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  #1  
Old 03-26-2007
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Communication options while cruising

I hope this is in the right forum

What are the different communication options ie. email, fax, phone while cruising. I'm sure that I wouldn't have much difficulty accessing email along the icw and along the coastal US. Are there options that don't require finding a wireless signal?

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Old 03-26-2007
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For coastal, I use Verizon Wireless Internet, as I have a Verizon cellphone. It uses a PMICA card in my laptop, and connects anywhere my cell does. For Verizon users, it (at last contract) was $60 a month for unlimited access w/broadband in most areas. Has worked well for me, plus I have one bill for cell and internet that is an auto pay.
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Old 03-26-2007
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"Are there options that don't require finding a wireless signal?"
Well, you can drop postcards ashore.

Seriously, you need to be either wired or wireless. Wired will mean using internet cafes, public libraries (free), etc. which are pretty common these days. Or docking someplace that will let you plug into a phone line.

While cruising kinda requires wireless. You can use ham radio or marine SSB ($2000) with a Pactor3 modem ($1000) and get speeds about equal equal to a 1983 dial-up modem. Or satellite telephone with data connection, that will get you 1993 speeds for about a buck a minute.

Closer in to land, you can try to grab WiFi signals (often free but you'll have to hunt to find them) or use a cellular data network, which may run you $50/month for unlimited data usage often with a $40-50 cellular plan required as well. Each provider has different deals, each varies coverage and equipment supported, but that gets you typically something similar to current dial-up speeds with promises (don't hold your breath) of "low dsl" speeds in some areas at some times. For regular and reliable use, that's as good as it gets.

If you are looking for better connections while stationary, you can also get satellite internet, starting around $75/month but that's a whole other can of worms with a high buy-in for the equipment, and it needs to be realigned every time you set it up.

And of course the last alternative, things like Inmarsat and commercial satellite solutions. A buck a minute may sound expensive--but ten years ago, that's what cell phone users paid. And radiotelephone calls ran far more than that!
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Old 03-26-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor
While cruising kinda requires wireless. You can use ham radio or marine SSB ($2000) with a Pactor3 modem ($1000) and get speeds about equal equal to a 1983 dial-up modem. Or satellite telephone with data connection, that will get you 1993 speeds for about a buck a minute.
Quoted for emphasis. I've ventured the opinion that the reason old sailors are frequently so close-mouthed and taciturn is because they are so used to being charged by the word.

I'm going to go the SSB/Pactor route, but mostly for weather maps and text files in, not blather and certainly not photographs out. That sort of stuff is best handled in port at one of the nearly ubiquitous internet cafes of the world.

I must be one of the few people who, upon hearing that Starbucks was intending to open another 10,000 outlets worldwide in the next five years, didn't think "great, more expensive, effete coffee!", but rather "great, more free WiFi!"

But on the other hand, I am still looking for a decent 12 VDC coffee grinder and coffeemaker, so maybe I'm not going to be their best customer.
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Old 03-26-2007
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Has anyone had practical experience with OrbCom's SkyMate www.skymate.com It looks like an interesting solution but I have no idea how it compares in practice with either SSB/Pactor or Iridium or Inmarsat.
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Old 03-26-2007
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Send or receive 50,000 characters per month for just $69.99. Additional data costs only $1.40 per 1000 characters

My computer sends out that much data when it starts up . couldn't find any technical data as to what systems they use for communications apart from them using a satlink. I'm also hoping that by characters they mean the actual text message, and not all the extra stuff needed for a transmission. at 70 a month given a high enough data volume i think you're better off bringing pigeons
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Old 03-26-2007
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Valiente-
After my brand name German Coffee Bean Grinder died a premature death, I cheaped out and bought one for $12 at Target. So far it has run twice as long and the coffee gets ground just as well. You could probably take one in to any alternator electrical shop and ask them to rewind it for 12V or replace the motor with a 12V motor and stand a good chance of getting a good 12V grinder. Or, scrounge a 12V motor from a dust buster or electric drill, and try that. I don't think the beans need a very exact grinder speed. Just lots of "whack" from the blades.

Sometimes I miss the old fashioned pre-cell-phone days. I managed to extort a 3-day weekend from a high pressure shop once-upon-a-time and since we were always on 24x7 phone alert, on or off shift, the boss asked me for my contact number that weekend. You can guess it, I gave him the AT&T contact number and the vessel name, and told him we'd probably be listening on the hour, eventually, and "Oh yes, it will probably cost you about $6 a minute to make the call when it does go through."

It was SO NICE not to get a phone call for three whole days and nights.
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Old 03-27-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rexy
Send or receive 50,000 characters per month for just $69.99. Additional data costs only $1.40 per 1000 characters ... at 70 a month given a high enough data volume i think you're better off bringing pigeons
My first reaction too, but then I thought I should try to compare the prices with alternate means. I hope the Skymate software does what it says and minmises characters transferred, but it's still a text messaging system, so attached files would prove expensive. Sadly, they don't mention the word GRIB.
BTW Skymate apparently uses 35 Orbcom satellites receiving on VHF. The USCG is proposing to use similar satellites for collecting ship's AIS transmissions from space for "Long-Range AIS" (and big brother is watching you).
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