Newsletter #304

Newsletter #304 - February 3, 2016

Bahamas Internet

>>> Bahamas Internet >>>

In 2003, we created our own long-distance WiFi antenna and amp from commercially available parts. Our goal was to have internet connectivity every few days in the Bahamas.

The system worked perfectly in the Abacos. At that time, all routers were open - no one knew to put a password on them. We'd ask a store if they'd mind if we used their router. They never even knew what we were talking about. So we made sure to buy things to "pay" for our usage. Out Island Internet was just starting up in Marsh Harbor. We visited them and bought their service by the week which worked pretty well along most of the cruising areas of the Abacos.

Then came ActiveCaptain and our need for fairly high speed internet increased. Between 2007 and 2014, we gave up on visiting the Bahamas due to lack of reliable connectivity.

Last year, Great Harbour Cay Marina promised we could have pretty good WiFi if we visited. We did tests from the US through some boaters at the marina and it was pretty good. We went and stayed for 10 weeks finding very good WiFi. We also bought a BTC SIM for testing and found great speed and access, although expensive, outside of Great Harbour Cay.

In the last year, BTC has upgraded nearly all of their towers. They have better range, better speed, and more bandwidth. So we crossed our fingers, hoped for the best, and planned to go fully cellular this year through the Berry Islands, Nassau, Exumas, and Eleuthera.

At the same time, T-Mobile announced the Bahamas had become part of their Simple Choice plan. For one non-contract price of about $50 per month, you'd get unlimited 3G cellular internet through BTC towers. That sounded too good to be true, so we went armed with a BTC SIM and a T-Mobile SIM.

Our BTC SIM was arranged through - there was a newsletter about them last fall:

We purchased a BTC SIM through MrSIMCard that was FedEx'd to Stock Island Marina Village in Key West. We emailed MrSIMCard when we left Key West, a day before crossing the Gulf Stream. They enabled the SIM and made it ready through some magical means. As we approached the Bimini tower, we sent a text to a BTC number and whammo, our phone was on the internet and tethering to every device on our boat. It worked exceptionally well without ever having to go to a BTC office.

Our test environment for T-Mobile was carefully set up. We'd only be using a 3G phone to more closely compare BTC against T-Mobile speeds. 15 nm outside of Bimini, we started getting 2-3 bars of BTC with our cellular amp. Strangely, we had no bars with the T-Mobile SIM. Same phone, same amp, same locations. No bars. This continued until we were anchored at Cat Cay.

At Cat Cay, we had 4-5 bars with the BTC SIM and 2-3 bars with the T-Mobile SIM. That's strange. BTC provided great 3G speeds - at least 1 mbps - and the same speeds with tethering. T-Mobile gave terrible speeds - under 200 kbps and unusable speeds for tethering. Website loading would time out under T-Mobile tethering.

This same test was tried underway between Cat Cay and Bird Cay, at Whale Cay, underway to Nassau, at Nassau, underway to Highbourne, and sitting at Highbourne Cay for 6 days looking at their 300 foot BTC tower. In all cases, signal strength with the BTC SIM was great. Access was possible 10-15 nm outside of land. At anchor and at Bay Street Marina in Nassau, speeds were fantastic.

T-Mobile? Not so much. Signal strength strangely appears only when within 1-2 nm of the tower. Speeds were slow on the phone itself and completely unusable when tethering was used.

At Highbourne Cay, we removed the T-Mobile SIM, terminated the plan, and requested a refund (our only requirement for testing the service). T- Mobile said we didn't compare access in a fair way. So a full description of the equipment and testing was provided. A higher-up then said that we needed a T-Mobile locked phone. So again, the test setup was explained requesting an explanation of how a locked phone would matter. That explanation has yet to be provided.

BTC has continued to be exceptional. When we're conserving our internet use, we burn through about 15 GB per month. BTC's cost of $50 per 5 GB is pretty close to US plan costs. It's easy to add more data to your BTC plan, all over-the-air. We have yet to visit a BTC office to do any of this. MrSIMCard has a companion website, That site allows you to add money to your account.

