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Old 27-01-2007, 19:03   #1
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Securing laptop underway

Does anyone have a good solution for securing a laptop underway (on the nav station), especially on a charter boat? Something other than bungee cords around the screen/across the keyboard would be nice. Are there any flexible cases with ring attachments out there?
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Old 27-01-2007, 19:33   #2

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You can buy 2" wide "heavy duty" Velcro self-adhesive strips. Run three or four of them across the bottom so you have about a 10"-12" square of velcro on the laptop and on the nav, and that laptop isn't going anyplace. If you want to be kind to your hard drive, add an inch or two of foam rubber in between the nav and the laptop so that any "yumps" in hard seas will be cushioned somewhat--they're bad for the hard drive.

There are also "heavy duty hook and loop" fasterners sold by 3M, which are even harder to pry apart than Velcro, with heat resistant adhesive on them. One warning: Yes, if you use too much velcro, you can and WILL need a putty knife to separate the laptop from the table.<G>
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Old 27-01-2007, 22:55   #3
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We were sailing down the sounds all nice in 25knots the other day when out of nowhere a 40knot gust came from the opposite direction. A bottle of olives that was well secured in the galley went flying across the cabin smacking Paula in the ear on the way and smashing my inverter.
The pc was in it's bubble bag but who would have thought olives would wreck my inverter. Not to mention the sore ear
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Old 27-01-2007, 23:53   #4
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Large plastic ziplock bag when not in use. They do sell clear plastic covers to use that work well enough.
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Old 28-01-2007, 01:19   #5
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Thumb Lock TV Grips Fastening Kit - Models MRV100, or MRV200WT, etc
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Old 28-01-2007, 04:22   #6
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I'm not sure how a charter company would feel about adhesive velcro remaining on their nav sta. I think that you owned the boat, then that would be an excellent answer ... but not on someone else's boat. They have that non-skid cushiony pad stuff that I use and it works very well. Put down a triple fold, put the computer on top of two of those folds and take the final fold over the top (when closed) and tuck it under. It won't go anywhere unless you have a knock down. If you believe that a knock-down could happen, then you have no choice but to rig something more permanent.
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Old 28-01-2007, 05:22   #7
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We use the thumb lock grips that Gord posted for the printer. They work great! The adhesive is called Command™, and the claim from 3M is that the "adhesive removes cleanly. Safe for use on gloss wood finishes." I haven't taken these particular items off yet to prove that, but I have removed other applications of the product and been happy with the ease of removal and lack of damage to the wood and finish. When removing them you must do it as they instruct, sloooooowly and with lateral pressure, or you will have problems. Long term I expect there will probably be discoloring due to shading from sunlight, but the same will be true for the printer. The thumb lock itself is a bit tight to work, but then I guess it has to be to be effective.

I suspect the temporary mounting disks that Garmin uses are made of the same thing. I've used them to mount the GPS on the dashboard of rental cars before and had no problems at all with the removal.
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Old 28-01-2007, 06:35   #8
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I second the comments of Thomas (s/v Elusive) re: both the potential damage to a charter boat and the excellent performance of the non-skid material.

I've used the non-skid with my laptop for at least six years, both on daysails and long offshore passages. The material is inexpensive, comes in rolls which you cut to size, and can be found in any R/V center, Boat U.S., and many other places.

Works like a charm and no damage to any surface.

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Old 28-01-2007, 06:48   #9
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Laptops are made for secure non moving surfaces and especially non tilting ones.

This makes them especially unsuitable for use in a seaway... not to mention the power consumption of these puppies.

What they do well is computing and so a fixed mount is the best way to go assuming the PC's or laptops' components can take the rattling and abuse. Most can't... but they are getting cheap enough to replace now so this may be the better approach... the disposable laptop!

This won't stop all those who think PC based navigation is the next best thing to sliced bread. It is..except for the platform issues described above. So it isn't!

I cruised with a laptop, but found using it in a seaway was a pain in the culo and did it very little. Most of the use was in harbor on the hook. Then it was essential, fine and desired.

With such good purpose made navigation GPS gear which is robust and inexpensive why even consider using a laptop underway? I forgot.. you have 10,000 waypoint in there... and you need to do weather faxes...

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Old 28-01-2007, 08:13   #10
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You and I usually agree on things, but in this instance I've gotta present a different perspective.

Laptops are invaluable appliances on a cruising boat. We agree that their use in port is important, for email, inventory, wefaxes, web surfing, etc. I've found they are also GREAT for trip and voyage preplanning. You can easily and quickly plan a trip, lay out the route and waypoints, and upload these to your GPS.

Where we disagree is in their utility when underway. You mention the following points:

1. laptop vulnerability to "rattling and abuse";
2. power consumption;
3. unneeded because dedicated chartplotters are available.

I disagree on all points.

1. Vulnerability to damage in a seaway. Production laptops are more robust than you think. We're in the IT business, and have furnished laptops to users here and overseas for 8 years. It's rare to see one diabled because of jarring. I've used laptops on my boat for 15 years, in calm and in heavy weather offshore. I have NEVER had a physical breakdown.

I do believe, however, that the degree of jarring of laptops differs not only by the sea conditions, but by the boat. Smaller and lighter boats, in particular, experience comparatively rough going, with sharper jarring. Laptops on smaller boats may also be more susceptible to water damage.

2. Power consumption. This is certainly a factor, since many laptops draw 7 amps or more @ 12VDC. It's like having another electric frig running! Smaller boats may not be able to sustain this without special gear, but on a larger cruising boat with lots of house battery power and generators, etc., this isn't a problem.

