Onboard Communications

Date: 2016/2017/ongoing

The project: Communications

This really comes down to two different categories: 1) communication near shore, and 2) communication offshore.

Near shore:

Near shore we rely on wifi and 3G/4G/LTE coverage.

The gear: Wifi Bat by Mailasail We did not install a wifi booster on Hydroquest, and we regretted it often.  This project was a MUST for Kaiquest.

We chose the Wifi Bat by Mailasail. It took us a day to install on the antenna on our radar mast and run the cable inside to the Router (discussed below). It’s awesome; we now pick up dozens of  wifi signals where our phone or computer can only see a few. Getting the password or finding unlocked signals is the challenge…

The gear: Redbox Router by Mailasail  The Redbox is an onboard communications platform that features routing (for whichever type of connection you have – wifi, cellular, or satellite), wireless NMEA instrument data, firewall, email and web optimization.

This means we now have an internal wifi signal, called ‘Kaiquest’. When we connect to ‘Kaiquest’ and access the Redbox Web Portal, we can choose the type of connection we need/have.

Since we are mainly using an ipad or iphone these days, the Redbox also allows us to receive data wirelessly. As an example, we feed our AIS (Automated Identification System) receiver into the Redbox, so we can see AIS targets on any device connected to the Kaiquest signal (provided that device has an AIS app installed).

At some point we will run a cable from our data instruments (wind/speed/depth) to the Redbox so we can access that information wirelessly too.


No plan for a SSB radio; we solely rely on Satellite communications.

The gear: Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone. We recently found a great deal on craigslist for a phone that is just a few years old, and hardly used. Iridium minutes are expensive, but being our only method of communication while offshore, they are necessary.

One day we’ll invest in the Iridium-Go, but don’t see it as necessary for coastal cruising. We also expect the technology to improve tremendously in the next few years so are happy to wait.

The tool: Mailasail’s Teleport-It mail (email compression program). We used teleport-it mail for sending and receiving email via the satellite phone aboard Hydroquest, and it was perfect. The software is easy to download and setup on a laptop with Windows Live Mail.  It is also easy to set up on the iphone and ipad, which is where we now primarily use it now.

Since we only want to receive important emails at sea – friends, family and weather information – we don’t readily give the email address out. It ends ….@mailasail.com

All together now – sending/receiving Teleport-It mail through the Redbox via Iridium Satellite phone:  The Iridium satellite phone is permanently connected to the Redbox Router via USB. The Redbox allows us to choose this ‘satellite phone’ connection type that is restricted compressed email only (so we don’t have to worry about our devices chewing up the precious bandwidth with updates or apps in the background).

Once those compressed emails (including weather forecasts) are downloaded onto the ipad, we can open the grib files in our charting software (Navionics charts in the iNax app).

And on top of that we can also see an overlay of nearby AIS targets.

Information overload! I love it.

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