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If you’re outfitting your narrowboat and plan to spend any length on the water at all, you’re going to want to fit your boat with the best aerial for narrowboats. 

An aerials is essential equipment for anyone on the water interested in watching television because these devices serve as both signal boosters and signal finders. 

When you’re out on your boat and enjoying more rugged, rural landscapes, a strong aerial will keep you connected so you won’t have to choose between knowing who lived on Grey’s Anatomy and the comfort of your new water-based recreational home.

In this article, we’ll offer a brief overview of aerial basics and highlight some of the best aerials for canal boats and narrowboats available today.

Why do I need an aerial for a narrowboat?

If you’ve been on your narrowboat and attempted to watch television without an aerial, you may have noticed that there are times when you can get a clear radio signal but the television signal delivers rough quality sound and pictures – if it delivers anything at all.

The reason your boat can pick up a radio signal but will not always pick up clear television signals boils down to the difference in the wave radios and televisions intercept. 

Radio waves operate on VHF waves.  These are longer waves capable of traveling great distances. 

When VHF waves are medium frequency, they’ll travel even farther.

UHF waves are responsible for the television programming your TV picks up.  UHF waves are higher energy waves compared to VHF but they do not travel as far. 

These waves cannot travel through dense materials and they don’t bend, so the twisting nature of many waterways presents a challenge for people trying to pick up a signal without a little technological help.

Television signals are emitted by transmitters and booster stations which are fixed in their location and, because they are meant to supply signals to the largest number of people possible, they are usually located in more populated areas. 

If you’re meandering a waterway in a rural, unpopulated area, you’re likely to find yourself far from the reaches of these towers. Low lying bottoms, too, present issues to boat owners.

How an aerial can help

As we mentioned above, an aerial is a device that finds television signals and boosts those signals to deliver clear pictures to your television aboard your narrowboat.

Aerials are compact devices that you can mount and unmount from your boat with ease.  These devices are useful especially in unpopulated areas. 

The term “aerial” is often used interchangeably with the term “antenna” in much of the United States. 

Digital experts and experienced boaters recommend log-periodic aerials, suggesting these are best for mobile reception. 

Log-periodic aerials are small, robustly built, and come in a variety of designs and sizes.  One of the more common designs looks like a saw fish’s bill and, when pointed in the direction of a transmitter, even works well for digital network programming.    

Many aerials are designed for RVs, caravans, or other land-based recreation vehicles. 

Find one with modular accessories such as mounting brackets and extension poles and you will be able to use these aerials even on your boat with ease.

Getting the most from your narrowboat aerial

Aerials are great for keeping up on the news and your favorite TV shows but, as with any technology product, there is no perfect solution. 

Because TV signals travel in straight lines, don’t bend, and don’t travel through dense materials, you will need to mount and point your aerial in the right direction to get the clearest picture.

Devices called TV signal finders can help you find the direction of the strongest signal. 

If your aerial does not have this feature built in, these inexpensive and pocket sized devices are an indispensable tool for getting the best picture – and they eliminate the need for a partner onboard to yell out directions such as “a little more to the left!” or “move it back!” and so on. 

While these exchanges make for funny sitcom dialogue, a device to more quickly hone in on the signals you want gets you back to those sitcoms faster and allows you to easily dial in your television set even when there is no one around to call out directions.

Pairing your aerials with a satellite-grade coaxial cable and high quality connectors will significantly enhance your television’s reception.

When you travel into populated areas, especially cities with larger buildings and structures, remember that TV signals won’t bend or travel through these structures. 

You may notice you get less quality in your signal along city waterways than you do when traveling through more rural country landscapes but don’t worry and don’t rush out to purchase more equipment. 

When you get into a city area, especially if you are mooring, take a few minutes to observe the boats and buildings around you.  

Do you see other aerials mounted around you?  If so, you’re in luck! 

Simply alter the direction of your aerials to face the same direction as the aerials around you because you’ll likely find you can dial in your television signal much faster by taking these hints from people who’ve moored ahead of you.

What if I want more than a clear television signal?

While most of us seek out a narrowboat or canal boat lifestyle because we prize the simplicity of the lifestyle and want to get away from the rat race of big city living, the increase in remote and gig workers means more and more people are looking for ways to both work and make a living while enjoying life on a boat and outdoors.

