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Old 12-09-2010, 12:43   #1
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GPS with Built-in SMS Satellite Communications

I'm thinking this is close to the ultimate GPS.

There are a lot of people who, like us, are wondering the best way to stay in touch with people, and along comes the Delorme Earthmate PN-60. It's a GPS with integrated with SPOT communications. For $99 a year subscription fee, you get satellite communications on your GPS. From almost everywhere in the world you can send out a freeform SMS type message. Yes, it's one way, but considering that sailors would often just want a satellite phone for being able to send out updates to friends and family and emergency communications, and that the most basic satellite plan is 12-200x more expensive than this one, it's an incredible bargain for the budget cruiser.

For an extra $20 per year you get a subscription to a large amount of maps, including NOAA nautical charts.

Earthmate PN-60w SE with SPOT Satellite Communicator & Topo North America 9.0 - DeLorme

I'm guessing Garmin finally has some real competition.
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Old 12-09-2010, 13:17   #2
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At 700USD cannot see the edge over a Spot + a GPS set.

???

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Old 13-09-2010, 09:31   #3
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Good point, I'm seeing it available to buy for around $400 or so. I believe that spot only allows you to send a single precanned message. The delorme allows you to send custom message. So a routine message and update on how you are doing for friends and family can be posted on your blog, and if necessary a custom message can be sent to the GEOS emergency response center. The emergency message is custom, so rather than a simple epirb message, it could be a series of custom alerts, stating the nature of your emergency and perhaps a SSB frequency and time to check back with you for more information. I see a lot of uses for this.
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Old 13-09-2010, 18:30   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schoonerdog View Post
... it could be a series of custom alerts, stating the nature of your emergency and perhaps a SSB frequency and time to check back with you for more information.I see a lot of uses for this.
So now we are talking the gadget AND an SSB transceiver. How much is an SSB transceiver?

Probably way cheaper get yourself an Iridium and have a two-way voice communication, data and sms ... (the gadget only SENDS sms, not RECEIVES them).

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Old 14-09-2010, 06:41   #5
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Inmarsat c imho
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Old 14-09-2010, 08:57   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schoonerdog
I believe that spot only allows you to send a single precanned message. The delorme allows you to send custom message.
I don't think so. The way I read it the Earthmate works just like the SPOT. That is, you can send a "custom" message, but to change it you have to log onto the website and change it there. When you are at sea you are not going to be able to do that, so it is a pre-canned message until the next time you get internet access. Maybe I'm reading it wrong, though.

I'm not seeing the advantage over a separate GPS and SPOT.

Edit: Okay, in looking over the descriptions in more detail, it does look like you can customize the message on the fly. Still, is that worth the extra money? I guess that's up to you.
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Old 22-09-2010, 07:16   #7
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To discuss, risk/benefit.

Immersat - cheapest plan is $708, plus cost of sat phone, taxes, license fees, etc plus a $1500 up front cost. Benefit would be on demand voice package as long as you were on your vessel and it's electrical/satellite systems were working. In a dismasting, lightning strike, electrical failure or abandon ship situation it wouldn't be able to be used. I'm guessing with this, let me know if this isn't true. So it would primarily be used to update friends and family in normal situations. It could be used for emergency situations extremely well as you could contact exactly who you need to communicate with (assuming they are available or you've registered with some 24/7 service). High capital costs, and high marginal costs.

SSB - $2000 or so up front cost plus $250 per year fee. Two way communications, but again tied to the boat, electrical systems, etc. Is there a 24/7 operation emergency response area you could communicate with world wide if you had an issue? You very well might want an SSB reciever for weather faxes aside from other communications. Highest capital costs, modest marginal costs.

Both of the above would really need an epirb for the mentioned risks of lightning, electrical failure, abandon ship. The epirb which would just be an SOS signal, and often the coast guard wants confirmation before responding (if in fact they can respond) So throw in another $1500 for again a dedicated unit.

Earthmate GPS with SPOT has an up front cost of $400, plus $100 for dynamic SMS outbound communications only. So you could use it for communicating via social networking to friends and family when away from wifi hotspots on land. You could also use it to communicate a dynamic message to the GEOS emergency services. It's independent of all other systems aboard your boat, like an epirb.

I'm guessing that for most if you already have an SSB, it would provide you needed redundancy for long range emergency communication (or non emergency should your SSB just break, as ours did) as an alternative to another high cost system such as a sat phone (especially since ship based immersat communications could very well be disabled by the same things that would disable your SSB). Coupled with a VHF which could send out a GPS linked distress signal, it could also present an alternative to a traditional epirb.
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Old 22-09-2010, 10:25   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schoonerdog View Post
To discuss, risk/benefit.

(...)

Immersat - (...)

SSB - (...)

Earthmate GPS with SPOT has an up front cost of $400, plus $100 for dynamic SMS outbound communications only.(...)
Whatever happened to Iridium?

So what you can send a dynamic (?) sms if you still need an Iridium, Inmarsat or an SSB to receive any sort of medical, technical or otherwise support.

