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Old 08-10-2008, 13:48   #1
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EPIRB alternative?

This just in from the AMA:

American Motorcyclist Association announces new member benefit with SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker system
PICKERINGTON, Ohio--The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is pleased to announce a new money-saving, and potentially life-saving, benefit for AMA members: the SPOT Personal Tracker system. The program includes a discount on the purchase of the unit and qualifies members for a free, year-long tracking upgrade when they sign up for their first year of basic service.

The SPOT Personal Tracker system is an innovative GPS transceiver which can, at the push of a button, locate the user anywhere on the planet and send a pre-programmed text or e-mail message to friends, family or, if necessary, emergency agencies. With the optional tracking service, SPOT users can have their travels logged online on a global map in real-time. It's a popular product with motorcyclists, who tend to roam widely both on-road and off.

AMA members now qualify for a $20 discount off the $169.99 MSRP, and when they sign up for a year of basic service for $99.99, they get a free year-long upgrade that includes tracking. It all adds up to a $70 savings for being an AMA member.

"We know that AMA members are some of the most enthusiastic motorcyclists around, and they tend to log a lot of miles from time to time, so we're glad to offer this member benefit," said SPOT's Rahul Athavale. "Spot allows riders to share their adventure with the ones they love, creates a serious safety net connecting them to friends and family, and can ultimately save their life."

"The SPOT Personal Tracker system is a perfect fit for the growing ranks of AMA members, particularly with adventure riding growing in popularity among all motorcyclists," said AMA Director of Business Development Jim Moore. "Not only are AMA members riding farther and longer these days, but they also are exploring places less traveled. With SPOT, even if they ride without others, they don't have to ride alone."

SPOT's basic service includes unlimited 911 alert services that can contact local agencies at the push of a button, unlimited calls for help to family and friends, and unlimited check-in service that lets contacts know the rider is OK without alerting authorities. An additional tracking service allows others to log into Spot Messenger > Home and locate the rider on a global map in real time. All services work in conjunction with satellites, not cellphone towers, providing true global coverage.
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Old 08-10-2008, 15:00   #2
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"It all adds up to a $70 savings for being an AMA member."
A steal since membership is only $39.00.
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Old 08-10-2008, 18:13   #3
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Looks like there is large ocean areas and Southern Africa that are not covered by the sevice.So it is not truly "global".But I suspect that if you were a victim of pirates/criminals,or had an accident, you might get faster help from spot than the EPIRB.
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Old 08-10-2008, 18:21   #4
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The spot unit is not going to send anything to search and rescue in most any parts of the world. It will send to friends family, etc. but they will need to contact the appropriate agencies to go look or help you except perhaps in the coastal US. If you are offshore in the Caribbean or the Pacific and it calls 911 they probably would not know what to do. This is probably another good safety device but is no way an alternative to an EPIRB
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Old 08-10-2008, 18:31   #5
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I need to look into it but does anyone know if the SPOT signal is picked up by the same folks (SAR Centers) that get the EPIRB signal.
I think the SPOT is a great inexpensive insurance policy but if it means another layer in the rescue process I'd rather just stick to a 406 on the boat and maybe throw the spot in my pocket as I jumped overboard as a last resort.

I see Chuck already answered the question.
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Old 08-10-2008, 18:50   #6
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If you consider it won't cover you on most of the oceans I suppose being cheaper isn't all that bad. Should you become lost at port you might get found when they get around to it. Even cell phones cost more than this.
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:06   #7
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Paul, The problem again is that this is going to be pretty much useless in foreign ports except maybe to notify your family back home that there is a problem. Then what?
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:35   #8
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Ding Ding Chuck,

Then what?
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Old 08-10-2008, 20:46   #9
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If you are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment that relates to safety then buy a real EPIRP.

Its a nice idea for motorcyclists, absolutely!
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Old 08-10-2008, 22:14   #10
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2 cents worth

Interesting product, has a lot of good points but not an EPIRB replacement. Practically or legally.

Could be useful for some coastal cruising especially those who have nervous relatives. I expect to see it provided by anxious parents to a wide cross section of people. Also expect to see it used by wilderness expeditions.

It will be interesting to see if it takes off and in what market place.
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Old 09-10-2008, 06:17   #11
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I have one. My wife asked me to get it so I can send her an "I'm ok" message when I can't get a regular cell signal (Florida Bay). For off-shore I would still carry the EPIRB but also carry this as the ok message is important to those still on land.
For grins I took the unit with me throughout the Carib on a business trip and it did work everywhere I went (all on land)
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Old 09-10-2008, 07:41   #12
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We purchased a SPOT this past spring as a means of keeping track of our daughter while she and a group of other teens sailed a 53' yacht from St. Maartan to Trinidad (600+ miles).

