Grace’s redundant Internet setup

I have spent most of my professional life working on and fixing networks, and always want my personal network to be as reliable, speedy, and full of features as possible. My boats are no exception, and while I’ve written about Grace’s network before, I’ve never focused on the Internet/WiFi portion of it in detail. It’s obvious that boaters are interested in varying approaches to this, given the popularity of my recent article on Marina WiFi being hard to implement. So, without further ado, here is a deep dive on my network, and the things I like / dislike about it.

Overview

There are two major components to my system – a high quality, multi-function local router (Peplink MAX Transit) and a dual-band WiFi repeater/router (MikroTik Groove A 52 ac).

The Peplink is the core of the system – it provides a local WiFi network on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands, a LAN port to connect wired devices to via a downstream switch, a WAN port to connect the MikroTik, and dual SIM slots to connect to a cellular carrier for Internet access.

The MikroTik allows me to connect to remote WiFi signals. It’s connected via an ethernet cable directly to the Peplink WAN port. It supports both 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi networks, giving me more options for connecting. Having a dedicated device to grab WiFi signals is critical to having a quality, high speed connection.  This allows me to avoid using LTE data plans in places where WiFi exists.

In addition to the two core pieces, there is an outdoor LTE antenna (SureCall SC-288W) to ensure a strong signal, high quality ethernet cabling everywhere which is run far away from interference, a wide voltage range PoE injector for the MikroTik, and everything runs off of 12v DC power to be left on 24×7.

Grace’s network diagram

Peplink MAX Transit

Peplink MAX Transit installed

The Peplink MAX Transit product is perfectly designed for a boat, and has a ton of features worth talking about. It is a pricey piece of equipment (around $800) but well worth it because of the design, reliability, and functionality. Here are some key features:

  • Full router feature set (tons of features here)
  • Dual SIM slots / dual LTE antennas
  • Dual simultaneous 11ac WiFi radios (2.4Ghz/5Ghz)
  • DC power block (12-48V DC input)
  • WiFi as WAN
  • VPN
  • Advanced QoS
  • Much more

The full list of features is on Peplink’s page near the very bottom.

Peplink MAX Transit connectors

The device is very compact, and the industrial design is beautiful. On the bottom of the unit is the power connector block which is removable to allow for ease of wiring, and also has connections for a serial port interface, which I do not use. Below that are two USB micro ports that could drive wireless dongles or other devices, which is a nice touch. There are some status LEDs, LAN and WAN port, and a standard wall-wart power jack as well.

On the top are a ton of connectors for all of the antennas – two SMA LTE antennas, one GPS, and two RP-SMA for the local WiFi networks it creates.

Here are some of the key features I leverage on the boat:

Dual LTE SIM

Cellular Status Page

I use both AT&T and Verizon SIMs in the Peplink to allow me to connect to whichever provider is stronger wherever I am traveling. At a quick glance, you can see which SIM is in use, signal strength, IP addresses, and other useful info.

Cellular settings

If you delve a bit deeper, you can find settings which allow for granular control over which SIM to use, how to check whether things are healthy, and many other configuration choices. This is one of my favorite parts about the Peplink – being able to setup two completely independent LTE cell phone providers, and having it fail back and forth to whichever is more available, has more data, etc.  This allows for always-on connectivity without having to change settings, swap SIMs, or even interacting with the device.

Dual 11AC WiFi radios & external antennas

Peplink MAX Transit Antennas

The MAX transit is one of very few products I have used that has both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi radios in a compact, mobile package. Most devices are still only offering 2.4Ghz which is very congested in most marinas. Having 5Ghz provides super fast and speedy WiFi signals to all of the modern devices on the boat, especially guests and mobile devices. This is especially true given that 5Ghz works much better over short ranges, and that means people on the boat have speedy, reliable connections.

In the picture above you can see the two WiFi antennas pointing straight up, one for 2.4Ghz and one for 5Ghz.

In front of those are the two antennas for LTE / cellular connections.  One is pointed straight out in this picture (the one on the left) and the other is connected to a cable leading to the external antenna out on the stern rail.

