Over the years we have been cruising, especially the last ten years when we spent much of each winter afloat, we have increasingly been focused on having Internet connectivity where ever we are.
Back before I retired in 2012 we spent several time in Maine most summers and as cell coverage in much of Maine was and still is terrible so we were always trying to find Wi-Fi that we could tap into.
Early on, we put a Wi-Fi booster aboard with the hope of tapping into routers that were too far away but we only had limited success on that front, as more and more routers required a password. And to get that code, we needed to visit, eat a meal or pay for time in an Internet Cafe.
When we were in Cuba in 2016 this problem was particularly acute as there was no way for us to “phone home” and the only way to communicate with family during the two months that we were there was by purchasing scratch off paper passes for computer time in a Cuban government hotel. These “passes” had a scratch off area that revealed a code to be into a browser on a computer terminal. It was supremely frustrating and the speed, really slow. Think AOL dial-up speeds. Just doing a blog post, assuming that all the text was written prior to logging on, often took 90 minutes and three “passes”. And, getting these passes was often very difficult as they were in limited supply and many users were hording them, just in case.
So years later, as we expanded our cruising horizons to the Bahamas and now the Caribbean, the quest for connectivity continues to be a focus and while access is a lot better, our expectations have increased faster than the connectivity available will allow.
Most recently we purchased a new phone and installed a simcard for Digicel a local carrier that is supposed to give us data coverage in most of the islands of the Caribbean. It worked perfectly for about 6 weeks but after that I was having trouble getting it “topped up” as the instructions were all in French and while I tried to get things resolved, it finally shut down for lack of payment. However, today I see that my card was charged for the monthly fee so perhaps things will get better. Details to come on that front but I am not all that confident…
The point in all of this is that while connectivity is better than ever, well, it’s not that simple and requires jumping through some pretty amazing hoops to keep the information flowing while we move from island to island. Some of our friends just purchase simcards for each island and swap them out as they move around.
For the last two weeks we have had the luxury of being on a dock here at Marigot Bay Resort, enjoying visits to the pool, meals out and time with friends that are staying here too. And, best of all, or at least nice, is excellent wifi, assuming that I am willing to come ashore where the signal is strongest.
Along with all the other amazing things that he is involved in, Elon Musk is well on the way toward establishing satellite based wifi that he is planning to make available anywhere on the planet through his burgeoning Starlink internet program. It is a very ambitious plan but those who have bet against him in the past have regretted it.
Delivering internet access through fiber optic cables or cellular service has always seemed like a very complicated way to handle things and Starlinks plan of using low orbit satellites just makes sense.
All of this is very confusing and hugely complicated to put into service but the promise of the technology will transform how we stay connected. I found this video that describes, in very clear terms, why this approach may very well be vastly better than what is available now and the probable impact it will have on marine communications.
The commentary is focused on the megayacht community but it isn’t much of a leap to imagine that there will be applications for smaller yachts in a few years.
Check out this fascinating description of the future.When I think about how things have changed over the last few years, I can only imagine what the future will bring. I just hope that I will be out on the boat when things really get going.
In the meantime, all I can say is that, all I can say is HELP! I NEED TO CONNECT!
Elon! Elon! Are you listening? It seems he is…