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Old 22-04-2022, 16:37   #1
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Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Here are some results of my tests so far with Starlink on a sailboat underway.



Some conclusions/observations:

- a gimbaled mount is NOT needed. Dishy's phased-array antenna and the low earth altitude of the satellites appear to make high precision pointing unnecessary.

- Dishy has motors that can automatically adjust both the elevation and azimuth angles of the dish. It usually does this the first time Starlink is powered up, to point the dish northwards.

- In stationary usage (eg in a marina), that is all the motion you will observe: ie: that one-time adjustment to north on startup. However when underway, either under sail or engine, Dishy will periodically re-align itself to point to the north sky. Eg several minutes after a boat course change. (I had assumed I would have to re-align the dish manually, or reboot it - not so). This is great, as even though Starlink still works when not optimally aligned, that periodic automatic re-alignment maintains the strongest signal and performance.

- Wave action, swell, heeling, and short-term course changes produce no observable re-orientation of the antenna. The dish only reacts to changes of a longer duration. eg: after a tack, change course, heel angle, etc, only once the boat settles and stays on its new configuration for several minutes, would Dishy automatically re-orient.

- Obstruction-wise, being out at sea is a better environment for Starlink, than say a marina, where adjacent masts contribute to obstructing the sky view.

- More important, wave action, swell, heeling, and course changes did not produce any noticeable interruptions in service, from the limited testing done so far.

- I confirmed service up to 10 miles offshore (Pacific Ocean, off the California coast). My logging stopped beyond that, but I can't say for certain if service was lost due to being out of reach of Starlink/the continent, or for other unrelated reasons. The Starlink coverage map (https://www.starlink.com/map) seems to indicate 10 miles offshore is the current limit, in line with what I observed. However its nice to note that all recent and future starlink satellites are equipped with laser interconnect links, so sight-of-land should (soon?) no longer be a limit.

Other notes:
- The Starlink account used above has "roaming" enabled, and is therefore not geo-restricted to any 'home' cell.
- Dishy, its connecting POE cable (and even the router) are rated for outside use, and so theoretically don't need any further protection. In fact, that is how I use it when in protected waters
eg:see configuration for inside San Francisco Bay:


For offshore use, I added a temporary extra layer of protection in the form of a garbage bag cover, for large waves which sometimes entirely cover the boat in strong weather.
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Old 22-04-2022, 19:57   #2
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seafarer7 View Post
Here are some results of my tests so far with Starlink on a sailboat underway.



Some conclusions/observations:

- a gimbaled mount is NOT needed. Dishy's phased-array antenna and the low earth altitude of the satellites appear to make high precision pointing unnecessary.

- Dishy has motors that can automatically adjust both the elevation and azimuth angles of the dish. It usually does this the first time Starlink is powered up, to point the dish northwards.

- In stationary usage (eg in a marina), that is all the motion you will observe: ie: that one-time adjustment to north on startup. However when underway, either under sail or engine, Dishy will periodically re-align itself to point to the north sky. Eg several minutes after a boat course change. (I had assumed I would have to re-align the dish manually, or reboot it - not so). This is great, as even though Starlink still works when not optimally aligned, that periodic automatic re-alignment maintains the strongest signal and performance.

- Wave action, swell, heeling, and short-term course changes produce no observable re-orientation of the antenna. The dish only reacts to changes of a longer duration. eg: after a tack, change course, heel angle, etc, only once the boat settles and stays on its new configuration for several minutes, would Dishy automatically re-orient.

- Obstruction-wise, being out at sea is a better environment for Starlink, than say a marina, where adjacent masts contribute to obstructing the sky view.

- More important, wave action, swell, heeling, and course changes did not produce any noticeable interruptions in service, from the limited testing done so far.

- I confirmed service up to 10 miles offshore (Pacific Ocean, off the California coast). My logging stopped beyond that, but I can't say for certain if service was lost due to being out of reach of Starlink/the continent, or for other unrelated reasons. The Starlink coverage map (https://www.starlink.com/map) seems to indicate 10 miles offshore is the current limit, in line with what I observed. However its nice to note that all recent and future starlink satellites are equipped with laser interconnect links, so sight-of-land should (soon?) no longer be a limit.

Other notes:
- The Starlink account used above has "roaming" enabled, and is therefore not geo-restricted to any 'home' cell.
- Dishy, its connecting POE cable (and even the router) are rated for outside use, and so theoretically don't need any further protection. In fact, that is how I use it when in protected waters
eg:see configuration for inside San Francisco Bay:


For offshore use, I added a temporary extra layer of protection in the form of a garbage bag cover, for large waves which sometimes entirely cover the boat in strong weather.
How did you get "roaming" enabled, if you don't mind me asking?
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Old 22-04-2022, 20:01   #3
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by redneckrob View Post
How did you get "roaming" enabled, if you don't mind me asking?


