Boating with Your Notebook
If you do a lot of boating, you can use your notebook PC as both an entertainment and navigation device. Here are some tips to consider for nautical notebooking:
- Navigate with electronic charts. Instead of carrying paper charts, your notebook lets you use electronic charts on CD-ROM or downloaded from the Internet. Electronic charts are more convenient than paper ones and easily updated online. Charts are available from MapMedia (www.mapmedia.com), Navionics (www.navionics.com), Passport (www.nobeltec.com), and other companies.
- Use GPS navigation. Add a GPS card or external GPS device to your notebook, install the necessary navigation program, and you can use your notebook to pinpoint your position on the open sea. You can find GPS cards and devices from Garmin (www.garmin.com), MightyGPS (www.mightygps.com/pccard.htm), and other companies. Popular navigation programs include Chart Navigator Pro (www.maptech.com/water/chartNavigatorPro/), EasyNav (www.easynav.com), and NavPak (www.globenav.com); you can also get similar functionality from connecting GPS functionality to Google Earth Plus (earth.google.com).
- Receive marine weather faxes. It's important to keep informed of changing weather conditions. To that end, you can connect your notebook to your single-sideband radio and receive marine weather faxes while you're at sea.
- Connect at the marina. When you need to send and receive email, you can find wireless Internet access when you put to port. That's right, most major marinas are Wi-Fi hot spots; just log on and get online.
- Connect at sea. If you're near enough to shore to get cellular reception, you can use a cellular data card to provide Internet access to your notebook. Further out, consider a satellite Internet system, such as those offered by KVH (www.kvh.com/kvhinternet/) and VSAT Systems (www.vsat-systems.com/mobile-satellite-internet/).
- Secure your notebook. You don't want your notebook PC to be too portable when you're at sea. Rough weather can send an unsecured notebook flying overboard, so make sure your PC is strapped down appropriately.
- Protect against power surges. Onboard power isn't always steady; neither is power at some marinas. To protect against damaging power sags and spikes, invest in a heavy-duty surge protector for your notebook.
That's just the tip of the iceberg—although it's probably not a good thing to talk about icebergs while boating. Lots of boating-specific programs are available for your notebook, including software that lets you keep logs, manage maintenance records, and track your parts inventories. And let's not forget that your notebook can do double-duty as a DVD player and game device, providing entertainment for your ship's crew and passengers.