Cheap and Easy On-Board Wifi

Connectivity has been a recent hot topic aboard Independence as both of us have started picking up some online work and our goal of becoming "digital nomads". This is the second post in a series we will do about our preparations to stay connected for work.

I thought I would share a really useful and inexpensive little piece of tech we recently picked up. I’m in love with this thing, mainly because I didn’t realize it existed until I went looking for it. Once I bought it I was sad I hadn’t been using it for ages. So without further adieu, I present….THE TRAVEL ROUTER!

So we are currently in the mooring field at Vero Beach. The marina has decent wifi. While sitting in the lounge I can get 15 mbps, which is one of the fastest ones we’ve seen. Unfortunately, while on the boat, we are just a little too far away from the network and our devices struggle to connect. Our phones and tablets cannot even see the network.

There are a lot of these items available on Amazon, but I picked this one because it is USB powered (and low powered at that) so I can leave it on all the time. It also will share a tethered cell phone, share another wifi network, or share a wired LAN connection. The device also supports using VPN. The software is super easy to use and set up and it is customizable. Once it's plugged in and powered up, you simply connect to the device's wifi, go to a special website, log into the page and set the device up. There is no software to install on your computer.

The magic travel router sits up at the helm. It is powered by a simple USB plug (no inverter, I have 12 volt USB adapters everywhere). It will perform four different tasks, but let's just talk about one of them today.

The router connects to the marina wifi, and then it shares that connect on a new wifi network, a bridge network, that can be easily seen on your boat. So all your devices are in essence connecting to the travel router. Ours is named Independence. A neighbor has his named Boaty McBoatface. You get the idea. Your internet connection is still coming from the marina, this device is just sharing that connection to your own devices.

Since we’ve implemented this little gadget we’ve successfully been getting online from our phones and tablets on board. My computer now has a much more reliable connection from anywhere onboard, whereas before I would have to move around and find the best signal.

All in all, for $27, this little box is magic.

What it doesn’t do (yet!) is boost the strength of the wifi signal. It also doesn’t speed up a slow, crappy connection (yet!). More on that later this week!

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