By Rob Piwowarczyk
Deanna’s favorite office.
hile most of our cruising friends are already retired, my wife Deanna and I are still working to make ends meet. Luckily for both of us, our type of work doesn’t require commuting to an office, but rather, access to internet, phone service and a nearby airport.
Just as the COVID epidemic was kicking in high gear, we happened to be back onboard our Selene 55, Bella Luna. Lockdowns started in the US, but we were safely aboard Bella Luna in Puerto Escondido, Mexico in The Sea of Cortez. We made the decision to stay onboard Bella Luna and work remotely from Baja instead of going back home to Colorado. Well, due to travel restrictions and staying in place mandates, three months later we are still here!
4GConnect External Antennas.
In order to make it work we had to equip our boat with high speed, reliable Internet access. All marinas claim to have WIFI Internet access but in most cases, it is not reliable and not high speed. You are sharing the Internet access with all of the other boats in the marina, so you are at the mercy of how much bandwidth is left. Deanna is on her computer, with video and teleconferences every day, so dependable Internet access is a must.
Although most US cell phone companies offer cell phone coverage while you are in Mexico, the amount of data that you can use is limited and adding extra data to your plan when you run out gets expensive fast. One better alternative is to purchase a WIFI router and a monthly data plan from a local cell phone company just as you might do back in the US. Obviously, this only makes sense if you plan to be in the same country for an extended period of time.
This option worked well at first, but we found out soon that we were limited in how far from town or our marina we could travel. We had to be close in order to have a strong cell signal, otherwise we were out of luck.
The 4GConnect Pro from Digital Yacht.
We finally invested in a dedicated, high power cell signal booster with external antennas. The one we chose is the 4GConnect Pro from Digital Yacht. This option gave us the best performance and the most flexibility. Finally, we were able to leave the marina, enjoy the natural beauty of the local islands and keep internet access to get our work done. Every morning, while anchored in some beautiful bay, Deanna is able to enjoy one of her favorite pastimes – fishing, and still get back to the boat in time for her videoconference meetings.
Deanna runs a video conference meeting in our saloon.
The installation required mounting the external antennas on top of the pilot house and running two cables back to the router. Running two thick cables was the biggest challenge due to limited space and this turned out to be a day long project. With this type of solution, you purchase a SIM card from a local cellphone service provider and install the SIM card inside of the router. Next you purchase the amount of data that you will need. You can easily reload or add additional data at any time. The router provides you with WIFI Internet access throughout the boat.
Another great thing about this type of system is that you can purchase a SIM card from a local cellphone service provider anywhere in the world you happen to be, so you are not locked into any specific cell phone company.
Rob working from the pilothouse aboard Selene 55, Bella Luna.
Obviously, there are a number of Satellite Internet access solutions, but most of them require a much greater initial investment and monthly cost. In addition to our cell signal booster we have installed the Iridium GO Satellite system which is very popular with sailors and is fairly affordable. We use this system as a backup and for emergency use while we are in remote locations. With Iridium GO we are able to make regular voice calls, send text messages and get weather updates for our Predict Wind App.
Telcel Wifi home router.
In my opinion, one of the unintended impacts/consequences of the lock downs and stay at home orders is that a lot of companies are requiring or providing the option to their employees to work from home (or in our case a trawler). I must say that thanks to figuring out the best local internet access solutions, we were pretty blessed to be locked down onboard our trawler in the magical paradise of the Sea of Cortez this year!
Rob Piwowarczyk is a licensed California yacht salesperson with JMYS. Rob and Deanna purchased their Selene 55 through JMYS. Rob liked the experience so much and embraced the trawler lifestyle with such enthusiasm that he asked Jeff for a job and he’s now enjoying being a trawler owner and helping other clients sell and purchase trawlers. If you would like to get in touch with Rob please call or text his cell: +1 720.490.5662 or send an email to Rob@JMYS.com.