How To Get Internet On Your Sailboat

How To Get Internet On Your Sailboat | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Having an internet connection in the modern world, and on a sailboat, is vital. Without it, you are going to feel unconnected and limited in almost every facet of your life.

Even if you don’t have a job, the chances of you getting one without an internet connection are slim to none. The days of walking into a building and handing them your resume are long gone. So, does living on a sailboat disqualify you from having a job or attending college? Not quite.

It is entirely possible to get a reliable internet connection on your sailboat. It may not always be easy, or cheap, but it is possible. This article will show you how.


Table of contents

Do sailboats typically have internet?

Having something that will constantly provide you with a reliable internet connection is not a staple part of a boat inventory. Buying something capable of providing you an internet connection, whether its a cabled connection or via satellite, is going to be an aftermarket purchase. People who spend a lot of time on their boats, especially people who live on them full time, will go out of their way to secure an internet connection.

Try imagining your life now without an internet connection. You wouldn’t be reading this article for a start. You wouldn’t be able to watch your favorite shows, follow your favorite sports, or download your favorite books. Sure, physical books exist but how much of your limited space below deck do you truly want to dedicate to books? Probably not a lot.

Why might you need the internet on a sailboat?

As mentioned above, there are numerous reasons for needing the internet on a sailboat. Some are practical, some are for fun, some are for your sanity. Being isolated from society is bad enough, losing face to face interactions entirely can be very emotionally draining. Having access to the internet can help relieve that somewhat. Whether it is just giving you access to whats going on in the rest of the world, or something as personal as video calling with family/friends. Being able to watch movies, television shows, sports, and the news at will is a privilege that we all now have but often forget. Once we lose the internet, we lost that privilege.

Ironically, those who live on a boat the most amount of days in the year have the biggest need for a solid internet connection. If you are only planning on spending a few days on your sailboat here and there throughout the year, or perhaps for a full week on rare occasions, you might need a connection. Or even want one. Getting away from the online world, if only for a few days, can be very therapeutic. However, if you elect to live on your boat seasonally, or even full time, you will not only want but need a connection. There is no way to get by in the modern world without the internet. How do you expect o hold down a job, maintain relationships, or stay up to date on current affairs without the internet? How are you going to pay your bills? Manage your finances? The answer is you cant.

What are the problems with getting decent internet on a sailboat?

The biggest problem is that boats move. That’s kind of the whole idea. Boats move around from place to place, away from land and civilization. The more you move about, the more you will struggle to find a connection. If you spend all of your time in one place. Only going out for day trips, but always returning to the same marina. Then setting up an internet connection will not be much different than it would be at home. If you plan to be moving from a marina to another marina, from state to state, or even country to country this simply isn’t going to work with most internet providers. This means you will need to find some kind of satellite provider. Its a bit more pricey, but at least you will have a connection.

How can I get the internet when docked at a marina?

Getting internet when docked at a marina is perhaps the easiest place to do it. It’s certainly the cheapest. There are a few ways to get the internet at a marina. The first, and most convenient, will be choosing a marina that already provides internet. Having a wifi connection included in your lease can save you from a whole lot of headaches. The next best option is to use your phone as a hotspot. If you have a smartphone, you can use its 4G data service as your wifi router. Its simple to do works reasonably well, and doesn’t cost an awful lot. You will likely need to get an unlimited data contract. So shopping around is a good idea. The best reason to use your phone as a hotspot is that it works all around the country. It can even work abroad. The convenience factor alone is the reason you may want to rely on this source of wifi. The only downside is the speed and that it simply won’t work if you don’t have cell coverage.

Your next option is to use a normal cabled connection. Installing a router and ethernet connection from your boat to the marina. If you don’t have power and water included in your lease this isn’t going to work. The marina can often put you in touch with a company willing to handle this connection for you. A traditional connection like this will provide you a much faster connection. If you are planning on streaming movies in 4k, this is the only way to go. However, if you use an iPad or other such tablet you can download movies over your connection and then play them at a later date. Rather than streaming them. You should be able to get by working on your laptop using your phone as a hotspot unless you need to do lots of conference calls.

How can I get reliable internet at sea?

