Monday, January 27, 2014

Improving Internet Connectivity

Before moving aboard I knew we were going to need at least some internet access (I have a blog after all).  And with all the free WiFi access points around and the fact that I know several cruisers that regularly get internet access through WiFi, it seemed like a no-brainer to get a device to pick up distant WiFi signals.  After a little research, I decided on The Wirie AP.

Image from
Working in the computer industry I could have easily built something similar to this device, but since it was developed by a fellow cruiser and I believe it has one component that is superior to the other retail options on the market (the antenna), I decided it was worth a bit of a premium price.

The marina I am staying at has WiFi so this wasn't a high priority project.  But the access seemed a bit unstable so I decided to temporarily setup the Wirie to see if it would improve signal reliability.  I had it sitting on the settee and plugged in using a transformer and it helped quite a bit so I decided this weekend that I should go ahead and get it installed.

I wanted to tie it into the 12v "spare" circuit that otherwise only seems to run the cigarette lighter power socket on the panel.  Of course, where that circuit actually goes is a bit of a mystery.  The copy of the boat manual has basic wiring layouts and a schematic of the power distribution panel.  Unfortunately, the manual was printed from a digital copy and the image of the panel is rather pixelated and you can't actually read most of the labels.  So I had to turn off all the 12v circuits on the boat except the spare and take my multi-tester down into the engine room to see where, or if, it runs down there.  After several trips climbing down into the engine room, I was able to find the circuit.  Now I know where to run the power wire that is the only connection that the Wirie AP needs to operate.

Power panel with wiring complete

I decided that while not optimal for reception, that I would mount the box on the vertical pole that is part of the davit system and supports the arch.  This would keep it a bit out of the weather, make it easy to access if needed, and the wiring run shouldn't be very difficult.  I started opening up access panels to run the wire.  That lead to the discovery of several wasp nests inside the arch.  They looked empty so I knocked them down with a screwdriver.  Well, guess what, they weren't empty.  Six to eight wasps started crawling around on the deck of the boat around where the nest had landed.  Fortunately I had some wasp spray from when I dispatched another wasp trying to build a nest on the arch, and soon the deck of the boat looked like a wasp massacre.  Not sure why wasps seem to like that arch so much, but I've removed at least 4 nests and can only imagine there might be one or two more hiding in there somewhere.  Sorry, no pictures...I was more concerned with getting rid of these uninvited guests at the time.

I drilled a 3/8 inch hole in the bottom of the arch so I could feed the wire into the boat.  Since the hole is on the underside of the arch, I decided not to seal it (just like the rear nav light wiring that is next to it).  I ran the wiring along the same path as the nav light over to the distribution panel.  I added a 2 amp inline fuse, that I picked up from Sailors Exchange the day before, to the positive lead.  I then crimped on the appropriate connectors and attached the two wires to their respective locations on the panel.  I powered up the unit and it was alive.

Installed and operational

As I'm writing this, the Wirie is picking up 24 different wifi signals in the area.  Most are secured, but there are 9 that are not. And I know that at least one of them is a couple miles away and not in direct line of sight. In comparison, the WiFi adapter in my laptop, that I had always thought had pretty good reception (better than my tablet or phone anyway), only picks up 7 of which 4 are unsecured and my phone only picks up 4.  I'd say that should increase the ability to find internet on the boat and keep me connected.


  1. This device has been on the top of my list since I saw it at the boat show last year. Glad to hear it works as well as advertised.



    1. Yeah, from my initial tests it seems to pick up signals further away and improves quality of ones that are closer. The AP version is also pretty easy to install with only a single power wire.

  2. Hi Mike - Found your blog a while back and finally found time to start at the beginning a couple of days ago. Love it! I'm headed to SVG the end of next month for 101, 103 and 104. Used to live on a 26' TBird in Ventura in the early 80's but haven't sailed since. Now retired, widowed and ready to take up the dream again. Funny thing about wasps, I had a next of them that kept reappearing on the back side of the middle rudder hinge on my C-175. (O-360, C/S prop conversion) One day one of the little guys took off with me and for several seconds I forgot rule #1, fly the plane. It all worked out, and I returned safely to KLAM after breakfast with friends.

    Hope to join you on the water someday soon, but meanwhile the best I can do is to keep reading your work. Thanks and keep it coming! Forrest Seale

    1. Hi Forrest,

      Glad you are enjoying my ramblings. Good luck with the ASA classes, they are fun but the terminology can be a bit overwhelming (but if you have an aviation background I think you are a step ahead...lots of similar concepts). Follow your dreams!

      Yeah, wasps and I don't get along very well. Never had one in the cockpit I don't think. Of course in my plane, opening the canopy would have likely either ejected him or slammed him against the hat shelf in the plane and ended his ride. Finding the wasps were trying to turn the arch on the back of my boat into a condo did not make me happy. Hopefully the residual wasp spray in the arch will keep them at bay for a while.


  3. This one was the one I picked as well but we just can't swing the money right now so we're doing with our Verizon data, which quite frankly has been working pretty well. We had at least 3G if not 4G all the way down the ICW and humorously the worst reception we've had has been right here in the middle of Miami.

    S/V Kintala

    1. You must have a better cell data plan than I do. I'm pretty sure I would run out of minutes if I were only using it...or if I went with unlimited data at high speed, a few months of that bill would equal the cost of the Wirie.

      Right now I'm worried about coverage with my phone (I have T-Mobile) as I move up the coast...I've heard that they don't have a lot of coverage in some areas.

  4. Several years later and our Wirie is still running strong...

    1. Good to know. They certainly seem well regarded and thus far it has been nice.