The NAVROC computer – an affordable, water-resistant computer designed and entirely assembled in Midcoast Maine – is practically a family affair.
Designer and engineer Jacob Post, 32, and business owner Carolyn Philbrook of Rockbound Computers have known each other since he was a kid in Owls Head, one road over from her house and attending school with her sons.
“Three years ago, we saw a lot of computers people had on lobster boats – they all rusted,” said Post. “We thought we could do something better and help them out.” 
And so they did. They developed NAVROC Navigational Computer Systems to make a fully marinized computer that resists water and salt corrosion, runs off a boat’s 12- or 24-volt electrical system and endures a wide range of temperatures. It is entirely assembled at the New County Road shop in Rockland, 
Since then, the pair has been selling the computers by word of mouth, making sure they were satisfied with the unit’s performance before launching a full-fledged marketing campaign. 
“We didn’t want it publicized too much,” said Philbrook. “We wanted it working correctly for fishermen first. We took the slow approach. This isn’t a land-based computer that’s been marinized, we designed and built it, inside and out, strictly for the marine environment.” 
“We wanted a pyramid, not an upside-down pyramid,” added Post. They’re poised to market NAVROC now, to fishermen – lobstermen in particular – but also to recreational boaters.
 Their interest in the lobster industry is genetic. Post went lobstering summers off Matinic from age 8 through high school, with his dad, Woodbury. Practically his entire family – which can trace its roots to the Mayflower – has gone lobster fishing.
Philbrook’s family includes a few lobstermen as well, and those who didn’t fish for lobster went to sea as pilots, dating back to her great-great grandfather. Continuing the family tradition, one son runs tugs and another is a lobsterman.  
On the other hand, computers could be genetic as well. Another of her sons, Jason, is the founder of Midcoast Internet Solutions, a Rockland-based Internet provider.
“I took a computer course 23 years ago and loved it,” said Philbrook. She and Jason began a business performing desktop publishing services when he was a sophomore in high school. She started Rockbound Computers in 1991.
Post said he realized by high school that lobster fishing was not the career for him, so he set out to study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. But he came back when he graduated because “I wasn’t a city person. I knew I wanted to live here.”
His roots are strong. One family story involves a Post ancestor as a small child on Matinic, being hoisted onto someone’s shoulders to watch the sea battle between the Enterprise and the Boxer during the War of 1812. Another maternal grandfather owned Rockland’s Snow Shipyard.
Their NAVROC, made from industrial grade components with an anodyzed aluminum case, is a high-performance computer that boasts dual video outputs. It can accommodate two monitors to allow different data on each, such as 3D charts on one and 2D on another. 
Most marine data comes through serial ports and the NAVROC has two, but the four USB ports may be hooked up to adapters to create up to six serial ports. The NAVROC has built-in Ethernet. Since the computer runs off the boat’s own electrical system, it requires no inverter.  
Three audio inputs allow users to play iTunes. Said Post, “You can put a DVD drive on – you can listen to music while you’re waiting to sell lobsters.”
Although the computer is high-performance, it draws little power, making it perfect for land-based use in locations off the grid, especially on islands, added Post. “The computer only draws 45 watts and the screen only 30 watts. So for around an 80-watt draw, a couple of solar panels could charge up a battery the size of a car battery and run the computer all night.”
Besides the advantage of running directly off the boat’s system, another good result fishermen report is increased catches.
“If you look at it from a financial standpoint, if they catch five pounds more per trap because they’re finding new places on the bottom, they’re better off,” Post said. It’s anecdotal, but Post and Philbrook say NAVROC users are reporting ten percent increases in catches overall.
“No one can read the bottom like a lobsterman anyway, but this gives them a tool to enhance that skill,” Post said. “Most of them find new areas to put their traps.” Some programs available for use on the NAVROC will redraw the bottom and “the more you go over it, the more accurate it becomes because it remembers the bottom in the database when it redraws it.”
Software currently available ranges from $500 to $5,500 in cost, with commensurate degrees of sophistication. The priciest one is Olex, a package made in Norway which hooks up to a boat’s fathometer and redraws the bottom in real time. It includes modules that work with GPS and other equipment. One even reads the hardness of the bottom.
One NAVROC owner brought in a unit that had been in the boat for two years and showed only minor rusting around the connections. “You can’t protect the connections completely,” said Post. But they cleaned the unit up and sent it back out, still working.
The silicone keyboard is flexible and water-resistant. The remote has a built in mousepad as well as commonly used buttons so the operator doesn’t need to click the separate mouse. The rugged aluminum case can be mounted vertically or horizontally and has a small footprint.
Prices and therefore profits have been kept to a minimum, say the manufacturers, because they want to make the computer affordable for fishermen. There are two models, the Marine Explorer Pro for $1599, the Marine Explorer for $1099, the HMS GlidePoint Remote for $349 and a selection of third-party software.