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Sniper on the roof!

OK well not actually a sniper but a Snipe 2 satellite dish. When we bought Caxton there was a single feed (LNB) satellite dish mounted on the rear bulkhead which worked very well feeding a signal to a receiver inside. At home we ditched Sky a number of years ago and bought a Humax Freesat HD receiver / recorder. It seemed to make sense to move the Humax  on board and upgrade the dish to a twin LNB which is needed to provide the ability to watch one channel and record another at the same time. We don’t really watch a lot of television and what we do watch tends to be recorded so that we can watch when it suits us and of course adverts can be skipped too. We don’t follow the soaps either so we don’t have to slavishly watch day after day either.

I decided to really go for the upgrade and get a self seeking satellite dish to save any messing around with alignment when we moored in a new area. There are a number of options out there but I chose the Snipe after consulting with Caxton’s original owner. Joe fitted one to his current boat and assured me that it was a worthwhile purchase. The Snipe isn’t cheap, around £730 in this country but I bought mine from a German Ebay seller for £620.

The Snipe 2 control box displays the selected satellite.

Installation was straightforward although a little time consuming. The first thing to do is to attach the mounting plate to the roof, I chose to stick it down with a silicon gasket sealant rather than to drill and bolt it. Next I drilled a hole in the roof before feeding the cables into the electrical cupboard below. The Snipe kit includes a cable entry box to give a weatherproof cover for the cable. I left the silicon to cure overnight before resuming the installation.

The snipe has three coaxial cables, two which carry the signal to the receiver and a third which connects to the control unit. The cables are very thin which is great in the sense that they take up very little room but it means that they are difficult to push through confined spaces. I already new that the signal cables were long enough to reach the receiver and the controller was going to be mounted in the cupboard so there was only the small matter of routing the two signal cables.

What a nightmare!

First of all I had to break a piece of plywood which was boxing in pipes and cables across the rear bulkhead. The right angle under a cupboard wasn’t too bad using a piece of conduit to pull the cables through. I pulled the fridge out to pull through and then fed the cables into the cupboard under the sink. So far so good but then it all became really difficult.

Now if you’re the sort of person who thinks that narrowboat living should be a simplistic affair, look away now!

The next obstacle to overcome was the tumble drier, no problem I thought until I attempted to pull it out of its space. There isn’t enough room! It must have been positioned before either the worktop went on or the units opposite were put in place. Whatever the case, there wasn’t enough room to get it out and gain access to the back. With the next unit being a dishwasher – yes, a dishwasher! – I was facing a major difficulty. Fortunately the existing aerial cable lies in the same channel so I thought that there should be a way to pull the cables through. I taped a spare piece of wire to the existing cable and pulled towards the back of the boat. Once the end appeared under the sink cupboard, I disconnected it and taped it to the end of the snipe cable and pulled it forward. It got stuck, presumably in the bulkhead between both of the appliances. I attempted the move four or five times before giving up and heading off to Maplin. I figured that the only choice was to cut the existing two coaxial cables in the cupboard under the sink, terminate them and attach the cables from the Snipe. After returning from Maplin in Nuneaton, I attempted to pull the cable back but it was stuck and wouldn’t move in either direction. Now i was fearful of breaking the cable or pulling the plug off the end since it is not a standard thickness cable. It didn’t help that I had to keep climbing past or over the tumble drier which sat half way across the galley. Suddenly, the cable was free and I assumed that the tape securing the cables had given way but as i pulled the coax forward, the Snipe cable came with it. I had achieved what I had set out to do and my trip to Maplin had been needless. I figured then that if I could get one cable through, I could get the second through and sure enough, twenty minutes later, both cables were in place. All that remained was to bolt the dish to the mounting plate, attach the cables and connect the controller to a 12 volt power supply. Since the controller sits inside the electrical cupboard, that was one of the easier parts of the installation.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One button on the controller provides the power and gives a choice of satellites starting with the last one tuned to. Another button press activates the GPS controlled dish which then points, in our case, to the Astra 2 satellite. When it’s time to move on, another button press moves the dish back to a flat parked position.

So far we’ve only tried the dish in two locations and we know that it still relies on “line of sight” to work but it’s a convenience thing rather than a necessity. Having said that, it is a magnificent gadget to see in action!