Us­ing your phone/tablet on board

Boating NZ - - Practical Boating -

The most com­mon ‘mo­bile haz­ard’ is run­ning out of bat­tery power. Luck­ily this can be solved sim­ply and cheaply: a cou­ple of dol­lars will buy you a mo­bile charger and ca­ble that fits into stan­dard 12VDC power sock­ets (the old cig­a­rette lighter sock­ets).

For more re­li­a­bil­ity and ad­di­tional ports you can in­stall a ded­i­cated USB power socket, avail­able from most ma­rine sup­pli­ers. Keep a cou­ple of cheap charg­ing ca­bles for iphone and An­droid de­vices on board as well, and you will al­ways have a charged-up de­vice and happy guests on board.

It also makes sense to have some­where to ‘park’ your smart­phone/tablet where it will be held se­curely and be eas­ily vis­i­ble, es­pe­cially in rough con­di­tions. Hav­ing both hands free can be just as crit­i­cal at sea as when driv­ing a car.

A cra­dle with an in­te­grated USB hub makes good sense, to keep the de­vice fully charged while be­ing held se­curely. There are two main ven­dors of ma­rine smart­phone hold­ers, and both are great sto­ries of in­no­va­tion born in New Zealand and now ex­ported around the world.

Rail­blaza started life in 2009 as a mount­ing sys­tem for hold­ing things on the back of a quad-bike. Once it had de­vel­oped the ini­tial con­cept the de­sign­ers re­alised the merit of the sys­tem in the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment, and have en­hanced the range con­tin­u­ously.

The heart of the sys­tem is the pro­pri­etary Star­port™ mount­ing sys­tem. These are sur­face-mounted onto a bulk­head, with lit­tle or no rear in­tru­sion. They also have a range of op­tions to at­tach to the tubes of in­flat­able boats, onto stain­less guard rails, on to surf­boards and even kayaks. You then lock your choice of holder into the Star­port, with dozens of op­tions in­clud­ing ad­justable smart­phone and tablet cra­dles.

The ad­van­tage of the Star­port sys­tem is that it can be in­stalled on sur­faces and bulk­heads where there is no rear ac­cess. This does how­ever limit the strength of the socket to the hold­ing power and strength of the two mount­ing screws and the ny­lon it­self.

Tal­lon Sys­tems was started in 2006 by Peter Mar­shall when he pur­chased a new boat and dis­cov­ered there was nowhere to se­curely hold a glass of wine when un­der­way. He de­vel­oped a uni­ver­sal ac­ces­sory socket, and then a range of ac­ces­sories that clipped into the socket.

Un­like the Rail­blaza sys­tem, the Tal­lon sock­ets are mounted flush with the sur­face, so are un­ob­tru­sive. Be­cause the Tal­lon socket is held in place by a lock­ing ring be­hind the bulk­head, the sys­tem has enor­mous strength and is claimed to with­stand a pull-out strength of 600kg. Tal­lon pro­vides an un­lim­ited life­time war­ranty on its sock­ets, so clearly is con­fi­dent of the dura­bil­ity.

The ex­ten­sive Tal­lon range now has op­tions for boats, cars, trucks and even air­craft. There is a va­ri­ety of pow­ered sock­ets, with the Elite socket hav­ing a stan­dard Tal­lon mount as well as an in­te­grated USB port and a con­ven­tional 12VDC pow­ered socket. There are also more than 20 dif­fer­ent cra­dles, phone and tablet mount­ing op­tions to suit your de­vice and pref­er­ences.

I’ve fit­ted both sys­tems to my boat. The Rail­blaza was per­fect for the main helm, where a hor­i­zon­tal sur­face meant it did not mat­ter that the mount pro­truded about 25mm. The un­der­side of the sur­face was in the shower, so some­thing that did not stick through the other side was prefer­able.

Two mount­ing holes were all that was needed, plus a hole for the ca­ble pro­vid­ing power to the USB. The in­stal­la­tion took around 20 min­utes, and we have both a smart­phone and a tablet cra­dle than can be swapped out de­pend­ing on which de­vice is re­quired.

But up in the fly­bridge, things were dif­fer­ent. The bracket needed to fit against a ver­ti­cal sur­face, and when not in use we wanted a flush look. The back of the mount point was un­der the helm and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, and with the ad­di­tional forces that a ver­ti­cally-mounted tablet would cre­ate, the Tal­lon sys­tem was the bet­ter op­tion.

Again in­stal­la­tion was rel­a­tively sim­ple, and in­volved us­ing a hole saw to cut one 50mm and two 30mm holes for the socket and power points. The Tal­lon Ball adap­tor pro­vides flex­i­bil­ity in po­si­tion­ing the tablet at the most con­ve­nient height and an­gle, and then lock­ing it to pre­vent move­ment.

“A cra­dle with an in­te­grated USB hub makes good sense.”

Scores of ma­rine-re­lated apps can en­hance your boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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