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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 04:50 pm
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ldalbin
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Mana: 
So what are the possibilities for getting Internet connections from a sailboat in the Sea?  I suspect some harbors are wireless hotspots?  But in anchorage areas or only in slips?  Anybody know what harbors, if any?
    How about satellite internet?  Anyone have experience w/ trying to set this up on a sailboat down there?  I use wildblue.net at home, seems HughesNet has mobile units for RVs but how about sailboats?  Anyone done this or been around it.
       Thanks,
L D A

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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 08:58 pm
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Jimmy
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There are gyroscopic, satellite lock-on dishes. Like the ones on motor homes etc. Look in the West Marine Catalogue.

Like every thing out of the norm- it just takes is LOTS of $$$$$$$.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 6th, 2007 04:44 am
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Vince Radice
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There are also very inexpenisve usb antennas that give you a much better range. We were getting three signals just a few weeks ago anchored in front of the paradiso.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 6th, 2007 12:31 pm
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mxsailor
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I've used a hotspot in Bahia Conception.
I suspect that satellite internet using LEO (low earth orbit) will be online in a couple of years... if you can use your cell phone as a modem, most anchorages are served by cellular.

Run a cellular antenna on the top of the mast, you can probably get out 35-50 miles... or an ethernet bridge at the masthead (my plan) you'll get maybe 6-10 miles.

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 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2007 02:21 am
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ldalbin
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Thanks for the feedback and input.  Anyone else w/ experience to share?  Details and specifics are appreciated.  I'm following up the West Marine source.

L D A

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 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2007 02:55 am
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mxsailor
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OK- specifics and details.
This is a cut and paste from the Morgan Owners discussion group on Sailnet- also posted on Morganowers group, Yahoo.

Hi, Jeff, and Group...

It's - very unfortunately - very convoluted to the non-network engineer, and not being one myself, I probably won't give a very good description of it. Further, I have yet to test it up the mast to see what really happens. To save those only casually interested, I'll give a précis, and then the gory details. I'll also present some alternatives at the end (those not very techy won't want to go there)

The system is a powered bridge and AP unit with a router in between, all connected with ethernet cable, but no wires to the computer. That the router is a Vonage VoIP unit is a bonus. The bridge sees and talks to the shoreside AP, passes that info to the router, which passes it to the AP, which then talks to anyone who can hear it. That both are amplified units lets them reach farther on the outbound side, and both have high gain antennas to hear distant points better. All are 12V. When all are powered up, you can connect a telephone line to the Vonage and it's the same as it would be at home; you talk on it with your own phone number, incoming and outgoing calls alike (caller ID will show your number; if you've got a caller ID unit, it will show incoming caller ID).

That, believe it or not, is the short story.

The long story:

My quest began with a correspondent, usually right on, technically, pointing me to a Senao 2611CB3Plus AP/Bridge unit. He asserted that I should be able to put that at the top of the mast and it would essentially be a repeater - that is, it would talk to both the shore and me (and anyone else who could see the big stick antenna I'd use).

So, I called a vendor and described what I'd wanted to do. I wanted to be able to turn on my laptop and see distant shore points, select from them with my Windows Zero Configuration tool, all through this unit, which I'd have on top of the mast enclosed in a NEMA box I'd buy, powered with 12V. I wanted to be the good guy and have that signal available to other cruisers anchored nearby as well (if I could hear it, they should be able to hear it as well).

The vendor replied that he had an external unit of the same thing, could buy the same antenna next door (Hypertech 8.5dBi stick was my antenna choice), but that I'd need something else as well, also with an antenna, as the unit (the bridge) would only talk to shore, not to me. However, it was 12V, and would I like a quote on a custom assembly of stuff to do the job?

Sure...

Not knowing squat, I didn't know to ask questions other than he said it would work. I said OK, gave him my charge card number, and it It arrived in due course. Plugged it in, and was able to surf and mail. But I was unable to see, let alone select from, any other points (more below on why). Worse, the second unit was a Linksys wireless router, at 5V.

I called to complain about both the lack of identifiability and the 12V. He said send it back, I'll send you something else. That something else was another Senao unit, at an additional doubling of the Linksys price. However, that never worked - until now, but certainly not as specified, even now. But, it's at least do-able to surf and mail and telephone...

