Cool Gear

Who watches TV on a boat?

It’s a fair question to ask!

Tenacity was our first overnight cruiser. Our maiden cruise was to Sakonnet Point where we stayed at the Brewers Marina and dined at the Sakonnet Point Club.

One of Mrs. Horne’s favorite ways to spend an evening is watching a good movie with her G&T. While the Back Cove Downeast 37 did have a TV, it was in the stateroom and only viewable in bed (not a good place to drink a G&T).

In preparation for our big cruise, I bought a 24″ Samsung Flat Panel, a table mounting bracket, and padded carrying case. For content, I bought a huge thumb drive, downloaded a DVD Extraction program and ripped a half a dozen movies from my DVD collection.

After enjoying a feast of Sakonnet Oysters (Wednesday was “buck a shuck night”) we returned to Tenacity where I set up my mini home theater.

After about 5 minutes Mrs. Horne said “I can’t watch TV with this view.”

As usual, she was right!

Brewers Sakonnet 3

9:00 PM Sakonnet Harbor

I put my little TV kit away and never took it out again.

Vigilant’s Video Set Up

Vigilant came equipped with a nice drop down TV in the salon and a built in the master cabin. I also took the 24″ Samsung from Tenacity and mounted it in the guest cabin, giving us three tv’s.

TV - 1

Back Cove connects the two standard TV’s to the FUSION 750 which has a DVD player enabling both TV’s to simultaneously watch the same DVD.

Before I get into the details of the AV set-up on Vigilant, let me say that I do not have the popular yacht option for serious TV viewing – The TracVision Satellite System.


I have yet to price out one of these bad boys, but Scott at SK told me to be thinking along the lines of $4,000 for everything. You also need a Satellite subscription. The best for boats is probably the Dish Network Pay As You Go package because you can turn it on and off as necessary.

By the way, the $4,000 price is for the basic HD dish which is designed for boating near populated areas. If you’re venturing offshore or to the southern islands, you’ll want a bigger dish and you’ll quickly find yourself with a 5 figure budget!

Vigilant’s Budget HDTV

Although there may be TracVision in my future, the first year on Vigilant did nothing to convince me that we really needed it. Taking a tip from Bill Root in Wentworth by the Sea, I had SK install a Glomex HD Antenna and connect it to every TV.

Glomex 3

The Glomex is a small saucer shaped over-the-air antenna and while it has plenty of range, it’s strictly line of sight. When we were at Ballards Marina in Block Island, Breezy docked us at the end of the pier facing north for the first 3 nights and we had great reception of all the Providence channels – probably 60 miles away.

On the 4th day, a 50 footer came in and we had to move facing west. We lost some reception, but the boat to the north of us was an older low profile Sundancer and we still had a partial line of sight to Providence. On day 5, a Sabre 42 tied up to our north blocking our line of sight and our TV coverage as well.

We also got good coverage in the Newport marinas, Brewers Plymouth, and Boston Waterboat Marina.

In terms of content, it’s pretty limited. We get CBS and NBC from Providence and a few obscure channels with reruns and several home shopping channels. Still, it’s great for the morning news and weather or just something to watch as you fall asleep in bed.

Movies At Sea

Although we seldom watch TV when the weather’s nice, there’s definitely something special about wrapping up in a warm cabin on a lousy day and watching a classic movie.

As I said, the Fusion 750 has a DVD player and the Back Cove 41 has two book racks. I use one for books and one for classic DVDs.

Recently, there have been a few technology breakthroughs that dramatically increase your movie options. I use my iPhone 7+ as a video server via the Apple AV Adapter.

TV - 2

This sweet little tool connects through the Lightning port on the iPhone. It outputs an HDMI cable that can go straight into the HDMI port on the TV. Once connected, the TV displays exactly what’s on the phone. The Apple AV Adapter also has a Lightning slot so you can continue to charge your phone while watching TV.

With your iPhone or iPad connected, you can tap into a multitude of TV Apps for content.

Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu are nice video streaming services, but they require a strong Internet connection to stream consistently. In the past few years both Netflix and Amazon Video began offering the Download Option which enables saving the video to your device and then watching it on the boat without an Internet connection. I usually have a half a dozen recent movies on my phone.

If you can get enough bandwidth to stream, there are also tons of TV apps available. FOX News, CNN, ESPN, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and even the The Golf Channel enable you to watch live tv just like you were on cable.

