As much as we love the water, the very thing we fear most with our personal electronics is an unintended dive into the briny deep. But unless we plan on some form of protection for these devices before we set sail for distant shores, we leave ourselves open to such disasters.
Yours truly has ended up in the deep twice with a cellphone in his pocket — once during a hyper-inebriated dock party, the other while dinghy sailing — and was ignominiously forced to replace his little electronic leash. Today’s iPhones and iPads offer some protection against water intrusion, but I am not inclined to test that claim.
IPads, laptop computers, hand-held VHF radios and hand-held GPS units require superior protection in offshore conditions to guarantee their operability at a moment’s notice.
The simplest, cheapest means of protection for an electronic device is a waterproof pouch, such as that offered by Sea to Summit. For less than $50, you can purchase a thermoplastic polyurethane pouch designed to fit a large or medium-size laptop computer or tablet. The pouch is rated IPX8, which means it withstands water intrusion at 10 meters for up to an hour.
The Sea to Summit line of pouches protects your delicate electronics with a zip-lock seal and a quadruple roll-top secured with a double Velcro-style closure.
At a somewhat humbler price, Seattle Sports offers the E-Merse 9-inch DryMax eTab/iPad Case with its easy-to-use slide-lock seal and additional zip-lock closure for added protection. The E-Merse will easily fit a 9-inch tablet and is submersible up to 10 feet.
Another means of protecting personal electronics is to mount them onto a secure platform on which they can be accessed in or out of the cabin without having to worry about dropping them on a hard deck, or worse, into the deep blue.
Scanstrut offers several mounting systems adaptable to a variety of small electronics, including digital cameras, fish finders, hand-held GPS, cellphones and iPads. Scanstrut uses a metal ball-and-socket device attached to a locking system, which you affix to the deck or cabin top with four screws.
Scanstrut’s quality is grounded in its high-quality materials: corrosion-resistant marine-grade aluminum, 316 stainless steel and glass-filled nylon. The Scanstrut mounting system is tough and engineered to withstand high shock loading. Accommodating the varied needs of offshore sailors, several base mounts are available to install your devices where and how you want with one reassuring click.
Alternative Scanstrut base mounts include a cable tie mount and a self-adhesive mount for surfaces not conducive to drilling for screw mounts.
For our iPhones and iPads, there is any number of manufacturers providing water-resistant and waterproof cases, which ostensibly allow us to use our devices right through the clear vinyl or polyurethane face. Some cruisers even attempt to use this arrangement to take underwater videos, for which a true underwater camera is the best choice. But that’s another story.
If all you seek is simple, above-water access, the Catalyst line of iPad and iPhone cases with grippy rubber edging offer waterproof safety and superior ease of use. Numerous other manufacturers, including LifeProof, Aquapac, Travelon and Geckobrands, offer inexpensive waterproof pouches for personal electronics.
The rule here is simple: Whichever protective system you select, make sure the item is waterproof and easy to install, and permits the usability you require — the rest is aesthetics and price.
Circumnavigator-author Bill Morris is the author of Sun, Wind, & Water: The Essential Guide to the Energy-Efficient Cruising Boat and is a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator.