Let's assume that I seriously would like to be able to use my computer as easily and as carefreely while on a boat as I do while at home. In short, if I were on a boat for extended periods, such as two weeks at a time and occasionally over a few days out of port (this would be a two-person sailing vessel), what would my options be for power, durability, and of course, Internet access?

I want more than just email, as I will likely keep doing a tad of development, and will be looking at Google Earth from time to time.

I am already assuming that we're going with some kind of laptop, maybe even a MacBook Pro 12". I personally feel that netbooks are underpowered. And the last computer that I got a boat-friendly rating for was a ZX Spectrum, which was before the Internet, and it was likely due to it's 12 VDC happiness.

  • 20
    Where's that boat programming question when you need it? Oh yeah, it was deleted...
    – Bratch
    Aug 17, 2009 at 1:25
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    Do you have a cat named Ender? Aug 17, 2009 at 1:26
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    There's a copy of it on someone's website here: mattmcdole.com/boat
    – bk1e
    Aug 17, 2009 at 3:58
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    @Kyle Cronin No. But I had a cat named Shadow. It was a russian blue's offspring that had a longer than usual coat. I wish I had this cat flickr.com/photos/sweeteats/3310844224 but there's a lot of competition for him. Who'd take a cat on a boat anyway? It'll either go overboard or eat your pinky toe at night.
    – dlamblin
    Aug 17, 2009 at 4:34
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    darn it... I thought this was going to be another boat programming question and got all excited to read all the wonderful comments.
    – Troggy
    Aug 17, 2009 at 6:20

2 Answers 2


Two weeks is hardly an extended period of time :-)

Get yourself one of those 12 V DC - 220 V AC adapters. They are not part of the usual equipment that charters come with (or privately owned sailboats), but they're worth having. Very useful for charging all kind of electronic devices for which you haven't got special adapters. That takes care of the "power for the notebook" part. Also, always be careful, even if you travel under engines, when charging anything while the engines are off. You need the boat battery in good shape to start the diesel again in the morning.

As far as Internet access goes, I cannot think of anything but a 3G WiMAX card. Although not the quickest connection available, it does the job, and does it solid. Better marinas usually have wireless broadband access (although you will usually need to talk to someone on the reception about that in detail).

As far as notebooks go, several of mine have worked through all kinds of weather, no problems there.

Also, always have the window above the navigation desk closed!! (very important)

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    Yeah, I was thinking solar panels, wind generators, but you're right, Worst case I can charge a couple batteries in a rotating pattern off the engine, since a few weeks isn't that long. And I can handle a full recharge when in port. Now, networking... I can't find anything affordable.
    – dlamblin
    Aug 17, 2009 at 4:16
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    @dlamblin - In my opinion, the best option is to find some of those 3G cards. I bought the one from my mobile operator (in Croatia); PCMCIA variant (they say they have better signal then USB versions) and it served me ok. For all my internet needs (google search, mail, ...) it served fine. But, all that aside for now, may I give you a piece of advice? My guess is you're going on a 2 week vacation. Now, every time before I go on something similar, I think to myself - "I'll get some work done, I'll be able to work in peace ... and so on". But, everytime I get on the boat, I forget all that
    – Rook
    Aug 17, 2009 at 5:04
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    and enjoy my time. I'm not a lazy person as to avoiding work ... but on the boat you have other things to do ... for example, if there's only two of you aboard, you'll have enough to do with the sails, ropes ... one's always gotta be at the helm. Then you'll find a nice inlet for a swim or to stay, setting the anchor for the night (be careful it doesn't start to pull <-- very important), cooking ... and in the end, the day passes much faster than it does on land.
    – Rook
    Aug 17, 2009 at 5:05
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    @Idigas, you're absolutely correct. The idea was to start small, maybe put in a pin every 4 hours on a custom google map on my homepage. Then when I know it works, and won't bankrupt me, I can take longer trips.
    – dlamblin
    Aug 20, 2009 at 15:17

I think there are satellite receivers that are made for cars that can automatically swivel to track satellites. There is probably a marine version, but it's sure to be pricey.


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