Looking back on summer 2016 — we had a blast meandering about the Sunshine State. Sure, it was hot, but the entire East Coast was reporting sizzling temps. Hurricanes? Heck, they’re not just for Florida anymore.
Most cruisers had migrated north, leaving Florida’s marinas fairly open and available. From Jacksonville to Key West, we enjoyed the boat life while field testing new WiFi gear and going about the inspections of onSpot’s marinas. I’m happy to say while cruising this year we found marina WiFi to be better than it’s ever been. Gone are the days of huddling around the dockmaster’s office struggling to get a working signal.
Today, most marinas are offering reliable WiFi, but there are spots where the signal is not quite strong enough to penetrate interference and the thick topsides of a boat. onSpot wifi’s mission is to do everything possible to drive a better WiFi signal into and throughout our user’s boats, and most times we do. However, there are those situations where our hi-tech networks are hindered by the low-tech realities of marina life.
HOW DO I GET STRONG WIFI TO MY BOAT?
- What can I do to better receive WiFi throughout my boat, from the saloon down to the stateroom and all points in between?
- How can I make my Smart TV, Roku or Apple TV hook up to WiFi so I can watch Netflix and other streaming channels?
- I have six WiFi devices aboard. How can I connect all six without having to log them onto the marina’s WiFi every time?
The answer to the above questions? Buy a good WiFi booster. If WiFi is important to you, install a quality WiFi boosting device. Your online experience will be so much more enjoyable if you do.
Though not always necessary, there are those circumstances where these devices can nearly double your speed and throughput, but their true value is realized when you’re forced to deal with a poor WiFi and make it functional. With that in mind, we went about testing a variety of WiFi boosters, and we’ve put together a few recommendations.
PEPWAVE SURF ON THE GO
We love this little device. Easy to set up, fairly powerful and requires no installation. A turnkey solution: Just plug it in, configure and start surfing. In small ways it does many things and does them well. A simple and effective network for your boat, the Pepwave Surf On The Go is Cellular, 2.4G, and 5G capable. Available at The 3G Store or Amazon. ($100, peplink.com)
The onSpot engineers installed Aigean Networks components on our test boat, and they’ve proven to be quite impressive. Aigean builds their products around the same leading-edge technology that you’ll find at all onSpot WiFi marinas. Aigean’s software interface that manages all their devices is very intuitive and clearly indicates all available access points as either 2.4 or 5G and their signal strengths; click on the strongest one, and it automatically switches bands for the best connection.
Both recommended Aigean devices will require installation and a router. Aigean technical support is excellent, they offer a two-year warranty and everything a boater needs to set up a powerful WiFi network on any size vessel.
The AN-7000, Marine Electronics Journal’s Best and Brightest Award winner, is Aigean’s newest and most capable dual-band WiFi device. At the upper end of WiFi amplifying devices, it is the more expensive option, but in the box, the AN7000 packs two top of the line High-Gain Comrod WiFi antennas. ($2,745, landandseawifi.com)
Aigean’s new LINK 7, (our new favorite device) is dual band and very fast. We installed one on the test boat recently, and the results are remarkable. The Link 7, a less expensive device than the AN7000, also provides both 2.4 and 5G. While not as powerful as the AN7000, it worked well on our boat and includes a dual-band antenna, it’s a very powerful, cost-effective solution for less than mega-yacht sized boats. ($750, aigeannetworks.com)
PEPWAVE SURF SOHO 3G/4G ROUTER WITH 802.11AC WIFI
The Pepwave Surf SOHO is a professional-grade WiFi router that works well for marina WiFi. With support for cell connections and dual-band WiFi connections, the Surf SOHO makes it possible to enjoy fast and secure 802.11abgn WiFi hotspots anywhere they’re available. The Surf SOHO also features built-in long-range and optional external antennas that effectively distributes WiFi around your boat. ($179.99, 3gstore.com)
There are times when you’re miles offshore or on a remote stretch of the ICW and unable to receive a strong enough cellular signal to connect to the web. This is where the Wirie Pro really stands out. It has the ability to reach out and grab a distant cell signal and amplify it so you can connect. The Wirie Pro combines a 2.4G WiFi adapter with a commercial grade 2G/3G/4G/LTE router. This device provides the ability to connect to a marina’s WiFi and it provides an amplified cellular connection when no WiFi is available.
Though not our first choice for marina WiFi, there is one big Wirie Pro advantage; it provides an amplified link to cellular broadband in the Bahamas. This is music to the ears for many of us cruisers. Buy a pre-paid Bahamian sim card, insert into the Wirie Pro, and you’ll find a pretty good cell signal at many of the beautiful anchorages and marinas in the out islands.
So there you have it — a few of onSpot’s recommended WiFi devices. You can spend a little: Pepwave Surf On The Go — A bit more: Aigean LINK 7 and the Wirie Pro – Or go big: The Aigean AN7000. We’re sure you’ll find marina WiFi much faster and less spotty if you put one of these gadgets to work on your boat.
If you have purchased one of these devices and you are still unable to connect, don’t give up. Please give us a call: we’ll be happy to help. Reach onSpot WiFi’s support desk at 954-990-0192. Not tied up at an onSpot Marina? As a courtesy, we’ll be happy to help. We can’t guarantee a successful connection, but we’ll give it our best shot.