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Not surprisingly, because we do maintain such a consistent posting schedule here, people ask us all the time “how do you access the internet?” It is so common in fact that I wrote a post to answer the question and then later added a link to that post on our FAQ page. What I included in that post were the methods that we have used to get online all the way from Canada to Trinidad but now, being in St. Martin, the Wi-Fi black hole of the world, we’ve had to resort to some new tricks.

I mentioned yesterday that our friend David lent us his modem so that we can get online. Having now used it for the past couple of days, we can confirm that it works great! I only wish that I had known about this earlier. For those who will be visiting St. Martin who want (need!) to get online as much as we do, here are the details.

The modems connect to Caribserve’s network and you can read about the various products and data plans that they offer. You’ll note on that page that they only offer monthly plans though, and you need to purchase your own modem. Unless you plan on staying in St. Martin for an extended period of time, that may not be your best option.

The Caribserve modem to the left of our SSB radio. Some people, including a couple that we spoke to last evening, actually use their SSB radios to send text emails. We have not purchased the modem that is required to that though. In truth, we haven’t even turned on our SSB radio in about a year!
Perhaps we should check to see if it still works.

Alternatively, there is a place in the Simpson Bay Marina complex called Business Point which, among other things, rents these modems. The weekly rental is $30.00 US and I believe it includes unlimited data transfers. You should probably confirm that last part though before downloading a ton of movie files. Going directly to Caribserve may be cheaper if you’re going to be here long term but if you’re only going to be here for a week or two, the Business Point option would seem to be more frugal. Of course, you could just go to shore to access free Wi-Fi in one of the hundreds of bars and restaurants that offer it here but we’ve found that free in this case actually adds up to being fairly costly. I say that because if all we were to do is buy a coffee at McDonald’s everyday to access their Wi-Fi, it would add up and sadly, we almost always end up spending more than that! So, there you are, option one.

Option two is one that we don’t need right at this moment because we have one of those modems but down island, I think will be beneficial. When we were last in Grenada we had a couple of friends telling us how they had purchased a Digicel sim card for their iPads which allowed them to access the 3G cellular network for internet access. I have not confirmed the price because, to be honest, I can’t find anything on Digicel’s site about this service, but I’m pretty sure they told me it was only $50.00 EC per month, or about $18.50 US. The benefit to this I was told is that it could be accessed anywhere there is cell service, even between the islands. Of course, in order to be able to take advantage of that, one needs a cellular capable iPad (or equivalent?), and probably one that is unlocked.

While there have been dozens of reasons why we have wanted to purchase an iPad, this one, coinciding with Apple’s release of the iPad mini, finally put us over the edge. Yesterday, while shopping in Philipsburg, we visited one of the large electronic stores and picked up a brand new iPad mini with 4G. This one, unlike those sold in the US, is unlocked so it can be used on any cellular network down here, including Digicel. Have we used it yet? No, as you can see in the pic, we haven’t even opened the box yet. We do think that it will be good for helping us to maintain the connectivity that we have come to rely upon, especially in areas where Wi-Fi can not easily be accessed.

We took the 15 minute bus ride into Philipsburg yesterday. Bus fair: $2.00 US each one way.

In spite of there being two cruise ships at the dock, we found the streets and beach to be very quiet.

This sign made us think of some of our friends back in Canada.

We were happy to be able to meet up with Tom, one of our blog readers and internet friends. If you’re going to be somewhere close to where we are, please let us know. We’d love to share a drink with you.

I think the hat suits her. 🙂

28 Comments

  1. Timely Post…..I am deciding how to best equip the boat for internet…Satellite is too expensive

  2. We anchored behind Colline Nettle. Went to the Flambouyant hotel and bought a month from them. Think we paid 30-40 US. Super fast, no limitations and very reliable.
    Also a very calm spot to anchor.

  3. Another option for your readers for internet that is similar to the iPad option you mentioned. Most smartphones these days can be configured as wifi hotspots or can be connected via USB cable to other devices to allow those devices to share the phone’s internet connection. So, if you have an “unlocked” phone you can buy and use a local sim card in the phone and provide internet to wifi or connected devices.

    And if you have a phone that is locked, you may be able to find instructions and/or services on the internet to unlock them or the provider may tell you how to unlock it (T-Mobile USA I believe did this if you have been a customer for at least a few months).

    This may be a more “frugal” option for those that don’t want to go buy a new 3g/4g enabled device and already have one of these phones.

    • True enough. Back in Canada we used to obtain internet by tethering our laptops to our iPhones. It seems to me that the trick is to find a data plan that is affordable and one that works with a popular carrier down here.

  4. I’ve always wondered about this! Good to know. We are thinking about sailing in a couple of years (once everything is paid off) and I’ve been researching like crazy.

  5. I just bumble through it all and seem to have enough. The ever changing reality of staying connected is more than a bit fuzzy to me, it’s a down right a blur. None of the ever changing options stick in my head to make me any way confident with a clear vision of how it all works. I don’t understand so many of the basic terms that I’m lost in a sea of g’s, ports, carriers, data, sims, configured, providers and server errors.
    Color me blind, I’ll bumble on through!

  6. Rebecca can really pull off that look .

  7. Rebecca reminds me of Julie from the “Love Boat”

  8. I’ve had many dry bags fail, as well as camera casings. I always describe them all as “sort of dry” to my guests.

    To protect cameras and cell phones we use Nalgene bottles and a 200′-rated waterproof jar from US Diver. Both are 100% reliable over 35 years. But an Ipad isn’t going to fit.

  9. Have you tried using a directional antenna to connect to open/free wi-fi hotspots from your boat? They can be used up to ten miles or more with directional antenna’s on both ends, but should still be good for a couple of miles at least with a normal antenna on the other end.

    I think the “spread” on them is thirty to forty degrees so even with a boat moving around on an anchor or mooring it should be possible to keep it aimed well enough to be useful.

    • We had a friend make a good directional antenna for us but to tell the truth, we never have a need for it. The omni-directional antenna on our Wirie can pick up signals from better than 5 miles away (tested offshore). If there is a signal to be accessed, we can get it. The challenge is when there ARE no signals to pick up.

      Additionally, at anchor right now, we are swinging through AT LEAST 40 degrees in these windy conditions.

  10. You’ve got to be kidding me! I know Tom! I’ve had drinks with him at the Yorktown Pub, near where I work on the schooners. That’s Awesome!

    Also, really great “research” page you guys have got going on.

    – CC

  11. I’m having an amplified antenna installed at Grenadamarine.
    I don’t know how passwords are obtain from the boat.
    The SIM card idea, I thank you, for my iPad.
    Stay safe,
    Tim
    American Eagle
    Grenada

    • Hi Tim. I’m assuming there will be instructions included with whichever device you have purchased. If you have trouble once it is installed, hail me on the VHF or message me on FB again.

      • Thanks you are very kind.
        Any experience on shipping 1.5 lbs from US to Grenada Marine. Gaskets etc. for outboard.
        G M said us Amerijet or Fedex. Amerijet wants $148.00, Fedex said no, US Post Office
        Said $20, but I’ve heard that will never get there. I could bring with me, but I was trying to
        Get it overhauled before I arrive.
        Take your time getting back to me and go have fun at Orient Bay! Ha Ha I was there 30 years ago.
        Tim

        • FedEx said No? Why?

          What kind of outboard? If Yamaha you might try MacIntires on the highway. They are the Yamaha dealers.

          We have had stuff shipped in by DHL and The Post Office. We always received out stuff. The Post Office just takes a lot longer.

          By the way, the post you’re commenting on is over two years old. We’re not in St. Martin! 🙂

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