LONG BEFORE THAT INTERNET THING smacked us in the societal face, television shocked the world in a similar fashion. And while web access hasn’t yet become the norm on boats — though it’s growing by leaps and bounds, year after year — TV is now a stan- dard item on just about every boat with a cabin large enough to
weekend in. That could mean anything from a small flatscreen on the bulkhead
to a 40-inch television that silently rises out of an innocent-looking tabletop at
the press of a button. Either way, if your boat has enough interior space for a
galley and a berth, chances are there’s space for a television aboard as well.
No matter where or how the TV is mounted, picture quality and channel choices depend
entirely upon one thing: reception. And reception at sea is a bit different than it is on land.
If you’re getting ready to shove off the dock and head out into open waters, you’ll need to
make the right choice – or all you’ll be seeing is static.
The simplest and least expensive way to get reception aboard a boat is, and always has been,
to mount an exterior TV antenna. Naturally, this only gets you broadcast TV, which by today’s
standards is rather limited. On top of that, picture quality can be expected to be erratic and
grow worse the farther you get from metropolitan areas. On the plus side, it will only cost a
few hundred dollars to go from watching snow to watching “Snow White.”
The most basic version of a marine TV antenna is the omni-directional, non-amplified
variety. These look more or less like a Frisbee or pie plate, can be found for as little as
$100, and don’t need to be pointed in any particular direction. As you might expect, they
Television on boats is no longer only in the domain of megayachts.
Everyone can get reception at sea BY LENNY RUDOW
also don’t produce shockingly good results.
Omni-directionals with amplifiers and/or
gain control are a small step up, as they give
the signal a bit of a boost. Directional antennas, which can be pointed to focus reception, are a bit better. Sort of. If your boat is
static, focusing on that signal can help. But
if it’s swinging at anchor or bobbing around
in the waves, your “improved” picture may
fade in and out as you move back and forth.
Obviously, unless your boating grounds
are near metropolitan areas, you do most of
your watching from the slip, and you don’t
care too much about your program menu,
a regular old antenna isn’t going to be your
first choice. In most circumstances range is
limited to 20 or 25 miles (of the station, not
of land) and conditions can have a big effect
on reception quality. Still, it’s the easiest
option to install, is very economical (even
the best antennas don’t top $500), and for
many boaters out there, it will suffice.
If you want to see the big game on TV while
trolling for big game at the canyon, one of
the best options is satellite TV. You’ll need
an antenna, receiver, and service. Naturally,
this can get expensive. Very expensive. But
it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big-dollar
investment, depending on your needs. Some
satellite systems incorporate a dual-band (Ka/
Ku) antenna with auto-changing low-noise
block converters (LNB), which receives the
initial signals gathered by the antenna and
sends them to your receiver and multi-switch
modules. And if you want to watch TV while
in the middle of a transatlantic crossing,
enjoy TV when you get to the other side of
the pond, or watch multiple stations on mul-
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