Satellite Television for Narrowboats

Narrowboat satellite system installer Martin Hicks emailed me to ask if I would be interested in letting you know about satellite television for narrowboats. In the spirit of providing you with as much information as possible about all aspects of narrowboats and what goes into them, I have copied his information below. Please note that this is not an endorsement of satellite television systems in general or Martin’s in particular. I know nothing about satellite systems and whether they work on narrowboats. There is a link at the bottom of the post to take you to the forum where you can add any comments you’d like to make.

Here’s the information Martin sent me…

Satellite television has two main attractions for anyone who wants to watch TV on a canal boat, firstly, you can forget ghosting, crackling sound, fading and all other problems associated with watching television when out and about. In theory a 100% perfect picture is available just about anywhere where a dish has a clear view of the satellite. Secondly the choice of channels is huge and you can pick up radio channels as well as TV.

However, receiving satellite TV is not just a matter of connecting a dish to a TV and pointing it at the sky.
In the UK, analogue is being phased out and all UK satellite transmissions intended for the UK are only broadcast in digital form, this means that a digital receiver is required as well as a digital compatible dish.

The number of channels available is far greater than with analogue TV and digital freeview with an aerial. Free to view channels change all the time, however some of the channels which are broadcast on sky and are available without any payment, these include BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4, BBC news 24, ITV 1, 2, 3 and 4, Channel 4 and 5, E4, More 4, several travel, sports, movie and general entertainment channels together with a variety of digital radio channels.

Freesat was set up by the BBC and ITV to ensure that everyone can access the best of free digital TV no matter where they are in the UK, Freesat brings you over 140 great digital TV and radio, favourites like BBC one, BBC two BBC three, BBC four, ITV 1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV 4, More 4, E4 and film 4 are all yours and that’s just a few and no monthly bills either, plus Freesat offers up to 70 hours a week of HD from the BBC and ITV at no extra cost.

The number of options can of course be increased to include film, sports and documentary channels with a regular monthly subscription. If you subscribe to SKY you can use your digi box from home, or even remove the card and use it in the digi box on the boat but it wont work the SKY sports and main Movies channels.

The dish is the aerial which collects the signal from the satellite, every satellite dish has an LNB (low noise block) this is the part of the dish which receives the signal from the satellite, it’s the mushroom like object mounted on an arm and pointing towards the dish centre.

Standard domestic satellite dish’s can be used but, for most people their size, weight and design make them a lot less convenient to carry and much more harder to set up than a purpose made portable dish. The smaller portable dish is easier to aim at the satellite and once lined up, they are not so badly affected by small movements of a boat, also a free standing dish can be sited at either end of the boat to avoid a building or a tree if necessary. If you have a large permanently mounted dish, you will have to move the whole boat.

A dish can be mounted in many ways, speed and simplicity is essential, temporary mounting can be achieved using a suction and magnetic mount, or with a special designed pole fixing bracket.

With digital transmissions the satellite dish must be positioned absolutely precisely, and if it isn’t, you simply wont get a picture. A satellite finder is a device, which, using some form of indicator makes locating the satellite easy, reliable and quick.
It’s connected between the dish and the receiver and should be disconnected when the satellite has been found, used in conjunction with the test screen on the television your signal should be found within minutes.

A compass is useful for checking the direction in which the dish must be pointed.

In order to watch satellite transmissions you must have a receiver. The sky digi box is the best known in the uk, there are several different makes but they all have essentially the same features and they all perform the same task, taking the signal from the dish, unscrambling it if necessary and then translating it into a form which a television can recognise, its connected by a co-axial cable to the dish and to the TV via a scart, rf lead or HDMI cable. Sky + and Sky +HD can also be used but require a monthly subscription.
Freesat can be watched via a Freesat digi box, Freesat HD digi box, or a Freesat HDTV recorder digi box, which digi box you have depends on your requirements.

You do not need a special TV to receive satellite transmissions, using a sky digi box any television of any size or type will do, as the output from the digi box can be connected to the TV’s aerial socket, scart socket or phono sockets.

Because satellite TV is such a complex subject, sensible, straight forward and accurate advise is essential, to help you set up for the first time and to get your new system working, an on site fitting service is available, this will include all cable, connectors and leads.
But importantly time spent with you showing how to set it up easily and quickly.


  • MAGNETIC MOUNT if needed £25
  • TOTAL £510……

AFTER SALES SERVICE I’M’ AVAILABLE TO TALK TO, A 12 MONTHS GUARENTEE ON ALL PRODUCTS,  customers may wish to have a recordable freesat receiver or may choose to have a up market satellite finder and also may want a LCD/DVD TV…RECEIVERS and all TV’s CAN COME IN 12 VOLT OR 240VOLT TO SUIT REQUIREMENTS…

Useful Information
Paul Smith

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia wandered Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 35' Dutch motor cruiser. However, the pull of England's muddy ditches proved too much for them. Now they're back where they belong, constantly stuck in mud in a beautiful traditional narrowboat.

Alan - Thursday,13 December, 2012

Link seems to be missing, Paul


Paul Smith - Thursday,13 December, 2012

Alan said
Link seems to be missing, Paul

Link to what? The information was emailed to me by Martin. I don’t think he has a web site.


Alan - Thursday,13 December, 2012

Ah sorry.  it was a link to add comments.  Too excited by getting the mortgage through!


Chris Brown - Wednesday,19 December, 2012

For those reasonably competent DIY’ers wanting to fit a satellite system I would recommend visiting Road Pro (see their web site).  I got all the kit from them for around £275 in 2011.  I also visited their offices in Daventry where they were very helpful with technical info and showed me how to set the system up.


Chris Brown


Paul Smith - Wednesday,19 December, 2012

Hi Chris. Thanks for the information, and welcome to the forum. The Road Pro website is here for those who are interested.


nb ellisiana - Monday,18 March, 2013

Martyns website ‘Travelsat’ can be found here: http://www.travelsat.me.uk/

I have used him and can thoroughly recommend his service. 




richardhula - Wednesday,20 March, 2013

Don’t dismiss freeview, its a lot less hassle setting up than a satellite system unless you have a permanetly mounted self seeking system.

I use this log periodic aerial just lying on the roof pointing to the local transmitter (check direction and polarity from local houses) and rarely fail to get 80 or more stations including the HD ones.


Alan - Wednesday,20 March, 2013

Seems very pricey.  I bought a Maplin suitcase system (incl receiver) for £70 and a sat finder for £6 from Ebay.

Mind you have not got it working yet!


cheeseybits - Friday,10 May, 2013

Hi all

Just seen this mobile satellite kit which will be for sale on Sunday 12th May at all Aldi stores. http://www.aldi.co.uk/uk/html/…..5-10-13-08


Includes an HD receiver with recorder and pause function, a dish with 12V power lead and a satellite finder all for less than £60.


Don’t know how good it is but looks ok and packs up into a neat case.






richardhula - Saturday,11 May, 2013

Suitcase HD satellite kit available from Aldi this Sunday 12th May only for £59.99.

Bought one some time ago when they had similar offer. Although it works fine have never used it on boat as Freeview is so much easier to set up and works every time.


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