Internet access and Television are important to us. Internet is important to us to keep up with email, writing our Blog, and watching cat videos on YouTube! We both like to keep up with national news, and Brenda enjoys watching TV in the evening.

On our first loop, we used a combination of marina Wi-Fi and cellular service (phones, tablets, and a hotspot) for the internet. For Television, we had a KVM Satellite TV receiver with a DirecTV subscription. We also have a digital TV antenna; however, it’s never worked very well and is a real hassle to use.

Overall, it was an okay solution, but there always seemed to be issues. Marina Wi-Fi is not that great in many places. Cellular service can be spotty, especially in Canada and in remote regions. The KVM satellite TV antenna worked well except in very rainy conditions, if we docked under trees or were blocked by a building, or had to put the mast down to fit under bridges, which was most of the canals.

We decided to get the Starlink Satellite Internet system for our second Loop. Starlink had just started offering the “Roaming R/V” service, which allows you to change locations without constantly calling them to update your address.

We used it for the full year of our second Loop, and we were extremely happy with it! It was a real game-changer. We noticed many other Loopers who were also using Starlink, and for the most part, they have been happy with it as well. However, it’s not the “perfect” solution. There are considerations.

Which Starlink do I buy?

For boaters, there are currently two options. The Starlink Roam which is the “R/V” service, and Starlink Boats.

Starlink Roam has the following features:

  • Allows you to move from place to place
  • Allows you to pause service month-to-month
  • Allows you to use the service when “close to shore” (see more on this below)
  • Allows you to use the dish at speeds <10 mph
  • Speeds from 40-200 Mbps download, 1-5 Mbps upload
  • Unlimited data
  • Service level adjusts based on demand
  • Uses a $599 dish
  • Price is $150 per month for US/Canada service, or $200 per month for Global service.

Starlink Boat has the following features:

  • Allows you to move from place to place
  • Allows you to pause service month-to-month
  • It can be used both inland and off-shore
  • It can be used in-motion at pretty much any speed
  • Priority speeds (no demand adjustment)
  • Priority speeds limited based on subscription level
  • Uses a $2,500 dish which has higher performance
  • The price is $250/mo for 50GB of priority, $1,000/mo for 1 TB of Priority, and $5,000/mo for 5 TB of Priority. After your Priority use is depleted, you go to demand-adjusted service.

We currently have the Starlink Roam with the Gen 2 (older Dish). This dish moves to find “North.” The newer Gen 3 dishes are fixed and don’t move.

What are the speeds like?

Our experience was pretty good. Most of the time, we got between 80 Mbps and 150 Mbps download speeds. Occasionally, during periods of high demand, we would see around 30 Mbps, but those typically only lasted for a few hours in the evening. Fortunately, most of the Great Loop is in rural areas, and aside from your fellow boaters or the occasional R/V park nearby, there is usually not much competition for bandwidth.

Upload speeds are much slower and averaged between 1 Mbps and 2 Mbps with an occasional 5 Mbps. We have seen as high as 15 Mbps, but not very often.

These speeds were fine for normal internet browsing and streaming videos. Brenda would frequently watch a streaming service on the TV, and I would watch streaming content on my laptop, and we very rarely got buffering (pauses in playback).

The slow upload speeds were not an issue for email, etc. The only time the upload speed was a problem was when I uploaded photos or videos to our blog or our phones synced through Starlink Wi-Fi. (See “Things to watch out for” below) One of the tricks I would use is to wait until we were somewhere with either really good marina Wi-Fi or a 5G cell connection and use that to upload photos.

How did you mount the dish?

I used a fishing rod holder mounted to a rail and the “Starlink Pipe Adapter.” this worked quite well and we’ve been completely around the loop with no issues. The Pipe Adapter came with a thin nylon cover that we kept on the dish, and it protected it from dust, dirt, and bird poop.

The new Gen 3 dishes look like they can be mounted in a similar fashion. I have not seen one up close yet.

What about power?

The Starlink router runs on 110-volt AC power. On the Gen2 dish, the router used Power Over Ethernet to send 48 volts to the dish. Many online resources give instructions on how to eliminate the Starlink router and run the dish off of your own router and power it with 12 volts. This involves modifying the cable, a 12v to 48v transformer, and a POE injector. See my post “The Frog Has Starlink” for more details on the modifications I made.