DC power

Few WiFi routers on the market have DC power input and even fewer have an input range from 12V-48V. Add to that the super convenient power block for wiring, and you have a great router ready to run off of boat power. I like this feature mainly so I don’t have to worry about AC inverted power, converters, or the like to ensure the Internet connection is always on. Additionally, it provides a measure of security – I have mine wired in via a dedicated fuse to the battery bank so that it is always on, regardless of whether house power is on or off.

Full Router Features

Peplink MAX Transit Dashboard screen

There are too many features in the Peplink to cover in this post, but suffice to say, it is one of the most powerful and feature rich routers I have used. In fact, I have their small business products at home and the family cabin and have quite complex networks. For the boat, there are many great features, such as the dashboard above, that can help in troubleshooting problems, and provide tons of information and options.

One of the most critical and best implemented features is the priority WAN connection control. Above you see I have my LTE cellular connection in first priority, and then my MikroTik in Priority 2. This allows for near seamless switching between these connections in case of a failure, or just while changing locations. It’s so good, I don’t ever have to change things – when we’re at a marina connected to WiFi via the MikroTik, we can just pull out and leave, and the system will note when the WiFi connection drops, and simply start using the LTE connections.  Crew have been using the Internet while this happens, and never notice a thing.

Bandwidth settings

One of my other favorite features for the boat is bandwidth reservations. This allows me to setup groups of people – Manager, Staff and Guest above – and allocate specific amounts of bandwidth to them. You can even set individual user bandwidth limits. This is super helpful on the boat when we have multiple people all trying to stream Netflix or post videos or pictures from the day’s events. They fall in the “Guest” category, and if the connection is saturated, only get 1Mbps to work with. The Staff group is for my devices so that I can have a bit more bandwidth while planning and doing boat stuff.  Critical devices like the chart plotter, AIS, and my SignalK devices fall in the Manager realm, who have more bandwidth and never are squashed.

For Windows PCs and iPhone users, this is especially critical. Both of those devices have the tendency to completely saturate a connection either downloading updates (Windows 10 is particularly bad) or uploading photos (iPhone) and everyone else suffers. iPhones are particularly bad if you use iCloud to backup your photos – we’ve had a few guests on the boat that take lots of pictures of the day’s activities, and without these limits, would use a ton of bandwidth.

MikroTik Groove A 52 ac

MikroTik unit with antenna

The MikroTik Groove A 52 ac (a mouthful!) is a nice piece of hardware designed to grab remote WiFi signals via an antenna, and share them with an Ethernet port. It can also be setup to be a bridge, router, local WiFi point itself, and a bunch of other configurations. In fact, if there is anything wrong with the MikroTik, it’s that it’s too much of a swiss army knife, and can be a bit overwhelming to configure. It’s weather-proof and can be mounted outdoors – I have mine on the stern rail of Grace. Many people have had issues with the Rogue Wave and Ubiquiti Bullet (same hardware in those two units) failing because of marine weather conditions. The MikroTik is slightly better in my opinion, but will still likely have a failure in a year or two. I don’t mind as the technology for WiFi networks changes so rapidly, and these devices are so cheap ($79) that I can buy a new one every 2 years. If you invest in a Rogue Wave or other custom solution, it’s a different situation – having to pay $300-400 every 2 years is definitely not a solid choice in my book.

Groove A 52 ac
  • Mikrotik RBGrooveGA-52HPacn Outdoor CPE 802.11ac support, Weatherproof, durable and ready to use.
  • Mikrotik RBGrooveGA-52HPacn comes with Level 4 license and includes Dual Band 2.4/5GHz Omni directional antenna.
  • Wireless standards 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • GrooveGA 52HPacn Antenna 6dBi (2.4GHz) 8dBi (5GHz)
  • 720MHz RAM64MB Storage size 16MB RouterOS License level 4

I have mine setup to grab 5Ghz WiFi signals primarily, and it’s connected to the WAN port of the Peplink device. The Peplink does health checks to see if it can get to the internet and the upstream DNS servers, and if it can, it considers the MikroTik connected to a valid WiFi network and routes all of the traffic out that direction.

MikroTik status icons

The base unit has helpful LEDs that tell you whether it has a LAN connection (bottom) and then the signal strength of the WiFi signal it is connected to. While I’m out in the cockpit, I can glance over at it and easily determine whether we have a stable WiFi connection in whatever marina we’re in.