Itís not something I control - it just came on, after some hours of trying to connect in a non-home cell. It appears SpaceX has been enabling roaming in a good number of US accounts.
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Old 22-04-2022, 21:12   #4
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

I'm hoping in a few years the system is in full swing for cruisers, including crossing oceans.
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Old 23-04-2022, 00:52   #5
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celestialsailor View Post
I'm hoping in a few years the system is in full swing for cruisers, including crossing oceans.
So do I, it will bring down the prices of Iridium and Inmarsat too
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Old 23-04-2022, 01:25   #6
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Great and encouraging information, thanks.
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Old 23-04-2022, 01:59   #7
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermia II View Post
So do I, it will bring down the prices of Iridium and Inmarsat too
Iridium and Inmarsat should be getting nervous. Either of those products will be like being a Video Store owner when streaming arrived. Or more accurately owning a taxi company when Uber arrived. Surely they will become obsolete almost immediately. Unless protective rules are applied who is going to buy a dedicated expensive service that basically allows only small messages, when the opposition lets you surf the net in the middle of a crossing?

Thanks to the OP. I for one have been wondering if Starlink will work on a sailing yacht. Now we can see every ship, even trains, airliners and cars will be connected.

Welcome to the 21st century.
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Old 23-04-2022, 04:25   #8
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

I got my Dishy a few days ago and have yet to make a permanent mount but I am seeing similar results. In my initial tests I saw 270mbps. I an in the USVI where the fastest internet you can get is about 50mbps even wired. If we can go 10 miles offshore I can travel all the way to Puerto Rico without losing the signal.

Like someone else said I can see every boat and ship on this as soon as they open it up globally. It will be the end of other satellite services.
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Old 23-04-2022, 09:07   #9
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

I would think that the ten mile offshore restriction is not physical - but logical in the software. The satellites are whizzing everywhere and would not naturally cut off ten miles from shore. I would think, for the US, for licensing reasons, it is being limited to the 12 mile territorial limit. Just MHO.

Otherwise, this is GREAT news!
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Old 23-04-2022, 10:09   #10
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

What is the current cost for Dishy and service?
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Old 23-04-2022, 11:36   #11
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

From what I hear, it is around $110@month and $600 for the hardware.
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Old 23-04-2022, 14:25   #12
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Current cost is about 600 USD, plus 110 USD/month. I sprang for the pipe mount, but don't use it right now. Dishy has worked great at a variety of non-Santa Barbara marinas and moorages.
Eg: Portland, Cathlamet, fort Bragg, Santa Cruz, Avalon.
SpaceX says it'll work at smugglers cove, but we haven't tried that yet. I'm a bit baffled how they supply service on these channel islands before the space lasers are running, . Once you establish connection to a satellite a couple hundred miles overhead, it can bounce your data to any ground station within a few hundred miles
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Old 23-04-2022, 17:39   #13
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Very interesting! In use, at what sort of angles does the dish point, from the horizontal?

I am wondering if a standard J-mount (in aluminum or ss) bolted to the side of the solar arch would suffice, if the dish didn't have to be elevated much above the level of the panels.

Asking because the arch is home in the shop now and it would be easy to make any (speculative) mods. But difficult in a month or two after I move on board.
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Old 23-04-2022, 18:02   #14
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddster8 View Post
Very interesting! In use, at what sort of angles does the dish point, from the horizontal?



I am wondering if a standard J-mount (in aluminum or ss) bolted to the side of the solar arch would suffice, if the dish didn't have to be elevated much above the level of the panels.



Asking because the arch is home in the shop now and it would be easy to make any (speculative) mods. But difficult in a month or two after I move on board.

Pointing angles were about 15 to 20 degrees off vertical. My guess is this is latitude dependent, ie the closer you are to lat 53 (Starlink satellite cluster) the smaller the offset. When the boat is sailing heeled those angles become deeper (as shown in first video), to compensate for the heel. Iím using a standard j mount as you described above, and the Starlink dish is about the same height as the solar panels, and so no obstruction to/from the solar panels.
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Old 23-04-2022, 20:28   #15
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Re: Test Results: Starlink on a Sailboat Underway

Seafarer--What's your observed power consumption? Do you consider it low enough to leave on all the time like a fridge or do you turn it on only when you need to access the internet?
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