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Old 25-11-2014, 07:05   #1
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Internet and communication advise

We have recently purchased a yacht and will be moving onto it in January to live for a couple of years. We will be based on the east coast of the US to start with and then cross the Pacific. The boat has HF radio, pactor modem and sat phone on board. We are interested to hear what other people are using for internet access, such as plans they use so they can have access to family and friends and people can track where you go. I have looked at Spot but unsure if this is the way to go. I plan to write a blog as we sail. Also what do people do when anchored somewhere, can you get wifi access easily or do you need a wifi booster? Can anyone suggest an effective reliable form of internet/phone access that is also cost effective.
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Old 25-11-2014, 07:16   #2
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Re: Internet and communication advise

Spot is on Globalstar which doesnt cover much of the Pacific.
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Old 25-11-2014, 19:12   #3
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Re: Internet and communication advise

Better coverage with Delorme inReach's tracking and 2-way text communication device. It can also post to your Facebook when no internet is available.
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Old 25-11-2014, 19:15   #4
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Re: Internet and communication advise

Are you asking at the dock, nearshore, offshore?...or all three?

As you get away from land the price goes up seemingly logarithmically.
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Old 26-11-2014, 06:30   #5
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Re: Internet and communication advise

I want to know what is best at all 3 as we will experience all 3 situations. I want to be able to use internet in marinas, close offshore and full on ocean crossings. I am assuming many marinas will have free wifi we can use but once we leave I am not sure how to get the internet using the pactor modem and HF radio. We will also have a sat phone but I think that is more expensive than using the radio. I was hoping someone who is living aboard and goes offshore could tell me how and what type they use.
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Old 26-11-2014, 06:59   #6
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Re: Internet and communication advise

Hello Hayjc and welcome to the forum.

I think you have a good basic understanding already of the options.

Sat phone. Most expensive, especially if you use it a lot. Fairly simple to use, easy learning curve and minimal technical knowledge. Generally reliable but depending on which service may have spotty coverage in areas. High bandwidth (if you need to upload photos or large files) very expensive.

SSB/HF radio. Least expensive once you have the equipment. Bandwidth limited so no large attachments. Can use on marine and ham bands. If using Ham systems for email no commercial traffic allowed. HF radio does take a little bit of study to use, mainly to learn which frequencies to use in different seasons, times of day, etc.

WIFI - variable. Yes some marinas have free wifi but in more remote areas that may not be the case. Also not unusual to see slow and weak connections so a booster may help. Usefulness seems to vary a lot. One member, Dockhead, reports very little use for wifi cruising Europe.

Cell 4G - becoming more common and doesn't require hookup through a marina. Costs vary depending on location but buying a local prepaid SIM it's usually not bad.

By the way, your question is probably in the top five most frequently asked. Spend a few minutes using the forum search function and you will find dozens of previous threads that have covered all of these in great gory detail, including as much or as little technical information as you care to pursue.
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Old 26-11-2014, 07:37   #7
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by Hayjc View Post
I want to know what is best at all 3 as we will experience all 3 situations. I want to be able to use internet in marinas, close offshore and full on ocean crossings. I am assuming many marinas will have free wifi we can use but once we leave I am not sure how to get the internet using the pactor modem and HF radio. We will also have a sat phone but I think that is more expensive than using the radio. I was hoping someone who is living aboard and goes offshore could tell me how and what type they use.
There is no "Internet access" on HF radio, just email gateways. As already stated, no large attachments. You'll average a whopping 2500bps (that's bits per second, not bytes, no kilo, no mega). Still useful as there are services to email your position to be posted on their website, request grib files, etc. HF also has the weather faxes running multiple times a day.

As cellular data pricing is dropping, it's becoming a popular choice, but it's still doesn't compare to home broadband, you won't be streaming Netflix over 3G/4G, unless you have a big bank account.

Please be sitting down when pricing satellite service for Internet access. Some of the Spot type services are reasonably priced, but again, no Internet access.

There are Wi-Fi services targeting marinas and popular mooring/anchorages (Beacon comes to mind). You'll need an outside Wi-Fi antenna/radio to use these reliably. Prices vary.
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Old 26-11-2014, 07:58   #8
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
WIFI - variable. Yes some marinas have free wifi but in more remote areas that may not be the case. Also not unusual to see slow and weak connections so a booster may help. Usefulness seems to vary a lot. One member, Dockhead, reports very little use for wifi cruising Europe.
We cruised Europe for 18 months (2010 - 2012) and used WIFI extensively. Plenty of free access. Skyped friends and family, emailed, and surfed the web daily.

