North Channel Cell Phone- internet via cell phone and WiFi

Bruska - March 16, 2012

I am new to the GLCC and heading to the North Channel in August. Wondering about cell phone coverage. i use verizon in US and wondering what is the best option for service. I will of course talk to Verizon about this but are there better options. Also wondering about Wireless cell cards for Lap tops? is there access to the internet using one of these or is the NC just covered by cell phone service. The main reason i ask is that i am wondering about the availability of all the GLCC info/charts on line while we are up there?

Any info would be greatly appreciated.




ve3erj's picture

Ken, glad to hear you are coming to one of the best cruising areas in the world. The Cruisers' Net operates on VHF Channel 71 each morning during July and August starting at 9 am. Cell phone coverage is often hit and miss in many of the anchorages which you will be enjoying due to high suroundings. Rogers and Bell have increased their coverage over the years and it is getting better but will never reach into certain anchorages and cruising areas.

I provide a free service contact service via the Net due to these difficulties. Before you leave home, I have recommended to boaters to leave my personal phone number with relatives and friends for emergency contact purposes. It is 705-368-2148. Although a great number of boaters make use of this service, in eight years I have never found it abused. Should I receive a emergency call, I try to contact the boat that day. In the event there is no response, the first item of business on the Net, the next morning, is a call out to the boat. All you have to do is be faithful in listening at 9 each morning. Our coverage is extensive since we broadcast from an antenna 110' above the water atop the Anchor Inn in Little Current. We have developed a wonderful community of boaters who are only too willing to assist. In 2011, the Net handled 6,684 calls with a new one day record being set of 172 boats calling in one July morning.

Should you wish to receive the Cruisers' Net Newsletter, just send me a post at and I'll be happy to add you. By the way, boaters are invited to drop in, say hello and listen to the Net first hand by coming up to the second floor of the Anchor Inn in Little Current.

Fair winds and safe harbours
Roy Eaton

melrd's picture

We have been using Verizon in the North Channel for more years than I can count. Generally the reception is quite good although there are some dead spots where service is spotty or non-existent. but you are generally no more than a few hours away from good cell service. The best coverage is in the western channel and all along the southern shore, until one gets to Little Current. The North shore of the channel is also good most of the time largely because HWY 17, the major east-west route in Canada is full of towers. And towns like Theselon, Blind River, and Killarney also have cell towers which enhance reception. If you go much further east of Killarney, into the Georgian Bay cell coverage is very spotty to say the least.

Call Verizon before you leave the states and get on the North American Plan. For about $20 per month extra you can get 450 hours of calling without roaming while in Canada. After returning to the states you can then go back on your regular plan.

Mel $ Susan Durchslag
"Class Act"

admann's picture

we have used our rogers stick all along the north channel and whenever the cell worked, which is now much of the areas, the stick would work. the upload and downloads are slower as the signal is not overly strong but it does work.
i beleive verizon uses rogers also as we met some verizon users who were online while in killarney.

i also suggest creaing print versions as much as possible.

have a great trip as this is where boating is at its finest!

actigner's picture

We have spent the last two years cruising the NC and Georgian Bay and have found the cell coverage to be very acceptable with our Verizon phone. There are some exceptions (Little Current is awful) but overall it's OK. In many cases once you're out on the water coverage improves. We also subscribe to the Nationwide + Canada plan mentioned earlier and find that relieves us from worrying about roaming charges. The only limit with that plan is that nights and weekends are capped at 1000 minutes a month.

As far as WiFi goes, we use what we find available in the marinas and although not always blazing fast it does the job. I suspect that some areas don't have the outbound Internet bandwith available that we find in stateside locations like hotels/motels. In most cases it's free but some fee based WiFi services do exist in places like Little Current.

Whaley's picture

Randy Whaley

Prime Time V

Welcome aboard GLCC Ken.

Verizon has an agreement with Bell in Canada and you will be surprised at how wide the coverage is in the North Channel as you travel through the area.

We are Canadians and have been traveling for the past year aboard our boat. Here are my recommendations to keep costs to a minimum while retaining phone, text and internet access.

For American coverage you are currently paying between $39.99 to $119.00 based on your usage and plan. You should be aware however that when you travel to Canada your calls will be subject to roaming charges. If you go to Verizon's Nationwide Plus Canada plan you will pay 20.00 more per month. Is it worth adding this feature, only you can decide. A two week trip may not justify the cost and you may be further ahead paying the roaming charges. Note that these plans cover voice communications only.

There are no cross-boarder plans for text and data usage whether you are a Canadian visiting the USA or an American visiting Canada. From personal experience, using text messaging or a cellular air card for internet access while roaming is prohibitively expensive. Mobility account charges following a trip to a roaming area (North Channel for you) can be %500 or more so, be careful using data and text features. Be aware that you will be paying roaming charges for all incoming data as well so internet or text messages can be costly and you have no control over what is being sent.

My suggestion? Do not use your cellular air card for data and if you have a Blackberry or I-Phone turn the data and text feature off while roaming to save money. Instruct your family, friends and office to call you if there are urgent messages for you rather than sending data or text. If you do need to retrieve a document find a WiFi connection or as a last resort, use your cellular air card.

One last note. For better WiFi connections mount a wireless router high in your boat. We find that this increases local WiFi signals considerably offering you better access while in port and for $50 it is an inexpensive way to increase your access.

Enjoy your trip!

Randy Whaley
Prime Time V

Chuck Mead's picture

Cell service is getting much better in the NC. Rogers is the Canadian carrier and a couple of years ago they put some new towers in along the north shore. I don't know who Verizon roams on in Canada, hopefully Rogers. Definitely check with Verizon. Roaming for phone calls is different than roaming for Internet usage so make sure you talk to them about both. As for the Harbor Reports, most people will create a "printer-friendly" version and print to PDF on their lap top. See When it comes to the NC, I suggest making printer friendly versions of the major sections. It is tooooo big to make one PDF of all the NC reports and too cumbersome to make individual reports.

Enjoy the NC and be sure to fly your burgee to fellow GLCCers will find you.