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Bryan Kemler 07-01-2010 19:39

Hate to Even Ask, But . . . Extending WiFi Range ?
I know discussions about wifi signal amplification are ubiquitous on this or any boating forum, and I have read the archives on the subject. I only ask today because it seems the technology in this area changes almost daily.

I just need a good boost to get my marina wifi signal to my boat. I use Mac (intel-based) Powerbook Pro running OS X 10.6 snow leopard. I need to have wifi in my boat by next Friday. Otherwise, I'm gonna have to pay my wireless carrier 60bucks a month to use one of those laptop connectors that use the 3G network. Obviously, I'd rather have the free wifi from my marina. Thanks for any help.

Bryan Kemler
Newport 33
Emeryville CA

sabray 07-01-2010 19:51

Alfa AWUS036NH I just got one these seem to work quite well. $35 bucks from amazon

johnar 07-01-2010 20:08

The best I have seen yet cost $6 home made out of a Pringles can, I found it on Utube.


Bryan Kemler 07-01-2010 20:36

sabray are you using it on a mac os x 10.6 or higher? i'm not sure it supports leopard.

Curmudgeon 07-01-2010 20:49

There is a very long thread on this here:

SunKing 07-01-2010 23:07


Originally Posted by sabray (Post 385399)
Alfa AWUS036NH I just got one these seem to work quite well. $35 bucks from amazon

I use the same but different make... In the marina i went from two weak signals (neither the marinas) to a dozen strong, now including the marinas signal...

sabray 08-01-2010 06:09

I bought The alfa AWUS050NH. I am using it with XP but the box says it will work with Mac OS as well.

ActiveCaptain 08-01-2010 07:20

If you're just looking to boost the signal a little in the way you described, here's a pretty Mac-friendly solution:
BearExtender n3 - Mac USB Wifi Adapter - Home

It costs $45 and will give you a little more range. It won't provide miles of access in remote anchorages but it should give you a much better signal in a marina.

If you wanted something to greatly extend your range, then you're talking about something more complex - remote amp/modem with antenna, low-attenuation cabling, etc. There are a few solutions for that. I just switched to a Ubiquiti 2HP on an 8 dB antenna connected to a boat wide WiFi router. It isn't that expensive to accomplish ($300?). Island Time PC has a good set of products that work well together. I'm currently in Charleston waiting for the weather to warm up to head south and I'm seeing 2-3 miles of range in this busy area. I expect it to give 4 miles in the open/Bahamas.

No affiliation with any of these products - I've seen the Bear Extender at work and I have the Island Time solution.

Bill_E 08-01-2010 07:29

Try the long distance WiFi thread as well. But...over a year ago I was trying to figure the same thing out. (Technology seems to have changed quite a bit since then.) I purchased the Alfa AWUS036H (I's on my boat and I'm at home) I would point out that this requires two USB ports to get the electrical power needed to drive it. I also purchased two 15 ft active USB cables. I've used it in different ways, depending on how far I am from the WiFi router that I'm trying to access.

Sometimes I just hook it to my laptop and set it on the table in the salon. Sometimes I open the hatch and just set it on the deck. If I really want to get some distance I hook up the two USB cable extensions and run the Alfa up one of my flag halyards almost to the first spreader. I can do that and still run the cables through the hatch and sit comfortably in the salon. It doesn't work in bad weather though because nothing is waterproof.

The one thing that I would do (and will do soon) is to purchase an 8 dB omnidirectional antenna to screw on the Alfa. I suspect that will really increase the distance. But even now I can get over a half a mile, usually.

This is a pretty cheap and painless way to go.


SoonerSailor 09-01-2010 14:55

An antenna with gain will make the most difference. I've held a wifi signal over a mile away with a "Pringles can" type directional antenna and a standard Orinoco B wifi card.

Boosting your own transmitted signal may help a little, but not dramatically. One nice thing about the Alfa USB unit is that it is easy to attach a higher gain antenna to it. Even if you use the attached little antenna, you'll see a benefit since it can be placed in the clear.

anjou 09-01-2010 16:42

Type 'Cantenna' into google. You can buy ready made ones or make your own. Many pages there which tell you all about them, the science and how to make one

Beausoleil 10-01-2010 09:25

The "Cantenna" (a commercial version of the Pringles can antenna) is a great directional antenna - which is fine for at the dock. You need to point it in the general direction of the marina's access point(s) for it to work.

But if you plan on grabbing WiFi while coastal cruising, it's better to find a high-gain omnidirectional antenna and mount it up a mast. Read the thread referred to earlier in this thread. It talks about all the compromises in setting up such a system.

Too bad you're not in Key West - I could help you out...

mlahrkamp 29-01-2010 06:54

Regarding using higher gain antennas: The higher gain antennas focus the signal into a flatter shape to get more range.That flatter shape may cause access points to be not accessible since it might be at different height than your antenna (above or below). Also, the addition of antenna cable will be counter productive as the canble losses offset the gain of the antenna. Best to have the device directly connected to the antenna (no loss). In a recent charter in the Grenadines, I used a 6dBi gain antenna and connected from Tobago Cays to an access point on Union Island, a distance of 4.5nm as measured on the chartplotter.

BTW: We found free Wi-Fi everywhere we went, except for Chatham Bay.

s/v Jedi 29-01-2010 07:21

If you are willing to invest $300 today's best system is probably at Wi-Fi for Boats
This guy is a cruiser and we can confirm he's the genuine geek type so you get bang for your bucks.
I just know him and get nothing for recommending.


ActiveCaptain 29-01-2010 07:29

There is a new class of WiFi systems that can be created using Ubiquiti's products. That is what Wi-Fi for Boats is using. There are others doing the exact same thing with the exact same products. One person I've worked with (no affiliation other than a purchase that I made) is Island Time PC. He operates his business from his boat too but has lower prices for the exact same things. If you're looking for longer-range WiFi, Island Time should be checked out.

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