Skip to content

Working Boats and Solar Panels

Capsante-2848

Today we've just been hanging out on the boat working while the solar panel install is happening. It's super windy (last night was 30mph gusting to 50mph, woohoo!) and there's been some rain, but this afternoon the sun happened to come out right when it was a good time for a work break, so we went out to wander the docks. 

Capsante-2856

Capsante-2846

Also, solar panels!!

Solarpanels-2845

Now we've got two 140 watt solar panels on the roof and a charge controller to help keep the battieries topped off during the day so we won't need to run the generator as often. Sweet! 

The weather is supposed to improve tomorrow so we may take Airship out for another cruise around some islands. (And as soon as it's dry enough for long enough, I've got the boat name decal ready to apply!)

  • ciparis

    Great write-up, Kevin!

    We’ve been using our supposedly-enterprise-grade Cradlepoint AER-2100 in our Airstream, and honestly the stability leaves a bit to be desired; although it has 2 internal single-sim cellular interfaces (with xLTE and 802.11ac support), engaging the WiFi as WAN feature causes it to become unstable. Support is investigating, so we’ll see.

    We’re currently using a grandfathered unlimited Verizon account (streaming BBC is a hard requirement, and that would bring any normal plan to its knees). Moovbox sure sounds interesting… if we can’t get this thing to behave, one of those might end up on the shopping list.

    -Michael

  • Sam Landsman

    Interesting device. I live aboard my Nordic Tug 37 (and work mostly full-time) and am always looking for ways to stay connected.

    There’d be no problem putting Telus and/or Rogers SIM card(s) into Moovbox while in Canada, right?

    Can you add a satellite connection? And does Moovbox allow you to prioritize connections based on speed and cost? Mini V-sat is still expensive but becoming more affordable. Since much of the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and SE Alaska simply don’t have cell coverage, let alone Wi-Fi, satellite is the only option. Handheld sat phones are fine for voice but way too slow for data.

    I know other boaters who are happy with Peplink routers, which seem similar. In some of these cases they have V-Sat, Fleet Broadband, multiple cell modems, and WiFi feeding the router and it automatically selects which source(s) to use depending on user selected speed, cost, and availability criteria.

    I’ll be curious to hear how the Wi-Fi as WAN setup goes. Does Moovbox have a Wi-Fi booster built in? Do you have to use a separate Wi-Fi antenna?

    If you see a NT37 named Safe Harbour out in the islands, stop by and say hi.

    Sam

    • Kevin Morris

      @Michael – I’ll let you know what we find out on the WiFi as WAN front. It’s new to the Moovbox, so we’ll see how that solution looks. I’m also considering something like a Rogue Wave Pro WiFi booster connected by Ethernet to the Moovbox instead of an internal WiFi as WAN radio.

      @Sam – Yes, you can put Canadian SIM cards in – or more precisely, the SinglePoint people put them in for you. I have not yet tried/verified it, but they claim the system will smoothy switch from your US to your Canada SIM cards at the appropriate times.

      Regarding PepWave – I’ve tried both those and the Cradlepoint routers (for many years in the Airstream). So far, I’m happier with the stability, speed, and robustness of the Moovbox compared with those. I’ll have more to report after we try Moovbox more extensively. So far – it has ZERO failures – never needed to reset or do anything other than just connect.

      The Moovbox does not have a WiFi booster, but – the best solution is to have a great radio in the first place, rather than a weak radio and a booster. I don’t know the specs of the Moovbox WiFi backhaul device, so I can’t comment on that yet.

      Regarding an external WiFi antenna – you will always get better signal with an external antenna, regardless of what radio you’re using. And, you get better signal and better noise rejection with a directional antenna, but you have to point and re-point it. I’m planning to go with an omnidirectional external antenna with whatever solution I end up with for WiFi as WAN.

      Regarding the in-motion satellite solutions such as KVH mini-VSAT or Fleet/Inmarsat – that is a completely different league in terms of cost, and definitely not cost-effective for our purposes. Even if the equipment were free (which it most definitely is not) the data charges are 100x higher than 3G/4G/LTE charges. 1GB on most cellular plans is $10. 1GB on those satellite systems is $1,000. At our normal business usage of 10-30GB/month while mobile, the data alone would be $10K-$30K per month. Then of course there is the $16K for the least expensive hardware setup. Our business is good, but we can’t justify 6-figures annual expense for part-time boat WiFi.

      And, those solutions are also DREADFULLY slow while being exhorbitantly expensive. By comparison – you can see my Moovbox connection above clocking in at over 16 Mbps. Entry-level Fleet plans are around 150Kbps. So – the Moovbox with cellular data is about 100x faster (while also being 100x cheaper).

      We’ll watch for you around the islands! We’re on the boat as I write this. NT37 is a beautiful boat!!

  • Planning to add a MoovBox to my RV, do you have advice on placement of the box inside the RV for best WiFi service. Also any developments on having the MoovBox recognize the WiFi signal of a park? Thanks for the great information.

    • Kevin Morris

      Hi Mike,

      In the space of an RV, I don’t think the placement of the unit will matter very much. The MoovBox WiFi will easily reach the whole thing. I’d put it somewhere convenient to wire as the first priority, and near where I plan to mostly use my devices as a second-order consideration.

      I have not gone farther on the WiFi as WAN project yet. The MoovBox people were just trying it out themselves when I asked back in October ’14. They add an extra radio in the unit for the WiFi backhaul. I don’t know the cost of that.

      I’m considering adding a Rogue Wave or Rogue Pro WiFi receiver instead, and connecting the Rogue to the MoovBox via Ethernet. I haven’t yet done enough analysis to decide which solution would work better. I’ll report back when I have.

      The good news is that we have spent over 70 days/nights on the boat – working full time using the connection – since the MoovBox was installed, and it has been solid and trouble free. The support has been great also. They emailed me to let me know that the box had been unexpectedly and silently grabbing Canadian providers’ service when we were close to Canada, and was potentially racking up international roaming charges. They fixed the problem immediately.