Deserted Beaches and Distant Wifi

by Adrian on January 21, 2015

I’m feeling a bit smug…

Barbuda ChartWe’ve sailed across to Barbuda, with the promise of beautiful rose white beaches and crystal clear waters and reefs for snorkelling. Our first stop has been Cocoa Bay – one of the long beaches on the south west coast.

As advertised, there are indeed miles of white (the guide book says pink) beaches.

Barbuda Beach

Surprisingly, with the sun, the sand and the sea I’ve also been able to pick up an open (free) WiFi signal from somewhere.

Now, its not that we’re glued to the internet, but finding a free signal allows us to update blog posts, catch up with friends, review plans and travel arrangements, juggle finances and generally keep the rest of our lives going.

They are common place nowadays, but a decent long range wifi antenna is worth its weight in gold. There has hardly been an anchorage thus far that we haven’t been able to pick up a signal. Even in this deserted place, we can see around 20 WiFi networks. Some are other boats, most are password protected, but usually theres one or two that are unprotected. Otherwise theres often free wifi from bars or restaurants you can get into by popping over and buying a drink to get the code.

Viewing and connecting to WiFi networks:
Rogue Wave Wifi Signals

Rogue Wave Antenna InstallationOur system is a Rogue Wave antenna. It is fixed to the arch with a plastic stand off bracket and reliably picks up signals up to two kilometres away. This is an ethernet device, meaning it is self contained and doesn’t need a computer to work, it just plugs straight into the boat’s internet WiFi router. I bought it from the US as they are more lax with their radio signal regulations and thus allow more powerful radio amplifiers. Having it ethernet is very useful too, as unlike a USB system it needs no special software to manage it or connect to networks, as it is all contained in the device itself. In reality this means you can view and connect to networks equally easily on a PC, Mac, iPhone or iPad.

Rogue Wave Wifi

A few notes about the bracket and installation…

Plastic BracketI used a plastic standoff bracket to avoid stainless steel to aluminium contact and also insulate the antenna from the hull. These brackets were bought in the UK but I actually carry a few of these in my spares kit for future add ons.

The Rogue Wave receiver’s case is weathering reasonably well after 3 years outside, but the chrome on the body has corroded with the sea atmosphere, so I tape all metal parts and antenna and cable joints liberally with white self amalgamating tape.

Rogue Wave actually produce two models and I would recommend anyone buying one now gets the stainless steel version (it wasn’t available when I bought mine) as this will withstand exterior weather much better.

I installed a similar Bullet type wifi receiver on a friend’s boat recently and that had the antenna separate from the receiver, meaning the electronic part could be installed below decks with just the antenna outside via a 2m cable – a far better idea if you ask me.

Vagaris’ own ship-board Wifi:
Draytek Vigor RouterIn order to share the internet connection between all our various iPads, iPhones, computers and other devices, I use a Draytek Vigor 2920N router, which is a quality router and imporatantly runs reliably from the boat’s 12 volt supply. It allows connections from three internet sources without having to juggle cables around (the long range wifi antenna, a cable broadband (if in harbour) and a 3G/4G USB Modem with a local SIM card). It will even fail over between sources, but given it is on a boat and not in an office this isn’t too vital.

The USB stick is great for those rare times when there actually isn’t any free wifi, and since it plugs into the boat’s wifi, the connection is shared between all our devices, iPads, phones etc. Buying local pre-pay Sim cards is still the best option when abroad as data is still stupidly expensive when roaming worldwide (even if you worked with a UK mobile telecoms company and get charged wholesale tariffs!)




The other vital piece of kit is actually software. It is a piece of software that encrypts and protects our communications whilst using open and public hotspots. Called a VPN, it makes a secure connection to a server so all traffic is encrypted and cannot be eavesdropped by unscrupulous wifi hackers.

There may be free ones, but for reliability and security I use a service called StreamVia.

Stream Via VPN

For just a few pounds a month, this service lets us connect via a secure VPN whenever we are shopping online or doing finances and allows us to look as if we were in the UK (or any other home country) when using TV streaming or other websites.

This is particularly useful when we have enough bandwidth to watch BBC iPlayer or want to stream something that is US only.

It is easy to set up on your computer or iPad/iPhone and is a great way of remaining private and anonymous whilst using public hotspots.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

OOOВалок_Нестор February 9, 2017 at 06:20

RE:Barbuda, deserted beaches and wifi equipment — slingthehook.com НПП Валок крановые и трамвайные колеса посадочные места под подшипники

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Kjartan January 23, 2015 at 13:37

Hi Adrian;
Very nice to be able to follow you guys and to read about what your experience is with various gear. I have the same wifi antenna (and an Allures 44). I would be interested in how you have attached the antenna to the arch and how you have ensured that the Rogue antenna stays water tight.
Best regards,
Kjartan

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Adrian January 23, 2015 at 23:06

Kjartan, nice to hear from you. I have updated the article with installation details. Send me a message with you boat’s name and where you are and where you sail. It’s nice to keep in touch with fellow Allures owners.

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Paul January 22, 2015 at 11:40

Hi Guys
Very jealous of you and very inspirational. Also great blog re wifi connectivity. My wife and I are trying to escape to the sun and need the best connectivity so we can keep an eye on our business. Your blog is of great interest so keep them coming

Regards
Paul and Kate

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