My problem with the units supplied, not identified in literally hundreds of hours of beating on them (well, trying everything as directed by the seller, and many other things recommended by other experts), was that the bridge, built to look for APs, of course, found one in the AP right next to it, and connected with its ethernet crossover cable. Naturally, that was the strongest signal, and so they immediately started passing traffic back and forth, overwhelming both of them, leading to IP conflicts.

Configuration discussion: The units can be set into either bridge or AP mode via mouse button switch. They can be factory reset by hard button push (impossible up the mast, but you can start over if you get trapped in a testing routine as I did, many times). Unpower/repower also resets, but not to factory default. They are addressable via web interface.

The bridge can be in point-point or point-multipoint mode. In multipoint, you leave the SSID section blank and it will scan for all available APs, showing the signal strength and encryption or not. You can choose from any of the available ones, put it in the SSID blank, and it will no longer scan or even show any other stations. These are "b" units; newer ones are b/g and sometimes also /a units, allowing a greater speed if it were needed. Aboard the boat, it's of no issue - until you have an AP which is configured to talk only to "g" units, which is part of what was driving me crazy. The open (not encrypted) point in the yard which had the strongest signal and which had been my salvation over my USB extension cable and desktop unit, is so configured. So, whenever I specified "sailing router" (the name they'd given their two routers in their offices, obviously aimed at sailors for free use), my 'b' unit would not even talk to it. This despite it being seen on the scan list. I couldn't figure it out, but one of the correspondents in the alt.internet.wireless group figured that out (the b vs g issue). So, that must be the problem, as my setup is talking to (a much weaker signal, and well used, unfortunately, constraining bandwidth) linksys, instead.

As mentioned, no amount of head scratching, telephone consultation, email correspondence, my doing stuff independently, or any other measures, solved the IP conflicts.

Meanwhile, in desperation, I started in on attempting to use just the bridge over ethernet to my computer. That, of course, required my being connected via wire, something I had been fighting for all this time. The only way these can be addressed, and therefore configured, is over a web interface. The only way that can happen is to have the unit connected to something else which has the same net class address (if you don't know what I mean it's too technical to get you up to speed - it took me months to "get it" - sorry), so I had to toggle back and forth between dhcp and specific addresses - which meant typing in the address - including the "advanced" section to allow the alternative addresses I was using other than factory default, each time I started over with trying to get it to work. I wasn't very happy about that, either, but have that solved (see below).

Had I not been previously, over the desktop/usb unit, successfully connecting, and, then, due to the 'g' issues above, not, connecting, to the "sailing router" my search might have been shorter, as I could probably have gone to linksys first, and succeeded there, only to have that conundrum rear its head later, making me think I had a broken unit. However, back to the wired-up bit.

I was able to scan for available APs when I had it connected to my etheret NIC, then go to a specific SSID. As above, the one I kept trying to connect always showed a fault. I didn't think to try Linksys. MANY discussions on the wireless group, via net and email with a couple, including one who had many installations using the exact same gear, failed to solve the problem. So, even though I was willing, if necessary, to live with having a string attached, and get nothing but the web in the end, I couldn't do even that (though if I'd gone to a 'b' enabled station, I could have, prolly). Contrast that to, now, me doing this message, my wife across the salon doing her email on her own laptop, both of us wif, and being interrupted by a call on the POTS unit connected to the Vonage service - which is what I wanted all along...

So, back to the story. I put it all in a basket, thinking I'd tackle it again when I got home, during the two weeks or so that we were going to be there as Lydia's clock wound down at work. I never did, but when we went to *my* (we also did one at hers) family's goodbye party, my son the network engineer, and I, who had talked a bit about my problems before, got on the subject, again. We didn't get into it then, but a few days later, while Lydia was at a salon with her daughters, I went to his house, which is massively set up for computer and network bashing.

We worked until 3 in the morning, but solved it. The problems/solution(s) were:

If you have the units on the same net class, in order to be able to see both of them for configuration (the AP passes through to the bridge in configuration; if you can't see the AP, you can't see the bridge), IP conflicts arise.

If you have the bridge set to "any" SSID, it will set up a constant traffic with the AP, creating IP conflicts and overload leading to no communication.

