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NETSURF

NETSURF – Whether you are on a 200’ mega yacht or a 30’ cruiser, the issues in connecting your ship’s computer to high-speed internet are essentially the same. There are many options to consider; here we discuss the best WiFi and cellular options.

Most technology on land uses WiFi and so it makes sense to own a system that can use it.  Your laptop probably has a built-in WiFi card and is good enough when you are close to an internet café or a marina with internet service, but you will need to consider other options when moving your boat.  

One basic principle of WiFi is stock equipment radiates a signal of about 300’, which is far from ideal for the yachting community.  Another requirement is that WiFi needs both networks to be strong enough to reach each other.  If both marinas and yachts installed a long-range WiFi system, crew and guests would be able to get online and the marinas would attract more business.

Let us consider options for installing a permanent long-range WiFi system on board.  This gives you the farthest range solution and most integrated finish.  Such systems should be professionally installed, as technicians will be able to guide you through the maze of solutions and technology that exists.  The installer will check your computer for available ports, the best location for an external antenna and an amplifier and the best run for the cable.  Once complete, you will be able to connect as if you were inside an internet café.  This only applies however, if the shore-based network is able to reach you.

If you are looking to save a few dollars on installation and would prefer a DIY solution, try the WaveRv product by RadioLabs.  The installation is simplified dramatically by building all the technology into the antenna and using a USB port to connect to the computer. Drivers must be installed and the cables run carefully considered.  This is a simple solution, which can be installed by anyone. The only catch is the USB cable is only 15’, which is extendable but not the best solution for larger boats.

The truly mobile solution uses an antenna with an attached port, which connects to your laptop via an external WiFi adaptor.  You can place the antenna anywhere that suits you, but carefully read the safety precautions.    

Lastly, BVI boat owners and visitors have an option to use the cellular EVDO network from CCT Boatphone.  You will need to buy the hardware to connect to the network and pay a monthly contract fee that is currently $99.  You will find yourself online throughout the BVI at speeds much faster than previous technologies.  There is no need to search for networks as you move.  Better still, you can buy a special router that will convert your single connection into a WiFi hot spot so your guests can securely surf using their own WiFi enabled computers.

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The need to connect to the internet is becoming more important for everyone in the yachting community.  If you do not fancy boarding your dinghy with your laptop wrapped in plastic, call for an appointment with a yacht WiFi and networking consultant.

Rusty Henderson is a Director at I.C.E. (Island Care Electronics)
Tel: 284 495 4022  islandcare@mac.com

Specializing in:   CCT Boatphone EVDO  |  Wireless and wired network installations.  |  Apple Computer Support

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