On the bottom of the unit is the ethernet port, and a reset button, which you want to become familiar with. MikroTik has a very complex UI called RouterOS and you can definitely lock yourself out easily if you are not careful.

RouterOS main screen

The main screen within RouterOS gives you a wealth of information about the connection, speed, strength, network settings and a graph of signal strength. On the left hand side you see the menu for all of the various options – each of those options have at least 3 other sub menus – some have 10-20. This is one of the challenges with MikroTik & RouterOS – it has a ton of options and features, and is extremely complex to configure if you get deep in the menus.

RouterOS is a full-fledged router operating system, capable of being an enterprise solution with all of the bells and whistles. For my use, I configured basic routing, DHCP, and then a bit more in the WiFi area to configure the security settings and SSIDs to connect to.

WiFi network scan

RouterOS is fantastic at giving you a wealth of information on the networks around you. Above you can see the various networks near me while testing, and all of the channel and signal strength information. When visiting a marina, this information is very useful in choosing the best network as well as access point. There are even more details if you click on each AP, and more screens throughout the interface that can be very helpful.

Busy wifi scan

Another useful feature that I have not seen elsewhere  is the ability to scan networks and get a channel list and usage numbers. This allows you to see which channels are too busy for good communication, and avoid connecting to an AP that is on those channels, or plan other connections.

WiFi settings

The depth of control over the WiFi radio (among other things) is pretty stunning, almost overwhelming. The basics are there, including channel, frequency, SSID and more. On top of that, you can get as detailed as channel chains, guard interval, and even more. This screen shot only shows about 1/3rd of the total options you can configure. While this is great if you need that power, for most users it will be overwhelming.

You can also see a ton of other options at the top of the screen to setup the connections, provide a list of preferred networks, and much more. The amount of options is great, but again can be completely overwhelming to a normal user. I plan on posting a follow up article on how to configure a MikroTik for this purpose.

Traffic stats

You also get great stats on the connection and usage right in the interface.

Overall, the MikroTik is a great device capable of amazing things, and serves the purpose better than Ubiquiti and other products for a lower price. It also supports 2.4 and 5Ghz networks, which most of the competition (if not all – I don’t know of anyone yet) does not support in a single unit. It’s single flaw is the complicated interface, which folks like Rogue Wave have simplified for the Ubiquti Bullet.

Design Considerations

Reliability

Outdoor LTE antenna

At the core of everything I have done with networks is reliability. That means having multiple ways of ensuring things work, and on the boat, that translates to more than one way of connecting to a remote signal. Combining the Peplink’s multi LTE feature with the MikroTik’s remote WiFi gives me a ton of choices to ensure I’m always connected to the Internet no matter where I am.

In the last 15 years of having some sort of Internet connection on the boat, this is the most redundant setup I have ever had, and while cruising the last 2 years around Puget Sound and the San Juans, I have never been disconnected from the ‘net as of yet.

Modularity

Each component of the system should be independent enough to be able to be upgraded or replaced if needed. None of the devices I’ve chosen depend on the others. I could easily remove the Peplink and replace it with a Cradlepoint or a home grown solution if I wanted to. I’m using standard ports and connectivity – Ethernet, SMA antenna connectors, DC power, etc. – which are compatible with a wide range of hardware.

This also gives me the ability to upgrade and test new items as they come out without completely ripping things apart, as I’ve done with the MikroTik vs. Rogue Wave. While testing at home is also possible, there’s nothing better than dropping a bit of equipment in the real environment and subjecting the crew to testing while out on the water.

Management

inControl Management

Managing a network of any kind is a critical factor in ensuring it runs well. Too often I see network implementations both on boats and for large scale companies that overlook this critical part of the system. For my boat network, having the Peplink management interface is fantastic, but I take it one step further and use their inControl2 interface.

This provides a web-enabled view of the devices I have in my network, centralized logging, user statistics, and alerting and monitoring. If there is a problem with a port, connection, or VPN, I get an email immediately, and can see visually what is working / not working. I can also see performance trends, graphs, information and details on how the devices are working, as well as when their support contracts are due. All of this is free with the Peplink device.

