I'm just back from a month-long cruise
to South Brittany and many points between there and my home port on the Hamble, South Coast of England
Five people on board, and everyone with at least three devices needing Internet
access -- laptop
, tablet, smartphone. That's 15 (count em) nodes on the boat network -- bigger than my first office network not that many years ago -- I think I might need an IT department on board
I have a Ubiquiti Bullet up the mast
with Ethernet cable pulled through the mast
to the nav table; part of this winter's refit
. I did not manage to get it working during my refit
and did not manage to get it working during my cruise
In the UK, we were more or less ok using a TMobile sim card installed in a Globesurfer III mobile router. The only problem is that with so many devices, it is simply impossible to prevent some device from sucking down all the bandwidth allowance doing some idiotic automatic update of some idiotic software
package, or some such. Fortunately, TMob (bless them) don't cut you off after you consumer your fair use allowance; they merely throttle you. But we were in a nearly permanent state of being throttled.
, it was all much, much worse, as the local data plans don't allow you to stick their sim cards into something like the Globesurfer. How they know, I don't know, but none of them works. Besides that, mobile phone
SIM cards are treated like gun sales in France
, allowed only in certain shops in bigger cities, so it was a real job to find a place to buy one in the first place. I went back to one such shop one day after acquiring such a card to inquire as to how I could possibly have used up 500mb of data in one day, only to be told that i had the wrong plan, and the right plan can't be bought in the official shop. Now you tell me! Only in France.
Everywhere without exception Wifi
worked badly. These days, most owners of Wifi
AP's shape the signal so that you can only receive it in that marina, that restaurant, etc. The problem is that you can't even receive it there without something extraordinary like a Bullet. In one French town, a paid WiFi account produced throughput similar to a 2400 baud modem
. In others, you simply couldn't connect at all. It seems to me that commercial
wifi is going the way of the dinosaurs; the best way to get data is from mobile phone
The best PAYG mobile plan we found was in Guernsey, through a company called Sure. A free SIM card, a 5 pound topup, and you get 10 days of connection with fair use of 500 megabytes -- a day! After which you only get throttled. And you keep the 5 pound credit for calls! Brilliant! Works all over the Channel Islands. We were finally decently connected in the CI.
We spent days and weeks at sea and then in remote
areas, so when we did get back to something like civilization everyone needed to connect -- not to escape from reality, but to manage bank accounts and do essential things. It was peculiarly hard this year.
I am rethinking the whole business. I am thinking that the mobile networks are the primary source of data, and that the plans should be worked out prior to departure. I am thinking that there should be two plans -- one for guests, and one for the ship, so that we always have access for weather
and other mission-critical purposes. I might need to add a second Globesurfer.
I will get the Bullet working this fall, but I have a feeling that Wifi is out. Even if you get a good connection to the AP, the APs don't provide a decent bandwidth or are plagued with bugs, slowdowns, outages, etc. I had very little joy from Wifi this summer. I think that we probably need networks managed by real professionals in order to have decent access -- that is, networks managed by the mobile telephone companies.
I would be interested to know what kind of experiences others had this summer.