Mustang Sally
Home Voyages Itinerary Location Technical Archive Contact

Internet Connections

I am hopelessly addicted to the Internet.  We keep in touch with friends and family via email.  We get weather and news online.  We do business, banking and accounting over the web. We spend hours researching and looking for things on the web.   Even when it would take half the time to phone or look it up in the yellow pages. 

To feed my addiction we use four method to connect.  We use the one that works best:

  Pocket PC Our pocket PC (IMate PDA2K) serves many functions including email and web browser and telephone.  It is tri-band and can connect anywhere there is an appropriate cellular signal.  You can browse the web and get email.  The screen is small, but that is the price of ultimate portability that a PC in your pocket offers. 
  GSM Modem The pocket PC has a modem program that transfers data to the ships computer via the GSM network.  This lets us use Outlook and Internet Explorer on a large screen as we would at home or work. 
  Broadband We have a long range (2-3 mile) broadband wireless card that  connects to local wireless services.  This has only been useful in marinas where we could piggy back on an existing network.
  High Frequency Radio We have a Sailmail account and the equipment to send and receive text emails via high frequency radio.  This is a low bandwidth and somewhat fluky system,  but with the persistence and patience it works.  And it works over great distances - thousands of miles.
When we set out from Canada we were not sure which systems would work best for us.  We are surprised that for the West coast of USA the GSM cellular network has worked most consistently.  It is not fast,  about dial up speed,  but is available in most places up to about 15-20 mile offshore.  There are gaps in service.  But it is the best of the four options.

We use Fido's $50 per month data plan with their $20 per month phone plan.  Canuck bucks!  There are no roaming charges for data with Fido.  Cingular - a US cell phone company has a "North America" no roaming plan that warrants further investigation.