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‘To Starlink or Not,’ That Is the Baja Ha-Ha Question

One of the requirements for the Baja Ha-Ha participants is to have a long-range two-way communication device, and some may be considering the Starlink. For those who are, the Starlink does not meet the mandatory communication-device requirements. But the Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah has done the research and gives us a good rundown of the Starlink’s pros and cons so you can decide whether you want to add the device to your sailing kit. The Poobah says it’s a “definite ‘maybe’.”

Starlink, of course, is Elon Musk’s ultra-high-speed internet system from satellites. With shipping, it costs about $600, and the unlimited service is $100/month. Multiple devices can be connected at once.

On one hand, Starlink will not qualify as the mandatory long-range two-way communication device for the Ha-Ha. That’s because while it may work offshore some of the time, it’s not set up for that yet. And there are indications that it’s “geo-fenced” from 12 miles offshore of normal service areas.

On the other hand, it should work fabulously at Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria, and anywhere where one’s boat is within a dozen or so miles of shore. And after the Ha-Ha? Wow! If you’re going up to the Sea after the Ha-Ha and want to stay in touch or work from your boat, it’s proving to be a real game changer.

In this situation you could probably just shout to your neighbors, but when everyone starts dispersing, you might need a better system,
© 2022 Baja Ha-Ha

Oddly enough, Starlink doesn’t show coverage between La Paz and Puerto Escondido. Yet users have reported it works fabulously, both at anchor and underway between those two places. Similarly, the coverage map shows no coverage in the Vallarta area, but we’ve received reports that it works great there, too.

So, where Starlink works and where it doesn’t work is a little fuzzy, but it seems to work in more areas than claimed. Overpromising is a good thing.

Of course, if you’re going cruising to get away from all the bullshit, you won’t want Starlink.

Up until recently, there were two big problems with Starlink. First, you couldn’t get one. Second, you couldn’t “roam” with one outside your relatively small “service area.” Good news on both fronts.

The key is to not try to order a Starlink giving a “service area” in a populated area, like L.A., S.F., San Diego, Vallarta, or anything like that. You’ll be told to try again in 2023. The solution is to pick a “service area” in the middle of nowhere, and a shipping address wherever you want. We picked somewhere in Nevada as our “service area” but had the device shipped to our son in L.A. Whap! FedEx delivered ours in less than a week. And don’t worry, nobody at the “service area” address will ever be contacted or shipped anything.

The other good news is that Starlink now allows “roaming” outside  one’s “service area,” so the service area doesn’t mean much of anything. True, when you are out of your service area you are warned you may find yourself at the bottom of the list if they are having problems with bandwidth, but to date, we haven’t heard of anybody who has had that problem. In addition, Starlink owner Elon Musk has recently tweeted that he’s going to allow roaming.

Currently, there are about 1,800 Starlink satellites in the sky, about a quarter of the ultimate total. The system is going to get better and better, with more coverage all the time.

For what it’s worth, Musk rushed 10,000 free Starlinks to Ukraine as soon as Russia attacked. Ukraine reports 150,000 users a day, and Russia has been unable to curtail communications. Free speech!

The bottom line is that Starlink will not qualify for the Ha-Ha offshore communication requirement. You’ll need an InReach, Iridium GO!, SSB radio, or other device that can communicate via SMS text at all times.

Nonetheless, you may want to get a Starlink for the times it will work on the Ha-Ha, such as getting midterm election results when the fleet is in Bahia Santa Maria.

(Does anyone remember the time the Poobah had to report to the fleet in Bahia Santa Maria that there was no result in the Gore-Bush presidential race? Or the time Trump won? With Starlink you should be able to get the news yourself.)

The other thing about the Starlink package is that the package is less than two feet by two feet, and is light. You can “commuter cruise” with it. It’s also “plug and play.”

Baja Ha-Ha Starlink
So much technology in such a relatively small box!
© 2022 Richard Spindler

Registration for the Baja Ha-Ha is open now. To date there are 82 boats signed up. If you want to join the fleet, get onboard now at www.baja-haha.com.

The Ha-Ha departs San Diego on October 31 and concludes in Cabo 13 days later. Should you do one? We think the overwhelming majority of the 10,000+ who have done it would say “yes.”

This will be the Poobah’s 27th Baja Ha-Ha, and he wouldn’t miss it for anything, Starlink or no Starlink!

6 Comments

  1. Jefferson Asbury 2 years ago

    Which is more practical and affordable? Single sideband radio or iridium satellite phone or hotspot?

  2. >>Of course, if you’re going cruising to get away from all the bullshit, you won’t want Starlink.