Leaving the bridge in "any" will allow it to scan, but it will associate the strongest signal. That's fine if you're in an area with all open sites, but it you're in a marina, likely it may have a pay site; you can't look for others.

We had everything connected by independent ethernet lines - his computer, my computer, the AP, and the bridge. He monitored our traffic on his computer. In our testing, we were able to clearly see his wireless router and my AP, 'boatAP'. We were able to scan or select the SSID on the bridge. Whenever we connected the two with the crossover cable, however, IP conflicts arose. We finally figured out the problem, as above. So, discussion ensued on the nature of it. Would a router solve the problem? I just happened to have one, taken out of my landside home, in the basket. Let's give it a try.

That would give us some advantages. First, we'd be able to put in a cable to connect the Vonage unit, something I'd wanted to do for a long time. It's a unit which you can take with you anywhere in the world, power it up with 12V or a voltage adapter and its wall-wart type power supply, and connect it to an ethernet internet feed in a hotel, internet café, or other internet source, and be on the POTS network - call out or have calls to you, just as though you were at home (you'd have to carry a handset if you weren't somewhere a US configured wired phone were available). We'd also be able to connect a printer, if we had one, and any other item, such as another computer. That same access would allow me to configure either the AP or the bridge via an ethernet cable.

However, the AP and bridge would have to be on different net class addresses to avoid the IP conflicts. The router would handle the distribution of different IPs from there.

In the course of digging it all out, he looked at the Vonage unit. I turned him on to it before, but he never really gave it a lot of thought, as he subscribed. Now, he did. To do what it has to in order to make it happen as part of your home network, perhaps this is, too, a router?

Looking up the specifics of my particular unit, several years old, on the net, disclosed that it was, indeed, a (very limited) router. It had a specific address, of course, as well as a unique MAC, which, when you connect it to an internet feed, lets Vonage address it, and your phone number be active at that point. So, we powered it up, and entered the address in the browser. Hey! There it is! You can't alter it, but you can see it!

Well...

Lets put the bridge on SSID 'david' (the home router) and the standard net class it came with and connect it via crossover to the WAN outlet. If it's a router, it should then direct the traffic to the LAN on some non-standard net class (most likely the same each time), connected to 'boatAP' and see what happens. No IP conflicts. HEY!! I'm surfing and mailing. It works!

Plug in the POTS instrument. Dial up my cell phone, which rings, showing my home as the caller. Bingo.

So, believe it or not, that's the short story of the long story. There were 5 hours in between that point. We reset the bridge to 'linksys', the station I was succeeding with on the boat, on the presumption that it would find it again when I arrived, and put it away. When I arrived, I connected all three items together, installed the antennas and plugged all three devices into AC. Dial tone and surf/mail was the result as soon as they powered up. So, despite my computer selecting "boatAP" I'm connected to "linksys" - the AP locally that we'd selected above. I can't see it - but know it's there, because that's what I'd specified before I shut it down.

What's wrong with this picture?

1) I can't choose via a configuration tool, among the available APs out there
2) Those I can choose from can't be configured to 'g' only (unlikely to be a big deal in the cruising world, as only some business such as the one I'd gotten accustomed to would likely make that adjustment to their gear)
3) I have to plug the ethernet into my computer, with the NIC set for the netclass of the bridge, in order to interrogate and/or change the bridge info, something which may well be necessary each port, if there's a pay service with a big mouth (lots of amplification, strongest signal); otherwise I can just leave it blank ("any" SSID)
4) I have to bring stuff into the cabin
5) I have to make more than one power supply (though it would be useful to be able to unpower individual items, anyway)

So, I'm faced with having to make the crossover cable long enough to reach my computer from the top of the mast. If I have the crossover cable in the cabin, I may as well have the standard cable (to the AP) here, too. And, if I'm going to have a POTS unit connected to the Vonage, better to have it (the Vonage) in the cabin as well. Fortunately all these are 12V, so I can just power them off ship's power without having to use an inverter.

Since I'm going to have to unplug the cable from Vonage to use it on my computer, it will have to be relatively accessible. I'll mount it on a door next to my hard drives and printer; when I open the door, the cable will be right there. I'll unplug it, put it in the NIC on my computer, check to see what's out there, set again, if needed, and return it to my WAN port on the Vonage. A dial tone will confirm my success.

