Connecting to the Internet

The internet is very important to some people, and life without it may seem unfathomable to them. I go both ways when it comes to internet connectivity, I need it to post on this website and I don't care for it at the same time. As you may have noticed, electronics are a source of frustration to me. I expect them to fail in a marine environment as corrosion sets in. I don't like to rely on electronics, but at the same time I appreciate the conveniences that they have to offer.

Connecting to the internet on a boat is different from a land based structure. Verizon or Comcast won't run a line out to your anchorage! 

For liveaboards who don't take their boat out of the marina, plugging a coax cable into the pedestal will provide the fastest connection available. This will connect them to shore side internet using a "pretty reliable" system. The pitfalls of this system have to do with corrosion. The coax hookup is outside and exposed to the elements, leading to a faulty connection. In time, the terminals will need to be cleaned or replaced to maintain a proper connection. 

If you take your boat out a lot, this will become a nuisance and will quickly be abandoned. The cable is very small and hard to get into the plug without damaging the terminal. The repeated connection and disconnection will lead to premature failure as well. 

The alternative to wired connectivity is to use wireless connectivity. You can tap into local WiFi signals, allowing you to get online quickly and easily. The problem is you are forced to stay in close proximity of the WiFi antenna. If you are in a big city or popular harbor, WiFi will be plentiful and a good connection will be more likely. Sometimes the local WiFi signal available is worthless and you won't be able to load a single webpage. I have dealt with these companies who give you excuse after excuse explaining the poor connection, and then a look on yelp will reveal that they tell these excuses to everyone every time. While some WiFi signals are worthless, others are wonderful! 

Connecting to local WiFi signals is a nifty trick to get online, but it is not as reliable as you might wish it to be. If you like to get online from time to time to check emails and look at weather forecasts, this might be sufficient for you. On the other hand, if you need to connect to the internet everyday for work or other reasons, spotty WiFi signals may become the bane of your cruising life.

The last option to allow reliable internet access is to carry your own WiFi Hotspot. It works off of your cell phones data plan and lets you easily connect to the internet with a reliable and repeatable connection. There are no wires involved and no complex systems to maintain, simply turn it on and connect to the internet.

I use the Jetpack from Verizon. It gives decent speed and works everywhere that Verizon has signal. This lets us reliably connect to the internet, no matter where we are. It also seems relatively resistant to corrosion, I have been using the same unit for over 3 years and it has not died on me yet!

As always, there are drawbacks to every alternative. The Jetpack works great, but only where we have phone signal. Out in the ocean it is worthless, as well as in remote creeks and rivers where there is no signal. The other issue is they work off of your cell phone plans data, meaning that all those videos you stream on YouTube will tick away at your month's data allowance. We survive on a relatively small data plan (keeps the bills down) but we do not have the luxury of Netflix or endless hours of surfing the web. 

When deciding to disconnect from land and live aboard, you don't have to worry about giving up the internet! You just change the way that you connect to it and use the internet. While it may seem like a shock to not watch YouTube for hours, but you will be surprised how many other ways you can unwind with that amount of time while living in a small space on board a boat!