Editor’s note: No, this is not an ad for Starlink – it was actually written, unsolicited, by Doug…
Starlink absolutely changes the game. High speed internet access at an affordable price that is easy to set up with a DIY install on the boat. We rarely get less than 10MBS download (5MBS upload). We normally get >20 MBS download, sometimes as much as 150+ MBS. We can use Zoom and Teams normally with very little to no clipping/dropping. Early morning seems best, which leads me to think maybe sharing bandwidth with other users could have a significant impact.
So, game changer – an exaggeration? Overblown hype? No, really. Compared to our previous communications solution, Starlink is like going from a scooter to a Ferrari. The speed of satellite connectivity is literally 1000’s of times faster. We get near instant, high resolution multi-source weather. Zoom meetings on the seas allow access to expert troubleshooter help anywhere.
It seems unbelievable. It seems like there’s got to be a catch. Too much power? No, < 2 amps. Too fragile, or not weatherproof? No, great weatherproof antenna, and seems robust. Too bulky? No, sits on the transom rail, obstructing nothing. I simply can’t believe it, except that I’m living it.
Earlier in the journey, I made a checklist for docking/arriving. There is only one item on that checklist that is all in caps – the last item: Find Wi-Fi and password promptly and get to crew. Whatever we might thank about sailing as an anti-technology activity, the world has changed. My family, friends and crew want and need to stay connected. Whether it is for work, entertainment, emails and texts or sharing photos, having the internet makes a difference. Yes, it can detract from the sailing experience, but it can also be a part of expanding it by enabling sharing and providing real-time access to information about your surroundings and destinations.
We’ve had some amazing crew on Lady Slipper throughout this journey; capable, hardworking, smart, enjoyable. Great crew has got to be the most important factor in safety and enjoyment. But highly competent people are in demand – their careers, family and other commitments compete with their desire and ability to sail. The people skippers want most are the same people everyone else wants, for all the same reasons. So, why is this crew paragraph in a blog on Starlink? It’s the second order effect - three of my favorite crew members have said that they would do more crewing if I had internet access. Now, on my legs from St. Thomas to Monterey, I’ve got people I know are great crew. Game changer.
I could go on and on. Little things like reserving a mooring ball for our next stop at 7am from a remote anchorage are no problem with Starlink. Want to use the required internet sites for clearing in to the BVI or USVI – no problem. Weather delay – no problem resetting marine reservations, communicating with crew, rescheduling flights, etc. Starlink is a game changer.