To enable me to not have to constantly reconfigure the NIC, I have a leftover NIC/Modem PCMCIA card from the old days when laptops didn't have built-in NICs which I'll use as my configuration tool; the computer's NIC will remain dhcp so I can do the test of the bridge (the NIC in dhcp will allow me to get an address from the chosen AP; if it succeeds I should be able to surf and mail - and after that proof, it's the same as an ISP feed as far as all the electronics are concerned).

I have not yet really investigated POE (Power Over Ethernet) but that may be the way I go, in order to minimize the wiring to the top. I should have had one included in my purchase from the vendor; that he didn't (the unit I'd called about had that in it) is just another indication of my dissatisfaction with him (it's "him" because there's nobody else there that I can tell - he's always the one who answers the phone and mail [he's not responded to mail in the last year or so, though, so that may have changed - but he's the one answering the phone, still], leading me to believe he's a one-man shop). I don't know enough about POE to be dangerous as yet, but somehow the very thin lines of the ethernet cable are enough to carry the load needed for these units. I also don't know the actual load; the wallwarts show 1A at 12V, but that's more likely the maximum it can give, not the actual load.

This is far from what I'd envisioned. However, with all the agony that preceded it, this is nirvana. Before we shut it down for the morning (3AM) we made up the proper length crossover and standard cables to allow me to have the AP and bridge at mast top and the Vonage router at the nav. I have yet to haul it up the mast in a bucket to see what else is out there, or what changes in signal strength result. My antenna is a slight downtilt, and a relatively high gain; it will be interesting to see about the improvement in signal, as well as the potential for loss of others as the skinny donut of the pattern goes up. Likewise, it will be interesting to see about the changes in signal strength of the AP; currently it's right over my head (fiberglass in the way, but not much) sitting on the companionway doghouse, with a horizontal antenna. The expected AP antenna position would be vertical, under the NEMA, with the bridge 20" stick out the top, which, since the NEMA is cast aluminum, ought to minimize any potential about signal interferance (though I can't imagine any, as they're right next to each other now, one hanging from the dodger and the other sitting on the doghouse, with no issues).

So, more testing is ahead, but this system has been up and running flawlessly for close to a week. Once I have it proven, I believe I'll investigate a replacement for the bridge. The AP doesn't matter, as 11mps is more than any cruiser group (me and any others together) is likely to need, and my wifi speaks 'b' - but something else for the shoreside, with 'g' capability, might be a good idea.

Now for the commercial. My son did all this, on a practical level. This is NOT a plug-and-play, point and click solution. If you want consulting help, he's David Thorburn-Gundlach, d06a@justpickone.org. I don't know what he charges, but if I had to engage him, and had been able (in the same area, and he were available) it would have been an extremely good investment on my part compared to the circus which I'd performed before that point.

Secondly, I'll entertain offers on the unit I'm currently using as bridge, and antenna pigtail, which can be configured as an AP (there's a box at the bottom of the admin screen to change whichever it is to the other, bridge to ap or the other way).

Specifically, the pigtail is for N-female antenna, the usual one out there, but the other end is specific to the card which is part of the unit. The unit is a Senao 2611 CB3 Plus Deluxe (the deluxe means it can be ap or bridge), 200mw amplification, or 23dBm gain, but in board form only - no case, no antenna. There's a part number which relates to that, without the pigtail, but I'm not sure what it is. If you do a search for the name above, you'll find lots of vendors all with the exact same looking website, a Senao-provided mask, I expect. The shorty pigtail means it won't lose signal strength in going from the unit to the antenna as you'll have with longer coax runs. You can also download the owner's manual in PDF form to see what they're about.

The only reason I'd sell it is to buy a g-enabled unit. It could be your AP; you'd want to buy some other bridge and router. Or you could do ethernet connection, as I was about to do...

