Om Sweet Om, with WiFi

Park at work

Unfortunately Web posting at PMY has gotten a little slow lately—just so many minutes in the day—but my June Wifi column is now up. It includes a thumbnail of this picture above, which deserves more detail. That’s a gentleman named Park Walker who lives aboard a 41’ Little Harbor trawler with the fine name of Om Sweet Om. He’s had good luck using WiFi to do some technical consulting while cruising. “Without wireless I would be severely restricted in where and when I could roam. Now my clients ask ‘Where are you today?’.” The details of Park’s sophisticated setup are worth knowing for those of us who’d like to do something similar:

I have a 9dBi omni-directional antenna mounted on my radar arch with 25ft of LMR400 cable running into the main cabin. The antenna cable is connected to a LinkSys WET11 wireless bridge. This is an 802.11b device that operates as a pass-thru client rather than a router. The ethernet interface is currently connected to the WAN port on a Netgear WGR614 which provides wireless service to the desktop computer and the laptops on-board.

The LinkSys box is what makes the connection to the available WiFi service. With the 9dBi antenna I have been able to connect to base stations with a clear line of sight up to about 1 mile from the boat. We used it extensively in the Abacos over a two month period roaming from Green Turtle to Little Harbor without ever being without a usable signal. I didn’t go with a higher gain antenna as this one suited my needs, but the range can be increased to 5 or 6 miles using a 15dBi standard antenna and even more using amplification.

Running the connection from the LinkSys into the Netgear router provides NAT, DHCP and a firewall to the computers on-board. While in a marina I typically make the service available to neighboring boats who happen to find out that it’s available, although I have started putting MAC address filtering in place to keep track of who is using it.

The original hi res picture, by the way, was taken by Park and send via WiFi. 

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.

12 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can you give me more details on the antenna. I have been looking for a high gain (15 db)marine antenna. I’ve seen one “low quality” marine antennas and lots of non-marine units.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m not sure what antenna Park is using, but there are links to a couple of high gain marine WiFi antennas in this entry:

  3. Ted Gosstyla says:

    I just placed an order with for a 15 dBi
    marine antenna. They responded suggesting the 8 dBi would probably be better on my 47ft catamaran sailboat because the length of the 15 dBi might make it less likely to withstand the likely conditions.
    So I changed my order to their 8 dBi. Netgate certainly didn’t make the recommendation to make money since the 8 dBi costs much less.

  4. Dave Wilson says:

    I bought an 8 dB omni and rail mount from Sharper Concepts. I have a Proxim USB wifi “card” near the antenna and run 30 ft of USB cable to the nav station. That avoids the huge signal loss if I were to use coax to bring the signal to the laptop. Wifi signals are 2.4 ghz and definitely do not fare well in thin coax.
    At this moment I’m moored nearly a half mile from the AP I’m using. The signal is usable, but occasionally drops out as we swing on the mooring.

  5. Peter says:

    I am looking to set up a laptop on a boat that will receive wifi
    signals. I need to install a twenty foot cable from the antenna to a
    cable connector which attaches to a
    Proxim orinoco 8011b/g gold wireless card. I think I have found the
    cable but
    don’t know what antenna to attach to it as I want to minimize loss of
    signal and I believe I have to get a certain length antenna to
    synchronize with the cable length to do this. Does anyone know what the
    right size antenna should be? Also, any suggestions on where to pick
    I found the cable here

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Peter, has a lot of info about proper cables and connectors, and they sell a marine WiFi antenna.

  7. Jeff B says:

    Do you know what the ip addresses, subnet mask, default gateway, and preferred DNS server settings should be to make Park Walker’s system work.
    I have been playing around with several different senerios, but none seem to work. Any help is appreciated.

  8. billlentz says:

    I use the high power access point made or I should say manufactured by Syrens. 1 watt with an 8dbi antenna 3′ away all mounted on my hardtop. The WiFi gear is under the hardtop but it is a NEMA 4 enclosure. I set up a test with a similar equipped hotspot and can do 5 miles with decent speeds and almost never a drop out. The stuff costs a fortune but it has one of the simplest interfaces to use and it’s reliable. I also have the model that has a small 200mw repeater but I disable it and use the CAT5 directly to my switch in the boat.

  9. Nicole Laurencelle says:

    Hi Ben do not know if you are still around we will be in Nassau in December 2010, and are planning in buying equipemnt to get wifi from hotspot on my sailboat, what do you suggest to buy or any of you can help me.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Oh, yes, still around, Nicole. If you search WiFi on Panbo, you’ll find all sorts of stuff but the latest entry may be all you need. It’s about the Ubiquiti Bullet, which is sold under several names for marine use:

  11. bstronger says:

    I have installed an 802.11AC router and adapter and am impressed with results. I searched the forum here for 802.11 and got here – could not resist drawing attention to a hairier and younger Ben in the process. If anyone else has experience with this or is interested I will post some info.
    Net net, pun intended, I am getting increased throughput but the nice surprise is the increase in range which eliminates the need for a repeater in my house. Right now my acess is only via my LTE MiFi jetpack due to Sandy taking down Cablevision but my Netgrear A6200 adapter performs great picking that up throughout the house with no speed penalty. Brian

  12. bstronger says:

    Oops, I had Park Walker for Ben there. Ben actually has not changed at all in 6 years…….B

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