internet on a boat

How to Get Internet on a Boat – While Docked or At Sea

In the 21st century, you can hardly stay away from the internet without losing your relevance to the world. You need to check your emails and stay up to date on global news on the internet. As a matter of fact, it is important that you stay online, on social networks to connect with your family and old friends once in a while.

While being on a boat is a good time to disconnect, you may not want to fully disconnect. Besides, if you are with your family or kids, the little ones might be more interested in watching YouTube videos, watching Netflix or recording the entire experience on Snapchat. If that is the case, then you will definitely need to have the internet on your boat.

The problem is, good service isn’t usually available when you are on the water, so you need to create it for yourself. This post covers some of the ways you can get the internet when you are out on the water and you need to do a little surfing. Web surfing that is.

First, let us see the possibility of using the internet at sea.

Can You Use The Internet At Sea?

In a single sentence, yes you can. Although the internet isn’t as strong as it is on land, it is definitely available. It also gets worse the further away you get from the land you get.

Things You Should Know About Using The Internet At Sea

Before you get frustrated on the boat, there are some things you should understand about using the internet at sea:

  • Internet on a boat is not as reliable as that onshore:
    While this post is dedicated to showing you ways you can get internet on your boat, it is important that you understand that you will not get reliable internet at sea, or at least not as reliable as the one in your house. This is because the boat’s antenna is normally too far from the satellite to get a good signal from it.
  • Internet on a boat will cost you more:
    Unlike the internet at home where you pay for unlimited surfing, at sea, you can only pay for a limited amount of data at a time. This means that you can only pay for limited data allowance at a particular time. To enjoy Netflix, it would help you to get a video pass that will give you unlimited data access for streaming.
  • If you are on a cruise ship, use the internet when no one else is using it:
    If you are on a cruise ship, chances are you are sharing a limited bandwidth with other passengers in the boat. If this is true for you, then the internet will be much slower during the day when everyone would be on their phones. The best time to use the internet in such cases would be when everyone else is sleeping at night. This is very important if you need to work and you are sailing out far into the sea.

If you do need to work, you must be ready to work when the internet is working. If you have an email to send, you can type it in a word processor, and send it when you hit the nearest land.

Regardless of the above difficulties in getting good internet at sea, all hope is not lost. There are some tools you can use to get internet for yourself when you need to take that boat trip.

Marine WIFI Solutions

Here are some of the tools you should get to ensure you have internet in your boat before your next trip:

  • Marina Wi-Fi:
    marina wifiMost times, marinas will provide good Wi-Fi, but you have to be very close to shore to get a good signal from it. When you start getting a little far away from the marina, you start losing the connection. If that is the case, you need to get a Wi-Fi antenna or Wi-Fi extender to strengthen the signal for a long time while you are out on the water.
  • Mobile Wi-Fi (or Mi-Fi):
    mobile wifi mifiMi-Fi is similar to Wi-Fi. In fact, Mi-Fi devices have Wi-Fi connected within it. Mi-Fi devices can allow lots of devices to connect while at sea, and you can place it in your window to get the best results. Most times, you may not even need a booster antenna to help boost the speed. Mi-Fi devices provide one of the best solutions for internet connection if you are at sea.
  • 4G Wi-Fi Routers:
    4K WiFi RouterThese routers connect to a cellular network, with a SIM card inside and are good for internet connection on a boat. They can easily connect to a 4G network for better speed of uploads and downloads than other ordinary Wi-Fi routers. They are not too expensive and will generally cost around $100 to $200.
  • Antennas (Booster Antennas):
    internet boosterIf you are looking for internet on a boat, booster antennas can work just fine. Booster antennas are used to work with Wi-Fi or Mi-Fi routers and devices to supplement them, as many of these routers do not do well in steel vessels and narrowboats. There are two forms of antennas: Directional and Omnidirectional. The directional antennas are usually flat in shape while the omnidirectional antennas come in a tube-shaped form. The omnidirectional is usually more favorable as you do not need to reposition it all the time to get the right signal.
  • Use Cellular data:
    cellular dataWhen all the Wi-Fi stuff isn’t working so well, you can connect to your cellular data using a SIM card or modem and boost the signal so that you can work with it. Even when you are about 10 miles from shore, you can still access cellular data conveniently.

Marine Satellite Internet Cost

Satellite internet still remains the most expensive type of internet service you can buy. Much more than the cost you would pay for home internet. Depending on what you plan on doing with the internet, plays a huge role in how much you will be paying.

For example, if you plan on just getting weather files and doing some light-duty browsing than you could be looking at paying around $49.00 per month for a basic calling plan with a lousy 5 data minutes included, and the plan would go up to $129.00 per month with 150 included data minutes. Let’s not forget that you still need to buy the hardware for the satellite internet to come onto the boat, and for this basic usage plan, the hardware alone will cost about $1,000.00. Remember this is considered a cheap, basic plan.

Now if money is no object, you could look at spending upwards of $60,000 on the hardware, and for an unlimited service plan, they normally start at $995.00 a per month. Notice, I said, “start at”.

For an average user, who is looking to do some browsing, and perhaps share some photos, you’d be looking at something that starts around $120.00 per month for the internet connection, plus a hefty hardware charge of around $4,995.00 to $6,500.00.

There are multiple manufacturers and dealers who offer different satellite dishes along with data plans that are charged on a monthly basis, similar to your monthly smartphone bill. Some of the dealers include Global MarineSatphone StoreWest Marine, and Ground Control. Some popular satellite manufacturers include InmarsatIridium, and KVH. It’s best to take a look at what each of them offers and then decide how much internet you are really going to need.

If you are a boater who rarely ventures too far away from land, then you could probably just get away with using a signal booster system instead of a satellite connection if the price is an issue. There is a booster called Halo Long Range Marine & RV Wi-Fi Extender System on Amazon for $399.00 as of the time of this writing (click here to see the current pricing). Because the booster doesn’t help very well when you are out on the water far away from land, what a lot of boaters do is they will either dock or anchor out close to a restaurant or Starbucks, so that the booster can pick up the free Wi-Fi signal. It’s a lot cheaper than paying for your own internet connection.

Conclusion

You must remember that when looking for internet on a boat, you can never get a good and reliable signal like the one you will get on land, so do not be frustrated when the internet is running a bit slow. The cost of having the internet on board is also another thing that you’ll need to take into account when deciding the best way to achieve an internet signal. If you can, try out the devices listed above when next you go for a cruise to see which one works best for your boat and use that to get the best experience you could hope for with internet on your boat!