And if you do have an Iridium, Inmarsat or SSB, why should you need the Earthmate thing?

I like it, I would like one, but I do not really see it as something essential or useful on any extended ocean passage.

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Old 22-09-2010, 12:44   #9
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The way I see it,

You'd want a Earthmate if you have an SSB or Inmarsat and wanted a fully redundant solution that had some global communications ability without having to do the expense of an SSB AND a sat phone.

You'd want an earthmate if your SSB and satellite system both have common dependencies, such as ships power and you want something that can communicate at least one way dynamic messages incase of electrical failure, dismasting, capsize, lightning, etc.

You'd want an earthmate if you didn't have the money for an SSB or sat phone, but still wanted an ability to keep friends and family up to date with short messages in route and have the added ability to send out a distress signal with custom information. It's 1/5 the up front cost and 1/5 the operating cost.

You'd want an earthmate if you want to be able to do the above communication while hiking on land in addition to its role underway and you'd like to have a hand held GPS as a backup to your shipboard chartplotter.
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Old 22-09-2010, 13:35   #10
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You realized that neither your SSB nor your satphone are waterproof and would die quickly if you needed to jump into a lifeboat, but want to have something more than a simple epirb.

You're a racer and want a every 10 minute position bread crumb to be automatically published to a website so you can track your progress vis a vis the competition.

You like the constant tracking breadcrumb feature just as a last fail safe, so that if you do need to abandonship and have no time to send anything out, people will know your last position. You also don't really care about posting messages, but do want friends and family to see that you're proceeding on your trip just fine without you any manual sending of messages.

You want to give you teenager a way of communicating to her friends, who wants to send out twitters every hour on the hour, without drastically hiking up your sat phone bills.

Yes, it's not two way communication, but neither is an epirb. I imagine that's the type of function it would have. One way communication, allowing update of progress and detailed information on the needs. In reality, two way communication from someone in trouble is useful, but the real need is to communicate the situation.

"I have 5 victims, one unconscious and bleeding, two uncommunicative, two able bodied. We are adrift and travelling at 5 knots to the SE due to current and winds. Our boat is capsized and difficult to spot."

The rescuer on the other end needs to know what to send out and where. You probably already know what you can and cannot do onsite.
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Old 23-09-2010, 08:30   #11
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Except that your message has a 110 character limit, so you couldn't send out quite that detailed of a message. You would need to be about half that wordy.

In addition, your $400 price estimate looks to me to be a bit low. The lowest advertised price I could find was $430. The lowest price I could find for one that was actually in stock and ready to ship was $460.

Still, it does look like a viable, reasonably priced method of sending brief, one-way messages from the middle of the ocean. I would not consider it a substitute for an EPIRB, anymore than I would the "ordinary" SPOT. It certainly could serve as an alternative to a satellite phone and/or SSB in terms of getting simple messages to the folks back home, though.
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Old 23-09-2010, 10:35   #12
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regarding an EPIRB, if I understand the way these are practically handled, should an epirb go off, typically the receiving entity NOAA and/or the countries coast guard tries to contact the person it's registered to. Failing that, they will I think try to then contact someone who is listed on the registration as a shoreside contact. Failing that, they may or may not decide to put out an alert. False alarms are the vast majority of alerts from epirbs (the locker got wet, it was jostled, etc). An epirb alert doesn't actually specify that someone made a conscious choice to send an alert. No authentication or verification. Even if the coast guard does put out an alert, it's often just for any vessel which happens to be in the vicinity to keep a look out. Vessels which may be in the vacinity probably won't divert course for an unverified alert, but they will keep an eye out if it's on the way. If the coast guard does decide to launch a rescue craft upon warning, without anything else confirming it, that rescue craft is coming out blind. They don't know the situation.

With spot, it transfers the message (or as many messages as you need to send out) to the GEOS center which is manned 24/7 and has direct contacts with whatever coast guards need to be contacted. Upon reciept, they know that it's not a false alarm, and they know your situation and needs and can respond accordingly.

On the downside, SPOT does not have world wide coverage. I imagine if you are cruising and you're wanting a hand held GPS, and you'd like it to be able to do other things like navigation while driving, geocaching, then this makes the most sense. But I agree, it's not a substitute for an epirb. It could augment and serve as reduncancy for both SSB and epirb though.
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Old 23-09-2010, 10:59   #13
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regarding an EPIRB ... vessels which may be in the vacinity probably won't divert course ... with Spot ... they can respond accordingly.
Abbreviated. But this is what it seems to boil down to.

Now go talk to the CG and see what they tell you.

IMHO You are wrong.

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Old 23-09-2010, 11:23   #14
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I've never heard a pan-pan issued because of a Spot going off.
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Old 24-09-2010, 15:29   #15
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It is just as possible to send out a false alarm with a SPOT as with an EPIRB. All you have to do is press 911 when you meant to press OK. The GEOS team will attempt to do essentially the same sort of verification that the CG would.
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