3. Redundancy with dedicated chart plotters. Here is where I think personal choice and preference is very important. I personally want to do all my preplanning on charts which look exactly like the printed paper charts. In other words, using electronic raster charts, which are simply exact copies of the paper charts. Similarly, when underway I want my electronic charting to look EXACTLY like the paper charts I have close at hand. Sorry, but vector charts are not the same thing: they don't LOOK exactly like the paper charts, and they are subject to sometimes considerable errors due to incorrect digitizing. They're getting better, but to my mind just aren't there yet. This is a personal view, of course.

Further, the available dedicated chartplotters cannot use raster charts. And, in my view, they have limited utility. I used a new Garmin model on my son's 42' sloop this fall, and didn't like it worth a damn, certainly not when compared to the large, clear chart views shown on my laptop which mirrored exactly the paper charts.

Being something of a navigation nut and having taught celestial navigation and piloting, as well as having written nav programs for early computers and calculators, I tend to be quite conservative in regard to electronic charting and navigational gear. It was a long time before I married up my Furuno GPS with my laptop chartplotter, and only after I had experimented on long trips. Since doing so, I'm very happy with the combination and only wish that: (1) I had a built-in small computer instead of a laptop; and (2) that the computer used less power. Intel may solve the latter problem, having just announced a more powerful chip technology which uses considerably less power. Apple may already have the solution for the first problem, since the miniMac and gpsNAVx and such software look increasingly attractive.

Sorry to go on for so long, but I believe others may be interested and are wrestling with the same questions.

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Old 28-01-2007, 08:25   #11
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I believe it was Larry Pardey who said: "If you depend upon electronics at sea - you are only a diode away from disaster."

Our laptop computer sat happily on a piece of the soft non-skid rubbery shelf liner (mentioned above) all the way across three oceans. We left it on nearly all the time and found it required very little energy.

We found it a great complement to paper charts for navigation.

The only problem we had with the computer was dealing with the dammage caused from me repeatedly stabbing the edge of screen with my dividers to fix our position.


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Old 28-01-2007, 09:05   #12

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Good point about the adhesive, but you can always strap/tie/tape a board to the nav and stick the laptop to that. Or, just use plain thinner to clean up any leftover adhesive. Rubber cement thinner, naphtha, spirits, all pop it right off. The 3M Command is nice stuff, but I hadn't heard of it being used for larger objects that way. Does it hold up under high heat, like laptop bottoms?
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Old 28-01-2007, 10:16   #13
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I find the laptop extremely useful, and have used both Velcro and the non-skid mat material on several long Pacific passages. I buy the mat in big rolls at the hardware store (sold for shelf-liner), and use it all over the boat -- lining stowage lockers, placemats for food prep and dining, and cushioning in cabinets to keep things from rattling and banging around. You don't want to get this stuff wet, but it is cheap and useful.

Back to the laptop -- I have a velcro strip (hook) on the back of the laptop, and the mating piece (loop)on the chart table. My boat is fairly heavy, with a comfortable motion, so the laptop doesn't see much jarring and hasn't given me any problems. If we were knocked down, well, that might be a problem. More velcro would probably do the job.

I don't run the laptop 24/7 because I prefer to conserve my power. I run the GPS/Chartplotter continuously, and turn the laptop for weather, routing, email, and for movie night (playing DVDs). When racing, I use it for tracking other boats.

I do use a computer for 24/7 logging and display of all my nav-data (sort of a "black-box", with display), and for AIS target display and analysis, but I use a PocketPC for this. The power-drain is quite low for the PocketPC -- just a couple tenths of an Amp. The PocketPC is velcroed to the navstation bulkhead. My PocketPC applications are nice to have, but none of them are critical. I intend to move the AIS display to the chartplotter, but I need to upgrade first. On my last passage I used the data stored on the PocketPC to create and send daily Google Earth trackfiles of our progress, and send them to the blog via radio email.
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Old 28-01-2007, 10:19   #14
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Yeah, the pin holes in the screen are a pain when using dividers but I have a difficult time with the parallel rullers hanging up on the hole ridges left from the dividers.

I love the deterministic systems that dedicated embedded system designs have such as chartplotters with such great reliability. My dedicated electronics have NEVER given unusual indications like those given by indeterministic operating system software: "You have committed a fatal error and the system is shutting down".
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Old 28-01-2007, 10:51   #15
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It probably was Larry Pardey who said:
"If you depend upon electronics at sea - you are only a diode away from disaster."

It’s Gord May who says:
If you rely upon a sextant at sea, you’re only a “clunk” away from disaster.
If you rely upon an anchor chain when moored, you’re only a (weakest) link away from disaster.
If you rely upon your heart muscle to pump blood, you’re only a millivolt away from disaster.
If you think Rick’s merely a technology “nerd” – you’re wrong. He appears to have a well developed , though dry, sense of humour (after all).
Ad nausaeum …

A “probilistically safe” system has no single point of failure, and/or enough redundancy so that it is “very unlikely” *1 to cause harm.

An “inherently safe” system is an arrangement that cannot be made to cause harm – obviously the best arrangement, but this is not always possible.

A “fail-safe” system is one that cannot cause harm, even when it fails.

A "fault-tolerant" system can continue to operate with faults, though its operation may be degraded in some fashion.

*1 ~ Less than one human life lost in a Billion hours of operation

For example, most navigational equipment is merely important (vs essential); and often (if one follows the prescriptives *2) another alternative is available, so it can be merely "probabilistically fail-safe".

* Mariners should not rely on a single device as the sole source of navigation information. ...
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