Electrical energy is a valuable resource on a sailboat. Cruising sailors often go to enormous lengths to conserve energy and devise clean energy sources. Tahina has seven 80-Watt solar panels to help cleanly provide many amps per day of electrical energy into our large high-tech battery bank. We also plan to get a wind generator down in the Caribbean. Even so, we will still need to occasionally run the noisy, smelly, diesel generator on occasion to make up for demands that go beyond what the clean energy sources can provide. (Don’t get me wrong, our generator is one of the quieter ones available, but sailors still hate to use them).
When deciding what computer to put into our navigation station, I wanted something energy efficient and that could run off our 12 Volt system (without requiring the large inverter we have on board). My long-time friend Andy Schwab has been working with me for months to plan our computer system needs. He evaluated a number of options for our nav computer and we’ve just finally completed the installation. The end result is a bit horrifying for Mac geeks, but it works (I should have written this yesterday for halloween!).
Our nav computer had to be able to run Windows because our Raymarine navigation software only runs on Windows (although, I have managed to get it running on a Mac under VMWare, it wasn’t designed for that). We initially looked at buying a custom energy-efficient PC to minimize the number of amps the computer would draw from our 12 V system. It turns out the custom PC route can be pretty expensive. Andy eventually came back to another idea he had.
It turns out the Mac Mini is very energy efficient out of the box (I believe they’ve won some awards for it). And, we were able to get a deal because Apple was just coming out with a new version. So, it was more cost efficient, and energy efficient to go with a Mac. But, what about the Windows problem? Yes, we actually installed BootCamp and then installed Windows on the poor Mac, and that’s what it will run normally. Thanks to a very efficient in-line 12 volt adapter we purchased, it will require 25%, or less, the energy of a typical energy efficient PC. My apologies to the poor Mac for subjecting it to this indignity.
To make up for this cruelty, we are using an Airport Extreme for our wireless network, and an Apple TV for our digital entertainment on the TV. And, I use a MacBook Pro for my everyday laptop use.