Remote Access

My personal VPN network

Accessing the boat from anywhere in the world is a requirement for my design as well. I have several devices on the boat, including an iKommunicate and Raspberry Pi running SignalK, that provide critical information such as battery voltage, temperatures, and status of shore power that I want to monitor in case of an emergency. In addition, I use SmartThings to drive on-board heaters in the winter, and ensure things are safe and sound – it requires Internet access, and when something alerts me, I need to be able to connect remotely as well.

The Peplink connects via VPN to a remote server in the Amazon (AWS) cloud. This same cloud has connections from my home, and the family cabin in Eastern Washington. A bunch of firewall rules and other controls exist to prevent the average user from accessing everything. However, I can access pretty much everything, from everywhere. While sitting at the cabin, sipping my coffee on a winter’s morning with bone chilling temperatures, I can access everything on Grace without any crazy connections or risky ports open on my firewall. Traveling in Singapore, I can connect back to the boat and see how much water is in the tank, all safely and securely.

Support & Community

While I am pretty good with networks and computers, I still want a good organization to back the products I install, and quality ways of getting support. I am also a big fan of online communities that enable you to find solutions and interact with both the people who make the product, and other users who use it. It shows the true side of the company and the product where they can’t hide from bugs and problems.

There are two companies who have some of the best user forums I’ve ever come across – Peplink and Ubiquiti. Both have vibrant communities with representatives from the company that continually participate in the conversation. I’ve posted a number of threads in both, and had great conversations about configurations, bugs, features, and more. They’re very honest, and admit when there is a problem in their product, which is hard to come by nowadays. That alone provides me with a level of comfort that you can’t get most places, and keeps me coming back as a customer.

Other Solutions

I have used, tested, and reviewed a ton of other solutions both for home and the boat. Some of these include:

  • Wirie AP
  • Rogue Wave
  • Non-marine solutions
  • Cradlepoint
  • MiFi / JetPack
  • MikroTik
  • Ubiquiti / UniFi
  • Home built

Devices like the Wirie AP and Rogue Wave are purpose built for the marine industry, but use normal off the shelf components combined with custom firmware. My challenge with their products include:

  • Smaller company – support takes a lot longer, and they just can’t put the resources behind firmware updates and fixes that the bigger companies can.
  • Price – some of the components used in their configuration cost less than $80, yet are sold for $200-300.
  • Custom firmware – usually very restrictive and weird UIs. Only has features that they think boaters would want to use, others that the hardware supports are restricted or not available.
  • Reliability – constant failures and general reliability issues.

That being said, if I wanted something that was almost as robust as what I have now, I would go with a Wirie solution, potentially their SIM enabled device. Fair warning, though that the device does not fail over between SIM and WiFi without manual intervention, like the Peplink does, and they have far fewer router features which would make my setup challenging.

Non-marine solutions, such as your average home router, work very well, and are cost effective. Most non-tech boaters I know use solutions in this class, and don’t seem to have a ton of problems. However, they usually are only able to use remote WiFi signals, and do not have LTE or cellular connections. There are some solutions that will leverage a USB-connected device for this, but they are not mainstream.

Peplink has a ton of other solutions such as the SOHO and Balance One which I’ve used and also support USB cellular devices such as a MiFi or dedicated dongle.

Cradlepoint is a terrible company in general, and their product has become bloated and problematic.  They have very little community support, unlike Peplink, and are generally overpriced. Many of the features you get for free with Peplink, you would have to pay hundreds more to get with Cradlepoint. I know of several other friends who abandoned Cradlepoint because of poor customer service and problems.

MiFi’s and JetPacks are great, and I know many boaters that use them, but they don’t provide any redundancy, and usually have limits on how many devices can connect locally. They also have no Ethernet connectivity. They also use LTE networks, and usually you will have a data cap on them which you’ll quickly exceed with 5 heavy users on a wet weekend when no one wants to go outside.

MikroTik has some solutions that can be used for the local WiFi and SIM/LTE stuff, but they are very complicated, and very difficult to use. Upgrades have completely broken functionality, and general hardware and signal strength is not as impressive for their AP products as the one I’m using.

UniFi does not have solutions in this market anymore.

Home built is great, but has many other issues – lack of the same redundancy and features, reliability, etc.  They definitely are cheaper!

