To connect or disconnect at sea

You are either going to love this blog or hate it. There are two distinctive types of sailors out there. Those who go sailing to take a digital detox and just disconnect from social media, reality shows and other digital media, that can cause stress. And those that start shaking once their cellphone loses connection with the cellular masts on the shore. Stop reading this blog if you are the latter of those sailors, using VHF to communicate home, paper charts and paper pilot books to navigate and who listens to CD’s. If not, sit back and enjoy this blog.

Still reading?

Sailing is about being away and enjoying the nature and the silent whistle of the wind blowing in your sails. However, nowadays we seem to also be dependent of digital aids as they make our lives easier and can also give you comfort on your journeys, making your time on the water even better. Moorspots was developed with this in mind, but to be able to use apps and gadgets at sea, you need to be prepared if you are not a regular sailor or have your own yacht with the necessary equipment gathered over time.

The basics

There are 2 important topics that come to mind, when you are a gadget freak like myself:

1. Power
2. Connectivity

That’s simple right? Well, not always on a boat. A boat restricts both, as power is limited to the 12V once you unplug your power line (remember, this is not a mooring 🙂 ) and your regular data connectivity ends a few nautical miles out of the coast. The challenge with power can easily be solved, the connectivity challenge is something that I would suggest to just accept, as most cruisers are likely to stay within viewing range of the coast and therefore have a higher chance of having connectivity. If you are interested in data connectivity in the middle of the ocean, check the possibilities of satellite internet.

The other thing to keep in mind, is the amount of crewmembers you expect on your journey. Some are less experienced and take their regular chargers, hairdryers and electric toothbrushes with them and expect to be able to charge and use these in the multitude of sockets, just like at home. Bring along additional aids for them as well and make their experience as enjoyable as yours.

The list

Hereby my favourite packing list:

  • 12V socket splitter, which gives the ability on yachts with only one cigarette lighter plug, to plug in multiple devices simultaneously. By preference with an integrated fuse and a long cable, making it possible to charge and use the equipment outside or in the galley, a few meters from the navigation table where you will mostly find the cigarette lighter socket
  • A few 12V fuses for when the power consumption exceeds the max. output of the cigarette lighter socket.
  • A 12V cigarette lighter to USB plug. Try getting one with multiple USB ports and amperages for different devices (Apple needs 2.1A to actually charge and not remain charge level)
  • Apple USB to lightning charging cables for iPhones and iPads
  • A USB to mini USB charging cables for other mobile devices, like Android phones and tablets. Always check these as there are some tiny differences between some cables, which you could miss when visually checking these. If you want to be safe, take a spider charger with USB to many. These usually fit anything, even Apple devices.
  • A MiFi router or mobile phone (Android has proven to be more flexible with tethering) to distribute data connectivity from a SIM card to your crew via a wifi signal. Your mifi router or mobile phone needs to fit the charger cables you have taken, as it will be permanently plugged in. Take an additional cable, as this one will be occupied 24×7
  • A locally purchased SIM card with unlimited or a large amount of data. Although you might have roaming, within the EU for instance, your data consumption can skyrocket due to the lack of home wifi and the bunch of crewmembers on your data bundle. Local providers usually have SIM cards for a week, month or other limited timeframe with high or unlimited data usage. This is often much more cost efficient than using your own data bundle.
  • A portable speaker, water-resistant and with a cigarette lighter plug. Take one with a bluetooth connection and integrated battery pack to not only be able to play without having to be plugged in, but also to provide your crew with a mobile charging ability wherever your speaker is. Playing music from your phone to the speaker via bluetooth is energy draining. Make sure the speaker is powerful enough when it comes to sound; the open air and wide sea absorbs sound tremendously, making you pump up the volume more than at home. I personally love the JBL Extreme for this job.
  • A 12V DC to 220V or 110V AC (depending on your region) power invertor for those occasions whereby your crew have brought along their drone, laptop or other equipment with a normal socket plug. Some (rental) yachts have these installed as a standard, but this is not always the case. When buying one, make sure it has a fair amount of power output and a digital fuse (more than 150W). Every power invertor has its limits (hairdryers are usually a no-go), but the higher the output the less issues with charging a laptop for instance. Do remember that this is a last resort solution. Transforming 12V DC to 220V or 115V AC and usually back to another DC voltage like 19V is an energy consuming process, creating not only power but also heat. Your boat batteries drain quickly. If possible, always try and find a 12V cigarette plug cord that transforms power and fits the device directly. This saves energy loss of the invertor processes.

All this power consumption comes with a price; you either need to have solar panels or start your engines to top up your battery levels or charge your battery at every marina you visit. Wondering which marines offer power and wifi? Check the spots in the Moorspots app.

2 Replies to “To connect or disconnect at sea”

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I suppose you are referring to ways on increasing the signal reception of your device? Correct?

      This could either be by using a wifi stick or a mobile booster. My experience with either of them has been varying. Insufficient to be a reliable connection for the use I’m looking for. However, technology might have evolved over the recent years and I would be very interested to hear the experiences of others.

      I’ve read some articles and blogs that the technology should be working flawlessly, but I still have my doubts, when I hear actual users complain about these systems. I suppose the lag in the data transfer creates issues for most apps, resulting in users complaining.

      Please share your thoughts…

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