If you are looking for a comprehensive solution that allows you to work remotely online as well as stay up on the latest news and television programming, you may want to consider installing high speed internet on your boat. 

This option will allow you to stream both radio and television shows and it provides a method for working remotely online.

Does everyone need high speed internet on their boat? 

No.  In fact, some people really value the escape a boat provides from the constant influx of information and constant availability the digital connectedness entails. 

If you aren’t working full time from your boat and want to ensure this space remains a peaceful escape, an aerial may provide the weather and news you need and enough programming for occasional entertainment indoors while still allowing you the sense of unplugging when you are on the water..

Best Aerials for Narrowboats

Channel Master Advantage 100 Directional Outdoor TV Antenna – Long Range FM, VHF, UHF and Digital HDTV Aerial – CM-3020

The Channel Master 45 is a log-periodic, short-range aerial and outdoor TV antenna. 

This aerial is engineered to receive both high-definition and digital signals and is optimized for all OTA frequencies, FM frequencies, UHF, and both high and low VHF signals. 

Frequencies carrying your favorite shows and programs on CBS, FOX, ABS, NBC. PBS, Telemundo, Univision, and many more come through crystal clear as a result of this unit’s frequency optimization. 

When it becomes available, ATSC 3.0 and 4K broadcasting will also come through with the Channel Master 45/

With a reception range of more than 100 miles, this aerial is perfect for narrowboats traveling long and winding waterways far from the bustle of city life. 

Painting this device with an amplifier and increasing installation height will allow you to achieve even longer ranges of reception. 

Comparison tests between the Channel Master 45 and comparable units saw this CM-3020 model outperform many other outdoor antennas and aerials that boast reception ranges as high as 125 and 150 miles.

The Channel Master 45 is built tough to withstand the most extreme outdoor conditions and affords you the beat of mind that comes from its best-in-class warranty and Channel Master’s industry leading support. 

Installing the Channel Master 45 is an easy process with the step-by-step installation guide and U-bolt mounting hardware included.

Pros:

– optimized for UHF, VHF, FM, and HD signals

– receptions range picks up channels 2 through 69 within 100 miles or more

– easy installation with mounting hardware included

Cons:

  • With the Channel Master 45, you’ll need to make sure you pick up a mast and coaxial cable because these are sold separately.

Winegard HD7698P Platinum Series Long Range Outdoor TV Antenna (Digital, 4K Ultra-HD Ready, ATSC 3.0 Ready, High-VHF, UHF) – 65+ Mile Long Range HD Antenna

The Winegard HD 7698P outdoor HDTV antenna is an aerial equipped to receive both high VHF and UHF digital TV frequencies to provide an uninterrupted digital TV viewing experience. 

Created by the leading US designer and manufacturer of TV antennas since 1954, the Winegard HD7698P was engineered with travelers of deep fringe areas in mind because it boasts more than 65 miles in reception range. 

Simply mount the Winegard outside your boat for maximum range and the clearest possible signal. 

Pairing this aerial with Winegard’s Boost XT LNA-200 will increase this range and reliably amplify signals, as will additional antenna elements and length.  

The Winegard 7698P is equipped to allow you to keep up on all of your favorite programming. 

Free OTA programming, which the Winegard will pick up, offers more channels and viewer options now so you’ll be able to pick up local news, weather, sports, and even top-rated shows for free with your digital TV antenna. 

If you pair the Winegard with a streaming service subscription, the options for television viewing are unlimited.  

This unit is not just a great product for current viewing, it’s been built with an eye towards future innovations. 

It is ready to transmit Ultra HD and ATSC 3.0 and will receive 4K Ultra HD signals wherever they are available. 

Winegard plans to add even more features and content  with the transition to ATSC 3.0, with higher frame rates and 3D television.

Pros:

  • Ultra HD and ATSC 3.0 ready
  • Reception range of more than 65 miles for VHF and UHF signals
  • Pair with Winegard’s Boost XT LNA-200 to increase range and reliably amplify signal

Cons:

  • This antenna offers a slightly lower reception range but is fully equipped for both ATSC 3.0 and Ultra 4K HD when and where these are available.

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