Conclusions

Pros

  • Reliable and robust without user interaction
  • Modular and very configurable
  • Fast – 2.4 & 5Ghz local WiFi networks, LTE and WiFi for remote
  • Easy to manage, lots of visibility
  • Bandwidth sharing, QoS, VPNs
  • Full router features

Cons

  • Not plug-and play setup
  • MikroTik interface confusing
  • Expensive

All of that being said, I love my setup – it’s been rock solid wherever I am – underway, at a remote anchorage, or at the home marina, and I will always continue to enhance and iterate components and pieces as technology gets better, but the core bits will likely stay the same – a world class router combined with a WiFi repeater. I’d highly recommend all of the pieces to anyone who wants a great on-boat network with maximum flexibility and capability.

Two crew members watching Netflix while underway last year

25 thoughts on “Grace’s redundant Internet setup

  1. Hi Steve. Thanks for this very interesting post. I have two questions, but please allow me to lay out the background. I am a network/systems geek working remotely for the last 15 years arriving at the realization that equipment and software has made a fully mobile high-speed internet office possible. For the kind of work I do, 99.999% uptime is required (HAHA, i know im exagerating but Im shooting for the moon here to see how close i can get) and ability to run VoIP and 3-4 simultaneous VPN connections (via software on laptops as well as from a router). The design should accommodate travel to anywhere in North America (US, Canada, & Mexico). For that reason, my current plan is to have carrier diversity via AT&T, TMobile, and Verizon, as well as Wifi-as-WAN capabilities (Satellite internet is still way too expensive, so its out).
    .
    To that end, i’ve arrived at three options, and am evaluating the pros/cons of:
    1) the Peplink Max-Duo (price is not advertised but believed to be ~$1,800) or
    2) Cradlepoint COR IBR900 with the extra cradle + second modem ($1,760 with 3 yr Prime support), or
    3) Peplink SOHO with 3 WAN connections and using individual modems for each carrier on each of the WAN ports (Est cost: ~$1,000)
    .
    Aside from price, I have two main concerns bugging me right now where I was hoping to get your opinion and any experiences:
    1) WAN selection/routing fail-over and fail-back algorithm/performance/SPEED
    2) forward and backward compatible modem hardware (support for LTE-A, as well as 3G when in the boonies)
    .
    For the first concern, I keep hearing how good Peplink is at routing to the best WAN link, but what does that mean exactly, and how fast does it converge? Can Peplink analyze packet loss, jitter, throughput, latency to select the “Best” of the WAN connections – in addition to a weighted preference for one WAN link over the other? So that, if the Wifi-as-WAN connection is available, but it is choppy or crowded and latency is high, it will still chose the LTE-A over VZ. Is that configurable and how well does it really work in the field?
    Same thing for Cradlepoint. They advertise this WAN failover minutiae configuration levels, but nowhere can I find data on how FAST the routing selection is done, what is the user-experience during this situation. Also curious how well the fail-back performs, is it graceful or is it bouncing back and forth between two shaky connections because the algorithm loops and trips on itself (which would translate into non-functional internet for the user).
    .
    For the second concern, Im a bit peeved that the on-board modem of the Cradlepoint COR ISB900 only supports LTE 4G, it does not appear to support 3G. The external modem that goes in the cradle to give you a second carrier (Cradlepoint MC400 modem) does support 3G, which is baffling. Im having a hard time justifying the spend, and wondering if option #3 (cheaper Peplink 3-way-WAN with three different carrier external modems) is really the best bet/bang for the buck/completely modular. If I set aside the price, IMHO the decision comes down to routing, software, and algorithm elegancy – things for which I completely rely on users of those products to describe. If possible, I would very much appreciate your experiences.
    .
    Anyhow, I know this is a long-winded post, please forgive me but its not a simple topic. Thanks for your excellent blog, again, i’m enjoying reading many of your posts. Wishing you the best.

    • Based on your design requirements, all LTE plus a WiFi booster seem appropriate. I would highly recommend T-Mobile for International and even US performance and coverage, mainly because of their “unlimited” plans. I have AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, but I rarely use anything but T-Mobile.

      I would not consider Cradlepoint at all. I have had a number of their products, as well as several other close engineering friends, and we abandoned most of their technology due to quality, support, cost, and business practices. Peplink on the other hand has reasonable prices, a completely open forum where they are willing to listen to customers, and have constantly been innovating the years I’ve used their products side-by-side with Cradlepoint. I could go on and on about Cradlepoint, but I will never use their products again, not unless they have a complete company turnaround.

