I've been doing some research on this topic for you and here is what I've come up with:
The book Ready at Sea has a section on computers on sailboats that you can partially read via Google Book Search.
It makes sense to use a laptop for your coding for a few reasons.
The specialized processors draw less power and you also have an
internal redundant battery built into the computer in addition to the
battery bank on your boat. Definitely look for one that draws less than
One problem noted on an online forum is that the fans of your
computer will be drawing in sea air ("Salt Air" Corrosion) which may
decrease the lifespan of your computer.
online sailing forum, has several posts concerning the use of laptops
out at sea. This post suggests that you physically secure the laptop to
the boat itself with straps/ties and then use a wireless keyboard and
mouse because of the potential for the boat to rock and upset your
Several users suggested purchasing a spare charger for your laptop
as well. "Consider buying a spare power cord and a spare battery, if
going on a long trip. Lose either one and the laptop is dead.
Replacements are not always easy to obtain."
Without a doubt one of the biggest challenges for coding out at sea
would be the potential isolation from the vast programming resources we
have become accustom to.
There are a few ways you can enjoy internet access from your sailboat:
- Marina Wifi - Many popular marinas are now WiFi hotspots. So, while
you are in most ports of call you should be able to connect to the
internet and handle your online business this way for free.
- At&t/Verizon Card Internet - If you are in coastal waters, the
bahamas, and a host of select other countries people have reported
getting good connection speeds from the various cell-phone providers
and their card-slot internet services.
- Ham Radio (HF) Email - Winlink
is the global radio email system. You basically hook your computer up
to a HAM Radio and you are able to send and receive email over the air.
While this isn't full internet access it doesn't cost anything (FREE)
and gives you ~some~ contact with the outside world when you are on
- SatCom / Satellite Internet - The only "true" way to have internet
while in the middle of the ocean. Traditionally this option is ~very~
expensive. The most popular one I could find today was KVH's TracPhone v7
which claims to get 2 Mbps down (or ship-to-shore as they call it).
However, their rate plans cost from $995/mo - $4,995/mo for unmetered
internet access of varying speeds. Ouch!
This one is tricky. You should really consult a Marine Electrician
concerning your total power consumption needs. Here is a good article
on power-consumption on boats.
Generally speaking it seems like most open-ocean sailing trips use a
combination of power generation techniques. Harnessing nature (Sun,
Wind, Water) you can help lighten your drain on your battery bank. Some
of these include:
- Wind Generators - Air-X seems to be one of the more popular models.
This consists of a 3 blade propeller which spins in the presence of
> 7 knot wind. Air-X claims to produce 1.6 amp-hours in 15 knot wind
and 25 amp-hours in 26-knot wind. The cost for one of these devices is
typically around $800-1000.
- Solar Panels - The most effective solar or photovoltaic panels are
called monocrystalline. Siemens Solar Industries panel costs $749.99
for a 33.6-amp-hour-per-day panel. There are cheaper solar panels made
out a of a thin film which has about 50% of the effeciency of the
monocrytalline panels but they are less expensive and are more rugged.
A 1.9 amp-hour-per-day panel of this type typically runs about $129.99.
- Water Generators - These generators are typically trail behind the
boat on a cable in the water. Salt, Inc. makes a model that produces 2
amps at 3knots and 10 amps at six knots. The cable that attaches these
generators to the boat is the same cable the delivers the power. One
problem with these is they typically weigh about 50 pounds and create
drag, thus slowing your sailboat down.
- Genset (Generator) - Whatever needs are not met by the above
methods of power generation are ultimately going to have to be provided
by a generator. After you factor in your lights, computer, gps, radios,
fridge, etc. you'll soon realize that solar/wind aren't going to
provide all the power you need on long journeys. You are likely to have
to run the generator at least some amount of time to keep the battery
banks fully charged.
I hope this information helps you! I'm an amateur sailor (on a very
small sailboat) and I hope to one day be able to have the financial
freedom to go on long sailing excursions myself! I'll definitely be
coding when I go.