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Old 22-05-2012, 14:38   #1
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Anyone using Mailasail?

I need to get a good system for emails and weather information. I have read the glowing testamonials on the Mailasail website but strangely there seems to be no comment here on CF. My boat will have HF & satphone. I could go with Sailmail but, with no experience of it, it seems to me to be a bit "old technology".

Is there anyone with real world experience of Mailasail?

Is Sailmail an effective way of obtaining email and weather info or is it unreliable for someone with no HF radio experience?

Greg
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Old 22-05-2012, 15:52   #2
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

I co-op with many boats wx wise. Most use sat based email systems (Iridium, Inmarsat), some use just the sms functionality of their sat phones and call in if and when any immediate support is requested. This method works very well.

In Feb I had a boat coming from RSA to Europe and they used sailmail. It worked OK but they seemed to follow some pattern which delayed their receipts by a couple of hours. I would rather avoid this in any areas where timing may be of high importance.

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Old 22-05-2012, 17:35   #3
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Note that MailASail is *not* the same as SailMail, although they provide similar services.

I personally use Sailmail and Winlink (when I'm not using Iridium / Global Marine Networks' XGate), but way back in 2008 a crewmember on a Hawaii/mainland passage used MailASail and he seemed happy with it. He connected his laptop to my Pactor modem (and SSB). I wish I could tell you more, but it seemed to be working for him.
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Old 22-05-2012, 20:13   #4
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Elliott View Post
Note that MailASail is *not* the same as SailMail, although they provide similar services.

I personally use Sailmail and Winlink (when I'm not using Iridium / Global Marine Networks' XGate), but way back in 2008 a crewmember on a Hawaii/mainland passage used MailASail and he seemed happy with it. He connected his laptop to my Pactor modem (and SSB). I wish I could tell you more, but it seemed to be working for him.
OK, so if I use Mailasail, I can still run it through the HF radio/pactor modem and not the satphone? From the testamonials the speed was so fast and compaction so good that costs are reportedly minimal even through the satphone.
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Old 22-05-2012, 20:26   #5
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I've used mailasail. It has no HF endpoint.you must have an Internet connection to access mailasail . If you arrange that via winlink etc then that's fine. that's why it's usually accessed via sat phone as these connect directly to the net.

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Old 22-05-2012, 22:28   #6
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
I've used mailasail. It has no HF endpoint.you must have an Internet connection to access mailasail . If you arrange that via winlink etc then that's fine. that's why it's usually accessed via sat phone as these connect directly to the net.

Dave
As you can tell, I'm a little technically challenged. Can anyone out there compare Mailasail v Sailmail?
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Old 22-05-2012, 23:44   #7
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Since MailASail doesn't have SSB capabilities, I obviously mis-remembered. My crewmember was definitely using MailASail, but he must have been with his Iridium satphone. Sorry for the confusion.

MailASail is probably similar to XGate and OCENS (these are actually the same program), and if so the satphone connection is reasonably fast. It won't be fast enough for normal websurfing, but with XGate I can download about 100K Bytes of data (GRIBS, WFAX images, regular email) in perhaps ten minutes of satphone airtime. If you already have a SailMail account, you can use it with your satphone and get similar performance.

Do not even bother trying to use a satphone for email without one of these satphone-optimized programs, as the normal internet protocols used by regular email packages are just not suited to the characteristics of the satphone connection.
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Old 22-05-2012, 23:59   #8
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

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Can anyone out there compare Mailasail v Sailmail?
MailASail looks to be similar to XGate, OCENS, and a few other satphone-specific data services. As I mentioned, I have not personally used MailASail, but one of my crewmembers did, and he seemed satisfied with it.

SailMail and Winink are email services that use marine SSB (SailMail) and amateur radio (Winlink) for their connection. These use the Pactor modem, but Winlink also supports some lower-cost (or free software) lower-speed modems as well.

SailMail can also be used effectively with satphones.

XGate and OCENS are typically used with an email program that is provided by the vendor, but they are also designed to be used with other email programs such as Outlook and Thunderbird. I do not know if MailASail has this type of flexibility

The SailMail and Winlink services are usually used with the Airmail email program, but again, others can be used.
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Old 23-05-2012, 03:19   #9
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Thanks Paul for your detailed and well informed comments. I took the opportunity to check out your website and your role with the Pacific Cup would seem to add credibility to your opinions. I've found it most helpful, so THANK YOU!
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Old 23-05-2012, 06:24   #10
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

We have used MailASail in conjunction with an Iridium 9500 phone and our laptop. We received automated daily GRIBs from Saildocs, plus all our home and business email. The data compression was good, and the customer service was excellent. (We had trouble getting all set up due to a faulty USB-serial adapter, and the MailASail guys talked me through it all, even though it was not their problem.)
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Old 24-05-2014, 07:23   #11
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