      I have the Max Transit with two SIM slots, so only one active at a time. Several folks I know went the Duo route for similar reasons as you, and absolutely love it. It’s more compact than the SOHO, has a faster/better processor, and has more features focused on mobile platforms and enterprise usage. I have another friend that has the SOHO and it is missing some things feature-wise that the Max series has – I don’t remember all of them, but I’m sure doing a comparison on Peplink’s site will reveal it.

      I know Peplink just announced LTE-A compatibility with the Max, if I remember the recent press release correctly.

      In terms of link performance, I have not had any complaints and I’m pretty picky. We routinely leave a marina while connected to the local WiFi, and the health settings detect things have gone below whatever thresholds I’ve set, and flip over to an LTE connection depending on which one is up and already ready to take the traffic. There is a lot of control over how things fail over, when, what order, and all of the health checks and minimums that you want to put in place. It’s not going to be as crazy as some sort of weighted average or other factors such as jitter and the like at least for outbound connections.

      PepVPN uses a ton of those things like latency, jitter, loss, etc. to bond various connections together, split connections across VPN tunnels, and the like. I’m not sure that the outbound general WAN conditions are evaluated like that, but I would bet it’s pretty complicated. I would look at their forums for more details on this.

      I agree on Cradlepoints support of backwards compatibility. Peplink is supporting LTE-A, and my experience has been it will fall back to 2G even in bad locations, not that those speeds are useful. You’re right for modularity though – it would be better to get the SOHO and tack on modems. My experience though with two installs that use that config is that the modems are the weak point. Bad antennas, larger power draws, and needed firmware updates through their life that are hard to do when connected to the Peplink.

      So it’s a question of reliability, configurability, and performance (Max) or modularity (SOHO) IMHO.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if I missed something.

      • Took the first step in getting a wifi solution and purchased the Groove based on your experience. I am a bottom feeder in the IT world and I can’t get 192.168.88.1 to even ping. Looking forward to your configuration manifesto. Also, are you running a DC-DC buck boost for all of these electronics or just a circuit from batteries? Groove works well with 12v? Keep up the good work!

        • Greg,
          I would suggest doing a factory reset (the little hidden button near the ethernet port) to make sure things are setup right on the MikroTik. It should respond to that IP address from the beginning unless you got a dud.

          I’m not boosting the voltage, just running it directly off of 12V using a PoE adapter that takes 12V and sends 12V PoE I believe. I will check the next chance I have!

  2. this is a great article (and site) Steve. Im toying with building out the network slowly (lots of other boats projects requiring funding and starting with either cell or wifi not both simultaneously. Do you have any data on your usage profile in puget sound and san juans on what you end up using the most – cell or wifi?

    my gut tells me that cell boosting may be the way to go. (unlimited T mobile plan). but data would be appreciated.

    • I use wifi only about 25% of the time, and only when it actually seems to work, which is not very often. Bremerton and Port Orchard have an OK system that works if there are not too many people there. Port of Friday Harbor works well, and a few others I can remember. Many of them, like Roche Harbor, are overwhelmed by the amount of people using them, so I end up flipping back to LTE/cell.

      If I were to have to choose one, it would be cellular for sure.

  3. I cant wait to see your article that you mentioned writing in the future on the Mikrotik Groove configuration. I think this may help a lot of people, especially me. LOL

      • Please… any help on the Mikrotik. I want the dual-band capabilities, but it’s been impossible to configure successfully. I can connect, but it won’t pull an IP address from the wireless network DHCP (which I know works, only been testing with my home net) so no internet…

        • Hi Dave – happy to help via email if you’d like… So you’re able to get things to work at home, but not at the marina? Or not for any WiFi network at all?

  4. Steve, I have a similar setup on my boat for internet access, but am having trouble with the Groove. It will connect in CPE mode to some wireless networks, but it fails to connect to others. It appears to be a configuration issue on my part but I’m at a loss to identify it. Would be interested in your configuration article—I’m essentially using the CPE quickset mode.

    • I have been working on this for a while, as I have had a ton of requests for it. Hopefully I can get it done sooner than later…

      One thing to try right away – are you using the Scan functionality when connecting to a new network? Often this will solve some problems, but create others. Make sure in your wifi adapter that it isn’t set to particular 2/5Ghz bands or settings as they change not just for different networks, but sometimes APs will change those on the fly. Setting them to the most generic or inclusive will usually solve issues like this.

