Satellite TV for cruisers

If you love watching television, you can still enjoy this pastime after you have sailed off for open water. As long as you are within the coverage areas of any continent north of Antarctica, you can have access to your favorite programs with the satellite television antenna best suited to your vessel and needs.  

At the humblest end of the satellite TV spectrum is the TracVision TV1, offered by KVH of Middletown, R.I. The TV1 is intended for smaller vessels cruising in North American and European waters. This entry-level unit features a 12.5-inch, 8-pound antenna dome and receiver that supports At a price of roughly $2,700, this fits into the budgets of most cruisers. The TV1 is an ideal choice for the modest cruiser who winters in the Florida Keys and Caribbean and spends summers in the Mediterranean.

KVH models increase in size all the way to the TracVision TV8, featuring a 32-inch-diameter dome weighing 88.2 pounds, which is a wee bit on the bulky side for my Cal 30 Saltaire’s spreaders. However, the TV8 would be very much at home on yachts measuring upward of 100 feet.

The TV8 provides Ku-band coverage for the coastal regions of the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa, so you can sail to virtually any coast on the planet and enjoy reception from your favorite satellite TV providers. At approximately $17,500 for a TV8, you will have preprogrammed access to more than 90 TV satellites worldwide with hundreds of channels from which to choose.

Garmin also offers upper-end units powered by KVH for large yachts. The Garmin GTV5 satellite dome measures 18 inches in diameter, weighs 25 pounds and costs roughly $6,500. If you require greater reception and coverage, you can move up to a KVH Garmin GTV6 24-inch dome for about $8,500.

Mounting a TV dome antenna will require a stable structure, preferably well above deck. Very large sailing yachts commonly use a mast spreader to mount the dome, while small to medium vessels are fitted with a dedicated mast at the stern in much the same way as a wind generator.

At 8 pounds, the TracVision TV1 weighs 5 pounds less than an Air-X wind generator and takes up only a fraction of the area when the Air-X rotor is deployed. So, the TV1’s footprint and weight when sitting atop a mast at the stern are quite modest, even on a yacht in the 30- to 40-foot range.

Some of us are happy with a guitar, a bottle of rum and a pile of books to keep us entertained while underway. But if you need to keep up with your favorite TV shows and live sports games while in coastal waters, there is a television dome and receiver package ready to meet your needs.

Circumnavigator-author Bill Morris is the author of The Captain’s Guide to Alternative Energy Afloat and is a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator.
Categories: Marine Technology, Web Exclusive