THOUGHTS ON COMMUNICATIONS:  (beyond the good old VHF marine radio)


For communications more than 10 - 25 miles away from shore you need an SSB HF radio.  Get your ham radio / amateur radio license, marine SSB bands are rarely used anymore.  I am using an ICOM model IC7000 SSB transceiver.  (  This is a great radio in every way.  It also makes a great general coverage radio receiver.  It will pick up regular AM / FM broadcast, international shortwave broadcasts, as well as VHF & SSB marine bands.


Free but effective electronic chart navigation can be downloaded at  (donations are encouraged)

It includes AIS, takes free downloadable BSB & RNC charts from NOAA, and runs on Windows, Linux and Apple products.  This software will also control your autopilot.  A good VHF radio that will provide both AIS and GPS output for the navigation program is the Standard Horizon GX2200.  


For handling multiple ports such as NEMA, RS422, RS232 all at the same time from a single USB port with convenient screw down connections, see the multiplexers made by


For good info on implementing and using worldwide email for cruising you will need a special modem like the Pactor system for your HF SSB radio, see


By way of a recommendation from another cruiser & ex. IBM’er, I signed up for email & website service through over 10-years ago.   Sounds like a corny name but GoDaddy has been rock solid and a great company to do business with.  Email and web site service cost me about $6 a month plus about $12 per year per additional domain name.  Besides, paid email service will exclude all those ads & spam.  Ever get that elusive “relaying denied” message when trying to access your email from a different service provider?   Well, email has a fix for that, it’s called relaying service and comes with their standard offering. 


Of course there is Facebook but you really don’t need a programmer to create a website.  You don't need to learn HTML, “FrontPage” or any other web publishing programs.  My website was created entirely with Microsoft Word 2000.   Word 2000 or newer will support the “web tools”.   I have also found that Word 2000 handles positioning and resizing of pictures with ease.  You can make things go where you want them on the page by using the "Table" feature.  Create your whole website on your hard drive in its own directory like c:\datakik\etc.  You then upload the directories and files (after testing of course) to the web server (like using the “CoreFTP” (download from file transfer program.   The link conversions, i.e., www. vs. C:\volume, are automatically handled for you – just great!  


Now for the telephone stuff.   Dump that land line; you won’t need it for the rest of your life!

Via the “number portability act” you can transfer your good old land based phone number to your cell phone.   Callers won’t know the difference.  You will loose your White Pages listing but you can register with so people can find you through 411. 


Need fax service no matter where you are?  I found an internet fax service for $15 per year (  that gives you a dedicated fax number that receives your incoming faxes, converts them and then sends it to your specified email account.   For sending faxes you simply “attach” the fax to a standard outgoing email.   The attachment can be a “word” file or a scanned graphic like (.jpg or .tiff) file.  You won’t need a fax machine at all.  Have been using this over 10-years without a single problem. 


Have an alarm system, no problem - use a cellular docking station which provides a wired line land.  Use Phone Labs "Dock N Talk" ( It provides you with an RJ11 standard modular phone jack that you can plug your standard wired phone into, or the line that fees your whole house or all the phones on your boat.  When using the traditional phones, you won’t know it’s really cellular you are using.  Best of all my phone service follows me no matter where I am. 


If you have Wi-Fi like in a marina or at home, I highly recommend "MagicJack". ( It gives you a regular phone line from a Wi-FI or Ethernet connection (this is VOIP).  It works out to about $5 per month including the device, cheaper after that on yearly service renewals.  This includes unlimited local & national calling.  After you see that it really works you will likely drop your home phone service altogether.  You can buy the MagicJack at any Wal-Mart - ignore all similar products.  MagicJack is the best.  (

... MagicJack now has a smart phone app.  You can make free calls on-the-go (&low cost international) just as if you were at the device.  Let's say you are in the Bahamas and can't make calls from your smart phone, just be near a Wi-Fi hot spot, activate your MagicJack app and like magic you can make & receive phone calls without phone service at all !  If someone calls your MagicJack phone at home it will even ring on your smart phone via the app right in the Bahamas.  For voice calls this is better than Skype, but remember no video with MagicJack.  // Misc. phone tec. stuff @ and Voip stuff @


For faster internet where “Wi-Fi” service is available, you may wish to consider using an outdoor marine antenna server to extend your range.  The products from are the best.  The "Bullet" devices reside outside mounted directly to the antenna and interfaced with an Ethernet cable.  This is very effective because of no antenna lead loss.  You will not need a Wi-Fi card because it is built into the "Bullet" device itself, just plug it into your Ethernet jack on your computer.  Search "wifi bullet" on for the best prices.  It can also be set up along with certain settings in your router to create a full strength local wi-fi hotspot inside your boat.  I'm not going to help you with this, you must know what your are doing but in this case, the "Bullet" plugs directly into the local Wi-Fi router.  Note, Ethernet cable, jacks & press tools are available at Home Depot so you can make any length Ethernet cables you need. 


For cellular Wi-Fi from an Android "smart phone" you can avoid paying Verizon's hot spot fees with an "app" called "FoxFi".  It works just fine and will either provide you internet access via WiFi or USB cable.   For now you can't beat Verizon for coverage although T-Mobile is getting real interesting. 


Cable TV vs. Satellite TV -  You don’t need to pay for TV at home and on the boat.  With a satellite tracking antenna ( you can get CNN, Weather Channel, movies, etc. pretty much wherever you go in your boat.  This includes the more popular cruising areas of the Bahamas and in the open Gulf of Mexico.  Just move your DirecTV box from the house to the boat when you go cruising.  Also, don't be a sucker, TV is still broadcast for free in metro areas.  It's all HD, usually includes 20 or more channels and the picture quality will equal or exceed the best of cable TV or dish service.  For thousands of movies on demand (when in range of good WiFi) consider Netflix via the Roku-3 device available from Wal-Mart for under $100. 


DISCLAIMER:  Depending on your level of expertise, I'm either an expert or a beginner.   The info above is what works for me, if you know of better solutions then send them my way.  I will strive to try them out and if it works for me then I will update the above "thoughts on communication".


Good luck, Lee                                                                                                                                  Rev. 9-14