Starlink Is The Best Internet For Boats
I own a boat. Spending time on the sea for several days is tremendously enjoyable. Everyone would agree that when you are out in the ocean, you miss the internet. Theres no cellular network when you are out in the middle of the sea. But there is a way to get internet in the boats or ships satellite internet.
If you havent used the satellite internet, let me tell you this it is frustratingly slow, and unreliable. Have you ever used the WiFi on Airplane or Cruise ships? It is slow and expensive. You will get the same experience if you use satellite internet.
At the start, it always felt like satellite internet from other companies would be faster than my current internet service provider . After testing several companies internet, I concluded that all of them are unsatisfactory. Then I checked the Starlink internet. I was blown away by its ease of installation and speed. From my experience, I can say that Starlink internet is the best internet for Boats or ships.
Mobile Hotspots For Your Boat
If a BGAN terminal is too expensive for your taste, a hotspot might do the trick for a fraction of the cost.
- Signal might be spotty offshore
- Need to switch SIM cards if leaving US
The biggest downside is that you’ll start losing your hotspot signal once you’re anywhere between 5 to 10 miles offshore. But if you’re following the shoreline, a hotspot is the least expensive option for an internet signal that comes along for the ride.
Here in the US, we typically recommend Verizon Wireless hotspots, since it has the largest coverage area. But keep in mind that if you cruise on over to the Bahamas or another country, you’ll need to swap out your SIM card for a local provider.
Here’s a quick look at some marine-friendly hotspot options:
Shop Around For The Best Deal
When shopping around for the best cellular internet package, get the maximum amount of data you can. Dont assume you can manage on a smaller amount because package providers load extra used data with huge costs. The minute you use your packages last gig of dataâBAM! Youre landed with a massive bill for every gigabyte used after.
Whats in the package deal? You want the best antenna, dongle, or router for your money, so dont be afraid to ask. Try and get your cell phone deal wrapped into the package, because the more you have with the provider, the more your bargaining power.
Check the internet providers coverage. The cheapest deals appear too good to be true because they usually are! Buying a package with lots of data is useless if the cellular provider has limited coverage.
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A Great Excuse To Have A Drink
Perhaps the most obvious, inconvenient and expensive option is to rely on wifi from bars or restaurants. We spent the first month of cruising without an inverter, and being too scared to med moor anywhere we were stuck without mains power for a long time.
To get around this we spent a lot of time in bars, charging our laptops and using the wifi. Its not always easy to find bars when youre in remote anchorages so you will need to plan accordingly if this is the option you choose.
You will also need to be prepared for slow internet and be happy to part with well-earned cash for drinks in return. Weve regularly gone to a cafe to use their advertised internet, only to find its basically non-existent. Its pretty time consuming and annoying!
Cell Phone Data / Dedicated Hotspot
Whether its a hotspot created from a cell phone or a designated device, a hotspot is typically the most simple, efficient and affordable way to go.
We have two cell phones on board with two different plans.
Its always a good idea to have one unlocked, GSM, quad band, phone to use with a local SIM. It works as our local phone number. We use our iphone for this. We can take advantage of any affordable local data plans, make local phone calls and more importantly, locals can call us. Appointments of any sort such as customs, a doctor appointment, tour guide, taxi, local that invited us for dinnerthere are lots of scenarios where a local number comes in handy.
SIM cards are available in most countries around the world. We simply head to the nearest convenience store, post office or even grocery store and ask for a local SIM card with data . More often than not, the person selling the SIM will even set up your phone for you. They want to make sure it works and youre happy before you leave the store, this way youll come back to top up when your plan is poked.
There are more options than ever out there for international cell/data plans. Most of them are expensive and dont make sense for long term travel. But, there is one option that has been a game changer for us: Google Fi!
Sadly, its for USA based residents only for now, but its Google, surely theyll expand?!? .
Its a straight forward plan.
Do You Need A Burner Phone?
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What Type Of Mobile Data Should I Choose
This will depend on the type of internet usage you do. Whistleout have this excellent chart to help you decide the speed and amount of data you will need.
After working that out, you can see which type of mobile network will be best suited to your needs below. Of course, the further you go down this list, the more expensive it will be.
You want to match the required speed from the first list of activities with the speed of the mobile network above.
The only other thing to worry about is the data cap. This is the total amount of data you can use on a plan. Look at your main activities from the first list above and add up an idea how much data you would use in a month. The data per hour figure will help you with that.
The total you get for a month will give you an idea of the right data cap to ask for when you purchase your monthly data plan. When buying a plan, make sure to ask what happens when you go over your data cap for the month. The best thing to do is to find one that simply slows down your connection for the rest of the month rather than charging more money
Connected On Board: How To Get And Improve Wifi At Sea
Its really no longer a luxury to be connectedits pretty close to a necessity. Even when you put out to sea, whether for an afternoon cruise or a multi-port voyage into new waters, you need to be connected to the Net, to your email and text messages, to your music, to your friends, family and business associates.
There are basically three ways to get connected: pick up a signal from your marina or another land-based WiFi source use the connectivity from your cellular phone or install your own satellite connected marine WiFi network.
This is the easiest way to get connected, but it has its limitations. Your marina may not have the best WiFi connections and theres not much you can do about it. Also, connecting to a marina or other land-based source has one big problem: when you cast off and head out to sea, the strength of the connection quickly erodes.
