Ship-to-Shore Wi-Fi Access in and Around St. Maarten
You should not be counting on using onboard Wi-Fi as your primary means of high-speed Internet access in this part of the Caribbean. The large number of boats in season trying to share the limited 2.4GHz spectrum in areas such as Simpson Bay Lagoon results in a great deal of congestion and interference. Other anchorages may or may not have someone providing a working Wi-Fi hotspot at the time of your visit.
Most St. Maarten (Dutch Side) marinas provide free Wi-Fi service to their guests. Quality is often so-so. Commercial Wi-Fi providers come and go, but portable 4G Wi-Max boxes can be rented at reasonable prices.
Marina Ft. Louis in Marigot has an ever-changing, on-again-off-again service. Enjoy it if it is your lucky day.
Ship-to-Shore Wi-Fi Systems
When we first set up shop in the Caribbean, back in 2006, Wi-Fi was the primary way of getting high-speed Internet into a boat and we had a good chunk of our business devoted to installing ship-to-shore Wi-Fi systems that squeezed every possible ounce of juice to improve performance and get connected in marginal situations.
Nowadays most broadband Internet access in yachts is carried over VSAT and 3G/4G. Wi-Fi is mainly used in marinas & boatyards, in relatively close distances and clear lines of sight. Most yachts needing Ship-to-Shore Wi-Fi already have a system installed, and these have changed very little in the last several years.
If you are looking for a new ship-to-shore Wi-Fi system, lower-cost, self-installed systems can often be more than adequate. For an off-the-shelf, easy to use system, just pick up Bad Boy Extreme locally at Budget Marine. It’s 80% of the performance for 20% of the price.
For large yachts looking for long-term reliability or where the aesthetics of a self-installed system won’t do, we still offer our custom high-performance systems which include a high-gain marine antenna, inline 1W amplifier and low-loss cabling.
Regardless of the type of system chosen, quality of installation is still the key for performance. Pay attention for the following:
- Antenna should be mounted high enough to clear any metal and carbon-fiber obstacles, but not too high to “shoot above” the receiving shore antenna
- Shortest possible low-loss coax cable run between antenna and radio – not longer than 15-20′ for LMR-400 cable, shorter for thinner ones.
- Stable, protected power supply to the radio; if radio is mounted outside with the antenna and is PoE-powered, then the power supply should provide a high-enough DC voltage to account for the voltage drop in the Cat5 cable.