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.
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.”
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!