      • I am using the scan function to connect each time. I find that with some wireless networks I can see a strong signal in the scan, but when I tell the router to connect it just returns the “searching for network” status and appears unable to find/see the network or secure an IP address. Invariably such networks work just fine directly from a phone or other device. I am at a loss to explain what differentiates a network I can connect to from one I can’t.

        • Strange. A few other questions:
          Do you have the newest firmware installed?
          How are you dealing with passwords for particular networks? Creating new security profile for each, or just re-using the existing one?

          • I’m using the latest release version of the firmware. I usually connect from the scanner on the CPE quickset page which then restructures the default profile accordingly, but tried the regular scanner and a new security profile with the problematic network at my current location. Unfortunately, this produced the same result.

          • Is it just one network that isn’t connecting, or are there multiples? I have never had one that I couldn’t connect to, although I have seen MikroTik bounce around between APs on a single network rather poorly.

          • Unfortunately, I’ve had the problem with multiple networks, while others work perfectly. I suspect I have a setting somewhere that is the culprit, but no idea what it might be. Resetting the router and Quick Set configuring it from new does not seem to have changed things either.

  5. Where did you end up mounting the Max-Transit Router in your boat? How concerned should one be with interference from other systems?

    Also, do you have any recommendations for devices to monitor remaining battery capacity that might be exposed through NMEA-2K and IKommunicator? I’m aware of the Maretron DCM100. Are there others?

    If you weren’t on shore power, how long before the Max-Transit, Mikrotik Groove, and the Netonix switch drained your batteries?

    • I mounted the Max Transit in a cabinet I have dubbed the Internet Alcove. It is central in the boat, but with 5Ghz it really shouldn’t need to be perfectly in the middle. I wouldn’t mount it near microwaves, or near large power distribution or other antennas or transmitting systems. Given that it comes with an AC power adapter, you can plug it in and move around and test things from various areas.

      I use MasterVolt to monitor my entire power system since I have that already, and it has an N2K connection. The Maretron is good – I had it on my previous boat – but it is pretty expensive. To get the same data I have from my MasterVolt system you’d need the DC module, shunt, and battery harness.

      Victron and other manufacturers of power control systems also make gateways, so you might be able to find one there depending on what system you have. Non N2K systems like the Boat Command, which I use, also allow you to see some of this remotely to make sure things are OK depending on what you are after.

      I have a few more things that are always on – Max Transit, MikroTik, switch, SmartThings, iKommunicate, Raspberry Pi with N2K connection, MasterVolt N2K gateway and network components, Wilson LTE amp, Nemo gateway, and probably one or two other things. If I left those all running without shore power, I could likely go for 5 days without power. They draw about 1 to 1.5 amps. I can shut off the non-critical stuff and go longer.

  6. Hi Steve, any ETA on your Groove guide? I, too, have just purchased a Groove identical to the one you have, but am failing on getting all of the pieces sorted such that I can connect and scan for WiFi sources. Basic issue appears to be setup in Router mode: when I select “Automatic” under “Address Acquisition”, which IP address and gateway info is being asked for? Since I am not using a fixed WiFi source I want to scan all available APs), I am confused about what is being asked here… Any help is most appreciated!

    • Hi Andrew,
      I have a draft guide but it is very rough. I can send it to you if you’d like via email. It may not help for your particular question above, but it might give you enough info to get started.

      • Thanks Steve, much appreciated. The IP address I’m asking about (see excerpt from your own screen shot of the WebFig “QuickSet” screen) looks like it might be a local network, starting “10.”. I am just trying to understand what’s needed here as the Wiki is a bit sparse. Thanks.

        • Address Acquisition should be set to “Automatic” if you are connecting to random different WiFi sources. That is essentially the same as the standard term “DHCP” or dynamic address. Mine is showing a series of 10.x addresses as the WiFi network I was connected to at the time was allocating me a single address dynamically on that network.

          The Groove is setup just like another router with a “public” address being assigned by the WiFi access point you’re connecting to, and a “private” address which is the Local Network section. I personally leave that address set to something that doesn’t conflict anywhere else, and let it hand out dynamic addresses to my router port.

