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Internet Access On A Cruising Boat

Battling with internet access onboard your boat? A cruising couple from s/v Bloom found an affordable solution that may work for most cruisers!

Wirie proCruisers all over the world are constantly looking for ways to get affordable internet access offshore or simply when coastal cruising. We have been very happy with the IridiumGo! setup for remote and offshore sailing. It allows us to send and receive email, make phone calls, messaging and of course get our all-important weather forecasting, all at a cost of $125/month (equipment cost vary form $700- $900). Cheap at the price if we can conduct business while exploring less traveled places.

However, for good and mostly free internet access when coastal cruising or island hopping, cruisers typically try to connect to “open” or unlocked WiFi networks. This is a hit or miss situation and in most cases impossible to do from your boat at anchor. There are several WiFi-boosting solutions like the Rogue Wave or the Wirie, which all offer different ranges, setups and features. Essentially this is an external antenna that you mount outside your boat and connect via an ethernet cable to a router inside your boat to boost the WiFi signal coming into the boat. You then create your own password protected ‘network’. But you are restricted by the quality of WiFi being broadcast from the shore.

The Blooms of S/V Bloom, seems to have found another solution by not only boosting the WiFi signal but also boosting the cellular signal which allows connection via a cellular provider’s data! They first considered the Wirie Pro, an all-in-one solution (endorsed by The Practical Sailor), that offers both a WiFi booster and a cellular booster in one device, mounted outside with a cable that connects inside the boat. A great solution that is simple to setup and simple to use but, this will set you back +/- $700 – not bad if your business depends on it, though.

However, the Blooms found a different solution and have reported great success with their new setup. This is what they say: “We have been using this internet boosting setup for over a year now and have sailed down from Victoria, through the Gulf Islands, Puget Sound and down the West Coast of the U.S.A, the Baja and up into the Sea of Cortez. We have been extremely happy with this whole set up!” Here is a link to their article where they explain step by step how to make this work.

UPDATE 03/29/18: The Wirie reached out to us to let our readership know the following: "Keep in mind, for those researching products like these cell boosters, what was described in the linked article, are not legal in many countries. They need to be approved by the equivalent governing body to the FCC in each country as well as the specific cellular carrier you are using". Be aware that there might be compliance issues! 

Do you have any ideas or advice about internet access onboard? Please leave a comment below!

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