lower-priced satellite TV antennas.

Quality Time
"One thing I realized last fall, the [TV] has actually given me more fishing time," says Chris "Birdman" Carrara of Long Island, New York, who installed a KVH TracVision M1 antenna (kvh.com) on his 30-foot Rampage Express, Machria. "I'm an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and missing a Steelers game is not an option. I used to stay home and wait for the game all day on Sundays. With the M1, I go fishing on Sunday and just pop the game on and watch it on my ­chart-plotter display from the cockpit."

Carrara says the antenna and his DirecTV ­subscription also create more family time aboard. His wife, a financial planner, feels more comfortable taking weekend boating trips when she can keep tabs on the outside world.

The TracVision M1 lists at retail for $2,995, but Carrara says he spent about $2,200 for his antenna. Since he already has DirecTV at his home, the boat's monthly service plan costs $5. Installation, he says, was simple: "The dome has one cable, and there's one little [DirecTV] receiver."

He ran one cable to the receiver and then to the ­television in the Rampage's cabin. He used the M1's second output to wire his Garmin 5215 at the helm. (Virtually all multifunction displays feature video-input fittings.)

KVH's M1 - and the i2, a similar antenna from Intellian Technologies (listing at $2,795, without the DirecTV receiver, intelliantech.com) - can be mounted on smaller vessels because of their compact size and weight. Radome diameters measure 13½ (KVH) and 14½ (Intellian) inches; the M1 weighs 7½ pounds; and the i2 weighs 9½ pounds. Both companies say vessels as small as 20 feet can support these minis.

"We introduced the i2 in fall 2008," says John Minetola, a sales director for Intellian, which makes antennas for all sizes of vessels. "At that time, gas was very expensive, and people wanted to be on their boats but not burning up a lot of fuel."