WiFi Adapter For The Boat Revisited

Part 2.
For over a year now we have been able to get some hard evidence on the performance of our WiFi adapter and it has surpassed our expectations. We have been able to receive connection from at least three miles away that we can confirm and it has worked in areas where we had no idea of where the signal was coming from and at what distance. So we do declare it to be a complete success. For the original info see our post here .



But one aspect of the unit has bothered me since we put the whole thing together and that was the waterproof electrical box that everything was mounted to. It did work fine and kept the unit dry, but we just were not crazy about how it looked. People walking down the docks would stare for a while before asking what in the world it was. The gray plastic box was just not aesthetically pleasing so I started considering other options that would be easy and inexpensive and give us some options for mounting. On the sailboat we simply tied it up in the rigging and could remove it if sailing or the weather was really bad.


On the trawler we wanted a more permanent mounting, but it too had to be weatherproof since the adapter is very moisture sensitive. Ever time I wandered the local building supply I considered different approaches. I finally decided on using a short piece of PVC pipe with sealed end caps top and bottom.







Making the case was as easy as the original, drilling a hole in the top cap to accept the antenna and two holes in the bottom cap. One would be for the USB cable to pass through and the other would be to accept the rail mount that we would use to mount the entire unit as high up as we could get it on the bimini frame. The mount is a typical rail mount used for antennas for a VHF or GPS. It turned out to be a perfect solution. The antenna, cable pass through and rail mount were all sealed with marine silicone sealant because all of the parts are plastic and silicone is the best sealant to use, IMO. 


I chose the four inch pipe, not because the parts are that large but because the antenna and USB cable connections stick out from the sides of the adapter and I did not want to jamb everything in tight. Once everything was tucked into the pipe, both ends were sealed with silicone and the caps pushed on tightly being careful not to pinch and cables. We also decided to replace the USB cable from the short cable that comes with the unit, to a fifteen foot cable with USB on one end and a mini-plug like those used for camera connections, on the other. The mini-plug is the same type that plugs into the adapter. This kept any extensions we might want to add inside the boat and out of the weather. We used a plastic cable wrap on the USB cable that would be exposed to UV to protect it.

Once everything was assembled and the unit mounted we went from a single signal from the laptop internal connection to about ten available connection. Most of these were security enabled requiring a password or key to connect, but three or four were open connections and the marina connection went from barely connect to a strong connection. I am sure we will still get the puzzled looks and "what is that" but at least now it looks acceptable and should be well protected from the elements. Now we just can't wait to use it while we are cruising again.

Read some of our additional thoughts on security and open wifi signals here. 

Click here to read part 3.

8 comments:

  1. We love your blog. We are currently restoring our 36 1972 Gulfstar trawler..single 120 Lehman. It is amazing how similar the boats are constructed. We are using your info on the sliding doors on our boat and I just ordered the parts for the wifi system. One question...In your new version of your wifi antenna...you mentioned a new cord you use from the 362 unit that goes to your computer. I am trying to find one and have had no luck. Could you give me some leads on where to find it?
    Keep up the posting...your articles are well written and the photography is great.
    Thanks again
    George and Donna
    BlindFaith docked on the loop in Kentucky.
    email blindfaith1972@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. We found the cable at pccables.com and the part #70568 should be a 15 foot USB to mini plug. Glad you like the site and that it helps you some. You should be very pleased with the results of the WiFi adapter. We have lots more projects coming up. Chuck

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  3. We put together the wifi antenna this past weekend and were blown away!! Took a cruise and pulled a strong free signal from a marina 3.2 miles away. Found lots of unlocked signals from homes along the way as well. Thankyou for the headsup. Will come in very handy. You guys are an inspiration.
    George and Donna
    email .... blindfaith1972@gmail.com

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  4. George and Donna, It is always great to hear that someone used our ideas and they worked well. We have just been delighted with the performance of the WiFi for over a year now. Several folks have built the system and really like it. The biggest plus is the simplicity. So easy a cave man can do it. Chuck

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  5. I always appreciate your blog posts.

    We moved aboard a 44' sailboat in May and are in the midst of a one year refit before cruising full time.

    Inspired by your posts, I just ordered the parts for building our wifi adapter.

    How did you attached the antenna to the pvc cap?

    Where did you find the weatherproof gland?

    Did you still have a need for the coax seal? If so, where did you use it?

    Thanks for your help.

    Doug Paddock
    Banjo, 1978 CSY 44
    Wilmington, NC

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  6. Doug, We are glad you have found the site helpful. I will try and answer your questions. If you drill a hole in the center of the top cap as shown, make it the same size as the threaded part of the antenna, the nut that comes with it to attach the antenna to any other mount will hold it in place. Use some silicone around the antenna base to seal it. The cable gland can be found at many places on line, just Google Liquid Tight Cable Gland - PG-13.5. We did use the coax seal at the cable gland to further weatherproof it. I hope this helps and good luck with your project. Chuck

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  7. Thanks. I think I'm ready to dig in on the project now.

    Did you attach the plastic antenna mount at the bottom with a ring, too?

    Warm regards,

    Doug

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  8. Doug, That mount, if I understand you correctly, has a plastic nut and washer that is part of it. The mount is actually a rail mount for a VHF antenna. Chuck

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