"I am at sea, via Satcom. Waiting for the end of this crap."
In late December I wrote a story about setting up the STARLINK receiver and WiFi modem in an incommunicado corner of Malibu Road, a street that is home to some of the world’s greatest communicators and has a GDP in the billions that still can’t get good phone service or internet.
Early the next morning, a SpaceX launch out of Vandenberg belched 52 more STARLINK satellites to join the thousands already in orbit.
An interesting story because the STARLINK bases on land are simple and idiot-proof and cost only $500 up front, then $99 a month.
But that inexpensive simplicity communicates with an almost impossibly complex and costly constellation of thousands of rocket-launched satellites that are bringing high quality, high-speed internet to the world, to yachts at sea, to Tavarua, to darkest Baja and even to the tightest nooks and crannies and hollers of Malibu.
The story went around to a bunch of people who might benefit from celestial, high-speed internet.
Jon Roseman was one, and another was Martin Daly, captain of the Indies Trader fleet and now lord and master of a surf operation on 45-acre Beran Island hidden away on the corner of Ailinglaplap Atoll in the Marshall Islands: 4928 miles from Malibu, 4949 kilometers northeast of Sydney, 2419 miles southwest of Oahu = middle of nowhere in the middle of the Pacific.
Far from the madding crowd, and a rapidly collapsing world.
Daly responded with crypticism and beguilingness. And also sent some cool photos of his operation, similar to the photos of a freshly-solarized Tavarua.
So we launched some questions at Captain Daly…
Someone from Perth looked at that STARLINK story on my website. Was that you?
Probably my wife. She’s in Perth, heading up to Indo to see me for the first time in two years tomorrow.
How and where did you answer these questions? Marshall Islands? Out at sea? Where are you if that’s not classified?
I am at sea, via Satcom. Waiting for the end of this crap.
Thanks for reading that STARLINK story and commenting on it, but questions. This line you emailed me: “I believe the idea was coined on a super yacht belonging to CLASSIFIED anchored in front of my resort in the Marshalls.” Were you having a laugh or is that for real?
Signed an NDA which would preclude me from specifics but put it this way, It may have gone like this: “Gee this internet from Vsat and Inmarsat sucks, it’s so slow and ludicrously expensive. The remote parts of the world really suffer from a lack of reasonably-priced fast internet. Let’s do something about it, why not….”
I read the book on SpaceX and they were forced to move everything to Kwajalein Atoll after the Air Force pulled the football away and wouldn’t let them launch from Vandenberg. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Elon Musk cruised by your island and was inspired to launch tens of thousands of satellites into space.
I am unaware of any such activity or operation nor would I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in fact exist, sir.
Isn’t it a big deal that yachts at sea can now have lightning-fast internet anywhere on the globe?
It’s still a ways off, could be years before the maritime units are available, it’s more of a stationary service in its first iteration. It will be really good for crew particularly so they can keep in touch with their loved ones. It’s so expensive now that it’s not practical for crew to have internet access unless they are working for a billionaire.
Can you think of instances in the past/present when you really could have used that Internet?
The Indies Trader fleet has had Inmarsat and Viasat internet onboard since 1999 at massive expense. I know that I’ve spent at least $2 million over the last 22 years. It will be such a blessing to take that cost substantially out of the operational budget.
Email, text and weather, bit of Google Earth for the exploration and that’s operationally enough to keep things crisp.
With the rise of social media and everyone glued to their phones half their waking life the benefits are not as clear for the operational side. For guests to have fast internet is much more appealing, they can justify longer surf trips, keep all their balls in the air between getting shacked. Once the speed is sufficient to do most things online it’s a game-changer for many. Some people, particularly the most recent generation, seriously cannot survive a day without being online
Omelek Island is 125 miles as the bird flies from Beran. According to Wikipedia: “In total, SpaceX launched 5 rockets (all Falcon 1s) from Omelek between 2006 and 2009, with two successes (28 September 2008, 14 July 2009) and three (24 March 2006, 21 March 2007, 3 August 2008) failures.”
Watching those launches from your place would have been epic, but I don’t think you were there then when that was going on?
Yes we were. Hmm, most people don’t realize we’ve been operating in the Marshalls since Christmas 2005 after the end of the Crossing and subsequently the crash of the surf apparel industry beginning with Quik: sixteen years now.
At one point SpaceX was talking to me about using Indies Trader 4 for accommodation at the launch site in Kwajalein. I didn’t take it seriously and sent the boat back to Indo for the Mentawai season.
Is there any remnant of SpaceX operations left out there? Tracking? Recovery ships?
Sitting out in the middle of the Pacific and watching civilization crumble and go to war and eat itself sounds nice to some people. Far from the madness.
Man, I’ve been on my boat watching the world go mad: 2020/ 2021 saw the death of facts and truth. Terrifying how much absolute bullshit is being spouted. Everyone seems to have lost their minds
Are you on the STARLINK net yet?
Not yet. Won’t be available for a while unfortunately, Elon has been overpromising again and saying it would be up in 2021. Something to look forward to in these bleak times.
Do you see lines of STARLINK satellites arcing across the sky from where you are? I know people in Baja who see them all the time.
No. Haven’t been to the Marshalls since April 2019. Been locked out, borders closed.
You also said: “We’ve been registered for a year or so to get one in the Marshall Islands. Our resort has been running on sun power and wind power exclusively for over five years by the way. Way ahead of Tavarua that I believe was purchased by CLASSIFIED a few years ago.”
