Four Useful but Little-Known Electronic Devices For Your Boat

You may love being on your boat, with water all around, but the mobile devices you use to stay in touch and gather information -- your smart phone or tablet -- may not be so happy, especially if one of them goes overboard for an accidental swim. Even if your mobile devices remain safe and dry on your boat, if you rely on access to Wi-Fi or a cell phone tower and sail too far from shore, you may lose your signal. However, you can enjoy both your boat and Internet access without worrying about your mobile device falling into the water or how far you are from shore. 

Computers for Boats

German company ISH, based in Hilchenbach Siegerland, offers two compact, water-proof computers for boats. Both computers have waterproof aluminum housings. ISH customizes the computers according to your configuration choices. 

The HUPIC-K: Universal board PC fits into a compact space. You choose the speed of the processor, the power supply, and the cards for the interface devices. Depending on the processor, this computer offers a maximum of 512 MB RAM, a 2.5" hard drive is optional. That is more than sufficient for researching weather, good fishing spots, ports in a storm, points of interest to visit, sending and receiving e-mail, and checking Facebook and Twitter. This computer operates at temperatures between 41° -- 122° F (5 -- 50° C) and can be stored at temperatures between -13° -- 158° F (-25 -- 70° C). The chrome-yellow aluminum case measures approximately 11-1/2" x 7-1/2" x 2-1/8" (290 x 190 x 54 mm).

The HUPIC-W: The Waterproof Compact PC has a larger case that affords more protection for electronic components. This greater level of protection allows the computer to operate in harsh conditions. As with the HUPIC-K, you choose the processor, the power supply, and the cards for the interface devices. While the HUPIC-W offers only 128 MB RAM, it does offer a choice of a 2.5" hard drive or a compact flash drive. It also supports wireless keyboards and mice. The operational and storage temperatures are identical to the HUPIC-K. The black aluminum case measures 8-3/4" x 7-3/4" x 4-1/4" (220 x 196 x 106 mm).

Wi-Fi and Satellite Connections for Boats

Provide Wi-Fi access for these computers, and any other mobile devices you bring on board with a custom USB wireless adapter from Because the adapter can require more power than is available from a single USB port, the USB cable has an extra connector. You will need to plug each connection into USB ports on your boat or into the USB ports on your ISH computer. Like the computers, the adapter has a polished aluminum case, which helps to cool its internal chipset as well as increase the overall ruggedness of the adapter. The adapter comes with an antenna and 25' (7.62m) of low-loss cable, a nylon swiveling antenna mount, and a CD that contains the operating software and the owner's manual. Performance of the adapter varies. While 5MileWiFi claims a five-mile (eight kilometer) range, some users have reported receiving internet access at 10 miles (16 kilometers) from shore. However, the range may be reduced in a confined area where trees or buildings could block the signal. Access also depends on the number of open networks in the area. The speed of access can also vary, but the adapter offers a top range of 300Mbps.

Those who want to sail wide-open waters and who want their internet access, too, can have it their way with the new TracPhone V3-IP/Iridium Pilot System Bundle from KVH Industries. The V3-IP, the world's smallest marine VSAT, is designed exclusive for use with mini-MSAT Broadband, the world's number one maritime broadband service. Pairing the TracPhone V3-IP with the Iridiam Pilot allows everyone on board to enjoy global, pole-to-pole satellite phone, internet, and even television service. The system will support the KVH's new IP-MobileCast content service, which will offer subscribers multicast delivery of news, movies, and entertainment directly to their boats. All services are billed on a metered basis, and, for customer convenience, billing is through KVH. 

One of the two ISH computers and either the 5MileWiFi Adapter or the KVH's TracPhone V3-IP/Iridium Pilot System Bundle provides your boat with a rugged, waterproof computer and internet access, however far from shore you sail. 

Resources: satellite TV for boats