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Sailing With Starlink Internet
Sailing With Starlink Internet
By John Garner
Posted: 2023-04-07T00:38:04Z

During the last sailing season (2022) I used a Starlink satellite dish for Internet service on my sailboat. From May through September, I had Internet all the way from Long Island Sound to eastern Maine coast with no black outs. I have to say it worked astonishingly well.

The most common questions I got from fellow boaters were:

  • How well does it work?
  • How much does it cost?
  • And would you do it again?

By chance, I learned that Starlink had a Roam service. Starlink Roam service allows use of the Satellite dish from anywhere when you're on the road. The service has slightly lower speed, but nothing I found noticeable.

I like that you can pause the Roam service when you don't need it. I only needed the service for four or five months so that would be perfect for the boat. As to using Starlink on the land versus on the water – well, the reality is I'm using it when I'm on a mooring, at anchor, or on a dock. I don't have the service running when I'm underway as I'd rather be sailing than browsing the Internet. As of this writing Starlink isnt restricting where you use a dish or their service.

To use Starlink service on a boat you do need to have 120 volts. If you don't have an inverter, you'll need to get one. The satellite dish is about the size of a rectangular pizza box, it's not too obtrusive. I place the dish on top of the doghouse when I want to use it and wedge it into the hand holds so that it doesn't inadvertently fall off the boat. I run the cables through a hatch and plug it in. It comes with a wireless router that broadcasts the Internet service so any of my devices can simply join the wireless network.

I still work full time but I do have the luxury of taking a good part of the summer off. I stay connected to the office and have video meetings frequently. I previously relied on Marina Wi-Fi and cellular service. As any boater will tell you, neither are great options. Starlink has enabled me to work remote much more efficiently. It allows me more time to enjoy sailing life as opposed to struggling with Wi-Fi and hotspots.

As far as costs goes beware that the service terms and pricing are ever changing. Everyone knows Elon Musk is a little unorthodox so you will find your service and pricing evolving overtime. The price is increasing from $135 a month to $150 a month. Is it worth $150 a month? It is for me as I'm still working. I appreciate that when I'm done with the sailing season I'm able to suspend service billing until I’m ready to use it again.

One tip that I learned is to periodically plug in the satellite dish and power it up. A few people apparently have reported that if the firmware gets too old the device cannot be updated and you have to buy a new one. Ouch that would hurt because the initial purchase price of the device is $600. You don't have to have an active subscription to allow the firmware to update automatically. Play it safe and plug it in once a quarter to keep the software fresh.

I found the service surprisingly useful:

  • I made phone calls when there was no cell signal in Maine
  • Worked remotely
  • Streamed movies at night
  • Downloaded firmware for navigation, radar, and other electronic updates
  • Downloaded fresh maps and weather information
  • Shared WIFI with other boaters who were in a bind.

It was rather – civilized. As to would I do it again? Uh, yes, I would in a heartbeat.