Communications On Board - a talk with Sea-Tech Systems

I had a blast at the spring boat show in April. Between friend time and teaching, wandering around talking to vendors, and just enjoying Annapolis in the spring, the 5 days I was up there went by in a flash.

One morning I sat down with Devon and Rich, owners of Sea-Tech Systems and sponsors of the podcast, to hear their story and their tips for cruisers who are worried about staying in touch once they cut land ties. (Note: this is taken from my memory, and after editing the podcast, not from notes that I took while talking to them. If you want to hear their LITERAL words, voices and emotion and all, check out the podcast episode from May 16!)

N: Tell us your story!

D/R: We’re cruisers, sailing with our family on board our Jeanneau 45, s/v Mobert, on the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to El Salvador and all points in between. We left our Seattle land life in 2017 when the girls were 7 and 5. After about a year of cruising, we realized we wanted something to both keep our brains occupied as well as the cash flow continuing, but it needed to be remote work as we love the cruising life and the cruising community too much to leave it. Rich is a former IT professional; Devon is a lawyer who loves the whole marketing thing. We bought all our communications kit from Sea-Tech before leaving, and the then-owner was actively trying to sell the company. We reached out and finalized the deal while at anchor in late 2017, all over the same equipment we bought and now sell.

N: I find that fascinating. You’ve got solid experience in all aspects of what you’re now selling! What’s your favorite part of the business you now run?

D: I love speaking with people and helping them figure out what will work for them. Hearing the stories about why they’re going cruising and what exactly they’re looking for, asking the questions that help them really hone their answers - that’s my favorite part. And I get to help them see that they don’t have to wait to “retire” to go cruising!

R: Pretty much the same. I love the cruising community, and helping people understand more about it is really fun. I also like helping people figure out what they need. Someone who is running a business from the boat, needing solid internet even while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has different needs than someone who just wants to be able to communicate with family back home. There’s not one solution that fits everyone.

D: We also know that cruisers are DIY people, that in order to keep your gear working on board you have to have a general knowledge of how it all works together. We love providing really detailed custom wiring diagrams so even someone who’s just learning about the electrical stuff on board can feel confident in installing this equipment themselves - which means they are capable of troubleshooting it if there’s an issue. We all know there are issues on boats all the time!

N: What do you wish people knew about communications on a boat, either in general or before they come talk to you?

D: Not trying to be a mic hog here, but I think Rich has a different take than I do so I’ll jump in first. I’m focused on the “business aboard” part of it all with this answer. I would advise people who are contemplating taking their businesses remotely to start thinking and setting up the remote part from the beginning. If you’ve got a 5 year plan, make “take the business with me” part of the plan from the beginning. You can set up conversations and systems with the people you’re leaving “behind” but also setting up the systems to enable you to take the business remote is easier done in the initial stages as opposed to a reactionary last minute decision. I’ve got a lot of experience in taking businesses “offshore” so to speak (we currently run 3 business from the boat) so am passionate about helping people figure this out smoothly.

R: Yeah, my angle is different. I think about the communications part - and the fact that all the parts on board are part of a system. It’s really easy to think you can buy the components separately and then stick them together, but understanding that they all need to be able to work together is much easier done from the beginning. Take, for example, an Iridium GO! It’s an awesome piece of equipment, but it doesn’t play nicely with other communication devices unless you’re really deliberate about it. And a lot of individual bits these days have their own wifi hotspot that they’re sending out. It’s great that your AIS and your chartplotter and your iPad each have their own signal, but what happens when you want to put the tracking information and the weather gribs and the weather data all on one screen? How do you do it all without logging into 4 different wifi hotspots to display it in one place? Communications on board are all about systems and how the different components work together. I wish more people understood that from the beginning.

N: So much to think about here. I know my husband and I have been talking a lot about the systems on board - and your point about all the different wifi hotspots is exactly what we’ve been discussing over dinner lately. Thanks to both of you - I love knowing that Sea-Tech Systems is a company owned by cruisers who are deeply experienced in the equipment as well as the usage of the equipment. And that you are there for consulting as well as giving people the resources they need to set up the system effectively themselves. How can people get in touch with you?

D/R: Our website is a great way to reach us, as our contact information is right there both for phone (206-792-9540) and email (

N: Thanks! Any last words?

R: Hope to see you out on the water soon!

N: Awesome. Me too!