East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

East Coast Alerts: Communications

Experiences of staying in touch along the east coast follow, but these also pertain to much of the rest of the US cruising.

We’ve been relatively happy for the past year with a Verizon Express Network (1XRTT) service. You can use your cell phone as a modem or a PCMCIA card. The service is expensive (just under $80.00 per month for the data service plus equipment and plus the talking plan) but it gives us unlimited internet access via cell phone in the covered areas at relatively high speeds for wireless data. It isn’t unusual to be on at a theoretical 230.4 kbps. We’ve found Express Network to work in most east coast cruising areas, with notable coverage deficiencies in North and South Carolina and Georgia. Verizon also offers the “Quick 2 Net” service at a theoretical 14.4 kbps. Data calls on this are charged to your voice plan. Your speed is slower and you don’t have unlimited access, but it’s a lot less expensive and sometimes you can get this service in areas where you can’t get the Express Network.

Our friends, Derek and Janet on “Jade”, book charters for mega yachts and also cruise up and down the east coast. They want to keep up with their business at all times and they want their clients to always be able to reach them. They have a repeater on their boat (somewhat similar to the DA4000SBR). They mount their remote antenna about 14 feet up their back stay with the repeater down below in their stern and report that it works well. For data, they also use a PCMCIA card for Verizon 1XRTT service and Nextel. Nextel Packet Stream Gold is a little less expensive than Verizon 1XRTT, and is reported to have not quite as good coverage, but it is also used by many boaters.

Derek and Janet also use 802.11 wi fi (broadband) aboard when they can, which is becoming more and more often. They report that you can get a cheap (approximately $60) PCMCIA card for a laptop if it isn’t built in. Wireless broadband speed access is becoming much more prevalent and expanding rapidly. Some marinas and harbors offer the service for free. Several companies are placing servers in marinas up and down the coasts so that you can pay them a fee and be able to log on at any of their spots. This avoids having to pay multiple fees as you move along. Check out YachtSpot, and Airpath.

Typically, the range of a wireless PCMCIA card is around 300 feet. But cruisers are using amplifiers and getting sometimes up to 3 miles range line of sight. Our friend Phil Rosche on “Curmudgeon” conducts computer consulting business while cruising the east coast. He reports success with the following equipment: Hypergain 2.4 GHz 12dB Omni antenna with n-female connector $69.95, MC card to NM 1.5M WBC 100 cable assembly $24.95 and an Oricom 802.11B wireless PCMCIA card w/antenna jack $54.95. Recently when I heard from him he reported that “There are very few places where I don't get wireless access at around 380KB.” He suggests checking out www.nodedb.com/unitedstates and www.wi-fihotspotlist.com, if you’re interested.

Remember, technology and services are changing rapidly. Remember also, we’re reporting our experiences here, but we aren’t saying that we’ve tried out all products and services and that any one is the best.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale