SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Wifi in the Bahamas

August 22, 2016

I believe it was Fatty Goodlander who said that the only problem with being able to work wherever you are is that you have to work wherever you are. Nowhere was this proven more true to me than the months we spent in the Bahamas this summer.

The great thing about the Bahamas is that they are distant enough from each other that they rely heavily on cell phones to communicate. For the working-online, traveling sailor, this is a nice bonus. Not only is there incredible sailing, swimming, and snorkeling along these islands, but they are all connected to the outside world. In fact, BaTelCo towers are one of the best aids to navigation in the Bahamas. Sure beats a tire on a stick.


Not a bad view out my office window

Before we left the continent, I asked fellow online working sailors who had traveled through the Bahamas recently what they would recommend. The answer was unanimous, so I followed their advice. I contacted Mr. SIM Card to purchase an unlocked phone with the correct frequency for the Bahamas and a SIM card. Though it was a bit pricier than I'd hoped, it turned out to be an excellent deal in the long run.

When we got to the Bahamas we had a few tense hours while Mr. SIM Card and I communicated via rapid texts, trying to get my phone set up. (I believe he let something slide when he sent me the phone. It wasn't set up correctly. Without knowing this for sure, however, I won't condemn him for it.) To his credit, he answered the phone at 7:00 a.m. (I had a deadline and was a bit frantic) and stayed with me for over an hour until we got the phone set up. From that moment on, my BaTelCo experience was amazing.

I bought a 5 gig data plan for $50: a bit pricy, but the same thing I was paying for Verizon in the States. Even when we were anchored where we couldn't see another person or boat, I had signal. Only once was I not able to work. On a mooring in Warderick Wells my BaTelCo phone couldn't get a signal. I still could have paid for daily wifi, but I was content to "not have service" for a change. When we were leaving Chub Cay Marina I asked the fuel dock attendant if he thought I'd be able to get signal from Frazier's Hog Cay. He wasn't sure (I ended up having a fantastic signal.) so I asked about how far out they got signal. "Half-way to Nassau. And then we pick up their tower." I knew right then that I'd not have a problem.

When I had used 75% of my data plan, BaTelCo sent me a text. I chose then to get online and "top up" my account with another $54. (The plan is $50 but don't forget VAT.) That way, once my data was gone, I could call their automated number and purchase a new data plan. (Otherwise, it's hard to get online to top up your account if you don't have internet.) The one time their system wasn't working and I didn't get the warning text, I simply called them and they topped up my account over the phone. You can also buy cards at most stores, but I never had to go that route.

There are a few things I would do differently. Now that I know the frequencies that I needed (My phone was 850/1900/2100.) I would purchase an unlocked phone elsewhere, such as this one from Amazon.

I would also have set up my phone while we were still in the States and I had another phone to use to call for support. Though it worked out, our first day in the Bahamas could have been as stress-free as the next 5 months had I worked out the kinks in my phone ahead of time. (Or not tried to travel during a project, but it's hard to turn down a weather window just because I have a deadline.)

But my favorite part of this experience came just the other day, 1,000 miles from the Bahamas. I walked into an ATT store on St. Croix, handed the woman my Bahamian phone and said, "I was using this to get wifi and create a hotspot for my laptop in the Bahamas. Can you make it do that?" She smiled, inserted a SIM card, pushed a few buttons, and handed it back to me. So the same phone that allowed me to work throughout the Bahamas is serving me once again. Not only did I not have to buy a new phone, but ATT's data plan is 10 gig for $60. I'm starting to think it may be time to find a place on this planet without cell service so I can take a vacation.

Whether the problem is a lack of education or a simple lack of give-a-shit, a large proportion of sailors don't follow flag etiquette. MONDAY we'll work on improving the education component.

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Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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