          You should not have to set anything in the upper section except make sure it is set to Automatic, and then when you connect to a good WiFi source, you’ll get an address from them.

          If you’re not, it could be related to the security settings for the WiFi network – I’ve seen this a lot as the MikroTik OS doesn’t really have clear instructions on how to set the right password for the network you’re joining.

          I will send you my draft PDF that I’ve used elsewhere – the intent was for it to be turned into an article here, but I haven’t finished it yet.

  7. Steve,
    I’m really glad I found your forum and your posts about putting Internet on your boat. I’m a self proclaimed “Boating Geek” and have put together a similar system. Peplink SOHO, Mikrotik Grove 52, Netgear 815s cellular modem with the weboost 4G and new Wilson marine antenna with 35′ of cable. I’m going through some networking growing pains as well as some less than favorable AT&T cellular signal strength in our marina. Wifi is current unavailable.

    My main (first) question is how you set up the cell modem and MikroTik. Are they both left in router mode or as bridges? Seems to me, I can access their configuration when in router mode vs, plugging them directly to a PC to reconfigure or select a new marina wifi. Then I’m faced with a double router or other DNS inconsistencies.

    Second, w.r.t. DNS, do you leave the MikroTik and cellular modem, and router for that matter to utilize the automatic DNS servers? Or should the wifi and cell modems point to the Peplink router gateway as the DNS?

    Last, my cellular signal in the marina seems weak. We get 5-8 Mbps. Sometimes we see 20-25 and other times we see 1-2. Very wide ranging. Speed tests through my boat system are generally less than via my iPhone (direct to LTE). How can I boost my cellular rate? Shorter cable? Different antenna?

    Really lastly…are you familiar with AT&T unlimited data plans available on eBay? Thoughts?

    • Hi Bryan,
      Thanks for commenting!

      I have helped another person implement a SOHO with the Groove – Peplink’s software helps make that easy since it is very similar across their different platforms.

      I would always setup any device upstream of my firewall device (SOHO in your case) in router mode. That way you can administer them, as you mention, but also so I could use whatever firewall they have in them as well. That just adds another level of protection.

      Yes you will be double NAT-ing things, but that happens in many places, and unless you are doing something specialized, like a complicated VPN or some gaming programs, you’ll be OK.

      For DNS, this is the way I would set things up:

      The upstream devices (MikroTik, cellular router) use whatever the provider sends to them. That means it will change based on who you’re connected to via WiFi in the case of the MikroTik, and whatever AT&T provides on the cell router. Some would argue that you should configure them to use Google DNS or CloudFlare’s new DNS servers that offer better privacy, less tracking, etc. Unfortunately, many WiFi systems in marinas use a captive portal or other way of signing in, and block you from using DNS servers that aren’t theirs. Some cellular providers do this, although I don’t think AT&T is one.

      Then on the SOHO, everything inside the network should use it as its DNS source of course, but the SOHO has configuration for each of the WAN connections. You would set each one to use whatever they hand out to you, which in both cases are likely to be the local addresses for the MikroTik and the cell router.

      So in reality, you’d have, say, 192.168.50.1 as the DNS on the SOHO, and that is what your local clients would use. The SOHO would then have an upstream DNS server of 192.168.1.1 for the MikroTik, and 192.168.2.1 for the cell router, that being their IP addresses each. They would then in turn have DNS addresses they would get assigned to use for whatever upstream.

      Seems like a lot of hops, but it isn’t that bad. The other thing you could do is add additional DNS servers in the SOHO, which they allow you to do per upstream WAN connection. This is where you could completely override using the MikroTik or cell router and use 1.1.1.1 (CloudFlare) or 8.8.8.8 (Google) which are much faster. You would need to test that the upstream provider isn’t blocking these, but this would speed things up a bit.

      On your antenna/booster setup – check out the review/project I just posted a few days ago at https://sailbits.com/best-lte-antenna-booster-boat/

      I would recommend for your setup:

      Swap the Wilson antenna for the WirEng BoatAnt. I saw significant gains from this antenna over the Wilson.

      Reduce the cable from the antenna to the booster to 15′ if possible. You say it’s 35′ now? That adds a significant reduction in the antenna overall benefits.

      Hope that helps!

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