In 2013 I bought a Wifi Bat and Redbox from Mailasail also known as Nippy Networks, which I could not get to work properly or consistently. Eventually, after what was in my opinion a long, difficult and very unpleasant experience, I had to send back both the original unit and its replacement, for which I only got a partial refund.
I personally would never deal with Mailasail or Nippy Networks again.
I then bought some replacement equipment from another company and it has worked perfectly from the day it was installed.
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Old 25-05-2014, 03:36   #12
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

I'm very happy with the Mailasail process and their service. They were patient and persistent with my fumbling, the setting up I found a bit abstruse but it's now working happily.
Contemplating a trans Atlantic/Pacific journey, I decided that sat phone combined with EPIRB was a good substitute to HF for routine and emergency needs. I chose the iridium network rather than the inmarsat because it has a multitude of orbiting sats, not just 3 or 4 geostationary ones, which makes the connection much more forgiving. I found Mailasail during my research, and have found them very good to deal with.
They have a good data compression feature.
I have phone and email connectivity wherever I've been, in Australia and in the Mediterranean.
I get their grib file service for my weather, done by email.
I've saved a bundle by not installing HF, and I can take my sat phone/laptop anywhere; it's not a fixed installation.
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Old 26-05-2014, 11:29   #13
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Greg,
1) No experience with "Mailasail"....but from what I read, it is not a reliable / easy-to-work-with company....

2) Sailmail IS very reliable and has a robust network worldwide...
Read the Sailmail Primer for LOTS of great info...
SailMail Primer

If you have a NEED for e-mail while at sea and/or in far remote locales (away from Wi-Fi and Cellular/3G/4G access), then a PACTOR modem and a $250/yr Sailmail account is a GREAT solution....
With PACTOR-III speeds typically 50% - 100% faster than that of a sat phone data connection, and PACTOR-IV speeds more than twice as fast as PACTOR-III, PACTOR wins hands-dwon!!!
(a PACTOR-IV "Dragon" modem is pricey, but provides an excellent, reliable mid-speed connection...)

But, understand that many folks find they have NO need for e-mail at sea or when in far remote areas...
Many use a good external Wi-Fi set up (such as a Ubiquity Bullet-based system) and/or a ext. cell booster....


3) As for weather info....Oh boy, how much time have 'ya got....
Seriously, please have a look at these threads, where you'll see where/how you can get excellent weather info/forecasts for FREE...
Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts

Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea




I hope this is helpful...

Fair winds..

John
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Old 28-05-2014, 04:31   #14
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

I don't think that the negative comment re Mailasail is a fair one, particularly coming from someone who hasn't had direct experience.
SailMail is a good service but to my knowledge is based on HF SSB radio, which is an expensive installation if it's not already there.
Sat phone provides a workable alternative, though the transfer rate of data is ponderous and expensive, for serious offshore sailing. So, don't browse, use a data compression facility, and limit the emails to weather forecasts (typically 50kb or less for grib files, and done by email) and essential or emergency calls.
And if you're inshore use your mobile or the taverna's Wifi.
BTW, Iridium uses a multitude of satellites in low orbit; easy to connect using a simple antenna. Inmarsat uses three or four geostationary satellites; much more demanding on the antenna which must be accurately aligned... on a rocking/bucking boat??? The other one has limited coverage.
I'm very happy with Mailasail's service and the Iridium hardware.
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Old 28-05-2014, 06:57   #15
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Re: Anyone using Mailasail?

Hi Folks, MailASail here.

Thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated!

Ok, the way we like to look at these debates (long range communications) is to get the customer to take a big step back and really look at their *requirements*. eg what I notice sometimes is a tendency to get focused on "featuritis" and specs - our opinion is that we figure out what you *need* or *want* to achieve and then try and find equipment which meets those goals

So for example Iridium and SSB both have specific feature sets which work well for various requirements, but increasingly people pick altogether different options such as Iridium Pilot, FleetBroadband or VSAT depending on their requirements...

First thing I would say is that vanilla SSB and "Phone", offer quite different features and in an ideal world, one would have *both*, and I would gently encourage that SSB is fantastic for "ship to ship communication", and phones are great for "ship to shore communication". Where there is an overlap is in the data/email side and there of course both devices offer "similar" capabilities, the difference is really down to ease of setup and perceived running costs. Remember an Iridium is just a cell phone, where the provider floated the base station 500 miles up instead of on top of the nearest hill/building - most of what you know about (older) cell phones applies to using satellite phones.

Also note that MailASail can sell SSB radios, but we don't typically because it's not an area that we support and so we want customers to go to specialist dealers who can give them proper installation for such equipment. As such you should read this message assuming I have a bias and "aim off" appropriately. I will try and be as independent as I can though!

So, we like "phones" to cover distress situations. If you close your eyes and imagine "distress" it usually involves shouting mayday into something while something else is chucking buckets of water over you and possibly flickering flames, etc. The reality we find with "a phone" is that there is very low inhibition to pick one up and "do something". So in fact we average around 1-3 customers a year get off their yachts in the middle of an ocean, but the stories are largely "boring". And this is simply because they "do something" very much earlier, before the situation becomes "interesting" and worthy of comment.

