Doing boat WiFi right

Pcmciacard cropLongrangeantennaI’ve learned a lot about how boaters are using WiFi along the our coasts, and it’s darn exciting. Savvy folks are using the Internet to the max for fun, work, and even cruise planning (weather, slip reservations, etc.) using fast wireless connections, either free or from dedicated marine services, in anchorages and marinas from the Abacos to the Straits of Georgia. You won’t hear much about this in the marine press because it’s kind of a helter skelter scene with very few big players.

Yet a clear key to success is good equipment. You might find an occasional hotspot using Centrino built in WiFi and standard Windows XP WiFi software but you’ll do a whole lot better with a high power (200 mw) WiFi card or USB device connected to a high gain (6–12 db) 2.4 GHz omnidirectional antenna with low loss LMR400 coax cable and some decent WiFi software (like the free program available from Boingo). You won’t find this stuff at Staples! And so far hardly any regular marine electronics outlets have gotten into this market. Places to look for long range WiFi gear are: Broadband Express, a Pacific Northwest marine service provider (gear shown); MarineNet, a Florida marine communications outfit; and HyperLink Technologies, a commercial all-things-wireless equipment vendor (where there’s also great detail on which cards use which connectors, etc.).

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

3 Responses

  1. Jim Mayes says:

    Great web site. I have been looking for hours at different equipment sites trying to sort out the best options for my boat. I stumbled across yours and the two links to Broadband Express and Marine Net provide all the info I need. Wish I had found your site first.

  2. Jon Hill says:

    I installed a Hyperlink Tech 2.4 GHz WiFi antenna and can’t believe the number of hotspots out there that the old PCMCIA network adapter card can’t see.
    I’ve got to admit the connectors were a nightmare and Hyperlink Tech is no help. Best to do a package deal with everything you’ll need from one source.
    Great web site – wish I’d known about it before I started.

  3. Dave Wilson says:

    Hyperlink is not a retailer, so has essentially no support. I’ve found that, one of their retail partners, is very helpful.
    I purchased a Hyperlink marine high gain wifi antenna from them then found a Hyperlink amplifier on ebay for $100. I run a USB cable from my nav station to the cockpit locker, where there’s a Proxim USB wifi unit that has a short coax run to the amp, then to the antenna. I can hit an access point from nearly a mile away during good conditions.

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