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Mikrotik wifi router HAP series

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. – George Washington

I’ve been busy learning the ropes from Ben over at Panbo.com so it has been awhile since I posted. No excuses though! It won’t be an overly exciting post but I wanted to tell you about my latest gadget – a wireless boat router. Costing more than a dollar – US$40 actually – I just received the router pictured in the photo which I ordered on eBay and came speedily from Latvia. The dollar bill is to illustrate its smallish size.

I had been using an old Apple AirPort router but it needed an inverter which wasn’t the slickest marine solution. It also used to flake out every now and then requiring a full re-configuration which was frustrating. What is Mikrotik? It sounds like a bug that might cause dutch lyme disease but I’m happy to report it doesn’t…

The Mikrotik Routerboard hAP RB951Ui-2nD 5 port wireless router (named by geeks for geeks) is small, light and best of all has a handy 10 – 28 volt DC input for direct wiring to your boat. Wireless protocols are 802.11 b/g/n. Be advised that it is strictly an indoor product. Not water resistant at all!

Rogue Wave wifi antenna

For now my intention is to use it to connect to my WaveWifi Rogue Wave antenna which is permanently mounted on the handrail at the back of my flybridge. The Rogue Wave uses POE as well but has its own separate power injector.

This is a 100 MBs router (not Gigabit) which should be more than enough for most boats. If you can think of an application that requires a faster router on board, please post it in the comments below.

The goal of all this is to be ready for the iKommunicate when it ships. The iKommunicate is not wireless and needs to attach itself to a router to be useful. I have a bunch of NMEA 2000 wiring to run while I’m at it.

One of the main reasons I purchased the router is Mikrotik’s RouterOS. Hidden from view, the router is actually running on Linux. The router’s firmware is regularly updated and is extremely powerful. This means that no matter what you try to accomplish later, it will be possible even if you need help to achieve it. Even though I’m a Mikrotik rookie, it was quick to setup via the easy to configure web interface which is accessed by direct ethernet connection on your computer at 192.168.88.1.

A guest network can also be setup so you don’t have to share your main wireless password. Here are instructions to set up a guest wireless network.

The router supports and includes Dynamic DNS for free. If that sounds technical, it is but here’s the layman’s version. Because your boat moves from port to port it will be connected to the Internet on different networks (cellular hotspot, marina wifi, satellite, etc). If you wanted to connect to your boat (remote monitoring or switching) from another boat or from land, you probably wouldn’t have a clue which IP address it was connected to.

Dynamic DNS means that the router connects once every minute to a cloud service and says “this is my IP address.” It says it over and over again (when it is on) and keeps the cloud service updated as to its whereabouts. All you need to know is the permanent host name that doesn’t change (e.g. 123456789.sn.mynetname.net). Mikrotik includes this service for free with their routers but you need to set it up in your router with these DDNS instructions. What isn’t obvious is that you type the command from a prompt which is accessed from the web menu on the left.

In summary:

Future proof: Yes
12v DC direct in: Yes
3G / 4G Cellular Modem Support: Yes
Powerful networking device: Yes
Dynamic DNS: Yes (free)
Guest Network: Yes
Power of Ethernet: Yes
Low Power Consumption: Yes < 5w
Cheap: Yes (Wow only US$40)

* Important note.  I discovered after much hair pulling that you need to make sure the router is in Home AP mode (it sometimes ships in WISP mode). Arduino doesn’t like Mikrotik WISP.

router os version

– Safe Boating –

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Adam Hyde (SIGNAL Kool Editor) is a member of Boating Writers International and has written articles for Panbo, SAILfeed, Power & Motoryacht, and Passagemaker. He lives in the Pacific North West in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, and is a self professed boat nut and marine electronics geek. His pride and joy is "Journey," a 1976 26 foot Tollycraft Sedan. When he's not out on the boat exploring he's often trying to figure out how to add more technology to it, hence this web mag. Adam is an advanced crew member in the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue and the author of 4 free boating related Apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores. See Adam's syndicated work

4 COMMENTS

  1. I also have one of these on my boat connected to a Bullet POE router for the boat to land connection. Both work great, but there is a bunch of configuration to do which will be hard if you don't understand networking and WiFi in some detail if you want to be able to connect your boat WiFi to the Internet via the Bullet.

  2. I have four Mikrotik routers at various places around the world, and love them for their configurability. I also have a Bullet used to suck in WiFi signals on the boat as well.

    However, I've gone the Peplink route for all of my main routers/AP's because of their amazing LTE support. The Mikrotik stuff is great for configurability, but it's not the most reliable stuff in the world for remote sites IMHO. Peplink's stuff has tons of reliability options, failover and WAN settings that allow you to have an always on connection with the least amount of cost to your monthly LTE plan.

    Of course, Peplink's stuff isn't $40! Can't beat that price!

  3. Steve, with your networking expertise do you know how to setup port forwarding on the mikrotik so I you access an internal ip on port 80 from the outside world by going to the DDNS hostname? Any issues with security? Perhaps a way to secure it with a password?

  4. Hi Adam,

    You can setup port forwarding on the Mikrotik, but I'd be careful security-wise. If you are thinking of exposing your SignalK server, you might want to wait until they get some security structure built in it, or proxy it through something that can provide some security.

    Mikrotik doesn't have anything that will do that, but you could run lighttpd or nginx or apache on the same box, use HTTPS on that, and then use mod_proxy or something similar to allow it to the service you're trying to export.

    I'm writing up something similar for my SignalK setup, and can share when posted.

    Also, one other thing you'll need to consider is whether you have a public routable IP address. Depending on your internet provider, you may be behind a proxy as well, preventing exposing it.

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