Radio is great for ship to ship though. I might argue that with costs of satellite between 30p to 90p per min, for flat rate calls anywhere in the world, it's not huge to money, but clearly for effectively nearly free you can call ship to ship on SSB!

Sadly we see the biggest barrier to fitting ship to ship SSB as being the up front cost. So handwaving numbers might be 4-6,000 for an SSB set, installed and you trained up. In contrast a basic Iridium hand held probably comes in around 2,000, perhaps 2,500 including airtime for a year or so. (these numbers assume you came and talked to us and we bullied you to get all the external antennas and proper setup - lots of people skimp on the details, IMHO it's worth it to make the system robust and reliable)

I would say that average running costs for Iridium satellite are about a median of 40-60/month for our customers. That's obviously looking over a year, the ocean passages will typically consume (much) more and less while you are near shore (typically it's still used - we are *trying* to unshackle you from wifi, get out and explore...)

However, the funny thing is that we observe that budgets are very personal and the theoretical running cost of equipment is irrelevant. For example we observe that if the equipment is more expensive to use then people simply use it less... Curiously if the customer picks the next solution up (Iridium Pilot), which is about 10% of the running cost, then usually they still spend the same (or usually more) each year... We interpret this as people having fixed budgets and emotionally they allocate an amount to each piece of equipment as it's "worth it" to them. So interestingly as equipment gets lower running costs it appears to be "more satisfactory" and so it gets a larger slice of the budget. However, the takeaway is if it's cheaper to run then it mainly gets used more up to around the same budget level, hence people are sort of fixing their spend in each area and keeping the budget approximately the same.

Does that empirical observation help?

So, equipment wise we see all options really being on a scale. As you pay more the equipment is easier to setup and "does more". There are no right/wrong answers here, it's down to budget, largely you will be more satisfied if you buy bigger equipment, but that's at odds with the capital costs

So, ignoring the cost of the main SSB purchase, we can roughly position the main options:

1) Pactor modem - arguably usually the most tricky to setup and most will argue slightly slower than an Iridium handset. Incremental cost of usage is lowest though. I observe it seems to take 1-2 years for people to get good with on and hence perhaps best for longer term cruisers, those on a 1 year circuit may find they finish before the learning curve peaks?

2) Iridium handhelds - please feel extremely encouraged to get proper antennas and do a decent install and very importantly buy from someone who can give you support - few people get these setup really well without experienced advice. Circa 1-2K for an install. Running costs about 90p/min and a good setup should be doing 10-20 emails per minute (if you don't get that it's *your* install and it needs tuning - it's NOT the equipment's fault!). Part of the setup is that you will need some kind of optimisation software (eg plug alert: our teleport-it email compression service)

Resale values are high on Iridium gear, so total cost of ownership (buy - sell price) is usually much lower than people expect when only staring at the new prices.

3) Iridium Pilot - Super system. About 3,500 to purchase, physically larger than an Iridium H/H. Zero monthly line rental costs, data is about 10% of the cost of the basic Iridium, speed is about 50x faster (close to low end 3G speeds), vastly simpler setup (like home broadband really, plug in the cable), and currently there is an offer to earn 1,000 mins free calls after you buy a terminal (which depending how you value the 1,000 mins closes the gap a lot with the basic Iridium).

We see the Pilot as being the current sweetspot for purchases in terms of running costs, speed and ease of setup. However, the capital cost needs to fit...

4) Inmarsat FleetBroadband. Circa 4K for the equipment, although there is a newly launched FB-One coming shortly. It's a tricky proposition. Whilst nominally "better" than a Pilot, it's also more expensive to run. Largely we would position the FB for those who *need* good quality web browsing. If you just want "emergency web browsing" and good quality weather and email, then the Pilot fits those requirements very nicely.


So, the takeaway I'm shooting for is

- that there is no right answer here. Look carefully at your requirements, not the specs on the box

- Buy from reputable sellers who can give you support. Seriously I have an inbox full of sad souls who argue "but I got a good price from xxx, but now I can't make it work"... What you bought was an expensive paperweight if you can't make it do what you want it to. Make sure your seller can join the dots.
- Even more frustrating is the "but the cheapest seller told me it will do xxx, what do you mean it won't" - a decent seller is going to talk to you openly about limitations to make sure it fits your needs - if you aren't hearing both good/bad then you aren't properly evaluating it as a fit for your needs (and likely you aren't hearing about how the seller will help you get your complete setup working...)

- Don't focus on running costs (or specs). You are going to adjust your use to fit the equipment and your budget. However, for sure if it's cheaper and easier to use then likely you will use it more (not less).

Hopefully this helps? Obviously always happy to take specific questions, but I need to be careful to keep posts here independent, so feel free to contact us directly for advice or opinion (it's free!)

Good luck with your trip! Have fun!

Ed W
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