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Sailpilot 01-30-2006 03:18 PM

WiFi on the Boat?
Hello to all,

I am currently living aboard in Miami. I have a coffee shop near me that has WiFi that I use to check my emails. I have heard that there is equipment that allows you to receive the WiFi signal from long distances. Can anyone advise if they have used or seen anything that allows you to check the emails from the boat.

WHOOSH 01-31-2006 05:02 AM

WiFi on the Boat?
There are some lengthy, knowledgeable threads on this topic at the SSCA Discussion Board in the Communications section - They are very thorough.

The bottom line is that you can''t expect much more than 1 NM range unless you start getting quite fancy (and $$)...and even then, more than a few miles is unrealistic. Occasionally, a boat will exceed 1 NM but that may well be because of the height of the shoreside wifi system and the boat using a directional vs. omni antenna.


jackmccallin 02-24-2006 03:55 PM

As municipalities install WIFI that will provide universal (and free) Internet access, we must be sure that marinas and state parks will be included.

administrator 02-24-2006 04:05 PM


Originally Posted by jackmccallin
As municipalities install WIFI that will provide universal (and free) Internet access, we must be sure that marinas and state parks will be included.

That was not my experience in the Florida Keys over the Xmas holidays when my wife and I went crusiing. Every marina subscribed to a local Wifi service company that wanted about $29.95/month for access or $1.99/day.

Kakkerlak 03-13-2006 02:43 PM

I'll defer to the SSCA discussions about very long-range WiFi connections. I moor up in about as urban an environment as you can imagine- Lake Union in Seattle, WA. There are dense office and residential neighborhoods on all sides of the lake.

SeattleWireless has a powerful directional antenna aimed my way from Eastlake Avenue, but I can just barely connect with the tiny antenna in my Linksys WiFi card in my Dell Latitude PC. There is an inexpensive wireless access cooperative in the marina, but I won't always be right here at the marina, and isn't Free so much more fun ?

I just purchased a Hawking HWU8DD USB wireless "dish adapter" from Fry's Electronics for about $70. It's just a USB WiFi adapter with a shiny dish-like antenna attached. It claims 8 dBi gain. It gets power and connection via a simple USB cable. Unfortunately the business end where it plugs into the dish is a mini-USB connector, so I'll need a special extender if I want to put it up on deck while I'm at the nav station.

I am using it from my apartment, in which I can get a handful of neighbor's signals. I am excited to try it out from the marina, and I'll post my results.

I expect a stronger directional "Cantenna" might also do the trick, as would very expensive marine antennas and directional antennas.

sailnaway 03-15-2006 07:42 PM

I met a guy this past fall that had an antenna on his standing rigging that gave him a 5-20 mile range. The system required some software "HIS" and he has a patten on this device. He said he could get up to 20 miles with it. He also was very tight lipped about most of it but he had a few and spilled that much to me. I wish I had a contact for him. I only know the name of his boat so I will try and track him down.

WHOOSH 03-16-2006 10:35 AM

For an effective, homebuilt directional wifi antenna, visit Eric & Sherrell's 'Projects Page' at SARANA's website - This "3 tomato cans & an adapter" approach will work well in settings where the boat isn't shifting on a mooring.


duffer1960 03-16-2006 12:48 PM

There was just a very very lenghty discussion about this on the electronics e-mail list. You should check it out.

hellosailor 04-11-2006 04:59 PM

You can do many things with WiFi, but what you can do *practically* is much more limited. A couple of ham radio ops have the current world record for something like 125 miles using standard WiFi cards--but in order to get that working, they also use a 12' dish antenna and special software because there are timing issues when standard networking is pushed that way.<G>

As a civilian your practical limit will probably be 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile even if you buy a direction gain antenna, which can be a yagi or parabolic type with 9 to 24db of gain. (More is better.) So what you can do is buy the highest gain antenna you are willing to afford. Know that you will have to hunt & point it directly at the other connection. Height counts, so raising it 20' or so will help establish a clear connection. But the coaxial cables used for WiFi antennas have a great deal of loss in them, so you also need to attach your WiFi *router* to the antenna with the shortest possible antenna cable, and then use a longer USB or ethernet cable to come down from the router to your computer. Sounds convoluted, but that is how all the long-distance WiFi work is down, with the router up at the antenna. Not with a Wifi card in your computer.

Check out the seattlewireless web site, they also list the power output of various models of WiFi router. The more power it has, the more power goes into your antenna, the better chance you have of longer range.

On the bright side, two new forms of wireless are deploying this year and next year, and both will have much larger ranges. "WiMax" is one of them, but right now you probably won't find it.

sailingdog 04-12-2006 02:18 PM

Another option, at least in major metro areas, is a 3G EVDO cellular modem or connection via cell phone. I've used a Bluetooth equipped phone to connect my laptop to the internet. It's not the speediest...but it is available in many areas now.

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