Boaters can improve their Internet access while docked at marinas using wireless antennas, wireless hot spots or mobile 3G/4G Internet options that boost WiFi signals on boats

These days many full service marinas are now offering free WiFi access to slip holders and transient boaters. Internet access has become a welcomed amenity for boaters that need to occasionally work remotely (at their “office” on the water) or simply want the ability to get online while on their boat.
But the signal strength with WiFi access at marinas can vary depending on where your boat is situated at a dock – especially at larger marinas. Luckily there are several options for improving WiFi and Internet access points at marinas that can boost low signal strength at on your boat or give you better mobile Internet access.

Boosting WiFi Network and Wireless Signals to Boat Docks at Marinas

The WiFi signal at our marina always seems to be low – with one or 2 bars at best. This was mainly due to the fact that our boat dock is located pretty far from the WiFi access point at the marina office. It simply couldn’t deliver a strong WiFi signal to our boat so we could have basic Internet access that was reliable or fast.

wifi booster
The Alfa Wireless Network Adapter with a high-gain antenna boosts Wi-Fi signals on boats at marinas

So after trying a few different options, we found that we got the best result so far using a USB WiFi Wireless Adapter with a high-gain antenna for our computer. It boosts the signal from our marina office so we can actually get online with our marina’s WiFi.

With the Alfa Wireless Network Adapter we simply plug it into our laptop and extend the antenna to capture the low wireless signal from our marina WiFi. It boosts the signal from one or two bars to five bars so we get full WiFi signal strength at our boat. It also comes with a suction cup mount that we place on our radar arch to position the adapter toward our marina office (where the WiFi signal originates).

WiFi Mobile Hotspot and 3G Internet Device Options for Boats at Marinas

Another problem with WiFi access at marinas is the availability of open IP addresses. Even if the wireless signal strength is good, your marina may have a limited number of IP addresses available. In other words, you’ll see the WiFi signal but won’t be able to connect your smartphone or laptop. This is particularly a problem in busy marinas with a large number of people using smartphones and laptops to access the Internet on their boat.

So to solve the problem of Internet availability on your boat at your marina, you may have to invest in a WiFi hotspot or other 3G/4G Internet device.

Here are some more options for improving Internet access while on a boat docked at a marina:

Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 3G Mobile WiFi Hotspot Modem (Verizon Wireless)
If you have good Verizon Wireless coverage at your marina, you can use this device to create a mobile WiFi Hotspot and allow several WiFi enabled devices on your boat – smartphone, laptop, iPad, iPhone, etc. – to use the same data plan.

Novatel MiFi 2372 ATandT Mobile Hotspot 3G WiFi HSPA
Similar to the Novatel MiFi for Verizon, this one works with ATandT Wireless plans and lets you create a mobile hotspot for multiple Wi-Fi devices on your boat.

Sprint Sierra Wireless Overdrive 3G 4G Mobile Hotspot
The Sprint Wireless Overdrive creates a 3G or 4G mobile hotspot – or a 4G mobile hotspot if 4G is available at your marina.

CradlePoint PHS300 Personal Hotspot – Wireless access point – 802.11b/g (Version 2.0/2.5.3)
The CradlePoint is unique because it creates a mobile hotspot for multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices, can provide 3G or 4G coverage and can be used with any mobile service provider that you may currently have for your Internet data plan (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, ATandT, etc.)

Kindle DX with Free 3G Internet Access
The Kindle by Amazon is a great ebook reader for boaters because of its anti-glare screen that makes reading easy in even the brightest sunlight. But with the Kindle 3G boaters can also have access to the Internet for basic website surfing… like updating your Facebook status or looking up boating supplies.

The Internet browsing experience on a Kindle is much different than a laptop computer or even a smartphone. Internet usability of the Kindle 3G may seem somewhat limited because of the size of the screen and everything being in black and white… but it can be a good way to access basic sites on a boat.

The biggest advantage of using a Kindle DX 3G on a boat is that it comes with FREE 3G Internet access (no extra data plan required) and built-in WiFi too. The fact that it is a mobile Internet device that can double as an e-reader makes it a good inexpensive option for boaters that need Internet access while at a marina or out on the hook.

Special thanks to our resident technology expert/boat captain (author of ITAdminTools.com) for input on this article!

Disclosure Policy: This site may contain links that are afilliated with companies where we receive compensation. Full disclosure policy.



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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of MyBoatLife.com as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids BoaterKids.com. She is also active in the boating industry, serving as the marketing director for a marine sunshade product, SureShade, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

4 Comments

  1. It has always been a challenge accessing Internet below deck, but we’ve found work-arounds. Even the marina we lived at for 2 years had it’s issues. Providing free wireless connection, it still couldn’t solve the problem below deck. With a MiFi and/or cellphone hotspot we stay as connected as possible.

    1. Agree Captain Frank! The biggest problem is that most marinas don’t have sufficient equipment for today’s use with smartphones, etc. Its a frustrating issue for boaters that they could definitely try to solve (or at least make better!)

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