You can buy a marine WiFi antenna or extender which will help keep your boat connected to the land-based WiFi hot spot for up to several miles. But you need to be in line-of-sight with the signal origin. So motoring into the next bay or inlet may cut off your signal. Thats when the kids start complaining!
Products like the Shakespeare WiFi2 WebWhip , the Wave WiFi Rogie Pro or the Wave EC Extended Range are antennas that are installed on your boat and boost the range of shore-based WiFi signals.
Use Your Cell Phone.
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The Benefits Of Cutting Down On Internet When Sailing
We have cut down massively on the amount of internet we use, and thats proven to be a great thing. We no longer spend several hours in front of Netflix every evening. We find other ways to entertain ourselves, like reading our Kindles, and a film is a real treat.
We have cut down binging on Facebook or Instagram and we dont have as much time in front of our screens. This has given us way more time to get on with the important things snorkelling, exploring, fixing problems with the boat!
We have found that although we still rely on the internet to help us figure stuff out, and to enable us to work, we arent relying on it for entertainment. This has been a great thing about having only limited internet when sailing.
If youre heading off on longer passages then it might be worth downloading some audiobooks before you leave. We have found these to be amazing boredom savers while were out at sea and everything is running smoothly. We tent to alternate between a good audiobook and reading books on our kindles you can find our favourite books for sailors here.
Use A Hotspot Database App
Theres such a massive demand for free public hotspots that there are entire apps dedicated to helping users find them. Hotspot database apps contain a huge list of WiFi hotspots around the world, and some even have passwords for hotspots that are not available to the public without paying.
Here are our top 3 favorite hotspot database apps:
This excellent and easy-to-use hotspot database app contains a long list of hotspots and information about them. For each hotspot, you can display Foursquare and WifiMapper comments, the hotspots type, and its exact place.
In the future, the developers behind this app would like to implement password sharing functionality and offline hotspot maps.
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Installing The Dock Electronics Waterproof Housing
Before we can have Wi-Fi at the boat dock, we have to have a box to keep all of our moisture sensitive gear protected, and we have to get power to it!
I found this awesome outdoor enclosure on Amazon that has a neat feature. In the bottom of it there is a plastic mesh full of holes that can be used for mounting gear. This makes it perfect to permanently secure all of my gear!
Since were going to have things in this box that need power, I need to mount an electrical box for 120v and add a hole in the side of the box for the flexible waterproof conduit to pass through. I drilled the hole using a 7/8 hole saw attached to my drill.
I installed a Ubiquiti Unifi US-8-60W PoE switch in the box to provide PoE to a wireless access point and to two security cameras.
Which Internet Option Is Best For Boating
Communication on the water is better than its ever been. Today, you have more options than ever before, including satellite antenna systems for transatlantic voyages and cellular boosting equipment suitable for cruising along the coast.
There isnt a universal best internet option for boating because itll depend on where youre cruising, how much data you need, and how much you want to spend. Some options cost a few hundred dollars, while others will set you back $50,000 or more.
There are three ways to connect to the internet while boating.
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Hacking A Virgin Mobile Phone
Hacking an Android phone is a great way to get internet on a boat.
Things are a little different from carrier to carrier. I use Virgin Mobile. For $35 I can get 300 minutes and 2.5 GB of 3G data. For $45 I can get 1200 minutes and the same amount of data. No contract. I really love their price point, and the signal is pretty good throughout the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound.
My origonal phone was an Optimus V, which is pretty old these days. It was made before Virgin started selling the WiFi hotspot service for an extra $15 a month. At the time I had to hack the phone in order turn it into a Wifi hotspot because the service was not offered. I recently upgraded to a newer phone, but made sure I could hack it before I purchased it.
The process of hacking an Android smartphone and turning it into a free wifi hotspot is a two-step process. First you have to root the phone. Second you have to install a Wifi teather app, like Barnacle. The first step is slightly different from phone to phone. Step two is the same for every phone.
The 3G connection to the internet is plenty fast enough for browsing websites and checking email. It will bog down with flashy, graphically intense websites, YouTube, or Netflix though. Plus, those videos will eat up your data allotment very quickly. This kind of connection is a great start, but it wasnt enough for me.
Challenges To Getting Internet Out At Sea
For the most part, the challenge of getting satellite internet for a boat is cost, along with the fact that a boat moves.
The movement of your boat requires a satellite that can maintain a connection while it’s rocking in the water.
Distance also factors in, as larger and more expensive satellite dishes are required to compensate for angled signals as a boat veers towards the poles. If youre looking for a strong signal anywhere in the world, be prepared for a substantial price tag.
Wi-Fi extenders and hotspots don’t face these same challenges, but they do require you to be closer to shore. And public Wi-Fi connections may be spotty, while hotspots require you to pay for cell service and a SIM card.
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How Much Data Do I Need On A Boat
Internet data use on a boat varies from person to person, depending on how heavily they rely on the internet and what theyre doing online. Basic tasks like navigation and text messages use very little data, while streaming video uses a lot of data.
Some cruisers disconnect from technology while out on the water and need the internet only for GPS and emergency service. These boaters catch up with family and friends while docked at marinas and use less than 1 GB per week while out at sea. Others who will be working remotely throughout their journeys or using the internet recreationally on a luxury yacht will use much more data.
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