We used the Bullet that had a 15 dB antenna which gave us plenty of signal in the marinas and at anchor (in most places). Had a router in the cabin which provided access to everyone at the same time.

On the open ocean crossing we used an Iridium 9555 mounted at the chart table with an external antenna. Worked flawlessly for obtaining GRIBs and talking with family. Low bandwidth precludes web surfing activities.

Take Skipmac's advice and search the topic on this forum as there are tons of experiences and opinions.
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Old 26-11-2014, 08:04   #9
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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We cruised Europe for 18 months (2010 - 2012) and used WIFI extensively. Plenty of free access. Skyped friends and family, emailed, and surfed the web daily.

We used the Bullet that had a 15 dB antenna which gave us plenty of signal in the marinas and at anchor (in most places). Had a router in the cabin which provided access to everyone at the same time.
This is what I would have speculated but Dockhead reported his recent EU cruising he never used the wifi.

I do plan to add a Bullet based system to my boat. They aren't that expensive and even if I only used it occasionally it would be worth the investment.
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Old 26-11-2014, 08:06   #10
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
Are you asking at the dock, nearshore, offshore?...or all three?

As you get away from land the price goes up seemingly logarithmically.
More like exponentionally

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Old 26-11-2014, 08:14   #11
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by Hayjc View Post
I want to know what is best at all 3 as we will experience all 3 situations. I want to be able to use internet in marinas, close offshore and full on ocean crossings. I am assuming many marinas will have free wifi we can use but once we leave I am not sure how to get the internet using the pactor modem and HF radio. We will also have a sat phone but I think that is more expensive than using the radio. I was hoping someone who is living aboard and goes offshore could tell me how and what type they use.
Marina wifi is typically useless for real time access such as streaming. Even basic web surfing is painful with most marina wifi. Overnight backups and downloads often work well though.

We have AT&T Uverse access at the dock. Otherwise we use a Mikrotik wifi extender with either a 6 db omni directional aerial or a high gain directional antenna.

A portable hotspot using either our cell phone data plan or a dedicated hotspot completes our terrestial comms.

Otherwise we use SSB and pactor for emails and weather files.

We don't currently using any sat comms. Too expensive and we're not cruising offshore at the moment. We expect sat comms to become commoditised and much cheaper in the next decade.

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Old 26-11-2014, 08:22   #12
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Marina wifi is typically useless for real time access such as streaming. Even basic web surfing is painful with most marina wifi. Overnight backups and downloads often work well though.
If you want to sit around watching streaming TV why cruise??

We didn't do any streaming but found basic web surfing (checking news, etc.) to be painless and fast in most marinas in Europe and the US.
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Old 26-11-2014, 09:44   #13
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Re: Internet and communication advise

Just to re-emphasize what has already been said...

A lot depends on what you mean when you say that you want to "get the internet" when you are offshore. Getting and sending text e-mails, and very small files, is neither difficult nor expensive. If, however, you expect to sit at your computer--out in the middle of the ocean--and surf the web, or come to a website like this one to read and upload posts, then you are in for an unpleasant surprise. That sort of capability is only available at a breath-taking price.

So, unless you have more dollars than sense, you need to be sure you adjust your expectations in terms of being able to "get the internet" when you are offshore.

Good luck to you.
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Old 26-11-2014, 10:16   #14
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
This is what I would have speculated but Dockhead reported his recent EU cruising he never used the wifi.

I do plan to add a Bullet based system to my boat. They aren't that expensive and even if I only used it occasionally it would be worth the investment.
To elaborate on that -- not quite never.

Used our Bullet one time for almost a week at anchor in St. Aubin Bay on Jersey. We were connected to an open restaurant wifi connection. We ate several times in that restaurant and asked for permission to be connected.

I use WiFi, and the Bullet is usually not necessary, in France, where's there's a good marina wifi system called "Netabord".

Four months in the Baltic, never used any kind of WiFi.

I have never once experienced marina WiFi which is as good as a decent HSPA+ mobile connection, not to speak of LTE.
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Old 26-11-2014, 10:23   #15
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Re: Internet and communication advise

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Originally Posted by LakeSuperior View Post
If you want to sit around watching streaming TV why cruise??

We didn't do any streaming but found basic web surfing (checking news, etc.) to be painless and fast in most marinas in Europe and the US.
One streaming function which is extremely useful is VOIP.

I work from my boat and often participate in hours-long conferences calls from my nav table. With a decent Internet connection (HSPA+ is plenty good enough; marina WiFi not), can be done with Skype or a SIP VOIP program (I use Zoiper and Freelycall). I pay $0.01 a minute or less to dial land lines in the UK, US, and most of Europe. I shudder to imagine what this would cost using normal circuit-switched mobile telephony.
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