In 2017, I switched to Comcast/Xfinity at home partially because they offered the ability to view any recorded shows anywhere. It works well if I’m viewing on my iPhone or iPad, but once I connect the Apple AV Adapter, it cuts out and the TV gives me a message about an incompatible antenna. Interestingly, I don’t have any problem if I use my laptop as the server and connect using straight HDMI.

I find that the Internet coverage is good enough in the morning to watch Cable News, but by the time sunset comes around, it’s almost impossible to stream anything.

By the way, very few marinas haveWiFi worth a crap. The problem is high speed WiFi requires higher bandwidth and a sophisticated router to make sure no one is hogging all the bandwidth streaming 4K Netflix.

In 2018, I will be installing a dedicated iPad for AV services and Pandora. This will allow me to use my iPhone to shoot video or talk on the phone without stopping the music or the TV. I may also install a 4G antenna, booster, and local WiFi.

To answer my original rhetorical question, pretty much no one needs a TV on their boat, but boating is such a luxury, why not equip it for TV viewing just in case!

The real question is “how much should I spend?”

To me, that comes back to how much TV do you plan to watch. As I said, I like watching the morning news over coffee and an occasional movie on a rainy day. Beyond the stock AV gear that came with our Back Cove 41, I’ve probably put less than $1,000 into my entire TV set-up.

Why not?


8 replies »

  1. Dave,
    You may want to check out the Webwatch by Shakespeare. It can pull in external WiFi and seamlessly switch between the internal hotspot. In addition it has an HDTV antennae. It cost under a grand. I’m installing it on the Sabre 48.


  2. My 23′ Center Console does not have TV….But my RV does. Two, TVs that operate on 12V Power “pucks” so I can wire them directly into the 12V system. One in the bedroom, one in the living room. Both have Amazon Fire Sticks and the living room has a APPLE TV 4 that I converted to operate on 12V. The Fire Sticks give me access to my AMAZON PRIME membership for movies, videos and music. The APPLE TV allows casting from my apple devices.
    To stream I have unlimited data on T-Mobile hotspot, AT&T Mobley Hot Spot and Verizon using my phone as a HotSpot. Depending where I’m located, one or the other device can stream all I want. DIRECTV NOW is my GoTo streaming service…..All of this costs me less than $150 a month. T-Mobile = $33, AT&T = $22, Verizon = $45 and DirecTV Now = $35……(Unfortunatly, some of these offers are no longer available from these cell companies) Been using this system for 14 months with superb results. Just coming home from a two month cross country trip and watched, news, sports and movies everywhere.

  3. That’s not too dissimilar from what we have on Vigilant. The only issue is coverage. A lot of ports have one bar at best and the biggies like Boston and Newport have so many people using the cell network that the signals get jammed…

    • I use a WeBoost cell booster for fringe areas. There are very few cell towers that get overloaded to the point that you can’t stream. In 25,000 miles of travel in the last 14 months I’ve never run into “deprioritization”. I’ve been involved in the RF / Fiber video distribution business for stadiums etc (ZeeVee Inc) although I retired Feb 1……I was at Jacksonville Jaguars stadium recently and AT&T just installed a system where 120,000 people could all stream 1080 content at the same time. When I got involved in cellular technology in 1983, a cell site could only handle 832 calls at once! Amazing technology now. And wait until Elon Musk launches his 6500 low orbit broadband satellites……Interesting time we live in! Thanks

  4. You are absolutely right, i asked myself the same question when I saw the entertainment system on the yacht I was working on last summer, but I have to admit: it was quite cool to watch a sports game on a large format TV on board of a luxury yacht while the sun sets behind the hills on the french côte d’azur. The couple I was working for had a high-end solution from a brand named C-Seed. The TV magically raised from the floor and folded out to a huge screen – I’ve never seen this before! And the colours – they were so bright even when the sun was shining! Even rainy days didn’t bother him, because the whole thing was waterproof, what’s quite intelligent on the sea…even if it just has been a calm yacht cruise along the french riviera. So to answer your question in the title: Yes if the view is stunning and breathtaking I wouldn’t watch TV, but after spending two months on a luxury yacht let me say it is quite comfortable to have the possibility to watch a movie or a game at night, even if it’s not on such a large screen.

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