In 2011, Yachting sent me on a 72-hour sprint cruise north from Seattle aboard a 550 hp Protector Hauraki 40. We made it as far north as Vancouver Island's Telegraph Cove and as far east as the Teakerne Arm of British Columbia's fabled Desolation Sound, but my 40-plus-knot-club giddiness was curbed by the fact that my wife and I were closing on a house in Seattle. I couldn't access the Internet with my laptop to send or receive
financial documents. We (read: my wife) closed the deal, but the experience emphasized that, while cruising offers an essential escape hatch, online access can be mission critical. Fortunately, today's connectivity options make it easier to maintain Internet access during near-coastal cruises, particularly through onboard hotspots. Going back a few years, some of the most important innovations in multifunction-display technology have been embedded Wi-Fi cards and dedicated Wi-Fi devices (i.e., GoFree's WIFI-1 module) that connect to the Internet, provided that Wi-Fi signals exist. This scheme works well in marinas, but troubles arise when vessels leave these Wi-Fi bubbles. Satellite-communication systems provide global coverage, but they are more costly than cellular networks.