Final commercial - if you'd like to do the Vonage thing, let me refer you. You get the first month free, and if you sign up and stay with them for 2 months, I get some freebie time, as well, if we do it that way. Vonage gives me unlimited calls (on the unlimited plan, $25/mo) to the US and Canada, UK (three calls to Lydia's mom yesterday), Ireland and 3 other European countries. In your home, it backfeeds your POTS network and all the phones in the home ring just like with your regular supplier, if you want. Here, while we're currently the least expensive single-station cordless WalMart sells, we're doing a single point, multistation charger/handset, cordless setup, as it's not worth wiring for phone, though that would end the requirement for AC power (at the expense of being tethered over the freedom of the cordless in the dink while we polish the side of the boat, e.g.).

If you're still reading, you're as desperate as I was. There may be plug and play solutions but nobody I have encountered has found one. There is an all-in-one solution which is about 1800 bux, but I don't know if it's plug and play or - since it has a router in it - one must connect over ethernet to configure the bridge portion each time, as is the case here...

L8R

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 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2007 03:50 am
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ldalbin
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Thanks for the technicalities.  While over my head, I suspect it has the detail my knowledgable contacts can use to guide me. 

L D

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 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2007 04:32 am
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mxsailor
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No problem. Good luck.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2007 01:47 am
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Jimmy
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I have used my at&t cell phone to connect my computer to the Internet many, many times in the Guaymas/SC area. Every place that I had cell connection.

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 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2007 04:03 pm
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Sailaway
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If you get cell phone service in this area - has anybody sailed across and up and down the Baja coast?  We leave in a few weeks and I'd like to keep in touch with family - any ideas?

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 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2007 04:15 pm
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Vince Radice
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You will have cell phone service all over the baja when you are in port. Off shore you will probably have poor coverage but I suspect as long as you are in line of site of a major port you will have service.

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 Posted: Thu Nov 15th, 2007 05:35 pm
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Sailaway
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Thanks!  Do you recommend one Mexican cell phone service over another?  GSM? I mostly want to use my phone to text family that all is well with the world!

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 01:47 pm
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Vince Radice
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I only have experience with telcel or movitel and the sevice pretty much sucks and the price is rediculous compared to the states. I have heard that Nextel has good serivice. What you can to is get a prepay telephone and then just use it in case of an emergency. If you want to use the phone to connect to the internet though you would probably need a regular service plan and not the type of prepay phone my wife uses.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 02:02 pm
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mxsailor
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If you plan to make calls inside Mexico, you can buy a Telcel Amigo phone for about $40 that comes with $30 worth of talk time. Time expires in two months if you don't add more. I like to have mine along for the drive. My Mexican insurance includes road service and I can call it if I break down. Telcel charges about 40 cents a minute outgoing, twenty incoming. I would call my spouse in the states, ring once and hang up. She could call me back for 9 cents a minute to her, 20 cents to me. For calling the States, use your laptop and Skype. We have cable to our duplex, use Vonage for $20 month.

If you are going to be putting a cruising boat together down here you should have a phone. You'll need to contact a lot of different people.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 02:07 pm
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mxsailor
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One other thing, there are free SMS applications that you can use to text someone from your laptop. Not sure what Telcel charges to text someone in the US from Mexico. I use my computer.. maybe somebody else on the board knows.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 02:10 pm
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mxsailor
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Perfect boat for you at
http://wilmington.craigslist.org/boa/479159759.html

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 03:11 pm
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Vince Radice
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Mana: 
that sms application sounds cool for texting people, do you have a link for that.

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 05:08 pm
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Sailaway
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You mentioned if we had a cruising boat - we should have a phone - do you mean a satellite phone? We want to sail across to Mulege and down to La Paz - I don't need to talk to my daughters - just text them that all is well!!

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 Posted: Sat Nov 17th, 2007 05:28 pm
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Vince Radice
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I personally don't see why anyone really needs a phone for anything anymore on a cruising sailboat. You can do just about anything now with a laptop computer and a single side band or ham radio. One of my ex sailing students is now somewhere around New Zealand and he emails me from the single side band quite often just to say hi. Cell phones are nice and convienent but I wouldn't say it is an essential.

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 Posted: Sun Nov 18th, 2007 03:30 pm
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ldalbin
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So, MXSAIL, does sound like what I'm looking for, small issue of it is on the wrong side of the continent.  I look on the Sea of Cortez as my training grounds for sailing and seems likely it would be expensive to get it there.  Though I haven't checked the price of the boat yet, either.
L D A

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