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I know there are some purists out there that will find what I have to confess a bit disturbing. I enjoy watching TV. I know this is something many boaters will not admit, but I am of the TV generation. I admit I like to watch TV. I am not an addict or anything but I do enjoy the evening news and like to watch a few entertainment and educational shows. I also know there are those who think being on a boat is to get away from things like TV. But for me TV is one of those things that is easy to do, so easy you don’t even have to think. I find it a good way to relax at the end of the day.

I know I am not alone in this dirty little secret, I believe there are a lot of others out there that enjoy a bit of TV in their lives as well. So why not on your boat? The problem is TV on a boat is often not as easy as it is on land. Of course nothing is as easy on a boat is it? But that is one reason we choose this life, because it is different and different often means a bit more challenging.

Things are not all bad though, it is a lot easier to fit a TV into a boat since they came out with LCD flat screen TVs. This has been a real boom to fitting TVs into our boats.  With inverters we can watch TV even when away from the dock and let’s face it DVDs and DVRs take up much less space than those clunky old video tapes and tape players. Technology has helped a lot and will continue to make things better as far as space is concerned. We even have video games to add to our selection of entertainment options.

Of course with all this new technology things tend to get a bit more complicated when it comes to how we get our TV feed.  Most land based homes have cable or satellite and it is pretty simple. The problem is not all marinas offer cable and it is not really an option when traveling or anchoring out. Satellite can be an option as you take your equipment with you and can receive it almost anywhere. The problem is satellite antennas have a rather narrow focus so the basic systems used on land will not work on a moving boat. If you live in a slip this is not as bad as you can place your dish on the dock or attach it to a piling near your boat. This works well while in the slip but because the dish has to be aimed at the satellite it does not work when the boat is moving. An option is a dish that will automatically stay aimed in the right place but these systems are expensive and take up a fair amount of boat real estate. If you have a few grand to put into TV this could be a good option. Also with satellite you still have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Regular old fashioned broadcast TV reception is the least expensive and works well but you will not have the same selection of channels available. In some locations you may only be able to receive a few channels and when really out there you will not get any. Of course this is where a DVR comes in handy. In the US most broadcast stations have switched to full digital signals. This means we get a better picture but it also makes reception hard to get as you have to have a good signal for it to work at all. In the old days we could deal with snowy pictures and signals that faded a bit but now if the reception is poor the picture will freeze and drop out completely making it impossible to watch at all. As with most over the air radio reception a good antenna will make a big difference. Even if you have cable or satellite at your marina you will likely want the option of over the air reception.

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To receive a good strong signal you need to have 3 things. A good antenna, good cabling and connections, and a good amplifier. For the antenna I have found that the Glomex Omni directional is the best. Omni directional means the antenna will receive from all directions rather than having to aim it towards the signal source. This is important unless you want to be constantly having to aim your antenna. The Glomex is not a cheap antenna but it gets the best reception of all the ones I have tried. It comes with a 12 volt amplifier and switch for shore cable, so although expensive all you will need is the cable to connect it. I recommend using RG6 low loss coax. Once again not the cheapest but when it comes to wire it is always best to not cheap out because the real cost in the installation. Glomex has several models and the type of boat you have and installation may dictate what you get. As with most antennas you want to mount it as high as practical. On power boats this usually means on the hardtop or radar arch. For sail boats the top of the mast will be best.  Try to plan your installation so that the cable runs are as short as practical and use good quality ends properly installed. Use a multi meter to check for shorts if you are installing the ends yourself.

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So whether you care to admit it yourself, or are just getting TV for your “guests” it is clear you have to put some thought into just how you set things up. A good quality TV along with good cabling will help even if you are only using marina cable, but these become even more important with over the air reception. Think about how you plan to use your boat and consider your budget as you plan your system. Nothing is more aggravating than planning a relaxing evening in front of the boob tube only to find you cannot get a good signal. Care in your installation will result in better reception and a more relaxed and enjoyable TV experience. If you would like more information please post a reply here and I will be glad to try and help.

Capt. Wayne

 

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