Some have complained that MrSIMCard charges a fee. But the fee is only a couple of dollars. Given that we pay them using a US credit card with no foreign transaction or conversion fees, we think it's a good deal. Plus, it just works and they make it simple.

When things settle down, we'll explain the mechanics of how the BTC plan works and how simple it is to extend your plan on the phone itself. It's all well done and easy to use.

These have been our experiences. We've purchased everything we used and no companies are paying us for testing or exposure. The only deal we demanded from T-Mobile was that they return the approximate $100 it cost to set up the SIM and plan originally. Your experiences may differ.

We're now anchored at George Town in the Exumas. We've had excellent internet access every day since leaving the US including WiMAX here in George Town.

The bottom line - needing internet access shouldn't stop anyone from cruising the Bahamas. Internet access is not expensive, is easy to obtain, and provides better speed than many areas of the US east coast.

>>> Defender 1st >>>

Watch this spot every week in the emailed newsletter for the Defender 1st special promotion. To sign up for the newsletter, create a new ActiveCaptain account at:

...or log into the ActiveCaptain website and select My Account at the top right of the page and make sure the Newsletter checkbox is checked.

Remember - Defender 1st: one product, one week, one incredible price.

When you're thinking about purchasing boating supplies, think of Defender first.

Dylan and Dee Dee have finally managed to get in some beach time here in the Exumas. They're enjoying the surf and taking walks ashore. There's always new folks to meet and they manage to attract attention wherever they go. They've settled into George Town for a spell. If you're nearby you can greet them most days on the bow of aCappella. If you're not, you can always find them on their blog:

Karen and Jeffrey Siegel
Castine, Maine
sharing the experience
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Newsletter Archive
We are currently merging the different ActiveCaptain websites into a single website.

Because of this, all later newsletters are being only put onto the ActiveCaptain Help Center found here:
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Older newsletters will be duplicated here until these pages are removed.

2016-03-02 #308 - Unexpected Benefits
2016-02-24 #307 - UK's MCA
2016-02-17 #306 - Chartplotter Support Questions
2016-02-10 #305 - One Giant Leap
2016-02-03 #304 - Bahamas Internet
2016-01-27 #303 - Community Anchoring
2016-01-20 #302 - Sharing Your Identity
2016-01-13 #301 - ActiveCaptain is...
2016-01-06 #300 - MMXVI
2015-12-30 #299 - The Power of Sharing
2015-12-23 #298 - Joyful times
2015-12-16 #297 - Thoughts of Cuba
2015-12-09 #296 - The Power of Love
2015-12-02 #295 - Windyty
2015-11-25 #294 - Mary Had a Little Lamb
2015-11-18 #293 - DeLorme inReach
2015-11-11 #292 - Celebrating Furuno
2015-11-04 #291 - Your ActiveCaptain Identity
2015-10-28 #290 - iPad/Android Tablet Owners
2015-10-21 #289 - The Top 5 Things...
2015-10-14 #288 - Skype
2015-10-07 #287 - Locations 1.2
2015-09-30 #286 - Cell Phone Frequency Issues
2015-09-23 #285 - Cell Phone Unlocking
2015-09-16 #284 - Mr SIM Card
2015-09-09 #283 - Route Storage & Sharing Continued
2015-09-02 #282 - Route Storage & Sharing
2015-08-26 #281 - Here's What You Told Us
2015-08-19 #280 - Bahamas 2016
2015-08-12 #279 - What is Services Missing?
2015-08-05 #278 - Aqua Map for Android
2015-07-29 #277 - Obtaining Critical Mass
2015-07-22 #276 - Our Backup Anchor
2015-07-15 #275 - Which Anchor is Best
2015-07-08 #274 - Pocket Mariner's SeaNav
2015-07-01 #273 - Services Galore
2015-06-24 #272 - Canvas and Upholstery Services
2015-06-17 #271 - Locations, Locations, Locations
2015-06-10 #270 - Keeping Track of Everything - 4

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