Starlink four months in:  Too good to be true?

buy Pregabalin 300 mg uk As I write this we are clipping along at about 7kts flying the big code zero on a beam reach.  I am always nervous about flying that sail when the wind is gusty, especially when we are on a broad reach and the true wind is upwards of 15kts.

While the apparent wind isn’t all that high, as we are running down wind, if we were to round up unexpectedly, things would go head pretty quick and I don’t want to think about what would be involved in pulling down a torn sail that big.

Anyway, with the guys on deck keeping an eye on things, we are probably ok.  The problem is that the wind is not quite strong enough to rely on the small jib and main alone and we really need to keep the boat moving at a decent speed if we hope to get home in a reasonable amount of time.

Sunrise this morning was impressive.  Generally I take the last watch from 03:00 to 07:00 which gives me an opportunity to get some sleep (sort of) and be on deck when the sun comes up. Just one year ago I purchased an Iridium Go transponder that allowed me to get email and weather information in an easy-to-use package.  Between the unit and external antenna it cost me about $900 and I did the installation myself.   The unit worked very well and didn’t use much power.  However, it was very limited and I could only get email from a dedicated address and it was VERY SLOW: think dial up speeds.

The slow speeds, and data limited email and weather information, while adequate for use on passage, was just to expensive, at about $140 a month, to justify using it for any time beyond passages offshore.

Fast forward a year and Starlink came along.  The cost, at least in the beginning, was about the same as the GO and it was lightening fast, giving data speeds that exceeded those that I have at home.

That pricing and unlimited data usage only lasted a few months and by March I learned that I would have to upgrade to a much more expensive package of $250/month with limited 50gb of data while offshore.

Supposedly, there was another option for unlimited data while inshore, in a harbor I guess, at $120/month but how to toggle between that and the offshore data plan was, and remains, very unclear.

I have reached out to Starlink support more times than I can count and am still completely flummoxed by the options.  Can I subscribe to onshore use at a lower price and then upgrade to offshore when I am on passage?  It is unclear to me and no matter how many times I asked for help from support, I never got a clear answer.

I have many friends who also have the RV unit, like mine, that isn’t supposed to work offshore but it seems to, although it does drop the signal sometimes.  It’s hard to say how it will work over time given my limited experience with it, but others have said that they have used it successfully across the Atlantic.

Starlink does sell a maritime unit for $2500 that is designed to work offshore, while moving and I recently received a notice that I could upgrade and get a $900 discount, and keep my current unit.  That option is pretty appealing as the net-net cost to me would be pretty low, especially if I sell the “old” unit to someone who wants to use if for camping or some other non-ocean use.

I have noticed that the RV unit takes longer to boot up when we are offshore than when we are anchored and it seems to be less stable and drops the signal regularly.

I guess by the time I get to CT I will have a better feel for how well the unit functions and if it continues to be less stable, it might make sense to do the upgrade.

To be fair, the Starlink service is in its infancy with a very limited number of satellites in orbit but as more are launched and the software is updated, I may find that it works better.

In January I wrote a post “Starlink, too good to be true?” and one thing for sure is that it is a game changer but how that will work out from a cost standpoint remains to be seen.  At $250 a month for 50GB of data plus $2/GB beyond that amount is not sustainable for me or likely other cruisers.  To give that context, a typical household uses about a half of a TB every month and that would clearly break the bank for just about everyone.

Sure, the unit is super-fast but that makes it even easier to blow by the allowed usage and run up some really alarming bills each month.

For now I plan on using the service sparingly and will suspend it at the end of the month.  By the time October rolls around and I am preparing to head south for the winter, hopefully there will be a plan that makes sense for folks like me.

After getting used to having unlimited fast data this last season, I am surely hooked and let’s hope that Space X comes up with a plan that works for us “little people”.  If they do, I can only imagine how many cruisers will opt for the service in the coming years.  And, to make things even more interesting, Amazon’s Blue Origin program plans on launching a competitive product by 2024 which should have an impact on Starlink pricing.

Fingers crossed that Starlink doesn’t end up being too good to be true and that they will come up with a plan that makes sense.  If they get this right, Starlink will continue to be just about the biggest thing to hit the cruising community since GPS.



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