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Staying Connected on the Water

I am sometimes amazed when I have guests aboard my boat and some of them ask me where they can plug their phone in almost immediately after stepping aboard.  It’s almost as if they are afraid that their phone may go dead and they will be lost without it.  Don’t get me wrong, I view my smartphone and my laptop as valuable tools but for me, time spent on the boat is an opportunity to put the electronic devices down and enjoy life a bit.  In my opinion, life spent with a breeze in your face and the sun on your back is a lot more enjoyable than life staring at a 7-inch screen.

But reality dictates that we are living in a world where we are surrounded with such devices and maybe the fact that they exist allows us to spend a bit more time afloat instead of in the office or at home.  With that in mind, let’s talk a bit about how to keep those devices powered up and connected when on the water. 


The biggest concern that most individuals have is keeping their devices powered.  It seems that most smart phones and tablets don’t have adequate battery life for the typical power user to go through an entire day without an external power source.  This is typical of most teenagers and even some adults.  Most newer boats these days come equipped with USB charging ports that allow you to charge your mobile devices but what if your boat is more than just a few years old?  Here are some options for you.


Personally, I don’t start the generator on my boat to charge a cell phone.  The fuel burned is just not worth it.  That being said, I know people that do and technically, it is a choice.  Just not one that I make. 

Personal USB Power Pack

These are quite popular amongst mobile device power users.  You can plug them in a standard 120-volt outlet to charge them and once charged, they allow you to recharge your mobile device on the go.  How many charges you get depends on the capacity of the power pack and the size of the battery of the device being charged.  You can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 100 dollars depending on the quality and capacity of the pack.  

A portable USB charger can easily be carried in your pocket.

You can also buy a solar powered battery pack for around 40 dollars.  With one of these units, you technically have an unlimited supply of power as long as the sun is shining and you don’t use your power faster than in can be generated. 

Using a solar powered charger can allow you to harness the power of the sun for your phone.

Portable Jump Starter

Many portable jump starters these days also come with USB ports to plug in your mobile devices.  They tend to have a much higher capacity than the personal USB power packs and can also be used to jump start your boat should you find that you have a dead battery.  Some of the larger units also have a built in inverter that provide A/C power for things such as laptops or small TV’s.  If you go with this option, don’t forget to make sure to keep it charged so it is ready when needed.

Many portable jump starters have USB charging ports and some even have built in inverters.

Install a USB or 12v Power Receptacle

If you are a bit handy and know a little about DC power, you can install a USB power port or 12v power receptacle on your boat yourself.  It is not that hard and not expensive at all.  While a basic receptacle will work, it is recommended that you purchase one designed for marine use as it will fare better in the environment.  Also, don’t forget the inline fuse and marine grade writing.  

A DC power receptacle is easy to install.


I keep my boat on Lake Lanier in Georgia.  Here, connectivity is not really an issue but I sometimes cruise in areas where cell and data coverage is a challenge.  For some boaters, it is the norm.  Here are a few ways to help keep your devices connected to the rest of the world.

Wi-Fi Amplifier

Have you ever wished you could connect to the Wi-Fi network at that beach restaurant or hotel but you can’t anchor your boat quite close enough for a good signal?  If this is the case, a Wi-Fi amplifier just may be the thing you need.  It basically does what i’s name implies.  It picks up the weak nearby Wi-Fi signal and amplifies it so that you can have access to Wi-Fi while lounging happily aboard your boat.  Some units have different options such as the ability to connect devices via Ethernet cable or even directional antennas and they range in price from $100 up depending on features and capability.  

Of course, if your favorite spot to “borrow” Wi-Fi has a password on their network, ou will need to obtain that first.  That might be a good reason to go ashore.  You can easily ask for the password while enjoying lunch or a few drinks and then return to your boat to enjoy your internet access.

Having a Wi-Fi booster aboard makes it easy to use nearby Wi-Fi networks.

Cell Phone Signal Booster

A Cell phone signal booster does the same thing that a Wi-Fi booster does, except it is for a cell signal.  It will allow your mobile phone to connect to cell towers at much further distances.  If you boat in an area where cell coverage is poor or you tend to go offshore when boating, this device will allow you to maintain cell coverage for longer periods of time.  Depending on the unit, it may also support 4G boosting which will allow internet access on your mobile device.  
A cell phone booster can allow your mobile phone to work in areas where signals are normally spotty.

Satellite Internet

If the above solutions do not work for you and you don’t mind parting with more of your money, you can go with a satellite internet solution.  If you need this solution, it probably means that you are a hard core internet user or you just don’t mind spending the money.  While you can expect to pay a hefty fee up front for the required hardware followed by a monthly subscription fee, you will find that you will have coverage practically anywhere.  Also, with the plethora of live audio and video apps available on smartphones today, cell phone coverage will not be an issue because you can still keep in touch with the real world from afar. 

Take my advice.  If you make an extra effort to stay connected to the real world while afloat, make sure the reason is because it will allow you to stay on your boat for a longer period of time.  Otherwise, are you really getting away from it all?

Happy Boating

Captain Frank
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  1. The reason we sail is to get away from all that shit put your phone down enjoy the quiet and hear the wind and feel the freedom

  2. dont you just love people who come and crap on your post? Nice simple set of tips there. Thanks!

    1. I figure everyone has their own opinion. Thanks!


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