It’s 2016, and living on a boat is no excuse for not having internet. Plus, Charles and I like the internet. We don’t have TV or a phone line on the boat, so we use the internet for everything.

Unfortunately, our Marina feels no responsibility to provide what is at this point an essential utility at a home. They provide a marina wi-fi, which is nearly impossible to connect to and fully impossible to do anything with. I have heard rumors that someone downloaded a podcast on it once, but that story feels like it has been handed down the generations.

Some marinas kindly provide internet connections in your dock box, so all you need to do is wire the short distance from your dock box to your boat. Easy as pie.

For us, it’s a long journey from the top of the dock to our boat. AT&T claims no responsibility for anything past the connection box at the top of the dock, and the marina claims no responsibility for it whatsoever, which leaves us responsible for the no man’s land.

This is the fourth time we have done this project. I am so tired of it. It does not get quicker after the second time. We are super efficient, and it still takes at least 6 hours.

The rest of this is mostly for anyone who is interested in wiring their own internet, or is curious about how much effort it takes to get internet to a boat.

Here’s the process:

  1. Buy category 6 cable, copper, with a nice thick casing. We usually buy 500-1000 feet. Yes, it really is that expensive. No, AT&T and your marina will not care.
  2. On your installation day, make sure that you have plenty of daytime left, and make sure you have time to shower before you go to anything after. Wear clothes that you can get super disgusting. If possible, have at least 2 people working on it. 1 person can do it, but it will be a long, hard day. More than 4 people will be excessive.
  3. Handy things to have:
    1. At least 100 zip ties, and more is better
    2. Staple gun
    3. Electrical tape
    4. A boat pole
    5. Wire strippers
    6. Cutting pliers
    7. An endless supply of patience
  4. Go analyze every single finger and wart (what we call the slips that come off the finger) that your wiring is going to have to go under. In many cases, there will be clearly old, unused, or even snipped wire, that you can use as sending line to bring your new line under each finger. If not, make sure you have your boat pole handy.
  5. Leave the big roll of of cat 6 cable next to your boat.
  6. Tape the end of the wire with electrical tape as best you can, to try to prevent any water from getting in during the sending process.
    1. Whenever possible, do not pass the cable through water. Also, when securing the cable, try to make sure as little of it is underwater as possible – those sections will erode much more quickly.
    2. If you have two people, split the responsibilities – P1 should be working on constantly bringing more cable through; P2 should be doing staples/zip ties.
  7. Free up 15 feet + of cable at a time form the roll. You want these sections to be long enough to be manageable, but not so short that you have to pull another every 5 minutes.
  8. Use a zip tie to attach the cable right next to your boat.
    • DO NOT fully tighten the zip tie. You will want all of them to be loose, so that as you continue stringing the wire, it is easy to get through.
    • If there is something to attach it to, great. If not, use your staple gun to provide something to hook into. It is best to not attach it to other bundles of cables, because you never know when the marina or other people are going to work on and clip those connections, suddenly leaving your nice cable in the water.
    • When possible, push it under the wart, ideally where it will not be under water (like between concrete blocks).
  9. Continue along the warts and fingers, as close as possible to the dock. This will prevent other boat owners from accidentally pulling it out. Make sure you string it under lines, or power cables, etc. – make it as easy as possible for your internet to be out of the way.  
    • Remember, do not pull any of the zip ties fully tight! Keep pulling cable from the roll by your boat, and bring it through the zip ties already attached.
  10. When going up the ramp to the dock, make sure you leave a lot of slack – not enough that it will ever be in the water, but enough that the rising and lowering of the water with the tides will not strain or pull out the cable.
  11. Call your internet provider to have them come out to the box and turn the internet on. You will need to supervise 100% of this, because otherwise they may not connect the right cable, they may say the could not find the box, etc.
  12. Last: Make a nice long bundle, 8-10 feet, near the boat, and wrap it together with tape or zip ties. You will need this for when something inevitably goes wrong, or you need to move one slip over because your marina told you to, or because the sun eventually corrodes some tiny part of the wiring. Then, cut the wire another 5 feet after that. Connect (or ask your ISP rep very nicely to connect) the wiring to a head, which you can then plug into your modem/router device.
  13. Shower, weep with joy, and try to forget the pain so that if you ever have to do it again, you can start with optimism.