11 June 2015

WiFi Installation on Your Boat

Captain Bob Damiano

Winter (and spring) (and summer) project: Argon gets WIFI

Since I live and work from the boat, good connectivity is pretty important.  We have a couple of 4G hotspots but those come with those annoying data plans. Our marina has free wifi (via Beacon) but all the cool kids put up wifi routers and have their own LANs on their boats.

So back in December, I decided to buy the stuff. I was going to buy a package from Island Time, but I thought I would be even cooler and buy the bits separately myself. That's a great idea if you're an IP/networking genius and can configure this stuff. So I got a Microtik Groove radio and router and started struggling with it (with lots of help from my boss, Dan who IS an IP/networking genius).

Ultimately, I ended up replacing the groove with a Ubiquity Bullet radio.  This thing is MUCH easier to configure and I was actually able to do it with some email support from boss Dan, brother Duane and brother Duane's friend Ralph.

So... I have a brand new Groove radio for sale if anyone wants it.

Physical Mounting

Argon has an Edson radar mast on her transom.  I spoke to someone at Edson and he suggested I buy this "wing" thing that mounts under the radar platform. This provides a nice surface to mount several small antennas.

To mount to that, I got a standard 1-14 antenna mounting base and an extension tube. 

1-14 base with "extra" hole
Using breakfast bar as machine shop
The original Groove radio (ultimately not used)


The wireless router is installed inside the nav table instrument "pod".  I had to run a 12vdc line from a spare breaker to a new terminal block in there.  This feeds the router and the PoE (Power over Ethernet) injector to power the radio.

Terminal block for power

The new power/ground wires snaked into the breaker panel

Close-up of the Bullet

Router mounted.  Radio and antenna temporarily mounted for testing
We also had to run Ethernet all the way from the nav pod to the base of the radar mast and ultimately up the mast to the radio. 
Ethernet and wire snake

Linda doing best tie-wrap job ever down in the steering compartment
About now, is when I got the network to actually work. Until then, it was a notwork.

Putting it all together

This involved finalizing the mounting of the radio/anenna to the mount, unwiring the radar mast and removing it from the boat, installing all the stuff and hooking it all back up.  And then really really hoping that everything still works.

mounting the L-bracket to the extension tube

Bullet secured using a 'bulkhead" connector (and a couple big honkin washers)

Undo these wires at the base of the mast

Mast rail support removed and replaced with temporary measure

The stick is out

attaching the wing

We were smart enough to get help to re-install the stick.
And there she is.  DONE (finally)

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