Obviously, you don’t need a TV on your boat. But you might want one.
Between GPS navigation systems, VHF radios and smartphones, you have plenty of access to safety and weather information.
Sometimes, though, you just want to (and should) get out of the sun for a while. Relaxing with your favorite show or movie is a good way to recharge for more fun in the sun. And that smartphone screen isn’t really big enough for everybody to watch.
What if rain and other weather conditions are keeping everybody below deck? If you have kids, you’ll understand the benefits of having alternate entertainment on hand. Probably more than most.
A few benefits to having a TV onboard include:
- Provide weather updates from local stations
- Check local news
- Entertain the kids or yourself in the evening or during bad weather
- Check out the cooking shows for a killer seafood recipe
Whether you have a liveaboard trawler, a weekend getaway cuddy cabin, a pontoon boat or a sportfishing boat, having a TV onboard makes perfect sense. That, however, comes with a few technicalities. Mainly, how do you get good reception (or any reception at all) out on the water?
Read on for some tips and examples to choose the best marine TV antenna for your boating lifestyle.
How Does a Marine TV Antenna Work?
Marine TV antennae pull signals from towers or satellites just like the one in your house. The only difference is that the boat is moving. Thus, the signal is never in the same place (okay, the signal is technically in the same place, but the boat isn’t).
This leads to several issues to overcome when choosing the best antenna for a boat. You’ll want to consider the distances and locations where you typically boat. This will help determine the strength and type that’s best for your boating lifestyle.
Key Features of the Best Marine TV Antenna
Consider these key features when choosing a marine TV antenna.
Take into consideration how far from land you’ll be. If you spend most of your TV viewing time at the liveaboard marina, you probably won’t need a super-strong antenna.
But if you’re way offshore, you’ll definitely need something that’s strong enough to get reception.
Signal strength is an important factor to consider when looking for a marine TV antenna. Most antennas these days are digital.
You’ll want to consider the distance you’ll be trying to tune in. If you rarely go more than a mile or two, you won’t need as much signal strength.
If you’ll be heading far offshore, you’ll want a marine TV antenna with long-range reception. This means that it will receive local signals from a long distance away.
Water, wind, salt, sand and sun… what more can I say?
Marine-grade components are a given when it comes to boating and the great outdoors. You want all of the stainless-steel and UV resistance you can get. One tip: if it’s made for an RV, it’s probably good for a boat.
A low-noise amplifier boosts signals with very low strength while preventing additional noise and static (a typical amplifier will increase the strength and the noise).
If you have two TVs, you’ll want a low-noise amplifier so the signal strength isn’t compromised.
The amplifier is what brings in the signal. There are two versions: amplified and non-amplified.
- Amplified — If an antenna is “amplified,” it means that the amplifier is built into the housing. It’s a good choice when there aren’t strong TV signals in the area as it can bring in signals from a greater distance. This type is a good choice for a marine situation.
- Non-amplified — Non-amplified antennas are commonly used inside. They’re best when you’re near towers with little to no interference. I don’t recommend this type for boating purposes (unless, of course, you only watch TV at the marina and there’s a tower nearby).
When you’re out and about in your boat, it’s tough to stay in one direction (unlike being at your house where everything stands still). Marine TV antennas are available in two main types: directional and omni-directional.
- Directional — A directional antenna lets you point it at the strongest signal. Now, on a boat, that’s not necessarily a positive thing, as the boat is often moving. If you only watch TV at the marina, this might work out okay.
- Omni-directional — With an omni-directional antenna, no turning is required to pick up a good signal. It’s an automatic kind of thing. I highly recommend this type for any boating application.
DISH Network or DIRECTV- Compatible Receiver
If you already have a satellite subscription to DISH Network or DIRECTV, you might want to find an antenna receiver that’s compatible.
Often, you can simply add it to your current subscription to get all the fancy channels along with the local stations. You’ll never miss a game ever again!
The Best Marine TV Antennae
1byone Amplified Marine Antenna
The 1byone Amplified Marine Antenna provides horizontal 360-degree reception.
It’s fast and easy to setup and receives free broadcast HD TV signals for stations such as ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and FOX.
The kit includes the main unit, a power supply with a gain adjustor, a DC 12V input wire kit and a stainless-steel straight mount.
I really enjoy the saucer-like shape of this marine TV antenna. It may stand out a bit more than a small dome-shaped one (read on), but you’re gonna get great reception.
- Direction: Omni-directional
- Power: DC 12V or 24V
- Dimensions: 15.75” x 8.66” x 15.75”
LAVA RVHD-2015 Marine HDTV Antenna
The LAVA RVHD provides omni-directional reception with a signal that doesn’t fade with movement (a great feature for boats).
It supports AM, FM, VHF and UHF frequencies and boasts a receiving range up to 80 miles.
The waterproof housing is UV-resistant with durable injection-molded ASA material.
Being that it’s specifically designed for moving vehicles such as boats and RVs, I have to give top nods to this model.
- Direction: Omni-directional
- Power: DC 12V
- Dimensions: 12.4” x 12.1” x 5.6”
Shakespeare 3004 SeaWatch Marine TV Antenna
The low noise and compact dome shape of the Shakespeare 3004 SeaWatch give it high marks for me.
With the low noise amplifier, weaker signals are amplified get a better picture.
It’s omni-directional with 360-degree performance, receives all local HD signals and has lots of options for power (such as AC, DC or even USB).
The small and unobtrusive shape won’t take up too much space on your boat. Best of all, there’s no assembly required.
- Direction: Omni-directional
- Power: AC, DC or USB
- Dimensions: 10″ x 9″ x 5″
Winegard Company PA-1000 DISH Playmaker Satellite TV Antenna
If you already have DISH at home, this is the perfect choice. It’s easy to set up and is compatible with your current DISH subscription.
It’s powered by a single coax connection through DISH receiver. It automatically finds DISH HD satellite orbital locations to make it easy to watch your favorite shows on the hook.
It’s compact and portable enough to be taken anywhere. When you’re done on the boat, pack it up and take it to the tailgating party. You can purchase a tripod mount or a window mount for even better reception.
- Power: Single coax connection through DISH
- Dimensions: 12” x 12” x 18”
It’s true. Your main boating goal may be to just enjoy the boat, the water and the great outdoors. Mine is, anyway.
Once you’ve put away all the snorkeling gear, floating water mats and other toys, it’s always nice to be able to check weather conditions, catch up on the news or have a bit of entertainment after being out in the sun all day.
Hopefully, you’ve picked up a few ideas on the best marine TV antenna for your boat.
Sandy Allen is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Follow her adventures at Somewhere in the Sand.