Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mattress replacement and Wifi Hotspot

After getting over my "crud" that I've had for the past 2 days, I finally got a little bit done around here and am feeling all productive again.  Actually, my productivity began yesterday afternoon, when I decided that it was time to see if an electric knife really can be used to cut a 6" thick piece of foam.  A few months ago, I read about mattress replacement options and ways to replace your old, worn out mattresses.  Replacement foam can be purchased at Walmart or online, and could be trimmed with an electric knife to whatever size is needed....

They come in 4", 6", and 8" thicknesses and that includes a 2" layer of memory foam.  So to try it out, I ordered a queen sized mattress for the starboard, aft cabin about 2 months ago.  The easiest thing for my family to do at the time (since I was still in Texas), was to just throw it in place because nobody wanted to take the responsibility of messing it up.  

So yesterday, I cleared off the table and hauled the mattress out of the cabin and marked off the pattern.  The mattress came out of the box with an outer lining that I had to cut off and discard.  The next layer unzipped and was removed before I trimmed the foam.  Afterward, I simply covered the mattress back up and tucked the excess cover under the mattress when it was back in place.  The final product looks better than I had expected it to and has been comfortable to sleep on.  Now, I just need to order a couple more for the other two cabins.

Old mattresses laid down for pattern

Zip-cover back in place over trimmed mattress

Back in the cabin

The next task on hand today was to get my Wifi Hotspot up and running.  I was inspired by This Rat Sailed and his installation of The Wirie AP.  When I first looked into setting up wifi on board, I also came across "The Wirie AP" and was about to pull the trigger on it, when I found a forum talking about the same hardware, and everything you need to install it, at a little less than half the price.  So I went ahead and bought the "kit" from the recommended website and had it delivered to the boat so Justin could install it (he seems to get a lot of these assignments.)   After a few days of him installing the kit, he was getting frustrated with the progress.  He had called tech support from the company we bought it from and never really seemed to be happy with the results.  They ended up sending him a newer Alfa component to see if he could get any better results.  Soon after that, he went to New Orleans and never picked it back up after his return.  

I had also pretty much given up on the idea, and was ready to toss the bits into the trash, when This Rat installed basically the same components and was getting decent results.  So last night I pulled out the "kit" and started playing with it.  I was sitting here in the saloon holding the antenna up and connecting to the internet about 1000'-2000' away (as best we can tell) and decided that Justin might have just been expecting LTE speeds on free wifi.   

The 8dbi antenna, the Alfa R36, and the Alfa AWUS036NHR

The system picks up an internet connection through the 8 dbi antenna, runs it through an Alfa box (not sure, maybe a repeater?), then attaches through the another Alfa router that our laptops can bump off of from inside the boat.  The only wire ran to the outside box is 12 volt power, everything else is wireless.  

Home Depot saw another visit from us this morning for a weather-proof container and U-bolts.  It took all day to modify the box and to run power to the 12 volt panel.  The box was then mounted on a spare accessory pole at the back of the boat - all the little components tucked into it so well that they didn't even need to be secured.  As I write this blog, even though we are only running at about 58% connectivity to the host, I am uploading pictures, surfing the internet, and even downloading Youtube videos - if not just a little bit slower than usual.   All this for about $170.  So while our initial cost was quite a bit lower, there has to be an expectation of building, tinkering, and troubleshooting as compared to The Wirie AP.

Everything tucked into place - utility box was the perfect size

Box latched and picking up free internet

But the real work begins tomorrow as we move our sleeping quarters from the aft starboard cabin to the aft port.  That cabin has been used as a catch-all for just about anything and everything, so yesterday, we started clearing it out and putting things in their correct places.  With only the new batteries and the inverter under the aft port mattress, there is no reason to access the area any longer on a continual basis.  Under the aft starboard cabin is a different story.  I have a watermaker that needs repair and a new discovery that needs our attention - a Groco Hydromatic Strainer (about a $2000 sea-water garbage disposal).  So we have to get out of that cabin so we can access that area for extended periods of time. 

This strainer feeds the watermaker, A/C, and Generator


  1. Yep, those contents look about like the Wirie, except the Wirie doesn't have all the cable for the antenna. Don't know if you can shorten it or if that is the cause of any signal loss. Normally I would have gone the project route but I think I have enough projects to keep me busy...and that strainer makes me think you do too. ;-)

    I think speed is limited by the 102.11g protocol to 54Mbit and with error correction is probably closer to half that. I've found that my biggest speed limitation is the service I am connecting to...usually free wifi is throttled per connection and running a speed test seems to confirm this.

    Given we installed at about the same time, will be interesting to see if one antenna outlives the other.


  2. Hey Mike, i hope you understand that I was giving you the credit that got me motivated to see for myself if my setup would work. Without you installing yours, I was real close to giving up on ours just because my son was done messing with it. I just need to see your example installed and working before I could get motivated - and besides, I had all the parts to put the system together. And yes, looks like I definitely got my hands full again with the Groco Strainer - we'll know more tomorrow - but it just seems that I can't get away from even the most mundane project either - they stack up on me.

    But on the bright side of things, our list is definitely making good progress in the right direction even when I take detours to Wifi world.

  3. Hey Mike, one more thing - you have a generator and A/C's on board, so what kind of strainer does your boat have installed that feeds them? I'm guessing there are less expensive ways to go due to the feedback I've received. Do you know of alternatives? Or can you share your setup?

    1. Hey Ray,

      First no worries...wasn't trying to do anything except provide possible advice if your Wifi solution wasn't picking up signals as well as it should...well and justify in my own mind why I spent the extra money when I could have built one myself. It's all good.

      My generator has a separate strainer just like each engine and each AC has it's own strainer as well. The ones on the engines and genny look like this one:

      The ones on the AC units are black with a wing nut at the top...but are similar in design...just a screen to catch stuff. But each device has it's own strainer in my setup. I do recall reading another blog that had...man I wish I could remember what they called it...but it was essentially a single big strainer and raw water supply "box" that fed a number of systems. Seems similar to what you currently have. Hope this helps...not sure I have any advice to give you there...not that my advice on boat repairs carries much weight anyway. ;-)

      Good luck!