Living on your sailboat is like a dream come true, but it does come with some..unique challenges. If you just cruise around for fun, this isn’t a big deal, but if you need to actually earn a living from your boat, then it’s a much more concerning issues.
That’s why in this article, I’ll be creating a short guide to help you stay connected while you’re on the water. Some of these methods will be cheap or free and some of them can get pricey, so make sure your budget applies to your usage.
Use free internet
Okay, so this one won’t apply to everyone, but if you only need a connection for short bursts, then you can save some cash by using free WiFi connections when you’re in port.
It’s a pretty good option if you spend a lot of time in port, but it’s, of course, not a great if you spend most of your time on the open water.
Finding free internet can be as easy as wandering around with your phone or hitting up local coffee places, but if you’re having some difficulty, then I can recommend using a free WiFi app.
These apps clue you in to the location of open WiFi networks that you can use. There’s quite a few of them, and you may have to try different methods depending on where you’re travelling, but give Open Signal and WeFi a shot.
PS. WiFi extenders for boats are a thing, and you might even be able to tap into connections on land from the comfort of your cabin! It’s a worthwhile investment in my opinion, but the old fashion way works just as well, and you’ll have an excuse to see more of wherever it is that you’re staying.
If you need a more reliable connection, then let’s move on to #2..
Beef Up Your Cellphone Data
If you’re having trouble finding any unlocked WiFi signals, then you can always beef up your cellphone data. This, of course, depends on where you’re at, but global SIM cards are available, and it’s one of the cheaper ways to stay connected.
You can also purchase a cellphone signal booster to help you get a more consistent signal. Most good providers will allow you to tether your laptop to your phone, but make sure they won’t charge you an arm and a leg for it, and make sure they have an adequate coverage map in the areas that you want to travel.
If you’re going to be heading abroad, then your best bet is to purchase a local international SIM card when you get to your location. These are generally pretty cheap, and you can get some fantastic deals for data and tethering.
Unfortunately, cellular data is yet again not very useful once you get a ways from the shore. How far exactly? Well, it depends on how close the towers are, but expect to lose connection within 3-5 miles.
You can, of course, come a little closer to land if you want to use your internet connection, but if you really want to have data at sea, then there is a final option that you can try..
Get A Satellite Phone
A satellite phone is a good thing to have regardless of internet use, because it provides you a way to make emergency calls and send an SOS if disaster strikes and you need help.
However, these devices can now also be used to give you internet access. It’s not cheap though, and you’ll probably need to be conservative with your usage.
Irridium is the most affordable option, but it’s still pretty expensive. However, the upside is that it’s available absolutely everywhere. So, if you love to stay off-shore for days at a time, then you might consider it.
You should know though that it’s pretty slow, like dial-up speed slow. And, you can only do very specific things on it using Irridum Go partner apps.
However, you will be able to call, text, email, post on Twitter, view charts, and get weather reports. So, if you were hoping to play MMOs or stream movies at sea, sorry.
While some high speed solutions exist, be prepared to pay 10s of thousands for the setup. It’s not exactly something that’s within the range of your every day sailing live-aboard.
However, the satellite plans detailed above are a pre-paid credit type of thing. So, you could get one for emergencies, and only use it if you desperately need to send an email or make a call to fix a business disaster while off-shore.