Monday, August 16, 2004

Surfing while Cruising

Joy and I are cruising the Queensland coast up to the Whitsunday Islands for seven weeks in our catamaran, Te Moana.
Anyone who knows me would wonder how I could do without internet access while on a 7 week cruise. The answer is of course that I can't. For the benefit of others who are similarly addicted to email and weblogs, here's what I use to stay in touch.

Normal ISP access via mobile phone is slow and expensive, there are better alternatives for both GSM and CDMA phones.

Modern GSM phones (I have a NOKIA 6100) have access to the General Packet Radio Service
(GPRS). It needs to be enabled by the phone company (in my case, Optus). GPRS is reasonable in speed (56k if you're lucky) and works anywhere within normal GSM phone range. You don't get charged by connection time, but by the amount downloaded. It is even possible to receive phone calls while it's connected. Optus charge between $3.30 and $5.50 per Mb downloaded (more details from Optus). I successfully posted messages to the Te Moana website from 5-10 Nautical Miles off the coast.

Joy has a CDMA phone with the theoretical advantage of wider coverage, particularly out to sea. Telstra provides a digital data service, CDMA 1x for its customers. It seems more expensive and hasn't been rolled out to all of the CDMA network. You can purchase a PC-card to connect directly to a laptop. I did not further investigate this as it seems expensive at $10 per Mb downloaded.

For me, the pleasant surprise of this trip has been that quite a few of the marinas in Queensland have wireless internet (802.11) installed. I'm writing this from the marina at the Mooloolaba Yacht Club, where I've had excellent, fast (not quite up to downloading large MP3 files, but eminently usable for everyday browsing) access. Even if you don't have a WIFI card in your laptop, an external adaptor is available at the marina office. I'm taking out a subscription which works across all marinas which are covered by Marinanet for $30 per month plus $0.11 per Mb. So while I'm at a marina with coverage, I can satisfy my 10Mb/day habit for a couple of dollars a day.

The marinas with coverage are:

Mooloolaba Yacht Club
Gladstone Port Authority
Scarborough Marina
Abel Point Marina
Keppel Bay Marina
Bundaberg Port Marina
• The Wharf - Mooloolaba

There are of course other alternatives which require special equipment (sat phones etc.) As a casual cruiser with a modest budget and only coastal ambitions, I did not explore those. Oh, and just in case you're wondering these are just personal opinions and I have no commercial interest in any of the above services. And of course, as always, Your Mileage May Vary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:39 pm  

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