Getting an internet connection for boats is a great way to enrich your cruising experience. It can also be necessary to navigate, communicate with marinas, and stay under data caps to avoid overage charges.
For boats that sail far from the shore, there are cellular solutions like Digital Yacht’s iKConnect router and WL70 antenna (which has been reported to reach up to 1km or 0.6 miles offshore). MailASail offers an even more sophisticated system that switches between Wi-Fi, cell data, and satellite comms.
1. Cell Phone
A smartphone can be a lifeline during natural disasters, connecting you with assistance and real-time resources. However, these events can also knock out the power grids and cell networks phones rely on to work. This is especially true during a winter “bomb cyclone,” a wildfire, or a hurricane. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your smartphone working even when the power goes out.
First, make sure your phone is rated for water resistance. The rating is a two-digit number that shows the phone’s resistance to dust and liquids. For instance, IP67 means the phone can stay underwater for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter without any damage.
Immediately remove your phone from the water and dry it with a clean, lint-free cloth or napkin. Avoid using a hair dryer, as the heat can damage any exposed electronics inside the phone and cause corrosion.
Once you’ve wrung out as much water as possible, place your phone on a pile of napkins or a towel to drain any remaining moisture. It’s important to remember that water can leak into the battery compartment, the charging port, or behind the screen. Symptoms include a distorted image on display, distorted sounds, or an inability to turn your phone on or off.
If your phone struggles with its cellular signal, try removing its case. This might help it pick up a stronger radio signal and return to normal. You can also try resetting your phone. If you need help with how to do this, visit the website of your cellular carrier for detailed instructions
Internet access has become a necessity for many boats. A few options for staying connected while on the water include a cellular-based connection, satellite systems, and marina Wi-Fi. The right solution will depend on how often and where you plan to connect and the boating you plan to do.
2. Wi-Fi Extender
A marine Wi-Fi extender keeps you connected to the water by boosting a public Wi-Fi signal. It extends the network range, but you still need a laptop or mobile device for regular internet access.
A strong data connection on your boat can be invaluable for longer voyages. It lets you access real-time weather info, update navigation software, and chat with loved ones while on the water. Plus, it adds entertainment for both kids and adults during long passages by allowing access to movies and TV shows.
Several companies make marine Wi-Fi extenders, and the best may include a simple app or website for set-up and management. This will allow you to quickly and easily create a secure guest network for onboard visitors and offer settings to improve performance onboard. Some, like Wave Wi-Fi, even offer technical support if you get stuck.
Some marine Wi-Fi extenders can use a mobile data SIM for cellular connectivity when marina Wi-Fi is unavailable or for faster speeds. Examples include the Digital Yacht’s 4G Connect Pro, which combines antennas and a Wi-Fi router, and the RedPort XGate Marine, an all-in-one solution for Wi-Fi and cellular data SIMs.
The key is to have reliable mobile and data connectivity on your boat, ensuring you can communicate and work even when out of range of land-based networks. Staying connected is essential for most people, and a suitable marine wireless solution guarantees constant internet access.
When you’re miles from land, and even your home Wi-Fi connection isn’t enough, a satellite system offers the ultimate in-boat internet connectivity. These systems include the hardware and a subscription that you pay monthly, just like your cell phone or land-based internet plan. Some designers create them for use aboard commercial yachts, while others consider them a great solution for private or chartered vessels that travel to foreign ports or cruise the open ocean.
While marina Wi-Fi is often slow and unreliable, a satellite system can deliver high data rates for long distances. A satellite device is typically mounted on the boat and connected to an antenna that tracks a satellite signal. A MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) receivers combines signals from multiple antennas, freeing bandwidth and improving signal retention. A Wi-Fi router then creates a local Wi-Fi hotspot that can be used by any wireless device on board.
Several satellite connectivity routers and antennas on the market offer different features and capabilities, depending on your budget and needs. DY’s iKConnect is a compact 12V marine router that shares the signal with up to 10 devices. NeptuLink by MVG and Webboat 4G Plus by Glomex combine the router and antenna for simpler installation.
For those with a little more cash in their budget, more sophisticated satellite solutions will give you true home broadband internet at sea. These systems usually require a bigger, more complex antenna dish to track the satellite signal and can be expensive. In addition, data plans are charged at much higher rates per megabyte than those for Wi-Fi or 4G.
Staying connected at sea provides security and comfort to boaters, including full-time yacht dwellers. Affordable and reliable internet solutions for boats are widely available, allowing boat owners to stay online during their adventures.
4. Cellular Booster
Working or staying connected at sea is hard when the cellular signal could be better. Fortunately, a marine cell phone booster can help. Boosters amplify weak cellular signals for use with smartphones, tablets, and mobile hotspot devices. Marine signal boosters come in standalone units or integrated cradles connecting to your device’s antenna. They’re also available as kits that include all the hardware you need to get started.
The best cellular boosters for boats include multiple indoor and outdoor antennas, which create an enhanced signal for all wireless carriers in North America. These systems are easy to set up and require no special installation or training. The best marine signal boosters also provide a clear and consistent connection for incoming and outgoing data requests. They can also increase voice call quality and boost data speeds.
The Smoothtalker marine signal booster keeps your calls connected and data transfer fast, whether sailing or fishing. The popular Smoothtalker Drive X Extreme offers up to +50 dB gain and an extended range for connecting to distant cell towers.
The signal travels from the inside antenna and amplifier in your boat cabin to the outside antenna, maintaining consistent voice and data requests regardless of location or distance from the nearest cell tower.
Using the step-by-step YouTube tutorial, you can make your own DIY cellular signal booster at home or in your boat. Use an iron wire from a hardware store or strip half a meter of copper cable to boost your cellular signal. Create a simple circuit with copper wire to serve as the antenna.