Getting reliable internet at sea is the tricky part. There are two options. First, you can use your phone’s hotspot as mentioned above. The problem is this only works when you are within range of a cell tower. If you are planning on sailing from coast to coast across the united states, all the while hugging the shoreline, you might just manage to keep cell service. At least for the majority of your time. Chances are though, you plan on sailing away from the land. You might not be sailing to the Caribean, but you will likely be sailing away from cell coverage. This leaves you with option two. A satellite internet connection. Some companies produce a global satellite internet provider. It typically comes in a hefty box, that can be installed on your boat or simply kept in the box and put out on the deck when you need to use it.

A satellite internet device will cost you perhaps $600-$1000 dollars. It’s not cheap but once you buy it, you have it for life. Some providers still charge a subscription fee. Many don’t though.

This may seem great at first. Its simple to use, very convenient, and you can use it worldwide. Not just on your boat but if you went camping in the wilderness, trekked across the Sahara desert, or wandered off into the Australian outback you would still get a connection. Great, right?

Heres the catch. The connection sucks. It is so slow that you will struggle to do anything meaningful with it. You can expect anywhere between 200-600 kbps. If you need to open webpages or more specifically one webpage then you are going to be fine. It won’t load instantly, but it will load.

If you were hoping to facetime someone or stream your favorite show on Netflix you are going to be out of luck. You could use it to download a movie, but it would take hours. Of course, you can always set them to download as you sleep and they will be ready by the morning. 300 kbps is very comparable to the early days of cell phone internet. If you remember how painfully slow GPRS service was, that gives you a pretty good idea about what good satellite internet is like.

How much will it cost to get a good internet connection?

It depends on which provider you go with. It also depends on which service you might try to use. For example, as mentioned above getting a satellite internet box may cost you a grand plus a monthly subscription charge. But is that worth it if you don’t spend very much time out at sea? Probably not. Alternatively, a standard internet connection to your boat at the marina is going to cost a similar amount to that of your house. It may cost a little more to install it, just because of the inconvenience factor. But that will hopefully not be too much of an issue.

Choosing to use your cell service provider as your internet provider may be the best way to go. It can cost as little as $30 a month for unlimited data. This is pretty darn cheap if you aren’t planning on sailing around the open seas aimlessly you are probably going to be fine too. You don’t truly need wifi when sailing from place to place, you truly only need it when you arrive. You aren’t going to drop anchor in the middle of the ocean. You are going to drop anchor near land. So chances are you will only be trying to use the internet in places that you could get cell service anyway. The only occasion you likely would spend days without service is crossing between countries. Luckily, if you are living in America. Those countries border you. So you won’t spend long without service. You will very quickly pick up Canadian or Mexican coverage as soon as you enter their waters. Many cell service providers include overseas pricing. It could be $1 an MB, it could be $1 for a hundred MB. It depends on your provider. So you may want to shop around. If you don’t plan on leaving the country this, of course, won’t be an issue.

Are there any advantages to not having the internet?

This may seem like a silly question, but there are some benefits to having no internet connection. If you don’t need it for work, then it can give you some much-needed breathing room. By simply taking the internet out of the equation you may find your mental health improving tremendously. Being sucked into spending your days on social media and reading the doom and gloom news can be very emotionally draining. If you can find a way to avoid it you will end up a far happier person. It can be quite hard to avoid using the internet when it is still an option. By spending time sailing on your boat you don’t have to take the internet out of the equation, it simply never existed in the first place.


Hopefully, this article has answered any questions you may have had about the internet and sailing and how they interact. It isn’t impossible to get internet on your sailboat. It doesn’t even need to be hard. You might not even want it. But, you probably do. If that is the case, hopefully, you now have a very good idea about all the options available to you and how much they cost. There are some free alternatives to these options that could help you if you are tight for cash. But, they aren’t very convenient. First, you can simply rely upon your regular phone contract. And use this as a way to limit your internet usage. Or, you can rely on free wifi providers. These can be public libraries, coffee shops, or shopping malls. This is cheaper, but not ideal if you need the internet for work. If you need to take part in conference calls doing so in the library isn’t going to be the easiest.

How To Get Internet On Your Sailboat
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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