Prior to her departure we tested the unit here on the southwest coast of Florida where it seemed to work reasonably well during several cruises including a trip to the Keys and back from Tampa Bay. The device relies on the GlobalStar Short Messenging Service ("SMS") so GlobalStar coverage--or its lack--is an issue.

During her trip we recieved exactly 1 message from her boat while they were off the south coast of St. Kitt's headed for Nevis although, supposedly, messages were triggered each morning, noon, and evening during the 31 days of her trip. (Fortunately, Hud drove down to the anchorage on Nevis and let us know that her boat had safely arrived there via email.)

As we do not know whether the failure to recieve messages was an "operator mal-function" or device related, for retesting purposes we have given the unit to Hud for use during his transit from Nevis to Florida in the next few weeks.

As for the safety and security aspect, the "911" emergency message--if it goes through--is sent to a monitoring station operated by GEOS, if you have separately subscribed for the service. GEOS is a private security monitoring service supposedly related to Blackwater--the private security contractor operating in the middle east. GEOS then alerts the nearest civilian Rescue Coordination Center which is supposed to become responsible for responding. One can also buy an additional coverage with which GEOS itself will supposedly respond as necessary to effect a rescue/evacuation.

Given our experience with the device, there is no way I would substitute a SPOT for a GPIRB aboard ship or a personal 406 PLB for an individual which can be obtained for as little as $435 USD (see http://www.planetgps.net/acr27974.html ). While it might be useful for its tracking function where cell-phone coverage is not available--say Florida Bay--that cannot be relied upon in any regard.

Hud will be departing St. Thomas for the Tampa Bay area in early November and we shall see how well, or if, the device works on that trip and report accordly.

FWIW...

s/v HyLyte
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Old 09-10-2008, 11:43   #13
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I have one. Got it for the "I'm okay" function. I do a lot of hunting, hiking, camping, snowshoeing in the Colorado mountains where there is no chance for a cell phone signal. This device gives my wife a "warm and fuzzy" feeling that all is okay when I'm out of touch for several days. I have yet to go sailing without her, but I know it would do the same in that situation.

I do not--IN ANY WAY!!!--consider it a substitute for a proper PLB or EPIRB!

One issue I have with it (perhaps explains the lack of signals, svHyLyte) is that there is no positive feedback that a signal has been sent. So, you turn it on, you hit the button for sending an "I'm okay" signal (or a help signal, for that matter), and then what? Well, you can sit and stare at it endlessly, hoping to notice the steady 3-second light that tells you the signal is going. Or--what I'm guessing 99.9% of users will do (what I always do)--leave it sitting somewhere for a few minutes and just hope that the signal goes.

Also, if you have moved since the last time it was on then it takes a few minutes for it to locate itself. This means that if you turn it on, hit the button immediately, come back 5 minutes later, and turn it off, then there is a VERY good chance that the signal was NOT sent! You need to turn it on, leave it for 3-5 minutes so that it can "find" itself, THEN hit the button to send a signal, and then still let it sit for another 3-5 minutes while it attempts to send the signal.

This device is okay. For what I use it for it works. It would be MUCH better, though, if there was some positive feedback that told you the GPS had DEFINITELY found its location, and the signal had DEFINITELY been sent!
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Old 09-10-2008, 12:14   #14
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As to ensuring that messages have been sent, there is an LED above each of the Check-In, Help and 911 Buttons. After one of the buttons has been pushed, and held down for a few seconds, these supposedly blink at 3 second intervals until an SMS contact is made and the message supposedly up-loaded after which the LED is illuminated for 5 seconds before going out. Unfortunately, I do not know how long this transmission effort goes on but I do know that in southwest Florida, it would routinely take 15 to 30 minutes before the LED's were extinguished.

See http://www.findmespot.com/Files/down...2007_10_16.pdf

FWIW...

s/v HyLyte
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Old 10-10-2008, 11:29   #15
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Originally Posted by svHyLyte
...after which the LED is illuminated for 5 seconds before going out.
No, it doesn't go out after the message has been sent. Instead, it goes back to blinking. Meaning that if you are not looking right at the thing during the precise five seconds of continuous illumination then you have no way of knowing if the message was sent or not.
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