The newer Gen3 dishes run on 57-volt DC. I have been looking for instructions on eliminating the Starlink router to just run it on DC and I found this YouTube video from the same person that I got the Gen2 instructions from. It looks even easier!

The main reason to run off of 12 volts, is that it allows you to use the Starlink without running your generator or inverter while underway or at anchor. (Basically, anytime you are not hooked up to shore power)

Was it reliable?

In a word, Yes! We had no issues with service on our entire loop. It did drop out during very heavy rain but would quickly recover. The only other time we had interrupted service was once when we were docked under a tree and if a building was blocking the view to the north. Also, don’t stay in covered slips!

We had no issues with our dish. However, I have heard of a few people with motors that failed to move the dish. In all cases, Starlink replaced the dish with no issues. The new Gen3 dishes don’t have motors, so that should not be a problem.

What about Canada?

We got the same speeds in Canada as we did in the US. Typically, the speeds were better as there were fewer times when our speed was reduced due to congestion. The only issue we had in Canada was that we ended up being routed to a Canadian ground station when we were in the Montreal area.

Starlink connects with satellites, that then connect back to ground stations for the connection to the Internet. With Starlink, your location as far as the Internet is concerned, is wherever that ground station is. So for example, when we were in the North East, we “appeared” to be in New York. On the Great Lakes and rivers, it was Chicago. Here at home in Florida, it’s Miami.

The gotcha here is that with location-based services, you are not really where you appear to be. For example, if you searched Google for “Restaurants Near Me”, you might get suggestions for Chicago when you were in Mackinaw Island. Streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV, and YouTube TV use the ground station location when determining whether you are “allowed” to watch something. If it thinks you are in Canada, most of the streaming services will restrict what you can watch. Also, you may not be able to get a Florida local TV station if it thinks you are in New York.

The workaround here is using a VPN. I found NordVPN to be an excellent choice. They offer a “SmartDNS” service that simplifies using a VPN on your Smart TV. This way, you can pick a NordVPN server near your home location, and your TV (or other devices) will think that you are there, not in Canada, New York, the Bahamas, or wherever. Check out NordVPN here!

What about offshore?

In Starlink’s terms of service, they say “onshore service.” However, it seems to work fine as long as you are within a few miles of shore. We had two occasions where it stopped working, and we got a notice from Starlink that our service plan did not cover “offshore use.” The first was crossing the Gulf from Carabelle to Steinhatchie. The second was from Marco Island to Marathon. In both cases, we were well out of sight of land when it stopped working.

We crossed Lake Michigan from Frankfort, MI, to Sturgeon Bay, WI, and it worked all the way.

We have not been to the Bahamas with our boat, so I’m not sure what the deal is. I’ve read online that you need a “regional plan,” not the “roam” plan, and that you have to set it up before you leave the US. Users there seem to be quite happy with it. If the Bahamas are in your plan, I would research first.

What are some tips and tricks?

  • Watch for hidden bandwidth usage. Our iPhones sync images to the cloud and auto-update Apps. Also, my laptop syncs my iCloud images to my laptop. These services can use LOTS of bandwidth in the background, and you may not even realize it. Also, Windows and Apple updates that download automatically can suddenly suck up all of your available bandwidth. Check that you don’t have these services enabled if you are experiencing bandwidth issues.
  • After cruising for the day, we would dock in a marina, and the Starlink connection would be slow. Looking at the dish, it would not be pointing toward the North. It seems to have gotten confused with all the twisting and turning. I would reset the system and let it re-sync and get much better performance.
  • By default, Starlink has a “Snow Melt” feature that turns on heaters to melt frost and snow when the dish gets cold. Given that Loopers rarely experience frost and snow, it’s recommended that the snow melt feature be turned off. This causes the dish to use less power, especially if you are running it on a 12-volt converter.
  • The Gen2 dish has a “Park” feature that locks it down. If you are going to turn off your dish, use the Starlink App to “Park” the dish before you cut power. Also, if you keep the dish on when underway and experience rough weather, I suggest parking the dish and turning it off to prevent straining the motors. This will not be a problem with the Gen3 dishes, as they don’t have motors.

Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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