This is also true? You are 100% solar and wind out there?
Yes we are
Are you using just the one windmill? Those things intrigue me. I’ve seen people on Maui who run their entire compound with one windmill.
Two wind turbines, one to power the boats at the dock and one to provide extra power for the PV system at the house.
The extra boost of the wind turbine producing power through the night means our generator very rarely has to kick in. Without the renewables It would cost us $70 to 80 thousand a year in diesel fuel, freight to get it there, generator maintenance and replacement = let’s say 100k a year. The off-grid power system paid for itself in under two years, six years now so we are winning, both financially and environmentally
How is your operation out there? Looks healthy and spruced up, like Tavarua.
Was getting there before Covid, we are doing it tough now. We haven’t been able to get people in there for two years.
Ouch. Seems to me a bunch of surfers isolated out in the middle of the Marshall Islands aren’t a threat to anyone.
The fun haters have always picked on surfers. Plenty of bookings if the border opens.
What is the cost of a week on Beran Island? I know there’s a ton of surf out there.
Similar to Tavarua but with more inclusions.
Isn’t there a spot out there that Kelly Slater loves?
How did you deal with Covid? Fiji took it very very seriously and shut the whole place down.
Marshalls tighter than Fiji. I’ve lived aboard The Indies Trader 3 for the last two years and explored Melanesia, Mentawai season last year. Been interesting and fruitful found a lot more waves than I did on the Crossing being able to manage it myself
Were you still open for business? Did you take extra precautions?
The Marshall Islands have been closed for entry since March 2020. They have had no Covid in the community, a few cases in quarantine in Kwajalein.
Did you have any minor pandemics sweep your atoll?
We had a bit of a scare with Dengue Fever in 2019
What’s up with Sea of Darkness? That could be the best surf-related movie/documentary ever made. It toured around Malibu a bit and then pulled a Manchurian Candidate and disappeared.
I got too busy with the resort and the whole thing is a mess and I haven’t got the patience to deal with it. Needs a lot of work. Had a few close calls with getting it released but there is this toxic element that keeps on turning up and making it troublesome.
What or who is the toxic element?
I don’t want to elaborate, just more negativity would be generated.
I have my opinions on why Sea of Darkness got disappeared and it had to do with diving for treasure on Chinese junks and the Indo government getting edgy and eying all your yachts, but maybe that’s wrong or something you can’t talk about.
It’s because I am an International Drug Kingpin and don’t need the attention. Ha, just kidding
Is Sea of Darkness deep sixed for all time? A shame, because it’s very very good.
Do you show it out there to select audiences sworn to secrecy?
Is it still true you are leading diving expeditions to Bikini and other atolls? Clearest water in the world?
Yes we will again when things open up.
Any ETA on when Marshalls/Beran will open back up?
I’m hoping for the Omnicron outbreak to infect everyone and make quarantine unnecessary ASAP
(After the email exchange, Shane Peel, a former magazine editor and photographer, sent me a long email as a sort of Postscript to Martin’s answers.)
Shane Peel here. I have been on deck as CEO at Indies Trader for a couple years now and I think you may have reached out to MD and had a chat about all the sustainability stuff in place at Beran, Starlink conception etc etc
It’s an amazing story that Martin has just not bothered to really push. Whole place is air conditioned, fully off grid solar and wind turbines, same set-up at the dock for our charter boats all on Solar and wind turbines. lithium batteries etc etc.
I can’t add much about the stuff that is covered under non-disclosure but can add in how impressive the “Off Grid” nature of Beran Island is. I developed my own resort in Indonesia with a mate quite a decade ago and it was not as remote as Beran, so I understand the enormity of Beran. What Martin has done on Beran Island is extraordinary: the electrical supply runs a full resort, the water is all from rainfall and is very close to one of the most thoughtful surf operations you will see.
Martin does not talk it up much as it’s not real Australian to talk about yourself but when you pull up to the dock and jump in one of the electric carts to drive off to the main building it hits you … you’re in Daly world and EVERYTHING is structured around being on the water and going surfing with the minimal impact.
The wind and solar has been there from the get-go; it’s not a new thing by any means. From my understanding Martin planned the resort as being fully energy self-sufficient from the start. MD has this really broad knowledge of just about everything and the renewables stuff is minor compared to some of the other things he does.
We started to look pretty close at electric PWC’s and boats this past year and the boats are there now but have not quite hit the inflection point on viability but are within a whisker, ski’s are the same or perhaps a little further ahead and we are probably right at that jumping off point now.
Won’t ever be drones taking people surfing at Indies Trader mate. That’s the best part of the business being right there at the point the joy is given:) That’s when we actually transact with our guests.
I was not there for the rocket launches but geez the sooner Elon gets Starlink fully active the better, the access to information will solve many of the issues that exist for remote communities across everything from health to commerce. It will change the planet more than anything else in history I reckon.
This was all done with very little fanfare and way before it was needed for green points or market demands. Martin did it because it was the right thing to do first and foremost.
Indies Trader has been pretty damn busy the whole pandemic we have just released an apparel line, a line of watches and next week an alcohol line … and there are the new waves which is MD’s story to tell, I guess what I am trying to say is that the surf industry has produced some amazing business people but none like Daly. He’s in the business of selling waves and treats the resource with a respect that could only be generated from a lifetime of symbiosis.
There is only one Martin Daly that’s for fricken sure.