    Hey Richard,
    It’s really sad that more and more people go cruising yet attempt to stay connected to the bullshit. There was a time when the cruising life was about leaving the consumer society behind, of striving for a different way to live; you espoused and encouraged that for years in the pages of Lat38. Now, many cruisers are simply exchanging an apartment for a boat; different location, same situation. What happened to expanding our view of the world and life by living outside of what we’ve been taught? How about viewing the world with one’s eyes and heart instead of through a youtube video, or the screen of a phone as you make one? Starlink will make the monetization of cruising even easier as we see this unique and precious lifestyle slowly absorbed into the “bullshit” of social media and consumerism.
    BB

    • Bill Gere (SV Shifting Geres) 2 years ago

      My feelings exactly BB!
      Sadly, I think we are still getting Starlink but we want to use it for good, and limit the BS.

    • Danny Hendricks 2 years ago

      Bruce, it sounds like you’re saying that there is a “right” way to go cruising, and clearly a “wrong” way.

      I’ll be the first to advocate for less screen time, moderating news, social media, and incoming information, and generally trying to find a balance between technology, information, and life, but these are deeply personal choices, and these choices ARE NOT necessarily mutually exclusive from expanding one’s world view, nor from living a more experiential life. I watch a lot of YouTube videos, and have learned countless things about diesels, electrical systems, rigging, fiberglassing, and the list goes on. And when I’m done, I go sailing, and I feel pretty tuned into the moment. (But I use my phone for charts, tides, weather forecasting, AIS, music and photos.)

      If you made enough money to go cruising indefinitely, then congratulations. Truly. But please don’t judge people who might have to keep working while they’re trying to realize their dreams. If I’m ever able to go cruising, then I’ll have to work remotely (and will need the latest technology) so that I can afford it, and that’s just fine with me. I really like working and want to grow in my career late into my life. I don’t think it’s necessary to abandon everything to go cruising. Or rather, I choose not to.

      I’ve met a few cruisers who come across as a tad sanctimonious about how they shed their land-lubber lives, scoffed at consumerism and the rat race, and took to the sea to live a slower, simpler life, though that concept is extremely relative. Many sailors proselytizing about the virtues of a life at sea also download new movies and books, keep current on the news, buy the latest systems for their boats, and stay in touch daily with all of their old friends via Facetime.

      That sounds exactly like my land-lubber life!

  3. Zac S/V Encore 1 year ago

    All very valid points and a good tidbit. We will be bringing along a starlink this Haha. As we are a non profit taking people with multiple sclerosis sailing , connectivity is important for a variety of reason. One aspect of trying to fundraise and run an organization such as Sail MS, we have to continually update those that support us through social media etc. It’s unfortunate that we can’t just go disconnect , but showing the world what we can still do on this Haha while battling multiple sclerosis, definitely worth a little bullshit

  4. Bruce Balan 1 year ago

    Hi Danny,
    I’m not saying there is a ‘right’ way to go cruising. But I am saying that there is a way to go cruising that people don’t really know about because they are so connected and refuse to disconnect. It’s about not knowing what you don’t know. Like taking kids who are from the city out to the mountains for the first time where they can see the stars. It opens their eyes (literally!) to a part of this world that is amazing and life-changing. If someone needs to stay connected because they have to work, or if they are doing something pretty awesome like Zac above, then stay connected. But if you are just going to follow the news or, god forbid, watch vloggers cruise instead of living a life in what I consider the real world (yes, that’s an opinion, I know), why bother? With nearly everyone carrying starlink in Mexico now, how many people are staying below deck to watch someone’s post or video about cruising. We’ve noticed a huge shift in the last decade with the number of people who are above and below decks in places with a signal.

    I constantly hear the “I learned so much from YouTube” rationalization about internet connectivity. Yes, there is a lot of good info out there. But there is a lot of good info in a Nigel Calder book. And in the cruising community anchored around you. Spindler’s recent praise of starlink on the Ha-Ha as a means of fixing your boat at sea is hypocritical to the nth degree given his constant barrage of how the Ha-Ha creates camaraderie. I can, with complete certainty, assert that connectivity is reducing community in the cruising world. I’ve seen it. Read this:
    https://www.noonsite.com/report/insights-youtube-versus-cruiser-reality/

    Your last line makes my point exactly.

    I’ll end with one more link which expresses what I believe better than anything else.
    https://www.cruisingworld.com/people/making-a-case-to-disconnect/

    Since you like your work life and want to continue that life, that’s awesome. Doing what you love is incredibly important. So continue. If you decide to go cruising, you’ll obviously be in a different frame of mind and perhaps you’ll feel differently about staying connected 24/7. I hope so.

    Fair winds,
    Bruce

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